Friday, 30 December 2011
Thursday, 29 December 2011
Wednesday, 28 December 2011
metal contraption and soaring across the ocean terrifies me. Heck, I'm even afraid to brave the legendary terrors of airport security. I imagine taking off shoes, having something been in the metal detector, getting on the wrong plane, and many other disasters, and that's nothing to how I expect I'll feel once I'm in the sky, of all places. I know flying is a routine thing for some people, but for me it's this impossible thing hanging between me and my semester abroad. Even so, all of these (largely illogical, I'm sure) fears can't curb my enthusiasm.
Tuesday, 27 December 2011
The Harlaxton Student Bloggers for the Spring 2012 Semester are:
Wednesday, 7 December 2011
No longer will I play sardines in a Victorian manor on boring nights. No longer will I take spontaneous weekend trips to the continent. My christmas tree at home will be less than half the size of Harlaxton's. The streets won’t be cozy but wide, and parking will actually exist. So will indoor heating that works, but I won’t wake up to a view of the English countryside.
May you see many future generations.
Tuesday, 6 December 2011
1. Harlaxton is a great base camp for travel
2. Harlaxton allows you to relax (USA!)
3. 3 Months abroad allows you to enjoy leisure time and not feel like you need to cram everything in
4. Being from UE, I immediately had something in common with a majority of the students
5. The course-load isn’t that bad
6. Meet-a-Family (while I didn’t do it), according to most, is a very positive and worthwhile experience
7. All of the staff (the grounds crew, maintenance people, and drivers) are very friendly
8. You can choose how much you want to spend, and if you’re smart you can do a lot with a little
9. My outlook on American culture and our future has become more optimistic
10. I’m well prepared to travel anywhere!
1. The food…no offense, Refectory, but we’re not used to potatoes and rice 5 times a week
2. Grantham has a fun nightlife, but besides that and ASDA there isn’t much to do (and it’s expensive to get into town once the shuttle stops)
3. 3 Months is a long time
4. Travelling is exhausting, but well worth your time, except when you have to balance it with school work
5. While the Bistro offers an alternative for going out and a fine study break, it breaks the bank and is only open on weeknights
6. The school-sponsored journeys are over-priced field trips, but allow you to travel with lots of people and not deal with logistical issues
7. The exchange rate blows…
8. Yes, it is comfortable to be around Americans, but if you’d prefer to study with more immersion I’d pick somewhere else
10. Packing sucks
This list is nowhere near exhausted and is comprised of only my personal opinion. As I prepare to depart for home the great experience I’ve had is starting to all come back to me. Living in the UK has made the greatest semester of my life happen, and as I look back I’m glad to know my experiences will only become more apparent as time passes.
Thursday, 1 December 2011
I, like Holden, am trying to feel a goodbye. Perhaps tonight will help—it’s the Valedictory Dinner, where we all get gussied up one last time and sit in assigned seats in the Long Gallery, enjoying Harlaxton’s finest catering. Some of us will attempt to get drunk off the wine, and my table will, inevitably, be the one asking for more water. But there’s more to it than that. Tonight we’ll hear from Dr. Kingsley, and from our own students and faculty. We’ll share memories of England and our travels around Europe, and hopefully we’ll be making a few last memories to take home with us.
I don’t really know how to sum up this entire semester, what we’ll be leaving behind and what we’re coming home to. So I’d like to open it up the rest of Harlaxton. I hope some of you will comment on this blog and say a little about your own experiences. What will you miss? What can’t you wait to do/see/have again when you get home?
I’ll start: I think I’ll miss the everyday things the most. The weight of a one-pound coin in your hand, good notebook paper and binders with two holes, pubs. I’ll miss trains that run on time and the way every town has a cathedral, a market, and a distinct accent. Reading the newspaper on the Tube, decent television, Indian takeout. And I’ll miss the extravagant things: a plane that can reach Amsterdam in an hour; a view of the ocean from the beach in Normandy, or the bay in Cardiff; London from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral. And I’ll miss our Manor—our idiosyncratic, spectacular Manor, which, I’ve only recently come to appreciate, might not be here at all if it weren’t for us. I’ll miss the library, with the best selection of Shakespeare films I’ve ever found, as well as everything you ever wanted to know about the English country house. I will miss literature classes in the Gold Room, which are often so interesting that it’s not even tempting to look up at the ceiling. I’ll miss the Christmas tree in the Great Hall and the smell of a fire in the fireplace. I will not miss the food. But I will miss getting to act in a play and sing in a choir when I never really thought I had any talent, and I will miss watching potential disasters turn into good performances in the last week. I will miss exploring the bunker in the woods and playing hide and seek in the Manor (which might have been against the rules…sorry). And I will miss you. I wish all of you the best in your studies and your travels. Thank you for everything.
Monday, 28 November 2011
Friday, 25 November 2011
The long weekend of the Paris trip was the first time I travelled alone in a foreign country. When I say this, I’m not counting the UK as a foreign country: by now we’ve acknowledged that, yes, they do speak a kind of English there; and have trains that run on time; and there is nothing like returning to our Manor on the hill and knowing that it is temporarily ours. England, we like to say, is practically our home.
But France is scary. In the words of the security guard I know as Grumpy: “I don’t like France. It’s full of French people.” Quite a problem if you, like me, don’t speak a word of français but do feel like eating.
Nevertheless, on the night of November 9th, there I was in Charles de Gaulle Airport—which, like all sensible airports, is at least an hour from civilization—trying to find a train. After a lengthy session of pacing the terminal, asking directions from employees who pointed me in opposite directions, and talking to random strangers—one of whom was convinced I couldn’t speak English, probably because of the horrified look on my face when I heard his accent—I boarded an intercity train to Paris. From Paris Gare du Nord (North Station), I took a very old Metro train to Lumiere, the nation nearest to my hostel.
Stepping outside in Paris for the first time, I was met by a man jabbering at me in French. I was sure he was hitting on me. (Myabe I’m paranoid, or maybe I’d just like to believe that a French man, even a creepy one, might find me attractive.) Walking along the dimly lit streets, clutching my directions, I thought about how I must look to people. A shivering stranger in a bright red coat with a poppy on the collar, carrying a Barnes and Noble shoulder bag with very obvious English text. (Oops.) I wondered if people thought I was American or English, or if they noticed me at all. It had been so long since I had been in America, and Indiana was the farthest thing from my mind. And besides, no one really wants to admit to being an American in Paris.
The more I travel, however, the more I realize that the rest of the world does not necessarily look down on you for being American. Not even all of France does. Granted, the woman at the restaurant where I bought my first sandwich did not take kindly to my “Bonjour, ham sandwich please, merci” routine. And according to the guide on my walking tour of Paris (but don’t quote me on this), there is a national council of some sort to protect the French language from the onslaught of English loan words—apparently, "le week-end" is not acceptable, though the people say it anyway. But there is a striking amount of both British and American influence on French life.
I noticed this particularly the next day, November 10th, when I went on a tour of the D-Day beaches in Normandy. Our tour guide was an Englishman who had made his career there. When he wasn’t giving tours, he went metal detecting with his sons; they still found ammunition, shrapnel, helmets from both sides. The only girl in our group, and the only one who knew nothing about military technology and next to nothing about military history, I felt a little overwhelmed. (To quote my notes from British studies lecture: “Stuff built—in GB? Pillboxes—reinforced concrete machine gun thingies.” And that was an epiphany.) But what struck me as it never had before was the scale of the war. Standing near the shore Omaha beach, as our tour guide drew squiggling maps in the sand, I tried to imagine how many people would have stood where I was standing, how many would have fought and died there.
As we all know, it’s impossible to imagine it, partly because we can never put names and histories to all the men. The American Cemetery, which we visited at the end of our tour, tried to do just that. The dead are marked by “crosses, row on row,” just as the poem describes. Some markers, of course, are the Star of David, but most are crosses. (And those seem to represent the only two religions you could be.) Each marker was largely identical, with the same four pieces of information: name, rank and division, state, and date of death. I thought it was particularly interesting that their state was deemed worth mentioning. Would a man from Indiana be that different than a man from Kentucky when they fought together on the same beach? Maybe not, but it’s a particularly American kind of identification, and I’m glad someone considered it important.
And, of course, the date of death. After a while, I lost track of how many crosses said June 6, 1944. You could fill rows on rows with the dead of D-Day. You could fill further rows with the unidentified men, remembered only with that famous phrase: “Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God.”
The cemetery holds only a third of the Americans who died in Normandy; the rest are buried elsewhere, mostly in the United States. But those buried here are also on US soil, as the cemetery is owned and maintained by the American government.
Before we arrived, our tour guide had warned us that we might be asked to help lower the flag. Usually, he said, they look for a veteran, but there are fewer and fewer veterans coming, especially this time of year, and often they will ask anyone from the United States. He said it was a huge honor. And believe it or not, as our group was exploring, a young man with an American accent asked if we would be willing to help him. We weren’t actually lowering the flag, it turned out, but we did help fold it, a task whose difficulty you can appreciate only once you’ve tried it. I felt strange folding such a sacred object, on such a sacred day, one day before Armistice Day. I’ve never been much one for patriotism, and my own country’s version of Armistice Day is a poor excuse for a day of remembrance. But that day, I think I could feel the presence of those people we try so hard to remember, and, in France of all places, I felt proud to call myself an American.
Tuesday, 22 November 2011
The first month is epic — you’re in the exploratory phase of traveling abroad. Learning the layout of the Manor itself takes a few weeks, and after the preliminary trips (London in my case, then Wales) you’re ready to enter phase 2: homework, with as many trips as you can during the weekends. It creeped on me, really, when I realized I didn’t realize I was abroad anymore at Harlaxton.
Harlaxton does such a good job of creating a home-like atmosphere that I only feel I’m in foreign lands when I’m off campus. I didn’t mind phase 2 at all. That’s when the big things happened, but also the first rounds of exams and projects. But now that I’m through the initial struggle it’s all about keeping busy, something I feared would never happen during my first weeks when there were things to see, names to remember, and trips to plan. But now everything on campus is like background noise, sorta like it was at UE for me. I enjoyed it when I had the time, and was part of it when I didn’t.
But now we’re in the tail-end of phase 3, the homestretch, and things have picked up. I guess it would have to have been the costume ball, which I recall I didn’t think too highly of when I first saw the posters, but when you know everybody during the reception, and now that you have so much in common with these once-strangers, you realize how far you’ve gotten. Maybe it was the wine? Anyway…
For once we had a chance to celebrate campus and all it had to offer, together, and forget about term papers and group presentations for a weekend. But now that’s the past, and all I have left is Ireland this weekend, finals, then a grueling plane-ride to Chicago. I’m torn between leaving, as I assume most are. On one end I’m thinking, “It’ll be great to be home, have taco bell, and not sound like a tourist.” But on the other it’s “wow, has it been three months already?”
But I’d have to say I have no regrets, and plan to make the most of the homestretch ahead and enjoy the States as much as I can.
Wednesday, 16 November 2011
This past weekend of traveling was interesting to say the least. I have been fortunate enough to not have any issues traveling…until this weekend. The trip sounded like a great idea-fly into Salzburg, Austria, spend a day and a half there, then take a train to Munich, spend two days there, and then fly home from the Munich Airport with 3 of my good friends. What we did not know, was there are two Munich Airports, which is an incredibly important thing to know.
We got to Salzburg pretty late in the afternoon, so it was beginning to get dark. We decided to just take a walk around the town and see a few of the sights. After being lost for about 45 minutes, we finally found the main part of town and it was absolutely beautiful. The next day we got up early and checked out of our hostel. We each bought a Salzburg card which was 22 Euros and allowed us to take public transportation all day and get into most of the tourist places for free and the others at a discounted rate. We then hopped on a bus and headed to the famous “Sound of Music” pavilion. It was off season so all the workers were setting up for the Christmas Market that goes on there. It was very festive and still beautiful. Next we went to Mozart’s birth house. It was very interesting and full of items from his lifetime. The most amazing part for me was getting to see his childhood violin from when he was six years old, since I started playing the violin when I was six years old. After that we just moseyed around town for a while and looked inside the little Christmas shops. We then went to the Museum of Modern art and got to see Salzburg from a panoramic view. It was beautiful. The last stop for us was the Stiegel Brewery where we got 3 free beer tastings and a free gift. We found it to be a successful day and decided to get on the train to Munich.
Our 2 hour train ride to Munich was only 6 Euros, so we were off to a great start. We got to our hostel around midnight excited to start our adventure in Germany. The next day, we woke up and went to Dachau Concentration Camp. This may sound odd, but I have wanted to go to a concentration camp ever since I could remember because of my huge interest in the Holocaust. We were there for 4 hours and we didn’t even see everything there. It was one of the most moving things I have ever experienced. That night when we got back, we walked around the Marienplatz and had a traditional German meal that was delicious. Our last day, we woke early and went on a walking tour of the city that was free through the hostel that we stayed at. We were able to see the town hall and experience the Glockenspiel first hand. We then got to see a few churches and hear a lot of the city’s history from our American tour guide. Unfortunately we had to leave the tour early in order to catch a train to the airport. This is when the trip went terribly wrong.
Tuesday, 8 November 2011
|Frankfurt's Historic Square|
|View from mall|
|View from Main Tower|
One last thing we ran into on accident was Occupy Frankfurt. What began as Occupy Wall Street in New York City has spread across the pond, as well. Occupy London may even interrupt our field from next week to St. Paul's Cathedral. It's not generally dangerous but it is something to be aware of--strikes and protests happen in some parts of Europe all of the time, and generally tourists should try not to get caught in the middle.
Monday, 7 November 2011
I won’t lie. I was a little skeptical about going to Spain. I had heard so many horror stories about things getting stolen and the locals not being helpful at all. However, I already had two trips booked to go there so I didn’t really have a choice. The two trips were very different, and I’m happy to say both trips went very smoothly and I couldn’t be happier that I made the decision to go!
The first place I went was Ibiza with five other girls. It is known as the party capital of the world, but it was off season when we went there so we didn’t really experience much of that. We still had an amazing time. We ended up finding an apartment for all of us to stay on really cheap online. We were skeptical about how nice the place would be, but when we showed up, we were pleasantly surprised. The apartment even had a balcony that overlooked the beach. It was also a nice change to go to a place in the high 60’s-70’s rather than England with low 50’s. We spent most of our time laying on the beach and walking about the town. Neither was very busy since it was off season. It was a very relaxing trip and I would highly recommend it to anyone.
My trip to Santander, Spain was much different. One of my friends here has a best friend who is studying abroad there at this time, so we had our own personal tour guide, which was especially lucky for me because I do not know one word of Spanish. I felt that I experienced more of the Spanish culture while in Santander rather than Ibiza. Ibiza is mostly centered on tourists so it is a little more “Americanized”. Santander is not. This time we stayed in a hostel that really felt like Grandma’s house. It was an apartment building where an older couple lived and they rented out a few rooms. Each day the lady of the house would clean our room, make our beds, and give us clean (free) towels. We even had our own personal bathroom that was cleaned daily as well. The culture in Spain is very different from most. The three things that are mainly focused on there are sleeping, eating, and night life. They also have a totally different concept of time. A typical day for the Spanish includes a nap, or siesta, in the middle of the day and not eating dinner until about 10:00 or 11:00 at night and then going out to the clubs until the wee hours of the morning. Even the little shops around town close for a few hours during the day so everyone can get their nap in. It is very different from what I’m accustomed to, but it is something I could definitely get used to. Once again, this was a very relaxing vacation. We saw many of the sites (we even saw penguins and seals!) and ate traditional Spanish dishes, such as seafood paella, but we never felt rushed and we always felt rested.
Spain is such a beautiful country. I would highly recommend a trip to Spain for a nice relaxing time and a taste of a different culture than your own.
Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Half the campus is on a sponsored trip, homework is piling, and it’s Friday (or any night…). What is there to do? Well, luckily, Grantham offers only the finest clubs, pubs and entertainment.
Whether it’s a cab of four or four cabs of four, there’s plenty to do in Grantham on a weekend. Most frequented by Fall 2011 students is the Goose, a cozy pub in the middle of town. There’s plenty of seating, a large drink selection and food until late. The Goose has become a meeting point for students who prefer to go out on the town with students. This goes both ways, of course. On one side you are safer in small groups of friends, and have less chance of deciding to walk back to the Manor at 3am to save 2 pounds. But sometimes groups attract attention and deter the locals, but whenever it’s a pound a shot (a rising price, unfortunately) or 2 pounds a pint, who really cares?
After a few at the Goose we walk two blocks to the nightclubs. Now, for many of us under 21 (US-illegals), clubbing was an abstract and disturbing thought. But in Grantham it isn’t so bad. They are inviting, cheap, and accommodate both the outer-ringers (those who prefer to watch the fun) and the party people. Most of all they are relatively safe, each featuring at least two door-men for ID checks and turning away the incoherent and undesirable.
Grantham clubs and pubs, because they are so close, often illustrate migratory patterns. For example — most nights at the Vibe start slow, so many will go across the street to Late Lounge or Gravity, both respectable, or Taboo (the not-so-much club). It isn’t uncommon to visit several establishments in a single night to see what there is to see and meet up with others. And the best part about late-night Grantham are the take-aways, eateries often unfamiliar to Americans. They are grease-buckets, who sell pizza, burgers, sandwiches, or anything a person 9 pints deep will find satisfying. Better yet? They’re cheap.
So it’s closing time. You’re friends are grinning, slobbering and laughing all at once, and it’s time to go home. Easy — leave the building you’re in, walk towards a (parked!) cab, and more often than not they’ll recognize you from the drive in and get you home safely.
Not saying I speak for everyone at Harlaxton, but going out is fun, but don’t limit yourself! I’ve been several local friends going out, most of which I see every few weekends. Going out in large groups prevents such mingling, most of the time, because what’s more intimidating than 27 boisterous American’s taking the floor? Not much. So keep an open mind, meet people, and (here’s the PSA) be safe.
p.s. Don’t bring more than 30 pounds on a night…because you’ll often leave with less
(and sorry — pictures and images better not to be included)
Thursday, 27 October 2011
Thinking ahead is the single biggest way to save money here. Research your destinations. Pick a hotel near an airport, or near the attractions you want to see. Order a packed lunch ahead of time (you’ve already paid for them anyways). Many places have free attractions—find some that interest you. Travel in groups to split some costs, along with staying safe. Get a youth railcard—it will pay for itself if you take one trip by train while you’re here. If you want to go to an airport, ever, you will take that trip.
Another time one should be willing to spend extra cash is when buying a hotel room or hostel bed. This is another place where research comes in. I’ve had friends who paid for their stay in a hostel, and couldn’t last through the night there because of the conditions. Staying safe is worth the money, and being comfortable is sometimes worth it too.
One final time when students should be willing to spend money is on the school trips. It is true that it’s often possible to travel to the same destinations at a better rate than the Harlaxton-sponsored trips. However, the school offers stress-free travel and stops at places you could not otherwise see, such as Hadrian’s Wall on the Scotland trip or Hampton Court on the way back from London. Independent travel is worth it by all means, but it may be worth the peace of mind and lack of stress to let the school occasionally book your hotels and travel.
|Scottish-English border, which we stopped at on the Edinburgh trip.|
The pound-to-dollar rate is something else Harlaxton students must take into account. Currently, it isn’t in our favor. However, it fluctuates, and the best time to buy is when the pound is at lowest possible value. Students who pay attention to this might go far.
Monday, 24 October 2011
This past weekend, my friends Margie and Miranda (also a fellow blogger) headed off to Cardiff, the capitol city of Wales. The school was headed to Northern Wales, but we decided that we would rather see the city where one of our favorite TV shows, Doctor Who, is filmed, in addition to experiencing the Welsh culture. So, we booked our train for 10 am on Friday morning and, with a quick train switch in Nottingham, settled in for a 3 and a half hour train ride.
We arrived in Wales with a plan- find our hostel, see Cardiff Castle, find some food, and then hike down to the Bay that night, and then hit up a few museums the next day. But, while asking for a food recommendation for the evening, we discovered that the Welsh rugby team was scheduled to play France the next morning at 9 am. We were assured that it was not to be missed. The hostel worker who was helping us even called a local pub that he enjoyed to make sure they would be open for the game in the morning and gave us directions. We were hesitant, mostly because we knew nothing about rugby and had a limited time in the city, but the hostel worker reminded us of something very important- “Don’t spend all your time in museums. You can watch history being made tomorrow.”
We promised to watch the game and headed out. Cardiff Castle was absolutely worth the 9.50 student ticket price. It was the perfect culmination of everything we had studied so far in British Studies. From the Romans to the Normans to Tudors to the Republic- this castle had it all. It was even used as an air raid shelter in World War II! After the castle, we grabbed a bit to eat at a modern pub called Zerodegrees. I had some of the best pizza there that I’ve had the entire trip, in addition to my first taste of beer (if you go to this place, the mango beer is their specialty. That’s what I tried). Finally we were off to the Bay. Not only is the Bay beautiful, but it is also a main filming location for a spin-off show of Doctor Who called Torchwood, so we were excited to see the Tower that is prominently featured in the show. It was a long walk, and, when we arrived, we discovered that the tower and most of the bay were roped off for event prep. Slightly disappointed, we made the most of the pictures that we could get and walked around the chilly bay for a while before heading back to the hostel.
The next morning, we woke up at 8 am to a mass of red outside our window. Our hostel was positioned right next to Millennium Stadium and, even though the game was being played in New Zealand, thousands of fans were gathering in the stadium to watch it on the big screen. We carefully tried to pick out clothes that would at least make us not seem like supporters of France (we had sadly all left our red at home), and grabbed some breakfast before making our way to the pub recommended by our favorite hostel worker. It was only when we arrived that we realized how local this pub was. The name was in Welsh and the TVs were all giving commentary in Welsh, but at least most of the people were speaking English. So we grabbed a spot at the back of the pub and settled in to watch the game.
The atmosphere was electric. Not only was everyone in the place (and probably in the entire city) wearing red, but they were all extremely passionate about their team. And it was infectious. Not even halfway through the game, we found ourselves cheering and booing right along with the locals, even though we often had to guess at what was going on. At one point my friend Margie shouted something about a touchdown, which led to a few strange looks, but no one said anything else about it. Sadly, Wales ended up losing the game 8-9. We carefully snuck out the back of the pub, not wanting to intrude on the national mourning. And mourning it was. We made our way back towards the stadium and everyone that left looked a little down-hearted.
But we decided to continue with our day with some shopping, a visit to the Cardiff Market (well worth the visit), and a stop at the Cardiff National Museum. In the evening, we acquired some food from a local sandwich place and ate at our hostel. The evening was spent experiencing a British cinema for the first time as we saw Tinker, Taylor, Solider, Spy.
The next morning we spent in the park, getting a little homework and some last minute shopping done before another lunch of sandwiches (this time eaten in the park) and catching our train home. Overall, my favorite part about the trip to Cardiff was the rugby game. I’m so glad that we listen to the locals and watched.
Travel Tip: Talk to the people who work at the hostels. They often know what they’re talking about.
Do I recommend Cardiff?: Yes. Whole-heartedly. The Welsh people were very friendly and, even though they are not an independent country, have so much national pride. It’s so interesting to just immerse yourself in. Plus, it’s pretty easy to find your way off the beaten tourist path and into the places that the locals actually go to.