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

I see the light.

Time January 3rd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello!

So I am officially getting ready to leave Europe. I have been here 3 months and 8 days…It has been quite the journey.

During this vacation I have seen some of the most beautiful parts of Europe. Munich was great, very laid back, and there is a Texan there that makes the best burrito’s at and good conversation haha (so go to Pure Burrito you wont regret it)! Paris was well…Paris. Paris and I have a love hate relationship. It is a little dirty and smells kind of funny, but it does have some beautiful parts to it as well though I’ve seen it 3 times now. Christmas just did not feel like Christmas there. And out of all the places and trips I have taken never have I walked so much in my life as I did in those 2 weeks.

Back to England!! Liverpool was so cool. It reminded me of Manchester which is another English city to add to my love list. Albert Dock is really pretty and the nightlife was some of the best I been in. Only downfall was my hotel mix up…that cost me $200…not a fan of Hampton by Hilton…just so expensive!!

I am currently in London. I spent New Years at the London Eye! The fireworks were epic and I will never forget that moment as the clock struck 12 in London…I never though I would get to be there and if I knew the aftermath I probably never would have went out. Too many crazy people!!

I do have a good feeling about this year though. No resolutions because I do not think those ever come true but I feel like this is going to be my year just because of how these last couple of days have played out. I met Daley today!! For those of you who do not know who that is hers a British R&B singer and I was devastated that I could not see his show in London in November. This morning I was having breakfast in SoHo with my friends and he walked in and I swear my heart stopped. My friend got his autograph for me because I was star struck but I eventually got a picture…talk about the start to a good year! Well I hope everyone’s holiday season was as good as mine! I will let you know how it feels to be back in the states in a couple of days!!

See you soon America!!

Dominique

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“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.” –Fitzhugh Mullan

Time July 13th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

 Life Down Under! ~ Australia is PARADISE!!

So- after the 20+ hours of flying. ridiculously long airport lines, and hauling my suitcases around the Sydney airport, I have found myself in PARADISE! And I completely love every second of it! Australia has lived up to and also exceeded my expectations in so many ways. I am really looking forward to the next four months and all of the adventures and enjoyment to come. I can’t believe that I am finally here…

But the journey didn’t begin this well. Saying my goodbyes to my family at the airport was rougher than I expected. I left Harrisburg on this little rickety plane and was just trying to mentally brace myself for the additional two plane rides I was going to have to make. However, on my second flight from Chicago to LA, I sat next to an Australian racecar driver. The guy was awesome! He was so excited that I was going to Australia and he told me that I was going to love it (in addition to telling me his obsession with kettle corn from the US haha). He also led me to the international section of the LA airport (which was a LIFESAVER considering that I got kind of lost in the Chicago airport hahaha). Once in LA, I met up with the other members from the group flight and we were off to Sydney! The flight wasn’t too too bad. The food was decent and I slept most of the time.

Orientation in Sydney was INCREDIBLE!!! IFSA did such an amazing job arranging everything from airport pick-up and accommodation to amazing food and great sight seeing. I completely felt at home and comfortable right away (which I really wasn’t expecting). I was so nervous about leaving my friends and family, but I found that with the busy and fun filled schedules that I was completely distracted from any feelings of homesickness I may have felt. Plus, I was really fortunate to make a lot of awesome friends instantly. Here are some of the highlights from orientation:

Pictures taken on the awesome walking tour of Sydney! The tour was three hours in length but we literally saw EVERYTHING. Sydney is the nicest city I have ever seen! It is clean, quiet, and laid back. I’d go back in a heartbeat! It was a little chilly however (thank god I packed the North Face haha). Australian winter can actually get a bit cold.

Featherdale Wildlife Park- oh my god. It was literally heaven for me- I FINALLY got to meet a koala (and yes they are SO FREAKING ADORABLE!). The zoo is so nice and well kept, plus you can interact with a number of the animals. I was thrilled!

Pictures taken on a hike in the Blue Mountains in Katoomba. The views were BREATHTAKING (seriously the picture doesn’t do it justice). Literally everything from the waterfalls to the palm trees and the rocks to the vast mountains was simply spectacular. Nature at its best!

After our Blue Mountain hike, we went to an aboriginal center where we learned about the aborigines and saw traditional dances, artwork, and even painted our own boomerang. The music was awesome and the people were so friendly and informative.

Later that night we had dinner in Sydney at Pancakes on the Rocks. BEST. PANCAKES. I. HAVE. EVERRRRRR. HAD. (And it’s not just because I am in Australia- they were THAT good!).

The next day we had a free afternoon and me and a bunch of my friends went to Cockatoo Island. Our advisor told us a free art exhibit was going on over there so we checked it out. All I can say is….WOW. I am a HUGE art buff and the island was covered in warehouses FILLED with modern art (the warehouses used to be prison cells/work areas). Literally one of the best displays I have every seen. It was gorgeous!!

That night was our “farewell to Sydney” night. We had a gorgeous dinner cruise on the harbor. The night was bittersweet. Half my closest friends were going to JCU in Townsville and the other half of my closest friends were going to JCU in Cairns. But, the towns are only four hours apart, so some visits will definitely be in order.

Then, the next morning, I packed all my things up in the hostel we were staying in and I boarded another flight- to Cairns! There, many more adventures await me. I was lucky enough to get an apartment with my two closest friends from the trip (thanks to our IFSA advisor for making a last minute phone call haha). I literally can’t wait for all the fun times to come!

But, so far, here is what I’ve learned:

1)   Vegemite is disgusting (but you have to try it anyways because I mean c’mon you’re in Australia).

2)   Kangaroo is actually pretty good. Kind of like steak haha. It’s especially great on pizza!

3)   Tim Tams are AWESOME and would probably make me gain an extensive amount of weight if I ate them as much as I wanted to.

4)   Yes, Australia is different. Ketchup is scarce. Sometimes people have difficulty understanding my American accent. And the whole driving on the opposite side of the road thing still scares the crap out of me. But, you just have to embrace it.

5)   Koalas and wallabies are the cutest animals I have ever met. Like really. They are so friendly and fluffy. Coolest marsupials ever.

6)   Don’t have expectations when you go abroad. Live it up. Be yourself. And, in the end, you’ll find that’s enough to keep you incredibly happy.

 

“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.” –Fitzhugh Mullan

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Home Sweet Home

Time July 2nd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I still cannot believe that I’m back in Fargo, ND. Or, to be honest, that I was just in England for six months.

The whole trip back was surreal, and I think being so exhausted from all of the travel and staying awake (25 hours at the end of it all!) made it even harder to grasp. From the cab to multiple trains to a long day of airports, it was quite the journey. It was pretty cool though, seeing the sun rise in England and set over the US. Here’s a shot I got of the sunset from my final plane ride from Chicago to Fargo:

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I’ve been back for about a week now, and the adjustment back into American/home-life is going much more smoothly than I would have thought. It’s been great to see friends and family that I have only been able to contact via Skype and Facebook while I was abroad. I also really missed my car and my bike …and sunshine, so I’m taking full advantage of all of those things while I have a bit of time to relax before getting into work.

I’m struggling a bit to keep in touch with everyone from Bristol, even those who live in the US, but I’m definitely working on it. I’ve completely unpacked my big suitcase and am currently in the process of re-packing my life so that I can move down to Des Moines (where I’ll continue uni in the fall) in about a week and a half. I’m sure the fact that I’m not going back to Bristol in the fall with everyone else won’t really hit me until I settle in down there, or maybe not even until I start up classes again at Drake University. I’ve downloaded an app on my phone that allows me to listen to BBC Radio 1 all day everyday, so at least I’ll be able to keep up with the music and everything going on in England while I’m back in the States. I definitely miss real commercial-free radio…

I’m determined to make it back to Bristol at some point, maybe for post-grad, or maybe just to visit all the great people I met over these past six months. I miss them all so much already! Even though getting back into the swing of things here will be a challenge, I am so glad I got the opportunity to spend the last six months in Bristol, England. It will always have a special place in my heart, and I absolutely cannot wait to go back someday!

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One Week

Time June 28th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hi, I’m Mike and I’m going to be a junior at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. I’m a biology major and business minor and in one week I will be leaving for New Zealand.

It’s crazy to think that the day is almost here. I have been preparing for this moment ever since last October when I had a meeting with the study abroad advisor at my school. I walked into her office not knowing much. In fact, the meeting was a little overwhelming. The first question she asked was, where do you want to go? I kind of thought that was what we were going to figure out at the meeting but I guess I was a little behind. I knew that I did not want to go to Europe. I figure that would involve lots of museums and old building which I don’t have any appreciation for. I would much rather be in the middle of nowhere with an awesome view. Luckily I had been thinking of this question a little bit before the meeting and was able to come up with two places: Africa or New Zealand. I think Africa would be an incredible experience seeing as I love the savannah. We were quickly able to decide that if I were to go to Africa, I would do a program in Tanzania that focuses on Ecology since that is what I’m interested in. The program seemed a little strict for my liking though and didn’t seem to offer students the opportunity to explore the country on their own which is something that I want to be able to do.

This led me to focus on New Zealand and after much thought and some advice from friends who have been there I decided to study with IFSA-Butler at Massey University. The orientation and excursion activities look amazing and I can’t wait to experience them. The school is only a 20 minute drive away from Auckland which is the biggest city in New Zealand but it’s even closer to beaches, great hiking and hot springs. The biggest ski area in the country is also only a few hours away. Then during our breaks I plan on going down to the South Island to get in some more hiking and an adrenaline rush from Queenstown. This promises to be a crazy semester and I promise to keep you up to date on everything that is going on!

As of now not much exciting is happening. I’m working at a grocery store so I can save up for my trip and am starting to say my goodbyes to friends and family. I’m currently working on starting the packing process just to make sure everything will fit and that I don’t go over the 5olb limit. Each day I watch a video or read something about New Zealand in order to learn about the country and start figuring out all the things I want to do while I’m there. I’ve found that it is best not to do this right before bed seeing as last week I was reading a blog from last year and got so excited that I couldn’t sleep for hours. I’m really hoping that I will be able to sleep next Tuesday night so that I’m not tired for the trip but knowing me I will once again be too excited. I hope everyone is having a great summer and I can’t wait to share all of my experiences with you!

P.S. This map below isn’t exciting now but I will be using it to track where I go throughout the semester so it’s sure to get a lot more interesting!

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My last few days in Bristol

Time June 21st, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

It’s getting quite quiet around Durdham Hall as friends and flatmates trickle home. Two of my flatmates have gone so far – Mat to Portsmouth and Hannah to Los Angeles, CA. It’s slowly setting in that I will eventually have to leave, and I feel a bit sick whenever I do have to think about it. I will miss this place SO MUCH!!! I know I will be back at some point, but it certainly feels far away in the future as I am completely broke from studying abroad twice over the course of my uni career so far… Anyway, I have every intention to make my last few days here count.

After my exam last Thursday, (So glad that’s done!) the flat got together one last time to celebrate Hannah and Steffan’s birthdays and also to wish Hannah a safe journey home as she left Durdham at 4am the next morning. Lots of tears, but overall a good last night here for her.

On Friday we celebrated another set of birthdays, and then on Saturday my hall hosted ‘Durdhambury’, a day-long music festival with food, facepainting, and plenty of other fun things to do. I didn’t spend that much time down in the quad as it was raining for quite a bit of the day, but I heard most of the bands from our kitchen anyway as it overlooks the quad. It was a great chance for everybody to see each other one more time before most people headed out on Monday and Tuesday.

Yesterday I finally walked along my running route on the Downs to take some photos – something I’ve been meaning to do for ages! It was a bit cloudy, but no rain!

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(The best bit of my running route – when I get to see the Clifton Suspension Bridge in all its glory)

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Today my plan is to go back down to the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery to explore a bit more. (Last time I was there, it was mobbed with little kids…) Then I’ll probably grab my last ever Felafel King felafel on laffa (SO GOOD) before I come back up to Durdham to pack and finish a book. Friday will probably be all about packing and saying goodbyes, although I hope to be able to squeeze in a visit to my favorite coffee shop Café du Jour at some point.

My next post will probably be coming from the other side of the Atlantic, which I can hardly come to terms with. It just sounds so ridiculous that I will have to leave Bristol and all of the great people I’ve met here. Wish me a good flight and a good ‘re-entry’ into American culture, and I will be back with an update from the US of A in a few days!

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Only two weeks left? What?!

Time June 11th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s been a busy week for me – I’m definitely trying to make the most of what little time I have left in England! It still astounds me that I have less than two weeks left here. Where did six months go?!

Anyway, this week (despite wind and rain) I got to the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery to see a cool Da Vinci exhibit in honor of the Jubilee. It was really cool, but the museum itself is huge (and at the time it was packed with small children on their half-term) so I’ll have to go back sometime next week. I also finally made it out on my daytrip to Glastonbury! Again, it was super windy and rainy, so that was a bit of a bummer, but I still managed to climb to the top of Glastonbury Tor. The views were STUNNING, and it was definitely the highlight of the trip. Here are a few pictures:

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Yesterday, the one sunny day this week, I trekked down to the Harbour to take in Bristol’s Big Market, which overtook a good portion of the Harbour and the older part of the city. I had a great day out – picked up a Nutella crêpe as a late breakfast snack and a copy of Bill Bryson’s ‘Notes from a Small Island’ (highly recommended by Lynne – going to save it for the flight home).

Overall it’s been quite a good week for me – now I’ve just got to really hit the books for my Politics exam on Thursday! Wish me luck!

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The Olympics Come to Bristol!

Time May 29th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This week was an exciting week for all Bristolians! On Tuesday evening the Olympic Torch made its way into the via the harbour. I was lucky enough to be able to take part in the festivities going on that night in Millennium Square, and of course to show my Team Great Britain spirit! Here are some photos from the evening:

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Then the next morning, the Olympic Torch Relay continued – from College Green, across the Clifton Suspension Bridge, finally making its way up to where I live. One of my flatmates joined me early (relatively speaking) that morning to see the action in person. It was a blast to see everyone out there lining the streets and waving their Union Jacks! We scouted out a great spot to see the runner go by:

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In other news, as you can probably tell from these photos, summer has FINALLY arrived in the UK! It has been sunny and gorgeous all week! Later today I’ll be heading out to the Downs for a BBQ and some frisbee with friends as a break from revision. Hopefully the sunshine sticks around for my last few weeks in Bristol!

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Back in the saddle

Time May 14th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

 Sunday, May 13 – Back in the saddle

 

Happy Mother’s Day to my mommy at home in Arkinsaw!  I’m going to do the dishes tonight after dinner for my host-mom as my little gift to her, even though it’s not an Argentine holiday.  But apparently today is Mother’s Day in Uruguay, too.  haha just not here

I am beyond excited to say I have been feeling a zillion times better since my gran quilombo with the pneumonia.  I’m not getting tired nearly as much after walking around more and more every day.  I still take naps every other day, but I think that’s probably just my normal tiredness.  haha  I’ve been doing Pilates and feel really good, but I’m still a little iffy about trying to run again.  I don’t want to run in the chilly air outside (not sure my lungs would like that too much), so maybe I’ll re-join my gym.  Or maybe not.  haha We’ll see.

But today I went with one of my friends to the Feria de Mataderos, which was a big fair of artisan stuff in Mataderos, a barrio basically on the opposite side of the city from where I live.  We were really proud of ourselves for getting there without trouble after a little over an hour on the bus.  It was sooo cool, as you can see in the pictures.  There was live music, dancing, booths set up in every direction that had every kind of mate gourd ever, jewelry, clothes, A LLAMA and his mini-horse friend, leather out the wazoo, tons of amazing-looking food, and I don’t know what else.  I got some of my gifts to bring home checked off my list and for super cheap!

the llama!! and his mini-horse friend

live music at the Feria de Mataderos, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, BsAs, Argentina

a metal wine-holding gaucho!

 

Along with today’s adventures, I’ve been getting back in the swing of things as I’m feeling better.  It’s so nice to be able to enjoy the city again!  I conquered one of my biggest study-abroad fears and got my hair done!  And the guy was hilarious and actually did an awesome job!  But I almost got my tips dyed…  After he looked at me kind of funny and pulled out the color book, I was super confused and asked him to confirm that “desgaste” meant cortar–to cut.  Apparently it doesn’t.  It was ridiculous and we both got a good laugh out of it.  I told him at least now he had the best story of the day about the silly American girl.  But after that was cleared up and he offered to shave my head (another word I didn’t know before), he ended up doing exactly what I wanted and I taught him a couple of funny words in English too.

We found real HOT WINGS in BsAs!! and they were actually spicy!

 

Last weekend I went with the human rights concentration kids to an estancia (basically the country) in the province of Buenos Aires (not the city).  It was another IFSA-sponsored event, so we obviously ate some ahhmazing food and the accommodations were awesome.  We left early Saturday morning for the two hour trip and came back Sunday night.  Even though it was just two days, it was the perfect amount of time to get all the fun/relaxing stuff in.  But we still all wanted to stay and study abroad on the estancia drinking wine all day and eating like kings.  hahaha It was a pretty chill trip and we didn’t really have much organized activity as much as just options to do cool stuff or to just relax.  Because I was still feeling a little ill-ish from the pneumonia, I opted for mostly chill time to catch up on reading.  But I did go canoeing in the lagoon on the estancia!  I’m not really sure of the definition of a lagoon, but this body of water was barely more than a super stretched out/glorified puddle.  So it was really wide and could have passed as a mini-lake from just looking at it, but once we hopped in the canoe and started “paddling” it was basically like pushing off land the whole time.  I think the deepest it got was a solid three feet.  Even so, it was hilarious how much effort we were putting into it because somehow there was still a current/wind that we had to fight once we got off shore.  But it was really fun to get out of the city for a hot second and have a relaxing couple of days.  This coming Saturday I’m going to Pilar, a city outside of BsAs, with the exchange program group from the Universidad del Salvador.  They have another campus there and it’s supposed to be really pretty and relaxing too, so I’m really excited for that.  And we’re going to have an asado–aka a BBQ with tons of meat! yaummm  :)

learning a dance at the Estancia

 

feasting at the Estancia

 

learning the proper mate form at the Estancia, Chascomús, BsAs, Argentina

 

the Estancia, Chascomús, Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

canoeing in the laguna at the Estancia, Chascomús, Buenos Aires, Argentina

our little cottage at the Estancia, Chascomús, Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

This past Wed. in my human rights research class we went to the  Instituto Espacio para la Memoria, which is where people were brought and tortured during the dictatorship from 1976-1983.  It’s this gated area with a lot of different buildings that don’t seem that incriminating.  A lot of them were disguised as office buildings during the dictatorship so as not to draw suspicion.  It’s located right off of a main avenue on the edge of the city, which was eerie to think about how that must have functioned when people were being brought there to be imprisoned and tortured.  It was hard to imagine that we were in the exact same place where so many people ‘disappeared.’  There were bits and pieces of testimonies on display in the main building that we toured, and they really gave light to the horror that only handfuls of people survived.  They spoke about their complete lack of freedoms.  They were unable to go to the bathroom at their own will.  They were hooded and shackled/handcuffed and not allowed to talk to the others around them.  They were packed into rooms where they sat for days, weeks, or months (sometimes even years).  Some testimonies spoke of the radio that was constantly playing on full volume at all hours and the lights that were always on.  Their sense of their surroundings was completely controlled by guards.  It’s scary to think that almost nobody knows how many people were packed into the rooms at a time because they weren’t able to see the others.  We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside of the building where the ‘disappeared’ were kept, but I do have some pictures of the artwork and quotes from some of those who were released/friends and family.  I could go on for days about the dictatorship, or what is called the Dirty War in the States, but I’ll hold back for now.  I’ll let the pictures/quotes speak for themselves.

 

Artwork about the memory of the dictatorship

 

one of the buildings where the disappeared were illegally held and tortured"Lo único que les pido, si les queda algo da valor, es que digan dónde están los cuerpos" The only thing I ask of them, if they leave anything of worth, is to say where the bodies are. --Charly Pisoni from H.I.J.O.S.

 

"Es fuerte verlos entrar esposados, cuando hace más de treinta años la situación fue al revés y ellos llevaban a nuestra gente esposadas." It's powerful to see them handcuffed, when more than 30 years ago the situation was the opposite and they brought our people in handcuffs. --Cristina Muro, from a group for Families of the Disappeared and Detained for Political Reasons

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Six Weeks of Europe

Time May 7th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Internet access, I have come to find out, is not always the most reliable when you are European-country-hopping for six weeks and staying in budget hostels.

Nevertheless, I have returned from the excursion of a lifetime back into the eagerly awaiting and open arms of my dear Oxford. Yet another reason why I urge anyone studying abroad to spend at least a whole semester (two terms at Oxford) abroad: It will take at least the first several weeks just to get acclimated to your surroundings. Come Spring Break time, you’re eager to get out and explore, which is amazing and mandatory in every sense of the word. Yet it is an equally wonderful feeling to know that, while you are looking forward to going back to your home home, you have a new home-ish city to return to. Coming back to Oxford really did feel like coming to a home away from home. It’d be such a shame to miss out on that feeling– I’m definitely not ready to say goodbye yet.

I decided the next few posts will be more photo bloggish on account of me feeling like I’m swimming in photos. I’ll pick a few pictures of from each city I traveled to (in order, for the most part): Wales with the Butler group, Dublin, London, Matlock, Paris, Florence, Rome, Venice, Salzburg, Vienna, Prague, and Amsterdam. I’ll spread them out over the next few posts, however, so as to not entirely crash the internet.

(I’m hoping to create some sort of video slideshow with music and all of that nice stuff, but I can’t make any promises as to when that will be accomplished. If I put it in parentheses I don’t feel quite as guilty if it takes longer than planned.)

It was a beautifully, delightfully long six weeks of travel. I feel like I soaked up a big part of the world I’d never experienced before. And, let me tell you, it feels good.

So now, let us begin in Wales, London, Matlock, and Dublin.

The Butler excursion to Wales was unbelieeevably fun. A couple weeks before you go, they let you list some top picks for activities you’d like to do. Some choices are half- and full-day hikes, a castle tour, a trip to a beach town that I currently forget the name of (Welsh is not a pronounceable language, mind you), kayaking, canoeing, a high ropes course, mountain biking, etc. I elected to do the castle tour to get a bit of history, a trip to the beach town, and a half-day hike (a word of warning. By half-day hike, they do not mean ‘leisurely walk through a nice park.’ It is very, very much a hike. But a breathtaking one, at that). It was a wonderful three days conveniently placed right at the end of my term. Lovely to see all of the Butler friends we met at the London orientation, and the perfect way to start of what was to become an insane six weeks straight of travel.

I then headed off to Dublin for about a week to visit a friend of mine who’s living there. I elected to take the ferry, per one of my tutor’s suggestions. Cheaper than flying? Probably. It depends. I for one went during the week of St. Patty’s Day, so all of the flight prices were painful to even look at. The ferry will cost you about £40 each way. It’s kind of a fun, new way to travel. Depending on the ferry you take, it can take either 3.5 hours or 1.5. The 3.5-hour is essentially a floating hotel. It is massive and comfortable, though pretty slow. The appropriately named “Jonathan Swift” ferry is what it promises. Swift. But in ferry-speak that also means 1.5 hours of so much sloshing around that it takes all the concentration you have in you just to make walk 20 feet to the bathroom. I’ll leave the pro and con weighing up to you. Overall, I’d recommend it as a method of travel.

ANYWAY. Dublin is just wonderful. It has all the old-world-y charm of London, but at about a quarter of the insanity levels. It’s a much easier city to be in, overall. Don’t get me wrong- I absolutely love London. Dublin is a bit more relaxing, however. Some must-sees: Trinity College, the Book of Kells (staggeringly awesome), the Guinness and/or Jameson factory tours should you so desire. Also! I HIGHLY recommend catching a train to Howth. A lot of tourists seem to be under the impression that you can’t see the impressive, obligatory Irish cliffs/ocean views unless you’re on the west coast. THIS IS SILLY. The train takes all of 45 minutes, and plops you down in a charming seaside village. If you walk away from the station east toward the ocean, you can walk up into some of the neighborhood streets, which will then lead you up to some mind-blowing hiking paths. Do it. For the sake of your Dublin experience, please do it.

My Dad then flew into London, where we stayed for a couple days. The must-sees here are all pretty obvious and easy to find. Unfortunately, I haven’t spend enough time there to really have insight into the cool, lesser-known things. But I’m sure all of the London study abroad folk have and would be happy to recommend some. All I can say is, prepare to be impressed. London is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. It’s stressful, busy, sometimes difficult to navigate, and if you don’t go in with an open mind and a patient attitude I can see it being easy to be overwhelmed by (especially if you’re like me and until now have been inept in the ways of travel). So the solution is simple: be open-minded and patient. You will get SO much out of the city when you are. Trust me. So much.

And lastly (for now) is Matlock. Matlock is an area of the Peak District, Derbyshire in England. It’s a couple hours outside of London, I believe (after taking at least a dozen trains, I can’t even remember the timing of it all). Let me attempt to convey the beauty of this place. Have you seen the 2005 Pride and Prejudice? Do you remember Mr. Darcy’s house? Firstly, if you haven’t, I recommend that film. Secondly, and more importantly, I recommend this place more than just about anything. The kindest people I’ve encountered in Europe to this day (we got hopelessly lost, found out we were a whole town away from our hotel, and a realtor offered to drive us in her miniature car to the hotel, if that helps describe it). It’s like wandering around some kind of dreamland. Full of the tiniest, most charming towns you can imagine. Hills everywhere. And just. So. Much. Green. London and Oxford are relatively flat, so this place was very unexpected. Chatsworth House (Mr. Darcy’s House) is, in my opinion, THE must-see here. It’s a massive palace full of some incredible art (the sculpture room, also in the movie, is stunning). And the grounds are enormous. Gardens everywhere, one of the most beautiful views you’ll ever see, and I just can’t even think of anything else to say except ‘go there.’

I think you’re probably with me when I say that’s enough for this time around. I’ll return with some, hopefully slightly more brief, words and photos of the other cities. And then I’ll return to blogging about life in Oxford, when I can focus on some more interesting writing rather than feeling completely overwhelmed by how much I have left to post. Stay tuned for Italy!

Travel-high-ly, sincerely, and until next time,
Kelsey

 

 

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Spring Break! Woo!

Time April 9th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Already one week into the Easter Holiday and I am thoroughly enjoying both the unseasonable sunshine and no classes. My goals over this month are a bit different than those of most of my fellow study abroad students: 1) Run as much as possible (as I have a 10k to run in Bristol in mid-May), 2) See as much of Bristol as I can, 3) Spend as little money as I have to. I suppose that last one isn’t that shocking to other study abroad students. What is is the fact that I don’t intend to leave this little island over break. I intend on getting to know this lovely city I’m living in and go on a few daytrips here and there around England, Wales and Scotland. A week ago I visited The Smallest City in England, Wells. Had a lovely day exploring the city, especially the GORGEOUS cathedral! Possibly the coolest I’ve seen, and I’ve seen quite a few cathedrals… This past weekend was spent not-so-cheaply (unfortunately for my bank account) in London with a friend from my home university. We had a lovely time despite the return of chillier weather. I hope it warms up again, but looking at the weather that may be a bit far off. More photos and stories to come as I head to the White Cliffs of Dover on Wednesday and Thursday. Then I’ll be in and very close to Bristol over the Easter Weekend.

Cheers!

P.S. In regard to the post title, my flatmate Mat decided that whenever I use ‘Spring Break’ instead of the English term  ‘Easter Holiday’ he would yell ‘Wooooo!’ in either celebration or protest of the term’s ‘Americanness. :)

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Adventures in the Land of Sheep

Time March 23rd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Wow, I can’t believe it’s already been a month since my last post. Time has just been flying!

This month alone I have ventured across the border to Wales twice, and I’m already planning my next trip. What a beautiful country!

Early this month my flatmate Steffan invited us to stay with his family in Cardiff – obviously we accepted his generous offer. (Oh, and by ‘us’ and ‘we’ I mean me, my flatmates Becky and Hannah, and another friend of the flat Mat.) Through many public transportation struggles we managed to all make it there and back, having a lovely time along the way and meeting some fun people. Steffan started an attempt to teach us Welsh, or at least the Welsh alphabet, but struggled… Here are some photos of Cardiff Bay, one of our last stops before returning to Bristol – so lovely to see some ocean!

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Then later in the month I joined the rest of the IFSA-Butler students and staff for an Adventure Weekend in Snowdownia. In all honesty I was quite sore from the hiking and rock-climbing activities for a few days after the trip, but the beautiful landscapes we saw over the weekend have inspired me to make a return trip up to the north of Wales for a little bit more adventure-ing. I’m hoping to head up to Angelsey in May when I have another break from lectures and exams. I have a ton of photos from my hike alone, but here are a few of my favorites:

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I was also able to make it on a short excursion to Llandudno, a cute seaport town. A few friends and I had fun just strolling the pier and eating ice cream before the long train ride home.

pier_composite

More news on Bristol and my upcoming Easter Holiday plans shortly!

 

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An Irish St. Patrick’s Day

Time March 22nd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Top O the mornin’ to ya!  Can you guess it??  I finally ventured out of the United Kingdom and entered Ireland for the very first time in my life!  I was so excited to see some leprechauns and a big pot of gold.  Unfortunately, that stuff doesn’t exist in real life (that I know about), but Guinness beer does, and boy was it good.  So why Dublin?  It was St. Patty’s Day of course!  I was the one of many tourists who visited Ireland that weekend to spend all my money in the pubs.  Besides celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, this was my trip to visit my friend Norah who is studying at Trinity College in Dublin!  What a double whammy.  Thankfully, I have a friend in Dublin because accommodation in Dublin was completely booked, including hostels.  If I didn’t book my flight as early as I did, I could have been looking at a £200 flight ticket one way.  On normal days, tickets could cost as low as £20.  Everyone worldwide knows to come to Ireland on March 17.

I arrived in Dublin on Thursday, March 15 around 8 pm after a long day of traveling.  Unfortunately, flying out of Cardiff has its challenges.  If you look on a map, Cardiff and Dublin are pretty close, so what’s the problem, you ask?  Cardiff is not a well known city (despite being a capitol city), and the only airlines flying out to Dublin was extremely expensive.  Finding my route to Dublin was a challenge, and I did a lot of homework to figure out how to do it.  I first looked at ferries from Wales to Ireland.  I would have to travel to Holyhead (northwest Wales), which would have been a 5 hour train ride, and it would have been more expensive taking the train than flying.  Flying was definitely the best option, but flying from where?  Bristol!  Bristol, England is only a 45-minute train ride from Cardiff, and I found tickets very cheap (it does help that I have a student railcard; the discounts are amazing!).  On my way to Bristol, I had a lovely chat with my mom on the phone before I headed off on my adventure.  Once I arrived at Bristol Temple Meads train station, I took a bus from the station to the airport, which is one of the smallest airports I’ve ever been to.  Of course I’m used to O’Hare.  I arrived with two hours to spare because I had no idea how long it was going to take me to get through security.  It was nice to keep my shoes on as I was walking through the metal detectors.  I flew out of Ryanair which is one of the cheap airlines to travel throughout Europe.  Sometimes, they sell plane tickets for £12 anywhere in Europe.  Too bad there isn’t a Ryanair in Cardiff, or any part of Wales.  It’s annoying traveling to England just to fly out of the UK for a decent price.

The flight to Dublin was just less than an hour.  I got a lovely new green (of course it’s green) stamp on my passport, and I was on my way.  There were green, white, and orange balloons everywhere, along with many decorations inside Dublin Airport.  I took a bus from the airport to the city centre at Trinity College/Grafton Street where I finally met up with Norah!!  I hadn’t seen her since the fall semester ended in December, so it was a very happy homecoming for the both of us.  My first night there was a relaxing one.  We watched Forrest Gump at her apartment while we ate dinner.  This Forrest Gump night was a long time coming.  We planned on having a Forrest Gump night in the fall at Iowa, but with different schedules, it was hard to coordinate a date.  Watching this movie in Dublin made the moment a whole lot sweeter.

Forrest Gump

“My name’s Forrest, Forrest Gump”

Friday was rainy.  It was very hard to see the city because it was either misty or pouring.  Sometimes it was raining with the sun out to show off some nice rainbows.  I hoped there was a pot of gold on the end of them.  Why I came to Ireland without an umbrella or a raincoat is beyond me.  I think I wanted the weather to be nice, and therefore I didn’t bring appropriate raingear.  So dumb.  Norah and I mostly ventured into the city centre where we saw a lot of St. Patty’s decorations.  We walked around the Bank of Ireland, Temple Bar, and touristy souvenir shops.  Eventually, we sought shelter at a pub called MacTurcaills, and that is where I had my very first Guinness!  I honestly didn’t know what to expect.  I have been saving up for this moment for a long time, and it actually wasn’t bad at all.  I don’t know what it tastes like in the States, but in Ireland, it is delicious.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to the Guinness Storehouse (the Guinness factory) nor the Jameson Whiskey distillery because tickets were all booked.  It is a crazy touristy weekend after all.  After we finished our pints, we ventured back into the rain and went shopping.  Norah needed a green Dublin shirt for St. Patty’s and I was just looking for Christmas ornaments and souvenirs.  I ended up getting a shamrock ornament that says Ireland on it, along with a Guinness keychain, which can also be an ornament.

Lep

I found a leprechaun!

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Hanging out with Molly Malone

Bank of Ireland

Bank of Ireland

Temple Bar

Norah and I at Temple Bar

We went back home to escape the rain and dry out our clothes.  I was completely soaked.  My feet were totally wet, and there is nothing more uncomfortable than wet shoes and socks.  After we dried off and took quick naps, we went out again.  We picked up sandwiches along the way to pub called Porterhouse where we met up with Norah’s Trinity friends for a pint.  This was an interesting pub: they make all their own beer from all over the world.  You cannot find a Guinness there.  The only downside was that the place was completely packed.  We ended up finding a small table available in the beer garden along with all the smokers.  It wasn’t too horrible and the house beer was quite good.  We went back to Norah’s friends’ apartment where we all hung out until it was time for us to go to bed.  We needed our rest; the next day was Patty’s Day!

Ready for St Pattys

Getting ready to go out!

Here is my impression of St. Patty’s Day: crowded, loud, crazy, and green.  It’s basically what you would expect for an Irish holiday where you celebrate the national saint by drinking your heart out.  My day wasn’t that over-the-top extreme, but I had quite a good time.  After we woke up and got ready in our green, Norah, Norah’s roommate, and I headed to the parade on Dame Street.  It was a beautiful day, except during the parade.  The only part it rained that day was during the parade.  Go figure.  Unfortunately, I am 5’5’’ and couldn’t see the parade.  I found out later that there were more than 500,000 attendees.  From what I did hear and see, it was pretty good.  The music was great and I heard a lot of bagpipes, and some of the tall structures in the parade were interesting.  Because none of us could see the parade, we went to the Porterhouse again for a pint.  They were giving out free pints so that was awesome.  After the parade, we went back to MacTurcaills where the Trinity College International Society was throwing a party with free food.  I met some interesting people from all over the U.S., Mexico, Norway, Italy, Australia, etc.  I was slightly taken aback when the Australian guy asked me right off the bat if I lived in a red or blue state.  I thought that was slightly inappropriate for the very first topic of conversation.  We hung out at that pub for a few hours playing fun games and having nice conversation with different people.  We tried to go meet up with some other friends at a pub called Peadar Kearney’s on Dame Street.  Worst idea ever.  The pub was so packed, we couldn’t even make it to the bar.  I was hanging out with six other American study abroad students, and there was no way we were going to make it back there.  We literally couldn’t move forward, only back out the door.  They had live music, and our friends were all the way in the back.  Our group went out for pizza and burgers and came back to the apartment to watch…Mulan!  Yes, imagine 10 university students watching Mulan on St. Patty’s Day.  Yes, it was pretty ridiculous and a lot of fun.  The Mulan watching crew consisted of a mix of American and Irish students.  It was great when everyone was singing along to the songs, especially “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.”

parade

At the parade.  Like my view?

decorations

Decorations

at macturcaills

At MacTurcaills with a Guinness

waiting for pizza

Waiting for the pizza

Some of the Americans in our group had to go back to Limerick, so Norah and I were on our own for the rest of the night.  We went back to Peadar Kearney’s again hoping we could get in this time.  Our friends stayed there the entire day, but of course, it was still packed with people.  They actually had security blocking off sections of the pub because it was still so crowded.  We headed back to MacTurcaills for a while and were surprised to see many people still there from the party 7 hours earlier.  After some time there, we went back home.  Despite not seeing much of the parade, my Dublin St. Patty’s experience was a blast.  Dublin itself was a madhouse, and no matter what nationality you were, everyone was Irish that day.  My next journey: Mardi Gras in New Orleans (though that might be a few years down the road).

The day after St. Patty’s was gorgeous!  Blue skies, sun, and warmth.  This was the perfect day to do some sightseeing.  We walked around Dublin’s main park, St. Stephen’s Green.  The grass was very green and the flowers were an extraordinary color.  It had a cute footbridge and lovely fountains.  It was extremely lively, especially the day after St. Patty’s.  We walked out to Grafton Street where a lot of the main shopping is.  Flowers and buskers crowded the streets, but we were more interested in the gelatos we just got.  I had pistachio gelato which was absolutely amazing.  After gelatos, we went to Norah’s school, Trinity College.  It’s the highest ranked and oldest university in Ireland.  The buildings were absolutely beautiful, but campus was filled with tourists.  Trinity holds the Book of Kells, which I had the pleasure to see.  The Book of Kells is a Gospel book in Latin circa 800.  I don’t know much about it, but it was very cool.  This was a part of the old library which had many old texts out on display.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take pictures of either place, but the library was definitely my favorite part.  After visiting Trinity, we went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  I didn’t go in, but there were plants, flowers, and trees everywhere, including a massive fountain.  The rest of the day we just hung out, and at night we were finally able to get into Peadar Kearney’s.  There was a live musician singing Irish pub songs and people of all ages.  There was a large group of mid-twenties Swedes that took up most of the dance floor.  Personally, they were the best entertainment.  After a pint, we met up with some friends at Temple Bar.  I couldn’t find one Irish person in that place.  The drinks are outrageously expensive because tourists don’t know any better; it’s such a tourist pub, though it didn’t start out that way.  The live music was good, but a large group of French people started chanting and singing French tunes over the live guitarist and bassist.  I was extremely peeved by this, and we left the bar soon after.

park walkway

At St. Stephen’s Green

me by flowers

By some flowers

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The footbridge

flowers and palm trees

Seems slightly out of place, but beautiful nonetheless

gelatos

Gelato break!

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The front of Trinity College

Trinity Interior

The Trinity interior

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Trinity building

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The Book of Kells

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Flowers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St Pats cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

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Fountain at St. Pat’s

flower pots at pats

Flowerpots

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At Temple Bar getting ready for some live music

I left Dublin at 8 am the following morning.  It was nice to spend three full days in the city experiencing Ireland; however, I need a trip back to Ireland soon.  How London is to England is how Dublin is to Ireland; they are cities within a country, but there is so much more to the country than that one city.  Once the weather starts getting nicer, I might make a trip to Cork by ferry since the ferry departs from Swansea (an hour west from Cardiff).

I hope you enjoyed your Patty’s Day just as much as I did.  As for St. Patty’s in Dublin, that’s one item scratched off my bucket list.

Irish phrase of the entry: “What’s the Craic?”  What’s happening?  How are you?  Craic is pronounced crack.

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My Pride & Prejudice

Time March 9th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

If you know me, you know I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen. Which means you can quickly deduce that I’m a bit of a romantic. I’m currently rereading Pride & Prejudice, and I just picked up the movie for $4.50…it’s been my favorite movie for years, but I’m too much of a tight-wad to spend $10 on a movie, so I’ve been looking to find it on sale for a long time. And I finally did! Yay…….until I put it in my laptop and find out that apparently DVD’s are coded with the country they are sold in. At first it wouldn’t play, because it said I wasn’t allowed to play it in my region. Ok, bought it in the UK, I’m in the UK…but obviously my computer must still be set to the US. So I changed it to default to UK. Ok, good, temporarily fixed. But, I can only change that setting on my laptop 4 times, and regular DVD players in the US might not play it. Big bummer…but at least I have it to watch while I’m here. I might just leave it with a friend when I go back and continue my search for one on sale back home.

Ok, so enough about my experience with DVD’s and back to the purpose of the post. For those of you who aren’t Pride & Prejudice fans, sorry, this post is a bit themed. I love the 2005 version of the movie (and yes, for those who know there is a difference between the US ending and other countries, I love the romantic US one :0). So my goal is to visit as many of the houses that were used to in the film as I can. I thankfully found a blog (myprideandprejudice.com) that describes each of them.

Longbourn: The home of the Bennet family

Longbourn

I would love to live here! It’s not nearly as large & stately as the other manors in the movie, but it seems like a house you could actually live in! The actual house is Groombridge Place in the county of Kent, which is southeast of London and borders the sea. Who wouldn’t want a beautiful, 300 year home surrounded by a moat? Sounds dreamy to me!

Rosings: the home of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, aunt of Darcy

Rosings

The home of Lady Catherine is definitely one of pomp and not such a welcoming place. But still, it’s history and overall splendor make it appealing. It was played by Burghley House in Lincolnshire, which is a county that borders York and is only 2 hours southeast of Leeds.

Netherfield: the home rented by Bingley in the neighborhood of the Bennets

Netherfield

I didn’t realize that huge estates could be rented, but that is precisely what Bingley was doing until he decided upon one to permanently live in. Netherfield was played by Basildon Park in Berskshire, which is just west of London.

Pemberley (inside): Darcy’s estate

Pemberley (inside)

The manor they used to film the outside of Pemberley is such an iconic estate that it was difficult to spend much time filming there, so they did most of the interior shots at another location. For most of the scenes, the inside of Pemberley was played by Wilton House in Salisbury, which is southwest of London.

Pemberley: the estate of Darcy

Pemberley

Darcy’s home is definitely the most breathtaking of all the large estates in the movie. The exterior shots, and some of the interior (such as the art collection of statues), were all shot at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, which is a little over an hour south of Leeds. Derbyshire is where Jane Austen said Darcy lived, and many suppose Chatsworth was the actual estate she modeled Pemberley after.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to see all of them…but I definitely want to go to at least a few! Not to mention Jane Austen’s Home, which has been turned into a museum for her. All in all, I feel so blessed to be in a country that has been the source of my inspiration and dreams for so long!

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Hello Belfast!

Time February 27th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello everyone! First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for my delay in blogging. Since I’ve gotten here, it has been nothing but chaos but also nothing very “blog-worthy” has happened until this past weekend.

One of the first things we did once arriving to Belfast was go on a black cab taxi tour of the city. While Belfast isn’t an overwhelmingly big city, it is filled with history and interesting places to see. One of the main things Belfast is famous for is all of the murals around town. I have included pictures of those below about the time period called “The Troubles” which is Belfast’s most famous piece of history.

Another thing I should mention are my classes! Here at Queen’s University – Belfast, I am considered a third year (just like in America). However, the difference here is that students only complete three years of college. So if I was a full-time Irish student, I would be getting ready to graduate…yikes!

I only have classes on Wednesday and Thursday even though I’m taking 15 credit hours. This is because the English Department at Queen’s is more interested in self-taught reading and then discussion in class. In each of my classes, we read a book a week and then come to class prepared to discuss each one. Let’s just say I’ve been doing a LOT of reading.

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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.

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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.

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British Pound notes…what a colourful creation

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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!

welshlovespoons

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.

welshflag

Flag of Wales

dragonbutebuilding

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.

welshrugbyball

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.

welshcakes

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.

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The front entrance to the Queens Arcade

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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.

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Little Differences

Time February 13th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’ve tried to remember as many of the little differences as I can between English and American culture. Here are the main one’s I’ve noticed so far:

Words:
American vs. British

Trunk (car) vs. Boot
Elevator vs. Lift
Biscuits vs. Cookies
Cell Phone vs. Telly
Mail vs. Post
Call (a person on the phone) vs. Ring
French Fries vs. Chips
Chips vs. Crisps
“Have a good day!” vs. “Cheers!” or “Cheerio!”
Friend vs. Mate (apparently not just an Australian thing :0)
To Rent (apartment vs. To Let
Grilled Cheese vs. Cheese Toastie
Line vs. Queue

I’ll add others as I think of them. But overall, adjusting to English culture hasn’t been that difficult. Sometimes I forget I’m the foreigner and find it funny when they can’t understand my accent. It takes me a minute for my brain to digest the fact that I’m the one with the accent…not them.

As far as accents go, I can distinguish where people are from, for the most part. People from southern England, especially London, have a more westernized accent that is really easy to understand. The others British people often call them “posh.” Those from northern England can be harder to understand, especially when they are speaking quickly or in a big group. People from Wales and Scotland have distinct accents too…but I think the easiest ones to pick out are the Irish. Their accent, in my opinion, is by far the best! I haven’t purposely tried to pick up on an accent yet, mostly for the fear of failing horribly! :0) But I do notice every now and then a word slips out that has a British sound to it. Secretly, I would love to come home with a full-blown British accent, but I want that to happen naturally. We shall see!

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A Day in the Life…of my travels throughout London

Time February 10th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Almost a month has passed since I first arrived in the United Kingdom, and I have so much to say.  I have been on an incredible journey and learned so much about different cultures and attitudes, not only from the Brits, but from other people worldwide.  School has started, and I am busily adjusting to my life in Cardiff.  But let me back-track.  I have had an incredible week in London that you don’t know about yet….

Let’s look back to January 18 while I was still in London.  My cousin Jenni and I became the ultimate tourists, driving first to Abbey Road Studios.  I definitely had to make my Beatles pilgrimage out there and cross that zebra crosswalk.  I’m sure the cars and traffic weren’t too happy because they had to wait until I crossed the crosswalk before they could continue.   I was taking my time.

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Abbey Road sign

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Front door of Abbey Road Studios

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The famous zebra crosswalk

We parked at a nearby parking garage, but this garage had the most elaborate cars: Porsches, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys, Audis, Mercedes…you get the picture.  I did find the coolest Mini in this garage as well.  The car was detailed as if it was an X-ray.  There was a skeleton that looked like it was driving on the side of the car, and the hood showed an x-ray of the engine.  It was so creative and so cool.  After buying some Beatles souvenirs at a local shop, we took the St. John’s Wood tube to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the Guard.

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The sweet Mini. Notice the x-ray/skeleton

I wish I was taller.  Buckingham Palace is a madhouse for tourists, especially during the changing of the Guard.  I saw most of the ceremony through some man’s video camera because I couldn’t see over the heads of the crowd.  The Guards weren’t donning their more famous red coats, but instead they were wearing lavender purple.  Don’t worry, they were still wearing their tall, funny hats.  After we saw most of the ceremony, we took the tube from Green Park to Westminster to check out Parliament, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey.  We came out of the tube station right at the bottom of Big Ben, and it was so grand and beautiful.  I took lovely pictures of the amazing architecture.  Across the street of Parliament was Westminster Abbey.  I have never been inside Westminster before, but unfortunately, it cost £16 just to get inside, including the student discount.  I passed, but I still plan on going inside sometime before I leave.

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Changing of the Guard

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Big Ben and I

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The back end of Parliament

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The front of Westminster Abbey

We made our way back to the Westminster tube station.  This tube station was not like the rest of the tube stations: it was high tech and extremely modern.  It was a very impressive station.  We were both getting hungry for lunch, so we made our way to the best place in town: Harrods.  Now that is an impressive department store.  The wall and ceiling decorations were breath taking, and the food halls were gorgeous.  We took an Egyptian themed staircase/escalator up to a café and had lovely sandwiches and tea.  Everything about Harrods was grand and definitely attracted a certain demographic (usually people that have lots of money to spend).  After lunch, we made our way back to the food halls and bought big, beautiful cupcakes and a bunch of mini cupcakes for the kids.  I had a red velvet cupcake, and we also bought flavored marshmallow cubes.

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Hanging out at Westminster tube station

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Cupcakes galore at Harrods

The following day on Thursday, I met the Chewing Gum artist.  Jenni and I found him on the street working on two pieces of gum, and he stopped to chat with us for a few minutes.  He was a local artist who paints on old gum from the sidewalks and turns them into works of art.  He has gotten a lot of recognition in the art world around London, and even in New York.

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Meeting up with the Chewing Gum Artist

Later that evening after dinner (fish and chips), Jenni, Jon, and I went to the Duke of York Theatre to see a play called Backbeat.  Here’s the synopsis: Backbeat is the story of how the Beatles “became” the Beatles when John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pete Best, and Stuart Sutcliffe embarked on their journey from the famous docks of Liverpool to search for success in the seedy red light district of Hamburg.  The compelling triangular relationship between the band’s original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, the striking German photographer Astrid Kirchherr whom he fell in love with, and his best friend John Lennon, became an intrinsic part of The Beatles’ story – and put them on an unstoppable trajectory onto the world stage.  Obviously, I just copied that from the website, but it was fantastic!  It was raunchy, hilarious, had great music, and I would really like to see it again.  The actors who played Stuart, John Lennon, and Paul were fantastic!  When they were playing, they actually looked like the Beatles!  The Paul actor had all of Paul’s head movements perfectly, and he looked just like him.  The only small hitch was that the actor was not playing lefty (of course that would bother me).  The actor that played John was spot on with the way he bounces.  Even for the brief time Ringo was in it, the actor played a perfect Ringo.  He smiled constantly, and played his drums just like him.  They had such Liverpool accents that even Jenni and I were having a hard time understanding occasionally.  There would be laughter in the crowd, and we were clueless, unsure on what they said.  At the end, the actors played a few Beatles numbers which got the crowd up and we all sang and danced.  I screamed and sang like those darn Beatlemania girls.  They played “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Love Me Do,” “Twist and Shout,” and so many more.

On Friday, it was time for me to leave the Alpert house and move to Notting Hill where my Butler orientation was taking place.  I traveled by tube, and the one hour it took to travel from Muswell Hill to Notting Hill was the most miserable time on the Underground to date.  I had my giant suitcase and bags with me, and the stations had neither escalators nor lifts (elevators).  I had to make a transfer from the blue Picadilly line to the red Central line at Holborn station.  Worst station ever for lots of luggage!  It only had stairs!  Once I made it up and down the stairs to my platform, I almost couldn’t lift my big suitcase onto the tube itself!  There is a tall gap between the platform and the tube and that was miserable; I seriously thought the tube was going to start moving with my suitcases still on the platform.  I finally reached Notting Hill Gate station, walked up more stairs (my arm was seriously about to fall off), and made it to the exit.  The only problem: I couldn’t fit my giant suitcase through the exit in time, and the gate closed on me.  I was essentially trapped and couldn’t get out because my Oyster card already scanned me for leaving the station.  I was definitely miserable, and I had to get Underground personnel help me out.  Finally, they let me through a restricted gate and I was free.  One of them even helped me carry my bags up the final set of stairs, and I was at street level.

The rest of the weekend was very touristy.  Friday evening I had a joint dinner at Wagamama, a chain Asian restaurant, with the rest of the girls in my orientation (5 going to Cardiff and one headed to Bristol).  We were from all different parts of the States: Fargo, Madison, Kansas City, North Carolina, Michigan, and of course me from Chicago.  After dinner, we decided to go to a pub called The Windsor Castle.  It was a cute pub with a big heated outdoor patio.  Half of us got drinks, but the minute we started asking questions about the different beers, they decided to card us and give us some nonsense about how we needed to be 21 past 7 pm (it was 6:45).  They weren’t denying us drinks per say, but we got the hint that they didn’t want American students at their pub, so we finished our drinks and left.  Not cool.

The next morning we had orientation at Butler’s London office.  We talked about how to succeed in the British academic system, and we talked about differences in studying compared to the American system.  School is very different in Europe compared to the United States.  Getting a degree at university in the UK only requires 3 years, and you only take major classes; there are no general education requirements.  Lectures are only once or twice a week, but there is a lot of independent reading a student needs to do.  Assessment is done by either an essay or exam at the end of the semester.  There might be a presentation due during the semester, but there is essentially no “homework.”  Your homework is basically reading up for your final essay or exam.  It takes a lot of personal responsibility to succeed.

After the morning’s orientation, we all had lunch and traveled to the Duchess Theatre to see The Pitmen Painters, a play about northern England miners who become painting sensations and artists.  It was very good, but it was extremely long: 2 and a half hours.  I’m pretty sure all of us dozed off at one time or another because it was a very long day.  The audience was mostly an older crowd, but if you made the slightest noise, audience members would look and yell at you.  I adjusted myself in my seat, which made a little noise, and the person in front of me looked back at me as if I was making a racket!  Ridiculous.

The rest of the evening was spent taking a nap and walking around London’s Kensington nightlife.  Unfortunately, one of the girls in my orientation had her purse stolen at a Starbucks.  Her purse consisted of all her cash, all her credit and debit cards, local UK phone and iPhone, and her license/ID.  Basically the only thing she didn’t get stolen was her passport, which would be the worst thing to lose.  Apparently, she had her purse behind her chair (why? I don’t know) and that’s how it got stolen.  I think she underestimated how easily it was to get things stolen in a big city, and what a hard lesson to learn.  It was kind of ironic because we talked about personal safety and theft at orientation earlier that day.

The following day we had hop on, hop off tour bus tickets that takes you all over London.  We went past Baker Street and Burberry, and we eventually got off at Trafalgar Square.  We took great pictures of the lions and of the National Gallery behind it.  We split off into 2 groups and had lunch.  My group walked our way to Picadilly Circus and around Chinatown.  Chinatown was decorated for the Chinese New Year that day (Year of the Dragon), and it looked stunning with gold and red lanterns hung up everywhere.  We eventually found a pub and had fish and chips, with a half pint of beer (it was only lunch after all).  I found that it does not matter what time of day it is, beer is accepted at all hours.  We met back up with the rest of the girls and walked to Parliament, running into the royal horses’ museum.  We saw some horse riders in red coats and pointy metal helmets.  After Parliament, we walked through St. James Park and made our way to Buckingham Palace.  The Union Jack was flying at Buckingham, and that usually means the Queen is there.  We took our tour bus from Buckingham to Hyde Park, and that’s where I visited Speaker’s Corner.  It was full of soapbox orators, which are people standing at least 6 inches from the ground, and they are able to say (or yell) anything they want.  The audience can choose to listen to whomever they want.  All the ranters that day were ranting about religion; what an unoriginal topic.  Close to Hyde Park was Marble Arch, a giant arch that was used for public hangings back in the day.  It was actually very pretty, despite the context it was used.  We took the Underground from Marble Arch to Notting Hill where we relaxed at our hotel until 6 pm.

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Girls from my orientation on top of the lions at Trafalgar

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Piccadilly Circus

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Chinatown getting ready for the Chinese New Year

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Fish and chips, with a beer

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A horse at the Royal Horse Museum

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Royal Horse Museum with the London Eye in the background

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I love the telephone booths, but I don’t think I would ever make a call in one

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At St. James Park

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The statue in front of Buckingham Palace

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Buckingham Palace

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Listening while at Speaker’s Corner

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Marble Arch, the site for public hangings

We had the opportunity to take a ferry along the River Thames from Parliament and the London Eye all the way down to Tower Hill.  It was beautiful at night.  The London Eye was lit up in blue and Big Ben was lit up in green.  On the river, we passed the OXO building, a Shakespearean theater, the Savoy Hotel, Millennium Bridge, London Bridge, and we finally came to our destination at Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.  We were on the ferry for maybe 20 minutes, but it was a beautiful and breath taking view of the waterfront.  After the ferry, I had to meet up with Jonathan at the Savoy Hotel.  It was an extravagant hotel that had people in the bathroom give you a towel to dry your hands, and you had to give them a tip.  It was extremely fancy, and definitely not for most people’s bank account.  The girls from my orientation and I were way underdressed; most people were wearing elegant gowns and tuxedos.  It honestly reminded me of a James Bond film.  007 always got put in these elaborate hotels with beautiful people.

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London Eye along the Thames

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Parliament and Big Ben, from a distance on the river

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Tower Bridge (not the London Bridge!)

The next morning was Monday, January 23, and we were on our way from London Paddington Station to Cardiff Central Station.  The two hour train ride in first class was wonderful, and this is where my life as a Cardiff University student began….

British word of the entry: Fancy dress.  It does not mean wear fancy clothes, it means dress up in costumes.  I learned that the hard way.

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I found my favourite pub: the Sherlock Holmes pub

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Stonehenge & Winchester

Time February 8th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

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!

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Silver Linings, Staplers, and Learning How to Think

Time February 6th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well. I worried things would be busier here than expected and that I would struggle to keep up with a blog. Lo and behold! I was right! But silver lining number one is I have been here for a month, and have therefore accumulated much wisdom, or something.

I shall begin with a list of things that I didn’t bring to England but should have.

1. A sufficiently large bag/backpack/carrying device. In an effort to avoid overstuffing my luggage, and with the knowledge that unlike university in the states, Oxford doesn’t require purchasing a lot of textbooks, I brought a medium-sized bag assuming that would be plenty. I conveniently overlooked the fact that just because one is not purchasing books does not mean one is not carrying books. Lots of them. Always. Bring a decently-sized, reliable bag. The £5 one you run out to buy from Primark WILL break within 48 hours. The strap’ll just snap right off. Likely right as you step off a bus with a horde of people. You know, hypothetically.
(Silver lining number two is a nice anecdote to tell.)

2. A tiny stapler. Staplers are things you probably don’t think about in everyday life. But staplers are also things you will absolutely need here. You can print papers from any university computer room, but I have yet to come across such a place supplied with a stapler. And for a miniature, plastic, completely unreliable stapler from the grocery store, I believe I paid about £3. And that’s cheap compared to most staplers. I’m wondering if staplers are just valuable here. Silver lining three? It comes with staples. Also, pens are expensive.

3. An umbrella. Umbrellas are strangely overpriced here. As in, concerningly so. I’m lucky to have remembered one at the last minute, but a lot of people get stuck without one. And nobody wants to pay £30/$50 for one of those.

4. A bottle opener. Because you never know. A lot of things seem to come in bottles here, and none of them that I can tell are of the twist-off variety. You can avoid the bottles if you choose to, but chances are at some point you’ll need one.

5. Sunglasses. I didn’t bring those. But believe it or not, sun exists here.

All of that aside, I’ve been here for a month now, which simultaneously feels like 2 weeks and 2 years. I feel that I’ve been away from home for an unbelievably long time. I’m starting to use words like “quite” and “lovely” and “takeaway” and even let a “cheers” slip once or twice. It’s very strange how quickly you become accustomed to things here, considering they really are so very different from America. The accents*, the words, the weather, the food, the operating hours of the stores and the city itself. But it also feels so fulfilling to become a part of that.

As for school itself, it is definitely every bit as challenging as I expected. The hours are opposite of what I’m accustomed to, and it makes focusing on the same assignment for 8 hours per day a bit daunting. But that is another thing you eventually get used to. I myself am not “used to,” but somewhere around “getting there.” The tutorials are also unusual in that you make up about 50% of the people present. Coming from a Southern California public university where the average class size is somewhere near 40, feeling less then perfectly comfortable with the transition is, I think, reasonable. It’s startling to be expected to have many opinions and often. But it is also the entire point of this program, and it’s strangely satisfying even if it is at times unnatural, which is a great big beautiful silver lining number four.

I read an excerpt a couple weeks ago from a book called The Oxford Tutorial with the subtitle, “Thanks, You Taught Me How to Think,” (http://oxcheps.new.ox.ac.uk/Publications/Resources/OxCHEPS_OP1_08.pdf Here’s the book. I recommend number 8– it’s encouraging and exciting and lovely.) which is exactly how it feels. Which is wonderful, because you instantly know you’re learning so much. But it can also be a bit uncomfortable sometimes, because you realize you may not know how to think as well as you thought you did. But that’s okay. We’ll get there, as with most things here, in time. And most everyone here is wonderfully encouraging every step of the way.

I have just finished up my third week, which puts me somewhere near halfway done with Hilary term. The whole 8-week term thing is still unfathomable to me, being used to double that. I remember seeing a lot of comments before I applied which advised to come for at least two terms. Being here has absolutely made me concur. At least two terms. I can’t imagine only having a few more weeks here. There is so unbelievably much to see here, to experience, and to learn. One month in and I still don’t have my… land-legs? England-legs? (Seriously. I’m constantly tripping on things here.) Being here for 6 months is such a beautiful thing, and I’m so thankful I have this chance. It’s a delightfully scary, unusual, thrilling experience, and every day is different and unquestionably worth it.

So, if you’re unsure about it, do it. If you’re scared, do it. If you’re stuck between coming for one or two terms, do it and do two or three or as many as you can. The longer you’re here, the more home you’ll feel. And considering this has only been my “home” for 31 days, that’s really saying a great deal. But I can just tell already! Oxford and I have so much more to learn about each other. And so far, we’ve hit it off quite nicely.

 

*Particularly noticeable when your tutor asks what your home school is called, and you’re met with a blank stare when you enthusiastically answer “yes!” thinking he’s asked you if you’re cold.

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They Have Milkmen

Time January 30th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Even though we speak the same language, are born from shared heritage, and from looks appear the same…England has so many things unique to itself.

Like milkmen. I thought they no longer existed. With the rapid growth of supermarkets and decline of hometown grocery stores, I am pretty sure the profession has completely phased out in the US. Not so in England. When I think about getting milk delivered, I imagine glass bottles, wire baskets, and empty ones waiting outside for replacement. To my surprise, that’s exactly the same image as what happens today. Ok, I can’t say for sure what the milkman looks like, but the whole idea is quaint and lovely!

milkman

Another thing I didn’t expect was for England to live up to all it’s stereotypes. Yes, people often describe England as rainy and a land overflowing with tea. But I’ve heard many descriptions of the US (cowboys…lazy…rough public schools) that aren’t true. Yet England is living up to it’s name. It rains almost every day. Although when I say rain, I mean more of a constant hard mist. It hasn’t rained once like I’m used to…downpours of soaking drops…but almost everyday the overcast sky lets down some precipitation. As for tea, they literally drink it all the time. And almost everyone seems to enjoy it, with the occasional exception. I absolutely love it, as long as they give some allowance for cream and sugar. The usual saying when you first enter a home or place of conversation is “Would you like a cup of tea?” This is usually followed by an offer of “biscuits” or cookies as we call them in the states. Kitchens come standard with a kettle so that warm water is only a few seconds away.

tea and biscuits

The last thing I’ve noticed is the difference in use of words. There aren’t many words here that I’ve never heard before, outside of some foods that are new to me. But they often call things differently. Flat instead of apartment. Biscuits never go with gravy. Chips instead of fries…and they eat those with everything. The car has a bonnet and boot, instead of a hood and trunk. Cheers and cheerio are normal salutations. Charity shops instead of thrift stores. And many others that I can think of at the present.

All in all…I’m loving life here in England. I’m sure it’s bound to just get better.

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Start of Class

Time January 25th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This week was the start of classes at Leeds and I’ve been to all mine at least once. Most of my classes just meet several times a week in normal lectures like I’m used to. Well, normal in the fact that the professors stand at the front of the room and….lecture. Not normal in the fact that all of them are in lecture halls with 60-100 people. I’ve never been in a math class larger than 30, and that was just one. Almost all the rest of mine have been somewhere between 8 and 15. I only know of two actual “lecture halls” at Butler. All of the classes I’m in here in Leeds are in lecture halls like you see in the movies. We sit in theater seating and the professors use large projectors and movable white boards to teach. The funny thing is that in the building I’m in, the lecture halls are situated on the front and back of the building along 4 different staircases. You enter the room through skinny doors along the stairs that go strait into the different rows. It is possible to go in the bottom door and walk across the front, then go up the stairs on the other side of the room and pick a row then, but I usually just sit in row B or C and enter from the stairs. Next week we start having workshops, which are smaller group meetings where we can talk about homework problems and ask questions. Today is my free day, which I’m taking full advantage of. I cannot wait for a day to relax and catch up on some reading :0)

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Pictures of Leeds & London

Time January 18th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I didn’t realize until after I had published my last post that I’m not able to go back and add pictures…so instead, I’m adding them separately to this post.

Friday & Saturday
Pictures from when we arrived in Leeds and then traveled by train to London

Sunday
Pictures from the one day I spent exploring London with my mom before she went back to the states

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I Have Arrived!

Time January 17th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Hello from…Muswell Hill, London!!

It has been a long and tiring journey since I departed Chicago, and the United States.  My flight was ok at times, but 8 hours in those small coach seats aren’t particularly comfortable.  I sat next to a 17-year-old British girl who has the craziest life story I’ve ever heard.  Let’s just say she was talking about herself for at least an hour and a half, and I was still baffled by her story.  Across the aisle from me was a young English mom going home with her 6-month-old daughter.  I quickly became instant friends with the baby.  I have never seen a baby that smiles and laughs as much as this baby did.  According to her mom, she was born laughing!  This baby had the biggest eyes and was a model for a lot of parenting magazines.  My flight wasn’t dull to say the least, but I wish I would have been able to sleep for more than an hour.

I touched down at London’s Heathrow at 11 am local time, and it was hard keeping my heart rate down from all the excitement.  Once I got a lovely stamp on my passport and cleared immigration, and I was on my way to the baggage claim and freedom.

I took the London Underground, Picadilly Line from Heathrow to Bounds Green.  About halfway through the tube ride through central London, my tube car was jam packed with people.  Luckily I had a seat!  After arriving at Bounds Green, I walked a short distance to the bus stop.  I had to cross the street, but I got much needed help from the sidewalk, which said to “Look Right” (I still looked left first of course).  Having the cars drive on the opposite side of the street is something I’m going to have to get used too.  Something I noticed that is different from the States is their parking.  Cars can park on both sides of the street and not have to face in the direction of travel.  Sometimes cars are facing each other on the same side of the street!  By this point, it was already 1 pm and I couldn’t wait to just sit down arrive at my cousins’ house.  A red double decker bus was approaching and I stepped on the bus, only to find out my Oyster card (the tube and bus fare card) was out of money!  Of course I looked like a tourist by getting off the bus with all my luggage and asking the driver where I could “top off” my card (topping off means putting money in the card).  I had to go back to the tube station and insert more money.  After adding £5, I went back to the bus stop where another bus was approaching (at least I didn’t have to wait long).  I got off at “St. Andrew’s Church,” walked 2 blocks, and finally arrived at the Alpert house!

The whole rest of the day was a challenge not to fall asleep.  I drank a lot of coffee on the plane before we arrived, so I was somewhat zombiefied on coffee.  It felt like finals week all over: tons of coffee and caffeine without sleep.  My younger cousins Caitlin, 5, and Sophie, 3, made sure I was wide-awake; they needed a playmate of course.

I finally fell asleep about 10 pm GMT (fyi I’m 6 hours ahead of Chicago’s central time).  I did pretty well for myself waking up at around 7 am.  I got to see a wonderful London sunrise that will jump start my fantastic adventure here in the United Kingdom.  Today’s plan: getting a cell phone and buying an electric toothbrush and blow dryer.  I might have another family day, and tomorrow will be designed for 100% sight-seeing.

Till then!! :-)

British word of the entry: Chav.  It’s trashy people that knows they’re trash, but they still try to present themselves as better than others.  Big puffy silver coats and tracksuits are some examples that person is a chav.  Apparently they’re easy to spot (if you’re a local Brit), but I’m still having a hard time distinguishing a chav in a crowd of people. Jenni and Jon are helping me through this process.

 

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Layovers

Time January 17th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The journey has begun!

We left from Indianapolis this morning and flew on our first flight to Detroit. It was a quick ride, only 45 minutes. Now we have a 3 1/2 hour layover and are grabbing lunch. The excitement is building!

Packing was a little crazy, but I managed to fit everything I needed. Wanted…not so much…but I’m really glad I was able to fit the important things. It only took me a day, which was surprising. But we kept buying the little things I needed right up until we left. Finding room to stuff them in my suitcase was interesting! But they both made weight and I was able to carry everything myself.

My mom is flying over with me to stay a couple of days. We are arriving early in Leeds, then traveling later to London so I can be there for orientation. That is where my mom will fly out and head back home. Our flight in takes us to Amsterdam, where we have another 3 hour layover. We will arrive there at 12:00 am our time, but 6:00 am their time. At least we won’t have a problem catching some zzzz’s in the airport. We will probably be wiped out by then after our 8 hour flight.

I’m really excited to actually be there! And to have my mom with me. We are best friends, and I’m really grateful that she gets to experience part of this with me. Leaving home was kind of hard, but knowing that when I come back, I get to spend the whole summer with them has made it easier. And Skype is a great way to stay connected!

Now we just have to stay occupied for another hour and a half…I think I might sneak in a cat nap. :0)

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13 MORE DAYS

Time January 12th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

Only 13 days left until I board a plane to Scotland and begin my adventure!  I am feeling both extreme excitement and nervousness.  So here is what I am doing now, with only 2 weeks left!

  • Making sure all my medical stuff is taken care of
  • Thinking about starting to pack my suitcases
  • Making gifts to bring to my family in Scotland

In truth, I have not packed anything yet, and with just 13 days to go, I should probably start!  It seems to overwhelming when I think about it, so I keep putting it off.  Knowing me, I will probably start packing a week before I leave lol.  I am sure there are more things I am doing/or should be doing lol, but I am just too excited to remember them all right now.  Here are some things I am nervous about.

  • Leaving my cat
  • Leaving my family and friends
  • Being too shy when I get to Scotland
  • Getting lost while I am overseas
  • How different the classes will be run
  • The long plane ride

Not too many fears lol!  I really will miss my cat, he is my baby, and I will probably miss him more than he will miss me! X)  I tend to be an introvert, but I love meeting new people. I am hoping that when I am abroad, my introvert sort of disappears lol.  Now on to the best part; THE EXCITEMENT!

  • Visiting the castles
  • Experiencing cool little restaurants
  • Shopping
  • Making new friends
  • Meeting my family who lives in Scotland
  • Taking pictures
  • Learning about a different culture
  • Experiencing how the school system works over there
  • Using the University of Stirling’s pool, (I love swimming!!)
  • Meeting the other people I will be living with!! (I’ve talked with them via Facebook, and they seem lovely)
  • Having the first big adventure of my life!!

Photography is one of my favorite hobbies in the world.  I do not do nearly as much as I would like, so this trip will be the perfect opportunity for picture taking!! J I love my home University, Saint Martin’s University, but unfortunately, we do not have a pool. Hence the reason I am stoked for using the University of Stirling’s pool.  Swimming is one of my favorite extra-curricular activities.  If I am lucky, I will acquire a swim buddy!  This will be my first time traveling outside the United States, and my first time being away from my family for an extended period of time!! The challenges I will face will be many, but I am excited to take them head on!! J  I cannot wait until I step onto that plane on the 25th!! I hope that everyone who has studied abroad, or is planning to, is/was as excited as I am!!!!

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