Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Perceptions of the United Kingdom vs. Reality

Before coming to Harlaxton, there were a lot of things that I thought I knew about the UK. After living here for over 3 months, I’ve learned which of these perceptions were true and which were false.

1. It does NOT rain all of the time.

Although the weather has been dreary recently, it does not rain most days. Sure, it has been cloudy for at least half of the semester, but it is only occasionally accompanied with rain. I had heard that it rains or at least mists in England most days. I’m glad that was a misconception.

2. Potatoes ARE an essential part of every meal.

From chips to hash browns, almost every plate I get from the refectory has included potatoes in some form. I’d been warned about this ahead of time, so it didn’t surprise me that I’d had potatoes for dinner most nights the first week at Harlaxton.

3. Mexican food DOES exist in United Kingdom.

The UK and Ireland do offer Mexican food. The food may not be as authentic as local restaurants in the US, but at least they try. Before arriving in England, I thought Mexican food was the type of ethnic food that I would miss most. Fortunately, I can say that I’ve had a burrito in England. Also, if you were wondering, there are a few Taco Bells in England, but none close to Grantham.

4. England IS diverse.

I thought it would be uncommon to hear American accents on the streets in the UK, but I was mistaken. In London, language and accents vary. Although the city is large, it’s not too difficult to feel at home amongst the multicultural crowd.

5. The United Kingdom is made up of distinct groups of people.

Before British Studies, I didn’t fully understand the connections between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The United Kingdom is not as happily joined as I had thought. Some residents argue for breaking away from the European Union to enhance their national identity. Even Scotland may one day break apart the United Kingdom. Unlike the United States, the United Kingdom isn’t committed to staying together.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Our Home Away From Home

I never imagined that watching a slide show of portraits of English monarchs, scenes from the Bayeux Tapestry, paintings from the Industrial Revolution, and photographs of momentous events in British history, while listening to Rule Britannia, could make me tear up. In fact, if you told me at another time this semester that I would be sad to leave the last British Studies lecture, I would not have believed it. After 28 lectures, we all know much more about British history than we did when we arrived, but this semester has taught us so much more than that.

We were strangers at orientation, rivals in house competitions, classmates in British Studies, a support system after the attacks in Paris, but most importantly, we are friends who share an experience unlike any other. Spending a semester at Harlaxton is a unique experience in itself, but this semester that we have shared is unlike the semesters before or those to come.

We have learned what it means to be global citizens. We have learned how to think critically about a nation’s identity. We have learned how to plan travel. We have learned to have empathy for other people and cultures. We have traveled and laughed and danced and studied and lived amazing lives this semester.

To think of the sheer number of miles we have collectively traveled is incredible, but we all know that it’s not about how many miles or even where we’ve been. This semester is about the memories we will cherish, the journeys along the way, and the people we have shared them with.

I can vividly remember the first time we all walked through the front door and up the staircase to the Great Hall, to sit underneath a beautiful chandelier in a 19th century manor house. If that isn’t a fairytale, then I don’t know what is. Since then, we have returned on every Sunday night to the same view of our Harlaxton Manor, but something changed about it as the semester went on. Harlaxton became our home, and no matter how badly we may want to go back to America, a part of us will always be here in our home away from home.

Written by: Casey Rice

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Building Me: Stone by Stone

Wow. I can’t believe this wonderful experience is almost over! No words can accurately express how this semester has changed me, but I will make an attempt.

When I first got here, I felt like nothing could phase me. I have been to many places with my family prior to Harlaxton and I’ve had 2 years of college already under my belt, but studying abroad is a little different. You aren’t with your family, and you start out not knowing hardly anyone - but then it begins.

You go on the first weekend trip. You start to meet so many new people. You decide to sit with someone at lunch who you’ve never talked to before. You become very close with your roommate(s). And then you realize that you aren’t alone; these new, wonderful people are all members of your new Harlaxton family. The connections I’ve made here will be valuable to me for a long time.

Then there’s your houses. I am in Gregory which is named after Gregory Gregory who built Harlaxton. He collected things from the places that he traveled and used them to build the amazing manor house that we now call home. Throughout the semester, Gregory Gregory has been a bit of an inspiration to me for that reason.

Studying abroad isn’t just going to class and traveling when you can or when you have money. You gain experiences, memories, ideas, habits, perspectives, etc. My goal for this semester was to do exactly what Gregory Gregory did. Take something from each place to build me. I don’t necessarily mean that I’ve taken something material from every place, but I feel like I’ve learned a little something from each place. It could be something as simple as reading a map better to something like being more patient or finding some peace with yourself for just a moment. So just like Gregory Gregory, each of us are building ourselves, stone by stone.

For me, each trip has brought something valuable to my life and to my being. Through this experience, I’ve improved myself in the most unlikely of ways. I’ve become more confident in my abilities, I have gained new knowledge through my various experiences, and I have gained new perspectives from my classes, my peers and from what I have seen on my travels. Nothing could replace this experience and I am thankful that I can be a part of this Harlaxton Family.

Written by: Kelsey Fields

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Lessons Learned as a Harlaxton Lion: Being a Global Citizen is Hard

So I’ve gone back and forth quite a bit the past couple of weeks, knowing that this blog post was due and I’d soon have to decide on a topic. That struggle continued until this past weekend. Obviously I’d much rather write to you about something cheery like how the Irish have the cutest accents and there’s a bookshop in Dublin called The Winding Stair that is simply magical, but this isn’t about what I want. And that theme of responsibility vs. desire is something that will carry through this revelation of a 19-year-old Kentucky nothing who has just come in contact with what it means to be a global citizen.

First I must start by saying that I was not in Paris this weekend; I was there just a month ago (almost to the day) with my parents. This past weekend I spent in Dublin with one of my best friends, fulfilling yet another lifelong dream by visiting Ireland. Friday was the day we decided to visit the Cliffs of Moher (wow), and just as we began our journey back to Dublin on the train the first two Facebook posts about the attacks were posted. There was a space between those posts and when all the responses flooded in that I can describe only as blank airtime—a moment similar to a television program suddenly stopping and leaving nothing but an eerie quiet where noise used to be. I didn’t quite know how to take it; even after finding out everyone was safe, there was both a terrible fear for what had happened and also an incredible relief for the safety of my friends and myself.

What was just as terrifying as these tragic acts though was what I saw on our way back to Harlaxton. While riding the Underground back to Kings Cross I sat across from a young couple, not much older than me. I watched as they shared a newspaper between them, and in turn, got to see how casually they were able to flip through images of the missing and dead. People with faces and names and stories coolly and literally flipped through, carrying as much weight as the paper itself did. This was just as painful, at least to me, as hearing and reading about the attacks themselves. Because I could no longer say that it was just the people who committed these acts who lacked humanity, it was normal people too—people like this young couple, people like me.

I have never realized the extent of how completely unaware and ignorant I was to world events until now. It is so easy to push away all the sorrowful compassion when you’re physically removed from where it is all taking place. It is so incredibly—frighteningly—simple to ignore all the bad when you don’t have names and faces to search for when things like this happen. But that isn’t okay. And even now I am struggling with this. Even with something so close to me, even with the names and the faces of my classmates swirling in my mind—what could have happened to them, what did happen to people just like them, just like me—I am still fighting my instinct to brush off this grief and turn back on the numbness I got so accustomed to wearing at home. As much as I’d like to push this past weekend out of my consciousness—push it away from my everyday thinking and distance myself, physically and mentally, from it, I know I can’t do that. I am called to be a global citizen. Now, more than ever, we are called to be global citizens.

Being a global citizen isn’t for the faint of heart. Being a global citizen means pushing against all the parts of you that wish, selfishly, but quite humanly, to shut out the negativity and the bad. Being a global citizen means taking your part in the world—rejoicing over justice being served, speaking out when it is not, and grieving for moments like this one where it is easy to feel there is no justice. Being a global citizen is our responsibility, as humans, but specifically as Harlaxton Lions. We were each brought here for different reasons: some desired travel, some hungered for something new, some simply longed for this once in a lifetime opportunity because it was just that. But whatever the reason(s) that brought us each here, we all leave with the knowledge that we are responsible. We are a part of this planet and that does carry weight. This load—to care, to create change, to do—is not an easy one to bear, but that’s alright, because we bear it together.

Written by: Rachael Doyel

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Day We Will Never Forget

I traveled independently with two friends to Paris this weekend.  Let me start off by saying, the day was wonderful.  You tend to hear reports when tragic events happen how the day started off like any other day and then about the tragedy afterward.  This was no ordinary day though; I had been dreaming of going to Paris since I was a little girl.  This was one of two trips that were "musts" for me and I couldn't have been more ecstatic!  Seriously, I have no idea how many times I said to my friends, "guys, we're in Paris!".  We started the day off meeting up with another friend at Sacre Coeur, making our way to see Moulin Rouge, then the Arc de Triumph, going all the way to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and seeing Notre Dame, and then the Louvre at night.  Through these events, of course we were careful, especially with the stereotype of pickpockets in Paris, but I never felt unsafe.  There were police at almost all of these sites, and if anything, that made me feel safer. It was an event filled day and up until that point, it was one of my favorite days since being in Europe. We left the Louvre right before 9:00, made our way back to the hotel the school was staying at for our friends to drop some stuff off, and we all went out for dinner.  It took us a while to walk there, but nothing really seemed unusual.  I know some basic French and I didn't hear anything around me unusual, let alone see panicked people.  We made our way to Chipotle and enjoyed our first real Mexican meal since being in Europe.  Laughing, having a good time, and glad we were finally eating, we had no idea that bombs, shootings, and hostage situations were happening all around Paris. 

We were all tired and knew we needed to get up early the next morning, so the friends that went with the school trip and those of us who traveled independently said our goodbyes and parted ways.  We boarded the metro, just ready to go to sleep once we got back.  It was about a twenty minute train ride, and right at the end, my friend Natalie got a call from our friend Anabel, who was staying back at Harlaxton.  Dismissing it, and not sure exactly how she was getting the call without wifi, we waited to answer until we got to our flat.  The phone kept ringing though.  We definitely thought this was strange, but it was a two minute walk, no big deal.  As we walked into our flat, Natalie answered and on the other line was an extremely panicked voice asking if we were okay and if we were all alive.  "Yeah…" we answered, "why?"  And that's when we heard. 

All three of us were frozen in shock.  Natalie had to have Anabel repeat it several times because it wasn't registering.  When Natalie told us, she only mentioned the shootings, and while I was shocked and saddened, it didn't seem like that big of a deal at the time.  Later I came to realize that it speaks more to how much gun violence we have in the US to the point that yes, it's sad, but it's made many of us desensitized to the horror that a shooting really is.  Then, more information started flowing in, many shootings, a hostage situation, and bombs.  What in the world?

We turned on the TV and found an English news station and were horrified at the images, numbers, and sayings on the screen.  We were scared.  We realized we were very close to some of those areas that day and some of our friends were even closer right now.  What made it worse was that all the places attacked were soft targets.  These were places that we went on holiday, that normal everyday Parisians and tourists alike visited on a daily basis. A soccer stadium.  A concert venue.  A bar.  Restaurants.  These were people living their lives and having fun on a "normal" Friday night. 

The three of us gathered on the couch, contacting everyone who had sent us messages, all while watching TV keeping up to date where the latest attack was, and praying for safety.   For those who contacted us, and I'm speaking on behalf of everyone at Harlaxton, we thank you.  We thank you for your prayers, your messages, your thoughts, and your concerns.  It really makes you realize how loved you are.  Throughout the weekend there were countless stories of people telling of both close friends and family checking on them and of people who they hadn't talked to in years contacting them to make sure they were okay, both from students who were in Paris and elsewhere.

I have to say, I was impressed with how the school handled the situation (and they're not requiring me to say that, paying me, or anything else like that, that's my honest opinion).  Those who were on the school trip were all accounted for, but they went through the Alpha list of students who were anywhere in Europe to check to make sure they were alright.  For us, we were soon in contact with the Principal of the College, Dr. Seaman, who was also in Paris with the school, and he helped us walk through what we needed to be doing.  They contacted the American Embassy for us.  They kept us informed about what was happening in Paris and how the students were doing.  They helped us figure out our best plan of action both for events with the school and by ourselves, and they did that for each of the groups traveling independently in Paris.  I could not be more thankful for the College I am studying abroad with for all their help through this time.

I was also impressed with how France responded.  The first bombs went off right about 9:00 and by 10:30, they had 1,500 troops in Paris.  This city refused to be knocked down.  At the hotel the school-organized travelers were staying at, they had an armed guard guarding the front door to keep them safe.  We heard many ambulances go by all weekend long as Parisians took care of their people. Paris leapt into action, didn't leave room for any chances, and did everything they could.

The next morning we got up to video chat into the school's meeting about plans going forward.  The metro was still closed from the night's events (it probably closed just seconds after we got off that night), and therefore we didn't have a way to get to the hotel that morning.  The administrators and staff decided with much deliberation that the students with the school would make the original travel plans to go back on Sunday.  The independent travelers continued to be in contact with the administrators and staff to decide what our next steps would be.

My friends and I continued to watch the news all while discussing what to do next.  We were already starting to go a little stir crazy in our flat and had very minimal food, so we knew we were going to have to go out and hopefully find something.  With all this, we decided to meet up with our friends at the school's hotel to have safety in numbers, to talk, and to continue going through this together.  In the city it was eerily quiet, people were definitely on edge, and had solemn faces as they walked around the streets.  Nearly everything was closed, all tourist attractions, many markets, restaurants, and shops.  When we found an open place and sat down for lunch, I couldn't help but think about those who had lost their lives doing this same thing the night before.  I can't shake the feeling that at some point during the day, I may have seen one of the 129 people who died, let alone one of the 99 who were in critical condition, or one of the 352 more that were wounded.  This affected me and many people I know, yet we didn't even know anyone who was hurt so I can't even begin to imagine what their friends and families are feeling.  I am thankful none of the Harlaxton students were harmed and our deepest sympathies are still with and in Paris because we left a part of our hearts there with them. 

Just last week I was reminded of why I came to Harlaxton in the first place: yes, I came to travel, but even more so, I came to live my life, because life is short and I want to experience as much as I can.  My dad told me not to let this weekend's events keep me from traveling for the rest of the semester (or ever, for that matter).  I honestly had hesitations when he said that, but when I reminded myself of why I came to Harlaxton I was encouraged.  Yes, there is the possibility that another attack could happen somewhere, but if I live my life in fear, is that really living?

This weekend each one of us studying at Harlaxton grew up a little bit more.  We hug a little more.  We are there for each other a little more.  We are going through this together.  It's going to be a process moving on in everyday life, just like in Paris.  We won't ever be the same, and that's okay.  My hope is that we grow from this separately and together.

I realize I am only relaying one story of the forty or so students that were in Paris this weekend, let alone the professors/administrators that were there, or the students who were not but were concerned for us, and that is just those at Harlaxton.  This weekend we were all a part of history; it'll be a day we never forget.  

Written by: Kristen Sanders

Thursday, 12 November 2015

It's Okay to Take a Break

I knew coming into this semester that I would only be here at Harlaxton for 15 weeks. In my mind, that meant I had the opportunity to travel to 15 different places in Europe. I’m over here, I might as well take every opportunity I can and try to see as much as I can!

Students who previously studied at Harlaxton had warned me that it’s smart to give yourself 1 or 2 weeks to rest throughout the semester without traveling. I thought that was crazy! I didn’t want to “waste a weekend” when I could go to Germany to just stay in Grantham. It seemed like a waste in my mind.

But, boy was I wrong.

I packed my schedule from day 1. I started traveling on the first weekend, and haven’t given myself a week off yet. 11 weeks straight of trains, airplanes, walking tours, hostels (some nicer than others), sleeping in the airport, and taxi rides. It all sounds glamorous when you talk about traveling to Barcelona, Rome, Dublin, Scotland, Greece, Germany, Austria, and France-but it’s not as “easy” as it may seem.

Traveling is exhausting to say the least. It’s hard to factor in all of the hours you will spend in transport just to get to a different country, even though it may appear to be close and accessible. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed each and every weekend I have spent traveling, but giving myself one week to relax would’ve been nice.

Don’t see “taking a weekend off” as wasting a weekend. See it as a chance to relax, recharge, and appreciate this experience. On weekday afternoons when I don’t have much homework and have some free time, I always catch myself thinking about how lucky we all are to be living these experiences. This semester is our chance to be selfish, and do things that make us happy.

Remember that it’s okay to take a break. You’re not wasting time by giving yourself some time to relax and just breathe.

Monday, 9 November 2015

The Little Things Might Just Be the Best Things

When traveling, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to see as much as possible, especially big tourist attractions you’ve grown up hearing about and can’t wait to see for yourself. Seeing Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower was awesome, but some of my best travel memories so far are the spontaneous, little things I’ve done in different places.

I’m always going to remember seeing the castle in Edinburgh for the first time, and how beautiful it was with the sun setting behind it, but I’ll also remember the picnic dinner I had with my best friend in our hotel room the last night we were there after a long day of walking and sightseeing. When I think of London, I’ll think about going there the weekend before my birthday, getting cupcakes in King’s Cross Station, and eating them outside The British Library. When I think about going to Bath, I’ll remember seeing the Roman Baths, but also going to The Fashion Museum and trying on Victorian-era clothing, laughing at how I looked, and marveling at how people dressed like that every day.

It’s easy to go somewhere and do the things you’ve established that you want to do. You can make a schedule, print out a map, and set on your way. But the little, unexpected things that you end up doing can make some of the best memories—memories that are special to you and the people with whom you experienced them. Seeing the famous sights is great, and it’s something I’ll definitely treasure for the rest of my life, but I know that the little moments are even more special because they aren’t shared with thousands of other people. Those little moments belong only to me and the people I was with. And that’s pretty magical.

I know it’s cheesy, but it really is the little things in life that make an already awesome experience even more special. We don’t have much time left in our Harlaxton adventure, so do all you can with the time you have, make every moment count, and realize that sometimes the smallest things will become your favorite memories of a place.

Written by: Ashley Marshall

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Perspectives - This is What Big Ben Really Looks Like!

When traveling to a famous city, it can be a little intimidating. Take London, for instance. This city has been photographed and in television and movies almost as much as the Big Apple. It can be hard to get out of the mindset of how it’s portrayed on the screen, and how you’ll really see it.
A good example to start off with is Parliament and Big Ben. I thought my first view of it would be this:

Instead, my first view was like this:

This is right across the street from the Westminster Underground stop. I have to say, it was breathtaking. It really showed its stately-ness for me, and we were right there when it chimed. It sounded exactly like you would imagine.

Another thing I was surprised to see was the amount of bikers. A lot of people ride bikes in London, and some of them are serious. They wear spandex, sunglasses, basically the whole Tour de France. There are even bicycles you can hire. A little odd, but pretty cool.

I also thought Buckingham Palace would be different. It was cool to see it up close, but I was struck by how plain it was. Of course, I’ve seen it on TV and in movies, but seeing it in real life made me realize exactly how unadorned it is. I was rather surprised by it.     

One of my mom’s rules for traveling is “To keep an open mind.” If you expect to see things exactly the same way as they are in pictures, you may miss out on unique views and perspectives. Yes, your perspective will change, and that’s okay. Sometimes, things look better outside their frames.

Written by: Elizabeth Niedbala

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Cities as People

It is my firm belief that cities have personalities like people do. They have characteristics that make them unique, and help travelers determine if they’re best friend material, or simply an acquaintance. To illustrate this, let’s look at two cities I’ve visited: London, England, and Dublin, Ireland.

London could be personified as an old professor. He has been around the block a few times, and is set in his ways. He knows exactly what works for him, and will keep it that way for a long time to come. He has high expectations for you, and he won’t offer help if you need it. He expects you to figure things out for yourself. If you are lost, London subtly points you in the right direction. When you do find your way, London will reward you, not with a big fanfare but with a smile and a nod. He knows a good cup of tea, politics, and has a very good sense of his past.

Dublin is like that guy in a pub. He always has a drink in his hand, he’s a bit gruff, but he’s friendly once you get to know him. He’s rough around the edges – it might take you a while to find the nice spots – but Dublin knows it and will let you get to them on your own. He holds grudges for long periods of time, and takes time to remember those who have gone before him. He’s had problems in the past, and he knows it, but he’s working on putting it all behind him. Dublin doesn’t try to put on airs – what you see is what you get.

So as you travel to different cities this semester, try to get a feel for the personality of the city. Each one is unique, just like a person, so get to know them. You may end up with a new friend.

Written by: Elizabeth Niedbala

Monday, 26 October 2015

Keeping Memories: Souvenirs

Whenever I travel, I always want to take away something from the place that I’ve been. Over the course of my time at Harlaxton, I’ve made it a personal tradition to try to get at least one postcard everywhere I go, which I post on my board in my room. In addition to the postcards, I also try to get a key chain. My idea is that at the end of the semester,  I can fill up my Harlaxton lanyard with keychains of all the places that I went with the intent of hanging it on my wall when I get back home. Finally, my family also collects stocking pins and christmas ornaments from the various places that we go. 

Collecting souvenirs while abroad can be expensive. Even though they are meaningful objects, they can break your bank quickly if you arent careful. A souvenir can literally be anything that you take from a place; so it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to buy them if you want to save on money. For a lot of the trips I have been on, I have picked up a small rock. In addition to pieces of nature that you can bring back, something as simple as taking a picture can be a souvenir. They are easy to frame and you can give them to your family as gifts.

I recommend that when traveling, find a small number of little things that are easy to find in shops and are easy to fit in your luggage. My personal example would be the stocking pins that my parents and I collect. Because I’ve been to many different places, I’ve accumulated a lot over the years and it is fun to see my collection grow. In addition, I personalize my stocking pins by getting different ones than my parents so it is always significant to me and my experience.

Written by: Kelsey Fields

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Kindergarten x 12

New place. Strange-smelling food. Unfamiliar faces. Crying for Mommy and Daddy.
Nope, I’m not talking about kindergarten. I’m talking about Harlaxton.

Yes, we’ve all heard it’s just like Hogwarts (and yes, for all you future Lions I can confirm it totally is), but I’m here to give you another comparison: kindergarten. Harlaxton is, well, like kindergarten times 12. You’re in this wonderful, but totally new place, and it’s magnificent but can also make a person feel quite small. You’re incredibly excited, but slightly overwhelmed. And it’s during this time that you look to friends. Only, ha, oh yeah, you’re an ocean away from most of them. Suddenly you’re a little fish in a big pond just looking for other fish to swim with. The task can feel quite daunting, especially for those of us who are a bit on the shy side. But I’m here, as a friend, to give a little encouragement and reassurance using some age-old lessons picked up in, you guessed it, kindergarten. (Because at the end of the day, we’re all 6 year olds at heart.)

1.)    Can I sit with you?
This little line will forever come in handy. From kindergarten to college, the quickest way to meet new people is to do just that: meet them. Easier said than done, you might say. Yeah, I know. I am admittedly very bad at going up to new people and just striking up a conversation. But, at Harlaxton that awkwardness is minimalized because there are constantly opportunities that allow for you to engage with your fellow Lions. Refectory is full? Squeeze in with a group. First day of class? Find a buddy to sit with. Make the most of these little moments by interacting with someone in the simplest of ways: sit with him/her.

2.)    Do you want to be my friend?
So, maybe a bit too direct for a 20 year old, but the intent can very easily translate. The same initiative that it takes for a 6 year old to blatantly ask for friendship is the same initiative we must have to ask for help from a peer or strike up a conversation with someone new. If a 6 year old can ask a stranger to be best friends, 20 year old you can certainly talk about British Studies (or anything else) with a fellow Lion.

3.)   Here, you can share my crayons!
Although they may not be crayons, one of the best ways to make friends is by showing kindness. Newsflash: we’re all experiencing this together. Everyone else is just as anxious, excited, and overwhelmed as you are. So show a little compassion. Lend the boy scrambling for something to write with one of your pens; offer to share notes with someone who mentions she is struggling; grab the door for someone with an armload of books. And who knows? You might just make a new best friend that way. At the very least, you’ll have a better day because you’ve brightened someone else’s. 

4.)   What’s your favorite color?
We don’t ask this question so much anymore; now it’s more along the lines of “What’s your major?” and “Where are you from?”  But the purpose of all of these questions is the same: getting to know someone. Never underestimate the power of just listening to others. People like to feel heard, and most of the time, when you give respect you get it back in return. I know from personal experience that the closest friends I’ve made here are all ones who engaged in conversation and listened. We took time to get to know one another, and now I have people who light up my day each time I see them.

5.)    Wanna play?
Finally, never underestimate the power of just asking to hang out. With everyone traveling, going to House events, and studying, there is never a shortage of opportunities to connect with others. Be bold enough to ask someone to study or watch a movie and confident enough to say yes when someone invites you to something. Again: these people are in the same situation as you; no one is going to think you’re weird for approaching him/her.

Ultimately, just have confidence in yourself and assurance in the fact that everyone else is just as new to all this as you are. Shake yourself of judgment, doubt, and anything else that will hinder you from making this experience the best it can possibly be. After all, the pictures and places can only mean so much; it’s the people you bond with who really make Harlaxton magical.

Written by: Rachael Doyel

Monday, 19 October 2015

The Unspoken Class

When I anticipated my time at Harlaxton, I never thought I would be taking four classes when I only signed up for three. The fourth class isn’t another history, science, or math course; it’s the unspoken class of travel planning.

As students at Harlaxton, we all spend a huge amount of time planning for weekend trips. It can be a daunting task, especially without much guidance. We all learn as the semester progresses how to efficiently plan weekend trips, but the first few attempts are certainly difficult. Not to mention, the amount of time put into travel planning each week never really decreases.

For future students of Harlaxton, here are a few tips to hopefully ease the struggle of your first attempts at travel planning and to make your time spent at travel destinations worthwhile.

1. Transportation

First of all, how are you going to get where you want to go? Decide if you’ll be taking a train or plane, depending on the location, then begin your search. My favorite sites to use are skyscanner.com for flights and trainline.com for trains within the UK. Since there isn’t an airport in Grantham, you also have to consider how you will get to London or nearby East Midlands Airport. Trains often run directly to the airports, but sometimes a taxi can even be the better choice of transportation from Harlaxton to London. If your flight is very early or very late, you may not be able to find a train from Grantham to the airport.

To get to Stansted Airport in London, Street Cars will charge a flat rate of 90 pounds, which is sometimes a better alternative to a train if the cost can be split between four or so people. Allow yourself plenty of time between your arrival at the airport and your flight departure. Also, in order to save a little money, buy a railcard for discounted train tickets, and use Street Cars taxi service in Grantham as much as possible because they guarantee a flat rate of 6 pounds to get to Grantham train station from Harlaxton.

2. Accommodation

Whew! Now that you’ve finally found a flight at the perfect time, on the perfect day, for the best price possible, let’s talk about where you’re going to stay. The ideal hostel, hotel, or airbnb apartment would be within walking distance or a short taxi ride from the train station or airport, as well as the center of the city you’re visiting. If you don’t get that lucky, then it’s time to prioritize.

Decide if you would rather be further from the train station or airport or from the sites you want to see. Being near an underground or bus station is a good factor to consider as well. Usually, a hostel will be the cheapest option, but if you’re traveling with a group of people, splitting the cost of a hotel room or airbnb apartment is often cheaper than the price per person to stay in a hostel (and will probably be a bit nicer accommodation too).

3. Map It Out

Once you have booked your hostel, hotel, or airbnb, it’s time to plan the fun stuff. There are apps that can almost completely do this for you. Tripomatic is my favorite, which lets you choose what you want to see, on which days, then creates a printable itinerary based on the places you choose.

If you decide not to use an app to help with your planning, you can also print a map of the city you’ll be visiting, use a highlighter, and map it out for yourself. Doing it yourself will help you better understand the layout of the city and how to get around once you’re there. Ulmon CityMaps2Go is an app that allows you to download city maps when you have wifi, then navigate them later using GPS when you don’t have wifi. If you plan on using underground trains to get around, it is a good idea to print a map of the underground system for the city, research which stations are closest to the sites you want to see, then go ahead and mark those stations on your printed map.

4. Relax

Most importantly, realize that no matter how much you plan for your trip, something is bound to go wrong. It happens – almost every time. This isn’t to say that planning beforehand is useless. Planning your weekend trips can save you precious time when you’re actually in the city. Even ten minutes trying to navigate an underground system are ten minutes you could be spending at the sites you have always dreamed of seeing. The perfect balance of planning and learning to go with the flow will result in some incredible weekend trips!

Written by: Casey Rice

Friday, 16 October 2015

Not Your Average Tourist

There are tourist destinations in every town, but if you’re like me, you probably enjoy finding the amazing mom and pop shop around the corner from the London Eye. When travelling, I plan on going to typical tourist destinations, but I find walking around more fun. In my opinion the best way to travel, whether it be in Europe or your home state, is by walking around and observing the people and places around you. Tourist destinations provide people with a great way to learn about history, but I also want to learn about present day life in Great Britain.  So far I have travelled to London, Scotland, and throughout Lincolnshire and have found some great places that are not filled with tourists. Here are some of places I have found while travelling:

·         Fiori- this little sandwich shop in London on Cranbourn Street near the M&M Store
·         Jenny’s Bakery- this pastry shop is a great place to stop for afternoon tea, or hot chocolate, and pastry when you’re near the London Eye on Belvedere Road
·         Food trucks in Jubilee Gardens in London

·         The Jabberwocky- a tea shop in Stamford

·         Fayre Earth Gift Shop- this store in Falkland, Scotland is filled with handmade crafts
·         Hugh’s Gallery- a shop filled with photos of London near Convent Gardens
·         St. Mary’s Antiquarian Books- an antique bookstore in Stamford, England

·         Russell Gardens- a small park in London
·         Southall, London- a part of London that is largely influenced by Indian and Pakistani cultures
·         New Media Museum- a place to learn about photography and it’s a fun place for children too
·         Harrogate, Scotland- a little fishing village in the Land of Fife where you can either go the local fishing museum, grabs some fish and chips, or walk out on to the beach and watch the sunrise

I hope this helped you find some not so touristy places while traveling in England and Scotland. And remember, when you’re travelling leave some free time to just walk around and observe your surroundings.

Written by: Vickie Huber

Monday, 12 October 2015

Do's and Don'ts of European Trains


Purchase a Railcard
It costs 30 pounds to buy a railcard for 16-25 year olds, but it pays itself off. Each time you buy a train ticket online and indicate that you have a railcard; it saves you 1/3 on all ticket purchases. If you take trains to and from the airport frequently, that can really add up!

Take trains whenever possible
Taking trains is a super easy way to get to and from places in Europe. They are fast, efficient, and almost always on time. Tickets are relatively cheap, and they will take you to pretty much any big city.

Get there with plenty of time to spare
Sometimes a train will leave one or two minutes earlier than scheduled if it is a smaller stop. Make sure you give yourself enough time to get to the train station and find your platform so you don’t miss it!

Bring snacks
Because who doesn’t like snacks?

Pay attention to the stops
Pay attention especially if your stop isn’t the end of the line. It’s easy to fall asleep on the trains, so make sure to set an alarm when your stop will be close so you don’t miss it!

Book tickets ahead of time
Train tickets tend to go up in price the closer it gets to the date. Booking weeks or even months ahead of time will ensure you the best rates. You could save up to 50 pounds per ticket by booking in advance.

Give yourself at least an hour and a half after your plane lands to book a train home
Missing your train home is the worst feeling after a long weekend traveling. Give yourself more than enough time so you don’t have to end up buying another ticket to get home after an expensive weekend.


Get off at the wrong station
There are almost always several stops in between locations, so make sure you don’t hop off the train at an intermediate location.

Try riding the train without purchasing a ticket
It’s very tempting to hop on a train without a ticket and hope they don’t check for them. If they check and you don’t have a ticket, you will end up having to pay more than what a regular ticket would cost. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Sit at a reserved seat
Most trains have reserved seats on certain tickets. Don’t try to sit at someone else’s reserved seat-they will ask you to move.

Forget to bring your printed ticket
Having your ticket to show the worker is very important so you don’t get charged extra after you stop. Double-check before you leave that you have train tickets for your departure and return trip to save stress and money.

Throw away or misplace your preprinted tickets from the station for your return trip
It’s easy to forget about your return trip when you travel to another country because of the excitement to get there. Make sure to put your return train tickets in a safe place that you will remember when you need them for the ride home.

Panic if you miss your train
This happened to me this weekend because my plane was delayed from Rome to Stansted. I explained to the train worker where I needed to go, and she directed me to a different train route that would get me home in about the same amount of time! Thankfully the trains run all day, about every hour, so you can always catch the next one if something happens! 

Reliable Train Websites:

Written by: Kylee Kaetzel

Thursday, 8 October 2015

You Can't Do Everything, But That's Okay

It seems like there’s so much time.  An infinite amount of possible adventures.  A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Thirteen weekends just waiting to be filled with travel to the places you’ve dreamt of going.

Then you get here.  Immediately you are swept away by the splendor and excitement of where you are and what you’re doing.  You’re floored by the magnificence of Harlaxton itself, in awe of the life you’re leading, and so eager for what’s ahead.  But then, almost as quickly, you also realize it’s not just travel.  Your time here isn’t a semester-long vacation.  And even though your classes are taught by awesome professors in an amazing place, there’s still work to be done.  You may soon start to feel overwhelmed and even guilty because you have an incredible opportunity at your fingertips for a limited time and you don’t want to waste any of it.  You may feel like you need to spend every available second soaking in all that you can, while deep down you really just want to spend a weekend sleeping in and watching movies.
I’ve come to realize, especially after the past couple weeks with several tests and assignments to prepare for and complete, that I’m not going to be able to travel as much as I originally planned.  But that’s okay.  Those weekends that looked so empty before the semester started really aren’t as empty as they seemed.  Sometimes a weekend (or two or three) of not traveling is the best thing you can do for yourself.  Sacrificing a long weekend of far-away travel for a long weekend of sleeping late, getting homework and laundry done, and taking a Sunday trip to London to see The Lion King may just turn into one of your best weekends yet.
It’s easy, for me at least, to feel like I’m not taking full advantage of this experience if I don’t travel as much as possible while I’m here.  I don’t know if or when I’ll get the opportunity to come back to Europe, much less the opportunity to be here for three and a half months.  I’m slowly starting to realize though, that it’s better to take a few wonderful trips I can really enjoy than going somewhere every weekend but being stressed and exhausted while I do it because I haven’t given myself downtime.

So don’t feel bad if you don’t get to go everywhere you once planned on going.  Prioritize your list and pick out a few places you know you definitely want to see while you’re here.  Tackle those places first, and if you get to the others, great.  But if not, don’t beat yourself up.  This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but let that be encouraging rather than threatening.  Enjoy your time here and don’t stress.  After all, you only Harlaxton once.

Written by: Ashley Marshall

Monday, 5 October 2015

Violet Van der Elst

If I’ve learned one thing while being at Harlaxton, it’s this:

How to be grateful

I’m so grateful to everyone who supported me in coming to Harlaxton. In the long list of people I have to thank are mostly my relatives, but there are some people I’ve never met. Coming to Harlaxton would never have been possible without its previous owners.

We all know of Gregory Gregory who built the manor that we get to call home. However, not all of us are familiar with perhaps the most iconic owner of Harlaxton.

Violet Van der Elst, born Violet Anne Dodge, purchased Harlaxton, which she renamed Grantham Castle, in 1937. She saved the manor from falling into disrepair and possibly demolition. When she moved in, she introduced electricity to the manor and added many bathrooms. Her iconic status in the public eye was due to her lavish campaign against capital punishment.

During her campaign, she hired planes that carried banners such as “Stop the Death Sentence” to fly over prisons. She would also ride through the streets of London in her white Rolls Royce chanting, “Abolish capital punishment. These men must not hang,” into a microphone.

When asked about her passion for the abolishment of the death penalty, she often stated that she was carrying out the passion of her late husband, Jean Julien Romain Van der Elst. This same late husband was the one she attempted to contact during séances.

In her time, she was known for eccentricities. Her interest in the black arts and the occult was one of them. Some of these séances were even performed in Grantham Castle. Mrs. Van der Elst had a number of psychics who she consulted over the years. She was discerning about whom she let in. She could pick out a fake after one session.

Her interest in the occult began years before her husband’s death. In her book, The Torture Chamber and Other Stories, Mrs. Van der Elst writes a personal account of when she lived in a haunted house. During her time there, she said that she felt an evil presence in the house as well as heard mysterious crashes only to find that nothing had moved.

The same book also contains reminisces of her travels. Like many of us, she had the opportunity to travel. Among the many places she visited was Notre Dame in Paris. However, she was rather unimpressed for she was fan of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the actual building did not live up to her expectations.

It’s really not surprising that she was not satisfied. She held a deep love for the arts and wouldn’t settle for anything less than perfection.

She composed music, although she couldn’t read or write the notes. Mrs. Van der Elst was a fan of Shakespeare’s tragedies and could quote them word for word. She shared a love of art and painting with her second husband, Mr. Van der Elst. During her stay at Grantham Castle, she filled the Grand Hall with statues. Her favorite was a bust of Napoleon dressed as Julius Caesar. These statues have long been sold, but the chandelier still remains.

Her interests also spread into business, which is how she amounted most of her fortune. She started the company Shavex, which produced the first shaving cream that didn’t require soap or water.
Mrs. Van der Elst didn’t spend all of her money on her lavish campaign. She also gave money to orphanages and was apt to giving to the poor.

She would be happy to know that her previous home was turned into a school. When she decided to sell Grantham Castle, she said that she would like the Castle to be used as a school where “a new generation of gentlemen can be reared.” This came to be when the Jesuits used Harlaxton to train priests. We’re fortunate that her wish was granted even to this day.

The next time you look at the chandelier in the Great Hall, take a moment to be grateful to the woman who bought it for Harlaxton Manor. She died in a nursing home with little money to her name, so in her honor, the least we can do is keep her memory alive.

For more information on Violet Van der Elst, check out her biography The Incredible Mrs. Van der Elst by Charles Neilson Gattey, which can be found by request in the library. Her books On the Gallows and The Torture Chamber and Other Stories are also available by request.

Written by: Sarah Richie

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Stranger Danger?

Written by: Kristen Sanders

My biggest tip when traveling: talk to people.  It can be so easy to get sucked into the new and exciting sights, smells, and sounds around you.  Celebrate this!  Enjoy it.  Just don't let it consume you.

One of the drawbacks about Harlaxton for me was that it's for all American students.  This is wonderful in some ways because you're all so excited about these new experiences surrounding your every move.  You become a framily (friend family) but at the same time you often miss your family and friends back in the States.  Together you revel in the things that are different from back home like exchange rates, different brands, cheers, biscuits, lifts, chips/crisps, etc. You create memories in different countries together that you literally could've never imagined.  These are wonderful things!  However, we don't get to spend time with students from the UK.  We don't get to compare "universities" and the differences with the local students as we become great friends over the course of a semester.    

I think back to my home campus in the U.S., the University of Evansville, and our international program there.  I lived in the international building and got to spend time with people from all over the world.  At UE, it is easier to meet Americans and get to know them.  Harlaxton does have a program called Meet-a-Family that is a great way to integrate yourself into the culture and get to know some people over the semester, however you don't see them as often as I saw internationals back at UE.  Don't get me wrong, I love UE and I love Harlaxton, the international programs are just designed very differently, each with their own "pros" and "cons."

Tourist Talking Tips:

To alleviate this difference at Harlaxton, my advice is to talk to people whether natives or tourists.  All our lives we've been taught not to talk to strangers, but I actually encourage you to do so.  Let me clarify.  Be smart about it…we don't want another installment of Taken on our hands… 

Another word of advice: people instantly recognize that you're not British (or French or German… or any other group for where ever you're traveling) as soon as you open your mouth.  Generally, people are nice and quite curious, which makes a great basis for conversation. 
So you say, "great Kristen, I understand where you're coming from but I'm not sure what I'd say!"  Have no fear!  This is even possible for the shy traveler.  Here are some ideas to get you started:
Sometimes others will start the conversation.  In this instance, answer the question asked or reply to the comment at hand.  Try to keep the conversation going!  Once they hear you speak, often they'll ask you where you're from. You can ask questions like:

  • if they're from the area or elsewhere
  • what their favorite thing to do is in town
  • something you can't miss when you're visiting their city for the weekend
  •  where they've traveled
  •  their favorite place they've visited
  •  their life in the town or city
See what the similarities and differences are that they offer. 

Other times you will need to spark up the conversation.  If you can tell they're a tourist, begin by asking where they're from, and roll from there with similar questions stated above.  If you can't tell where they're from, try something safe such as what would you recommend to do for ________ (fun, coffee, food, etc.) around here?  See what happens from there! 

In any case, listen to what they say, have a give-and-take conversation where you both contribute and let the conversation take its natural course.

Personal Accounts:
Sometimes talking to strangers works really well, and you can have conversations that lead to new friends.  For instance, I was able to talk to some girls in Cambridge who were from Budapest and Romania.  The conversation started about ramen noodles and went everywhere from music to travel and they even suggested a really neat museum to go to in Cambridge.  Another time I had a two hour long chat on the train ride to Edinburgh with a fascinating woman.  She speaks seven languages, hosts a radio show, lived in the 21st century without electricity for a year in the countryside, and teaches classes on meditation.  I kept finding myself wanting to know even more about her and her adventures through life.

Other times the people you talk to may not speak the same language and you go through an awkward shuffle to apologize, get a little flustered because you then realize that they don't realize you're apologizing, and try to smile your way out of it (oh, wait… that may just be me…).  Anyway, my point is there's no perfect way to do it, but the point is just to do it!  The photo opportunities at each place you visit are (almost) always there, but the people are ever changing.  People make up the experiences.  Get yourself out, take a chance, be smart, and get out of your own bubble and engage with the people around you no matter where you are in the world.

Monday, 28 September 2015

How to Stay Active While Studying Abroad

Gelato, pizza, clotted cream, Yorkshire pudding, crepes, pasta…

Is your mouth watering yet?

I LOVE food. I think anyone who knows me can attest to that. I knew that studying abroad in Europe would give me the opportunity to try food from different cultures. I was obviously most excited about the gelato.

While it is necessary to sample goodies everywhere you travel, it is also important that we don’t totally disregard our health in the process. Life is all about balance.


 1.  Go to the Gym 2 or 3 Times a Week
At Harlaxton, we get Friday-Sunday without classes to have the opportunity to travel. Although we do a lot of walking while we explore new cities, it is unlikely we will be able to hit the gym on the weekends. I make a goal each week of going to the gym a couple times Monday-Thursday.

2.    Watch Your Portion Sizes
I have learned that sharing meals can be super helpful-especially if you have your eye on a delectable dessert after dinner, or you are trying to save a dollar or two. Dinner portions are usually sufficient for two people; so next time, try sharing with your friend and save room for dessert.

3.   Take Long Walks
Harlaxton is located in the beautiful English Countryside, and is also surrounded by forests with walking and hiking trails. If I’m not feeling the treadmill or lifting weights in the gym, I’ll just take an hour walk outside. Sometimes it’s good to take some time for yourself.

4.  Grab a Partner
There’s something about having accountability in regards to fitness that makes us more likely to follow through. I don’t like to let my friends down, so if I tell them I’ll meet in the gym at 3, I’ll be there! Make your workouts fun together! Put on some Beyoncé and get to it!

5.    Make Cafeteria Food Work for You
Everyone likes different food. Eating in a cafeteria for 3 meals a day can be difficult, but you can make it work. Experiment with the salad bar. If you constantly eat the same meal every day, you will soon get bored and resort to grabbing a piece of bread and butter and settling for that.

Obviously staying in perfect shape isn’t (and shouldn’t be) anyone’s #1 priority when they are studying abroad. You can’t get a do-over on experiences, so take every opportunity and do the best you can. Try all the yummy food you want, just try to balance it with a little bit of exercise!

Written by: Kylee Kaetzel

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Europe on a Budget

Wanderlust is running around in spades on our beautiful campus. Giving into it is certainly easy as the weekends approach. Unfortunately, for most of us, our bank accounts don’t feed our need to travel and explore our world.  Here are a 5 tips I’ve come across to help fuel the fire of exploration without breaking the bank.

1. Skyscanner is a free app that can be downloaded from your app store on almost any device. This is similar to Orbitz or Expedia. This app has an awesome feature, the “everywhere” option. Sometimes, it can be hard to decide where to go and how to get there cheaply. By putting in the airport such as (LHR) for Heathrow and then selecting destination “everywhere” It will give you a list of the cheapest flights out and off to another country. Skyscanner includes discount airlines such as Easy Jet, Wizz, and Ryanair in their lineup to ensure the best rate.

2. Avoid currency exchange in airports. These come at high exchange rates. Use an ATM for cash or open a bank account that has no international fees. A good online banking option is Ally Bank.

3. Use social media and apps for great discounts. Just as we use Groupon and Living Social back home, we can use them here too! Groupon has a great getaway section with packages that include transportation & hotels. These often come with meal vouchers or discounts at local restaurants. An exciting feature I’ve recently discovered is their “mystery weekend getaway” package. For around £99 two people can fly to one of the listed countries during one of the dates you list and stay at a 3 star hotel (Days Inn or Best Western) for two nights. After you buy the package they say congratulations! You’re going to country X and are staying in Hotel X for two nights! Try to avoid sights such as Hotels.com and instead go with Hotwire.com for mystery fare hotels (I booked a 4 star hotel in London, next to LHR, for £56.00) or utilize the student hostel network for a cheaper rate.

4. Avoid guided, costly tours and instead adventure out on your own. Many museums have material on the exhibits that you can read for yourself. Also, stop by the local tourism office and pick up a tourist card. These cards give you free entrance to many exhibits and great discounts on food and accommodation. (Think of the Oyster card in London).

5. Lastly, Food. Eating out can quickly add up, especially with the conversion rates. Lunch is generally cheaper so make this your largest meal. For dinner, try having a picnic. The weather here is gorgeous and you’re here to immerse yourself in local culture, join them! Pop into the market or support the locals and buy food from a street vendor and enjoy the public parks.

Hopefully, these tips will help you see more of Europe and get the most bang for your buck. 


Written by Stacy Flanery

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Students Among Us

The Fall 2015 class is unique, and each student contributes something special to the Harlaxton community. For at least eight students, coming to Harlaxton was the very first time they ever flew on an airplane. Thirty-eight had never left the United States before coming here.
Collectively they have travelled to dozens of countries in six continents (we have yet to find a student who’s been to Antarctica). Countries visited include: Argentina, Aruba, Australia, Bahamas, Bali, Brazil, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Hong Kong, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Philippines, South Africa, South Korea, and Thailand, plus most of Europe.
There are students from Bolivia, China, and Zimbabwe, and a duel citizen of the Netherlands and United States. For several of them, this isn’t their first time living abroad, including fourteen years in Columbia, seven years in England, three years in Singapore, two years in Panama, and several months in Mexico.
Some of them are following in the footsteps of parents, siblings, or brother-in-laws who were former Harlaxton students.
The class comprises of at least two black belts in taekwondo, a professional bodybuilder, a chocolate hater, Korean speaker, proud Hawaiian shirt owner, believer in Bigfoot, a wife and step-mother, and a survivor of a near death encounter with lions.
There are champions and award winners in art, athletics, scouts, singing, acting, speech and debate, music, dance, math, cheerleading, photography, horsemanship, and cake decorating.
There are published poets and creative fiction writers amongst our students, as well as swimmers, golfers, readers, runners, dog and animal lovers, bakers, wake boarders, painters, crafters, video gamers, concrete canoers, rollerbladers, kayakers, hikers, rock climbers, ukulele players, and paranormal investigators.
The Harlaxton staff is excited to host this talented and unique group of students and is looking forward to being a part of their growth and development over the course of this semester.

Dean of Students & the SDO