Thursday, 25 August 2011

Introducing Ariel Nothern

Preparing for Harlaxton
by Ariel Nothern

After anxiously anticipating my arrival in England for the past 6 months or so, the day is finally drawing near. There’s so much to think about-what to pack, how much to pack, what trips to sign up for, and the kicker-how in the heck am I going to fit 4 months of my life into 50 pounds! As stressed as I feel, I feel even more excited! I have never been out of the United States and I cannot wait to experience another culture. Now that August 25th, is creeping upon me, preparation is key.

I have spent the past 3 months living at home, working 3 jobs, saving all my money for the trip. Living at home has saved me a lot of expenses since I don’t have to pay rent and utilities and has allowed me to save all my money from my pay checks, besides gas for my car and sometimes that occasional shirt that I just “have to have” (only if it’s on clearance, of course). Sure, I would have loved to stay in my college town with my friends and have a social life, but I have to be logical and save all my money that I can where I can. I know that my experience at Harlaxton will make this summer more than worth it, and every time I am assigned a job that I’d rather not do or I find myself wishing I was hanging poolside with my friends, I just remind myself of my trip to England.

Preparing for Harlaxton is a lot different than preparing for my regular school year here in the United States. I don’t have to pack a microwave and T.V. or bedding or any of that, but I do have to prepare in other ways. First off, making sure I have the right clothing for the different weather conditions and making sure I have all my paperwork, such as my passport and letter of intent ready to go (and in a place where I can find it when it’s time to leave). There’s also the fact that I will have to make sure I have my flight plans all figured out. It’s a little different than driving my PT Cruiser a whopping 2 and half hours east on I70. And of course, there is the money factor. Don’t get me wrong, I worry about money and my expenses for my college here in the US, but I always have my parents close by if anything unexpected does occur. So making sure I have at least $3500 in my checking account is also a major difference.

I have yet to even board my plane to cross the Atlantic and already this experience has helped me. It has caused me to make responsible decisions so that I can actually reach my goal and get there. I find myself counting down the days until I get to meet everyone and start on this new adventure and another chapter of my life!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Introducing Miranda Stinson

Homesick Already
by Miranda Stinson

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

A confession: I have not started packing for Harlaxton. Instead, I am in Bangkok, Thailand, half a world away from my family and my cat. I am living on one week of clothes, a step down from the two weeks I plan to bring to England. I know five words of the local language, only two of which I can pronounce, and today I paid a taxi driver 200 baht (the local inflated currency) in two 1,000-baht notes. Oops. Far from feeling like a smart traveler, I am beginning to fear that I have what I call Neville Longbottom Syndrome. In layman’s terms, I’m an idiot.

I’ve been here for eleven days, and I’m already homesick. How will I ever spend four months in a foreign country? But I realized today that I am less homesick for Indiana, family, and cat than I am homesick for Harlaxton. I took a class there this summer, and I am already anxious to be back. I miss the Manor with its steampunk lift and its bathrooms squashed into odd corridors. I miss Grantham, even though the bartender at the local pub claims it has been dubbed “the most boring town in the UK.” I miss the bus to Lincoln and the train to London, and maybe I even miss Heathrow. I miss standing on a Tube train at six o’clock, breathing the smells of Indian food and the London Evening Standard and general fatigue, wondering where everyone is going. I miss this country because it is the first place I have learned to be truly independent, because I think I understand it, because there I would never pay someone 20 pounds instead of two pounds

It was not always so. On the morning of May 13, 2011, I arrived at Heathrow Airport, running on two hours of sleep and roughly twenty American dollars. I could hardly contain my excitement. I was seriously in a foreign country. On the plane, a flight attendant had come around collecting rubbish! Now, tons of people with burgundy passports for The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland were queuing up at Immigration, one step away from going home. My excitement lasted exactly until I reached the front of my “Non-UK Citizens” line and a woman with thick eyeliner asked me, in an even thicker accent, the purpose of my visit.

“Study abroad,” I said, “and travel.”
“And what will you be studying?”
“Um. I’m taking a writing workshop,” I said.
“And what does that entail?”

So I broke the First Earl Kirk Rule of entering a foreign country. I babbled. Anyone who has ever taken a writing workshop will know that it is very difficult to describe one and make it sound legitimate. After various phrasings of “We write things,” she must have decided I was too inarticulate to be a terrorist (or, perhaps, a writer). She stamped my passport and shooed me on.

The worst was over. But suddenly everything seemed harder, even buying an egg-and-cress sandwich—which I did, once I had finally obtained my luggage and a small amount of British currency. When the woman at the cafĂ© told me the price, I pulled out a fresh ten-pound note and stared at it like I had never seen it before; I hadn’t. As I sat down to eat and examine my change—all coins—I was reminded of another character from Harry Potter, the Muggle at the Quidditch World Cup; seeing Mr. Weasley’s pathetic attempt to spend real British money, he says, “You foreign?”

You never do quite get over that feeling of being a foreigner, I think. When I spoke it was always with an extra moment of calculation, an awareness of having an accent. But it becomes less paralyzing.

As I repack my one week of clothes and prepare for my final day in Bangkok, I take comfort in this knowledge. Though my time in Thailand has been full of embarrassments—and ordering a sandwich still makes my heart race—I am learning my way, just as I did in England and will do again.

Across the country, students from UE and other schools are busily preparing for August 25. They are photocopying their passports and health insurance, deciding how many sweaters to pack, and memorizing Mr. Kirk’s travel tips. (Nothing to declare, nothing to declare. I promise.) I hope they know they can never fully prepare. We will all learn as we go.

When I land in Indiana, I will have five days to sleep off my jetlag, to unpack my summer clothes and pack for fall in the UK, and to panic. I will probably do a lot of panicking. But this time, I know where I’m headed. This time, when I bid goodbye to my family and my cat, when I board the plane to Heathrow and get supremely jetlagged again, I will be going to a place I can learn to call home.

Introducing Allie Deford

8 Days
by Allie Deford

8 Days

My countdown, which I have been keeping since the start of the summer, informs me that I have only 8 dyas until I board a plane bound for Harlaxton. My suitcase sits open on my bedroom floor, a few items resting haphazardly within it. My intended carry-on bag sits next to the suitcase, also open, but empty.

8 days.

My engineering-oriented brain has been creating checklist after checklist, hoping each time that I haven’t forgotten something important- a task that needs to be completed or an item that I need to make sure to pack. How to pack for 3 and a half months with only a large suitcase and a carry-on is a question that has plagued my thoughts for weeks now, and the thought is only becoming more persistent as departure day draws near.

8 days.

The little knot in my stomach is growing. What if I can’t figure out the airport? What if I get lost trying to navigate the train system in the UK? What if I forget something crucial at home? The list of fears is long, but my list of exciting plans is longer. I am excited to spend a weekend in Paris, to see theatre on the West End and at the Globe (and hopefully many other places!), to go to Cardiff (the filming location of Doctor Who), to go to a pub with my friends, and to experience all the things I haven’t yet dreamed of.

8 days.

I have been waiting for this for 3 years now. When I decided that I would be attending the University of Evansville, Harlaxton was part of the package. I never considering letting the opportunity to study abroad pass me by. Throughout my freshmen year, I climbed through the required hurdles of getting a passport, attending the study abroad meetings, and generally trying to plan out a semester in the UK. And now that planning is paying off.

My to-do list is still long, but I have a week to finish it. You have 8 days Harlaxton. I hope you’re ready, because I know I am!

Are you an incoming Harlaxton attendee? Please feel free to leave a comment introducing yourself; I would love to get to know some people! Are you a Harlaxton alumni? Any advice that you wish to leave in the comments would be greatly appreciated!

Introducing Brennan Girdler

Grantham, Indiana
by Brennan Girdler

I almost forgot to pack laundry quarters. Oh, wait…

I’ve had way too much time to pretend to know what I’m getting myself into. Studying abroad — sounds easy, right?

Well, at least the studying part does. I’ve been doing alright with that for a while now. But abroad, alone in a whole new world, what can I expect? What about food? Do they eat food? How many pounds in a quarter of an ounce? Do I sleep in pajamas or pyjamas? Do I cry for mummy or mommy? Am I a titbit or tidbit nervous…

Regardless, my outstanding American ignorance will prove itself worthy yet again as I depart from my native land and begin my first semester more than a state away from home.

Honestly though, what I’m most hesitant about is the travel, the whole abroad factor. But as I think about it, how different can it be, Indiana vs. Grantham?

I’ve signed up for a couple of school trips, mostly ones in England, and I plan on doing plenty of on-my-one adventuring, yet unsure about navigating foreign lands. Like what do I do if a bus ticket is only in German? Will my two years of Spanish cut it? Do I kiss the cheek of everyone I meet in France? Or just the pretty ones…?

Coming to terms with flying to England was pretty easy. I have all my papers, contact info, and what-to-do-if-I-lose-my-itinerary-and-am-robbed-in-the-loo plans down solid. It’s the being there I can’t plan for. It’s the losing a bus ticket in the Netherlands or winding up east of the Urals that invokes the irrational fear of losing myself to the old country. But in the same way, isn’t that why I’m going? I really need to take a breath, order a pint, and forget myself, my fears, and my worries while I’m abroad. I need to make mistakes, make friends, and have the semester of a lifetime.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Introducing Katelan King

How Do You Plan for the Trip of a Lifetime
by Katelan King

I never thought packing for travel could be more exhausting than the actual travel. Then again, I've never spent a semester abroad.

My list began short. I knew I had to bring all my essential documents (seven and counting) and a change of underwear. Under the direction of some Harlaxton alumni, I later decided to pack a bit more. That was when things got interesting.

Between bipolar waves of terror and excitement, I've managed to choose which shoes made the cut, which pillow I loved most, and which books I could afford to carry overseas (the Kindle has been wonderful in saving valuable space and weight). I also researched through other travellers and blogs to find out whether my pocket knife was legal (no), if it would still be warm when we arrived (likely so), and if it was acceptable to wear casual shoes in public in Europe (sometimes). Every question I ask seems to spawn more questions, and it makes me even more impatient for arrival day.

The summer seems to draw out the closer I get to the airport. More than anything, I think, I am ready to see the Manor for myself. I want to travel to London and meet the people who (I hope) will become my new friends. I want to start my classes and take pictures and get lost in countries where I don't speak the language. All of the experiences I want out of these four months are piling up in my head, and I'm getting more and more ecstatic and scared.

I have one advantage in that I've flown everywhere. My parents live on opposite sides of the country, and I've been to Europe twice, so I'm not worried about navigating the airport system. I am nervous, however, about using the London Metro and other public transportation. Luckily, I've already banded together via Facebook with other students who have never used a subway, and we hope to learn the system together.

The Harlaxton Fall 2011 page has been great in that way. It has been an outlet for our excitement in a way nothing else can, because we are speaking directly to our fellow students (who are just as terrified and excited as we are). Already we are planning our side-trips, discussing classes, weighing the Carriage House versus the Manor for living arrangements, and bonding as a class. I can't wait to meet everyone in person. Until then, I'll be trying to fit all of my clothes into one bag. That should be interesting, because this is all I can carry with me for the next four months:

Wish me luck

See you at the Manor!

Introducing the Fall 2011 Student Bloggers

Over the next four months, you will get a first hand account of life at Harlaxton from five student bloggers. They will talk about what it is like to live and study at Harlaxton, share their experiences travelling, and much more!

The Harlaxton Student Bloggers for the Fall 2011 Semester are:

Katelan King

Ariel Nothern

Brennan Girdler

Miranda Stinson

Allie Deford

Over the next few days, they will introduce themselves and share how they have been preparing for life at Harlaxton!

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Month of August

British Summer Beach Holiday

August is a strange month for Britain as it's generally the hottest in the year and the only full month of no school, sp plenty of people flock to the coast to enjoy the weather and wait for September to roll around. This is the month in which we are at our most vulnerable form: that of the uncool British beach tourist. Look at all the wind breakers!

Lammas mouse

Elsewhere in Britain, August 1st is Lammas Day (makes me think of Lord of the Rings) which is a Harvest celebration where fancy decorated bread loves are made. Apparently it was also a date that young couples could start an 11 day 'trial marriage' to see if they could actually live together: smart idea!

In Wales the Eisteddfod is celebrated: it's an older tradition which was revived in the 19th century. It originated as a medieval gathering of bards and minstrels, attended by people across Wales, who competed for the prized chair at the noble's table. Now it celebrates Welsh art and culture. (Fantastic August weather in the photo below!)

Eisteddfod Maes 2009

Finally a more modern event is Notting Hill Carnival, which celebrates the culture of our Caribbean immigrants: it's generally on Summer Bank Holiday: the last Monday in August.

Notting Hill Carnival 2008