Tuesday, 15 April 2014

An Adventure in Awe

by: Joy Grace Chen

My stay here in England could, I think, be summed up in one word: awe. The past three and a half months have been a dream that’s almost too good to be true, and every now and then I still pinch myself to make sure it’s real.

Am I really studying abroad in Europe, living in a 19th century English country mansion? Heck, yeah.

Harlaxton itself has held me in a perpetual state of awe. From the moment I first glimpsed it through jetlagged eyes on the way in from Heathrow, from the day I was out for a run and saw its turrets rising from the morning mist like some fairy tale castle. I fell head over heels in love the first time I explored the rooms, painted ceilings, and labyrinths of staircases. Halfway through the semester, when we had to study the manor for our second British Studies exam, I fell in love all over again.
Pan out to England. It’s pretty unbelievably amazing. One of my classes was taught by a professor determined to immerse us in the heart of England’s nature. On our first field trip for that class, we trekked a total of seven miles over the wild, breathtaking moors that inspired the setting for Wuthering Heights. On our second field trip, our walk from Bakewell to Chatsworth brought us up close and personal with an emerald green field populated by baby lambs. Yeah, my feet hated me after both trips, but I wouldn’t trade either experience of quintessential English countryside for anything in the world.
The awe continues for Europe as a whole. I’ve watched the sunrise from Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. I’ve taken a cruise on Loch Ness and petted a stag and a highland cow. I’ve wandered the sunlit canals of Amsterdam. I’ve seen Paris in springtime spread out like a tapestry. I’ve visited a Roman fort that has existed for 2,000 years and the Eiffel Tower—an iron lattice relic from the late 19th century.
What is this? Am I dreaming? Why is Europe so beautiful, so awe-inspiring, so perfectly picturesque? I’ve been asking myself these questions since the beginning of the semester, and, while I don’t have the answers yet, I will be eternally thankful for the opportunity I’ve been given just to ask them.
And … in the eloquent words of a guy I've never heard of before: It’s time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad and I’d much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure.

~Joy Grace


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Long Weekend, Language Barrier, etc.

Of course, we had to start our first long weekend trip with a travel all-nighter. Our brains were already bleeding out our ears from that British Studies exam, and we figured we didn’t have that much more to lose. One weather-delayed train ride, one London night bus, and a whole lot of airport security hassle later, my friends and I were sprawled out on the cold Stansted airport floor, attempting to sleep in shifts before our plane took off at 8. We arrived in Aachen, Germany around 11 the next morning.
Understandably, our first day in Germany is a bit fuzzy in my memory. The one thing I do remember quite clearly, however, was the language barrier. Whether butchering an order of Apfeltasche in a bakery or half-heartedly flipping through paperbacks in a bookstore or even trying to read the plaques in an otherwise-awesome cathedral, we were continually and blatantly reminded that we were tourists who didn’t speak a lick of German.

The German couple we stayed with was kind enough to translate pretty much everything for us; however, their two boys didn’t speak English. Playing games with them got pretty awkwardly creative when communication was reduced to sign language, guesswork, and our mutual appreciation of the Pixar movie Cars.

We spent our final day in Amsterdam. Having left our helpful host family in Germany, we congratulated ourselves on successfully surviving the train ride to Amsterdam, only to run into a reality check when we found that all the signs in the station were in Dutch. Okay, now, breathe. We were college students; we were smart, resourceful, and mature; but—argh—let’s face it, we were hungry and starting to panic a little bit.

Actually, after the initial shock and bewilderment, we came to our senses, got some food, and found Amsterdam beautifully easy to navigate. We experimented with the transportation system, visited the Van Gogh museum, developed a love affair with the classic fries with mayonnaise, and one of my friends ended up falling head over heels for the Dutch language. So, it worked out.

And we learned some great lessons that weekend. The thrill of leaving the U.K. for the first time. The value and personal quality of staying with a local family. The perspective and cultural appreciation one gains from not being able to speak a language. Oh, and the importance of stringently sticking to airline liquid and baggage restrictions! (Trust me on this.)

Auf Wiedersehen!

~Joy Grace

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Southwell Workhouse Field Trip

Here are just a couple of photos from the British Studies field trip to Southwell Workhouse in Nottinghamshire. 

Southwell Workhouse

Dani Schroeder and Dani Nohelty are put to work

Sunday, 16 February 2014

White Cliffs of Dover: the most exquisite and terrifying experience of my life

With many people gone from the manor enjoying the long weekend, my friend, Sonja, and I decided to plan a day trip to see the White Cliffs of Dover, and so the story begins...

Waking up at 5:30ish on a Saturday isn't usually my idea of fun, but hey, you can't let an opportunity like the White Cliffs of Dover pass you up. So, half-awake we took a taxi at 6:20 to the train station in Grantham to catch our train at 7:15 (we got there earlier than necessary obviously). We got on our train and had a little over an hour ride to London, where we had to cross the street from King's Cross to St. Pancras to get on our next train to Dover. This all went off without a hitch; the first problem we encountered was once we got to Dover. We started walking around Dover and began following the brown tourist signs that pointed us in the direction of the cliffs, only to walk through some sketchy parts of Dover after losing signs, but we eventually made it to an information booth for the Dover Castle where a nice lady points us in the correct direction. Again, we began following the signs...but then we hit a fork in the road and no sign. We decided on the paved road, we walked and realized that this was probably the wrong way so we turned around. Naturally, we decided to head down the other path only to come to a dead end, so we turned back again. We then come across a German man and his British girlfriend who were also heading to the cliffs and they let us follow them. We actually ended up hopping the fence that Sonja and I thought was a dead end, but then a farmer emerged and informed us that we needed to take a turn earlier. So once again, we back tracked to another path, we crossed a street, go through some sketchy wooded area (Tangent time: It was then that I realized that this could have taken a turn for the worst and end up being the inspiration for a horror film: two American girls trusting two others in leading them through the woods only to come across a farmer, who was in on the plan the whole time, who end up leading us back to their home where they would feast on our flesh...yeah...glad that didn't happen), but we eventually made it to a paved path and to the cliffs, and just to clarify, everyone was super friendly and there was no cannibalism involved in this adventure. The cliffs were BEAUTIFUL, and no picture can truly do them justice. We had a wonderful time venturing along the paths, battling the wind trying to get a picture, and just enjoying the view. After walking pretty far we decided to head back to the Visitor Center for some tea, but the weather had a plan of its own. Before heading back, I noted that the sky was getting rather dark, but seeing as there was no rain in the forecast, we didn't think anything of it...and boy, were we sorrily mistaken. We were a little over halfway back to the Visitor Center when the rain started rollin' and the wind started whippin'. This may have been the most terrible weather I have ever experienced (this coming from a gal that has had to deal with plenty of Wisconsin winters). The wind took my hat (luckily it got caught on a bush and I was able to get it back), and it almost took my scarf and backpack. The wind was so strong that when I turned around, it pushed me into Sonja and then pushed both of us into a fence, and not to mention that the rain coming down felt like little needles hitting your skin. We finally decided to make a run for it, so I shielded my eyes so I could only see what was just in front of me and pushed my way through the elements. Let me say that I have never been more excited to see buildings in my whole life. We were soaked, cold, and extremely dishevelled, but in the end we have a memory that will last a lifetime and for that I am grateful. 

By Lorissa Vanden Hoogen

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Cardiff: All the Way There and Back Again


Our excursion to Cardiff began before the crack of dawn at 5:45 on a Saturday morning. Actually, for one of my friends and I, it began with a brisk morning sprint as we dashed from Pegasus Courtyard to the Carriage House for some things we had forgotten. We made it back just in time to be picked up by a nice, snarky cab driver who thought we were crazy for wanting to visit Wales, the “sheep-shagging country.”

Little did we know when we got in that cab that it was only the start to a traveling experience that would render us experts in almost every mode of ground transportation possible.

My friends and I embarked on our first Harlaxton rail experience—the 6:18 train to London. After a short caffeine break in King’s Cross station and a photo stop at the legendary Harry Potter Platform 9 ¾, we made our way to the London Tube, which we took down to Victoria. From there it was a short walk to the Victoria Coach Station, where we boarded a coach and settled down for a three hour ride to Cardiff, Wales.

Except three hours turned more into four when our coach was forced to bypass a traffic accident and then come into Cardiff from a long, roundabout outside road. The reason for the blocked main roads soon became apparent as my friends and I hopped off our coach—straight into a veritable ocean of people.

Of course . . . we had picked the day that Cardiff was hosting not one, but two sports matches—rugby and football. We still had a twenty minute walk to get to our final destination, and a good bit of this walk was spent fighting our way through masses of eager, painted fans like fish swimming upstream. Fortunately, by the time we got to Cardiff Bay, the crowds had thinned out, and instead of death by trampling, we now simply faced the threat of being knocked off our feet by the gargantuan gusts of wind blowing in from the bay.

And so we reached our coveted destination tired, cold, and windswept—peering up through our tangled hair at the beautiful blue sign that read: The Doctor Who Experience. Yup, we were three faithful fangirls, willing to brave everything and anything to spend less than two hours in a museum dedicated to what we believed to be BBC’s greatest television series.

Which is exactly what we did. Two hours of flying the T.A.R.D.I.S., escaping Daleks, avoiding Weeping Angels, squealing over David Tennant’s Converses, and posing for pictures next to every possible rendition of that iconic blue telephone box. We stopped in the gift shop on the way out, and then it was time to retrace our long, arduous way from coach to train to Tube to taxi until we returned to Harlaxton at 11:30 that night.

All in all, I think we spent over twelve hours traveling and only a fraction of that time at the actual Doctor Who Experience. But it was all part of the adventure. For me, it was my first and probably last trip to Wales. And for three hardcore Whovians, every microsecond of the trip was worth it.

Until next time . . . Allons-y!

~Joy Grace

Sunday, 26 January 2014

London Calling!


Last weekend the majority of the students here at Harlaxton signed up for a trip to London.  We left Thursday evening of the 16th and arrived in London at our hotel, the Royal National.  A few friends and I unpacked and then went to the pub on the corner to grab a few drinks and talk.  
Friday morning, a friend and I set out to explore this amazing city.  As we were without any cell service or wifi, we relied on our maps and street signs to find our destinations.  We walked through Soho, Chinatown, Piccadilly Circus, along Oxford street and then arrived at Buckingham Palace.  We were able to see the changing of the guard until we got caught in the freezing rain and decided to find a nice place to eat lunch.  We then walked down to Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Parliament.  My friend went back to the hotel and I sat along the Thames for a while to take in the view.  I then met a group from Harlaxton for our tour of Parliament.  Sadly, no photos were allowed inside, but it is an absolutely gorgeous and ornate building that hosts so much history.  After Parliament, a group of us took the tube back to our hotel to change, eat dinner, and have drinks at a pub.
Saturday, my friend and I went to the British Museum and British Library.  At the library we got to see original copies of the works of Shakespeare, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Beowulf, Alice in Wonderland, Magna Carta, and The Beatles.  We then had lunch and went to Kings Cross to take our lovely tourist photos with the Platform 9 3/4 sign.  That evening a large group of us from Harlaxton went on a pub crawl that took us to five pubs/clubs.  We stayed out late dancing and walking back through the streets of London.
Sunday, we all wearily packed our bags and took the bus to the beautiful Hampton Court Palace and then back to the Manor.
London Recap:
1. Definitely take time to walk through the city.  It has so much to offer and you definitely get a feel for the city when you walk along its beautiful streets.
2. Take lots of pictures.  Who knows when you’ll go back.
3. Don’t try to cram everything in if you don’t have the time.  Pick your top places and go from there.  Also be willing to go with the flow and trek off the beaten path.
4. Enjoy the London nightlife.  The pub crawl was a bit crowded and rowdy, but definitely go to a few pubs or clubs and enjoy the night.
5. Do not run up the stairs from the tube station.  Trust me.

Alex Schulte