Tuesday, 31 January 2012
Thursday, 26 January 2012
Now, most people who go to Nottingham usually only go to two places: the giant shopping plaza and Nottingham Castle. I can't say much about the shopping plaza because I'm not much of a shopper, but Nottingham Castle is definitely worth a look around. Also, there's an excellent opportunity for a photo-op with the statue of Robin Hood. Inside the castle grounds there is an art museum and a walk-through of the story of Robin Hood. The story exhibit is set-up well, especially if you unleash your inner child. If you don't mind acting like a child, they have a dress-up section in the basement with scenes set-up, so you can feel as if you've walked into the famous myths. Of course, if you don't feel comfortable with pretending you're Maid Marian, then you can laugh at your friends who have no inhibitions of acting out a love scene with the cardboard cut-out of Robin Hood.
However, one of Nottingham's little known tourist attractions is one of the coolest and creepiest. The Galleries of Justice show Nottingham's darker side with the infamous Sherif of Nottingham leading the way. Way back when, crowds would gather in front of this building to watch criminals be punished and hanged. Needless to say, they don't do things like that anymore. However, the cavernous jail is still there, perfectly preserved, carved into the miles of rock and limestone the city rests on top of. The best part: there's an interactive tour! A convict from the past takes your tour group around while you explore the damp underground prison. Not only is the tour guide a convict, but you get a convict number when you buy a ticket, so you get to play along. Yours truly was caught breaking and entering and sentenced to twelve months in prison! Don't ask me why I'm so excited about that.
Tuesday, 24 January 2012
Thursday, 19 January 2012
|Cassie, myself, Amanda and Emily in front of the Museum|
Tuesday, 17 January 2012
I suppose when I thought about studying abroad, I focused mostly on the weekends away, on all of the places that I'd see. Harlaxton, in my mind, became merely this stable place to come back to from each grand adventure. But I underestimated how much of an adventure it would be day to day, just living here. It's the second week, and just look at all the things that I've done right here on campus:
Upon arrival I naturally I explored the manor house, trying to find the mysterious hidden passageways and how to escape from my room if the main stairway happens to be blocked by a fire. This was especially vital since, for the first week, I was in a single room off in a small hallway that I was a little concerned was sure to be haunted (mostly because I kept having dreams about ghosts watching me in the two mirrors that faced my bed).
I've already gotten to make use of my new fancy heels (which effectively make me one of the tallest people in the room) at the first formal (or "high table") dinner, where the random seating chart forced me to make conversation with some lovely people I'd never met before.
I've lived in not one but TWO separate rooms, since I was put in an RA room for the first week. I tasted the freedom (and terror) of living in a single room in a humongous and very old manor and then the comfort (and awkwardness) of a giant four person room, where everyone else will see the ghosts if they happen to come around (don't worry, they haven't.)
I've had several meals of the reputedly terrible food, which I haven't found all that bad. Admittedly there's a lot of rice and potatoes, but as a great lover of starch, I have to say I can't complain. Yes, it's a bit of a strange hybrid between American and British cuisine, but it's warm, it's edible and it's even a little bit delicious every now and again.Not to mention, it's very cheerfully served by the fantastic kitchen staff. I am going a little bit insane with out my habitual Diet Pepsi at every meal, but I've replaced it with a spot of tea or hot chocolate, so I'm suffering through.
I learned to do several different dances from several different countries during the Ceilidh (pronounced Kaylee) that the school sponsored last week. Yes, I even had to touch people's hands and everything, but it was definitely worth it because I felt like I was in the middle of a Jane Austen novel, which is something I've always wanted to feel. Sadly there was no Darcy, but I was with my wonderful friends and met some new ones, and I think that very nearly compares to Colin Firth (sort of).
Since we all live in the same (gigantic, gorgeous) place, I've met a TON of new people, both from my home school U of E and from the other schools that have come together to make up this Harlaxton semester's class.
As the semester got underway almost as soon as we got here, I've already started in on three new classes, two of which are taught by the British faculty (British studies and Shakespeare), and one of which is an intensive writing workshop from which I can already tell I'm going to learn a lot. It's a lot of fun listening to actual British people talking about British history and about Shakespeare (although we haven't gotten too deep into that yet, having a gigantic class and needing to split it into two sections). The faculty here, both the British ones and the visiting faculty, seem pretty fantastic thus far, and I'm excited for a stimulating (if challenging) semester. Even if the last thing I wanted to do when sitting in my hotel room in London this weekend was my British studies homework.
Each night when all of this is over, I come back to the same room and collapse into the same bed when all the homework is finished, and that's as close as it gets to being the same day to day. Somehow, I'm trying to organize the busy schedule of classes, events, field trip, and travel into something that vaguely resembles a routine, because I'm the sort of person who needs a routine. However, since I'm loving every spontaneous and unplanned minute of it, I'm doing okay with the fact that the only real routine is that I wake up, go to classes, and at some point eventually make it back to my bed to rest up for whatever the next day is going to bring me. Because, yes, I do live in a manor. And that alone promises life these next few months is going to be just a little bit more than ordinary.
Tuesday, 3 January 2012
I am one such Harlaxton student, and as the departure date for my potential classmates and I approaches, I feel— in one word— overwhelmed. With less than one month before my future classmates and I board our planes, I find myself in a relentless mix of emotions.
I’m anxious about packing, travelling, and getting lost; I’m excited to make new friends, but scared to loss the ones from home. I’m uneasy about budgeting, enthused to try new things, and ready to be immersed in this new culture. More overpowering than any of these, however, is the formidable fear of the unknown— and no matter how many meetings I attend, past participants I pester, or facts I search on the Internet, I know truly being prepared is impossible. And that’s okay. Preparation is part of the nerve-racking, hectic, frantic fun that comes with studying abroad.
Still, there are some things I can do to prepare, like buying an inexpensive laptop adapter (some laptops may also need a converter), and asking my cell phone provider about their international rates (which will likely persuade me to buy an inexpensive phone at Harlaxton, but it never hurts to ask). I’ve called my doctor, and have four months of my prescriptions ready and filled. Also, I plan to research my bank’s international charges and withdraw fees, and give them a list of all the countries I’ll likely be visiting (so they won’t see a foreign purchase and freeze my account). It feels great to get some things accomplished, and the more arrangements I make, the more reassurance and excitement I feel for the upcoming semester.
It’s with this nervous reassurance that I spend my last few weeks at home. It’s a strange sensation— knowing how close, yet still far, departure date is. It’s like standing at the edge of a swimming pool: you’re so ready to jump in, yet equally terrified to push your feet off the ground. But when you’re finally swimming, the water is cool and the sun is warm against your skin— and you laugh, because you can’t believe you were ever afraid to jump.
Monday, 2 January 2012
The first step to travelling abroad is to get a passport, so I went to Walgreens to get my picture taken. After ten minutes of waiting, a disgruntled cashier came over to the abandoned photo counter, told me to stand against the blank wall, and snapped my picture. She said it would be ready in ten minutes. I always thought you could check to make sure the picture was fine, but I trusted the judgement of the photographer. When I got my pictures a little while later, I thought there had been some mistake. Clearly the photos they gave me belonged to a ghost white, orangish-blonde haired, glow-in-the-dark green eyed alien from Mars with a bad attitude. I asked if she could retake them, and she rolled her eyes and said I would have to pay for new ones. I checked my empty wallet and decided that was impossible because there was nothing inside. I sent in the pictures, so I could get my passport by the due date. Despite having an alien’s passport, I was jazzed to start the rest of the study abroad process.
That, apparently, involved paperwork. A lot of paperwork. There were forms for everything: emergency contacts, declarations, honor codes, personal details, secondary personal details, tertiary personal details, and personal preferences. I knew once I did all of that, though, I could look forward to the trip of a lifetime, so I happily picked up my pen and got to work. A month of excitement went by, and the next step of the process was revealed to be more paperwork; this time for the group flight, adopt-a-family, and housing cancellations. Then came the fun part, which also involved paperwork. Looking through the course catalog to fill out my form for classes, I was thrilled about all of the classes being offered that I wanted to take: The Beatles class, British studies, the cultural history of alcohol, history of the Atlantic world, Shakespeare, media writing, and descriptive astronomy. Then I thought 22 credit hours might be a little bit too much, so I decided on four and turned in my sign-up sheet a month early in anticipation.
Also tops on my list of excited-screaming topics were booking trips. I spent an entire Sunday reading all of the trip descriptions and deciding all of them were must-see places. I checked my bank account balance, realized I was broke, and picked my top four choices: Oxford/Stonehenge/Bath (because Stonehenge looks too awesome for words), Cadbury (because who doesn’t want to go to a world of chocolate?), Stratford (because Shakespeare is my favorite superhero), and London (because how can you go to England and not visit London?). Then I promised myself to bother all of my relatives for money this Christmas.
After another month of count-down anticipation December came, and my inbox was flooded with Harlaxton emails. With every email I got more and more excited and more and more anxious at everything I still needed to do. I have to print out my ticket, so I’m not stranded at the airport; remind my bank about my over-seas transactions, so they don’t cancel my account; apply for a credit card because plastic is better than paper; and get enough cold medicine to escape the “Harlaxton Plague” that I’ve heard so much about. The one thing I don’t have to worry about is packing. My suitcase has been packed and sitting by the front door since I got my acceptance letter.