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 BeyoncĂ© 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 and instead go with 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 

Monday, 21 September 2015

5 Reasons You Shouldn't Stress Over BS

So, you are either thinking about coming to Harlaxton, or you go here and you have to take British Studies. You have heard rumors, and for some reason, a few of them freak you out. British studies rumors are rough, and make it sound like you are going to die by course overload.

You want to go see the world and take pictures like this:

But British Studies got you like:

Though you may have heard this – or maybe I am freaking you out right now – I just want to settle these rumors and give you five reasons why you shouldn’t stress over British Studies. Here. We. Go.

 1)   It’s actually a super awesome class
Think about it, you are learning about a history that isn’t really what you learned in high school because high school was busy teaching you about America and being selfish with history. And the professors here are brilliant, and will have brilliant things to say – so enjoy it. It is a chance of a lifetime.

2)   You are living on a campus surrounded by professors
Are you freaking out because your paper is due in five weeks and don’t know exactly how to start it? Quit it now. Just settle yourself. You stinking live on campus where any British Studies professor would love to have a sit down with you to help. It is obvious that they want you to succeed and will help however they can, so take advantage of it. Also, for all the quizzes and exams, there are whole binders filled with examples of past exams and quizzes to help you out. You seriously can do it.

3)   You’re a college student, not a surgeon
Okay, so maybe I am a senior and a little more relaxed than most, but really friends, some people treat homework like life or death, and it is important, but it’s not like you are designing a rocket that might kill someone. You had a bad day on a homework assignment or quiz, it happens. Just do your best, because that’s all you can do.

4)   You’re in a whole different country
Like I said, homework and the likes is important, but when you are worrying so much about a quiz, that is worth 2% of your grade in the long run, that all you do is study for two days and don’t even venture out into town because of it, you are stressing too hard my friend.

5)   Why worry about something you can’t change?
So you did study really hard for the quiz, or you did go and read all the past exams and worked your tail off trying to study for the exam coming up, but when it comes around you didn’t do as well as you wanted to. Friend, just take a deep breath. It’s okay. You worked hard. You did your best. And that is great. A friend always says, "Why worry about something you can’t change?" And I think that is just great advice. It happened. It’s okay. Just go study and get help from the professors for the next one. It’s not the end of your college career, I promise.

So, I hope you enjoy your stay in a castle that sits in one of the most beautiful counties in the world. Stress just isn’t worth wasting this opportunity.

Good luck,

Thursday, 17 September 2015

6 Dos and Don'ts as an Introvert Abroad

So you are an introvert and you don’t know 1) whether you should or should not study abroad and 2) if you did then how in the world will you survive without your close friend or friends. Well, I am here to help you figure both of these out. 

The answer to question number one is quite complex so be ready - 1) DUH! Okay it wasn’t complex, but you get the picture. Of COURSE you should study abroad if you even have a little bit of desire to, which leads us to number two. 

Now you may be asking, “who are you to be giving advice on studying abroad as an introvert”, and my answer is, I am an introvert, and even more, I am the only one from my school here at Harlaxton. So how do I survive? Well, here are the dos and don’ts of being an introvert abroad.

Let's get to the dos first:
1)   DO go on trips by yourself
You might be questioning this because people (extroverts usually) tell you it’s wrong to go somewhere by yourself, but you also know something a little more than extroverts, and that is yourself! Study abroad is about learning about yourself, so do just that and learn more about yourself by traveling somewhere (I went to London) alone!
2)   DO get daily alone time
You need to care for yourself, so never be ashamed of that. Go into town and go to the local coffee shop (I suggest Picture CafĂ© – so good) and sit on your computer by yourself. It’s okay, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
3)   DO pick at least one new person to be friends with
As an introvert, we love getting to know people deeply. Pick someone new and get to know him or her deeply because you never know who your next close friend will be!

Now for the don'ts, and these are important!
1)   DON’T use your introversion as an excuse!
Now you’ve probably heard this before, but I’m going to tell you why - You have beautiful insight to the world, and your unique and wonderful voice deserves to be heard. You can have input in conversations. You can be conversational. Don’t let anyone say you can’t contribute to something, because you can and you will be awesome at it, even if it is less often than the extrovert. Besides, extroverts need an introvert friend or else no one would listen to each other because they would be too busy talking over each other.
2)   DON’T only do stuff by yourself
Yes, I did just tell you to do stuff by yourself to learn about you, but other people are smart too, and can help you learn even more.

And last but not least. . .
3)   DON’T be scared 
New places and faces are all a part of growing up. Rather than being scared, just look at it as another opportunity to show people how wonderful you really are – because I promise you are.

Well that is it for now, I’ll be back on Monday with a post that is dear to my heart.

Until Then,

Branden Benskin

Monday, 14 September 2015

Handy Items to Help a Student Settle In

You’ve finally made it to Harlaxton, hallelujah! You’ve been assigned to your dorm and are now ready to start your adventure. But hold on a tick, you’re going to need stuff to settle in with and to help get back to comfortable daily life. You obviously couldn’t fit everything you need into your suitcase, and if having to choose between your favorite jeans and a clothes basket, the jeans will win every time. So definitely pick up one of the light weight pop up hampers at the Dollar Store or Walmart to bring with you. Today’s blog is about how to get on your feet and settled in at Harlaxton. This will include packing tips, where to shop in town, and the everyday life hacks that are brilliant!

One of my most treasured items is a charging tower. I purchased this on Amazon prior to arrival. It’s a wee bit bulky so I put it in the bottom of my backpack as my carry on. This thing has been awesome! With this I can plug in my U.S. devices. If you have something like this you won’t have to buy a gazillion adapters and converters. I have this tower and one adapter, which is working perfectly. As a bonus, the cord is quite long and it acts as an extension cord as well as helps me to stay tidy with everything in one compact place. It also acts as a converter so you won’t have to worry about frying your appliances and burning down the dorm. Did I mention this comes in several cute colors as well and different plug tips? I bought the European plug, as I plan to travel quite a bit throughout Europe and not just the United Kingdom. However, a $5.00 adapter settles any issue I may have had with having the European plug tip. Plus, the adapter is small and easy to throw in my backpack for any weekend getaways you may decide to take.
Okay, so now you’re setup, plugged in and charging. What now? I bet by this point you’re quite hungry. Sadly, what they don’t tell you is there isn’t really any food at Harlaxton between meals other than what you would find in a typical vending machine. Luckily, you can call the taxi service, Street Cars, and pay 6 pounds to head into town. Harlaxton also provides a free shuttle service but doesn’t begin until about three days after arrival. I highly recommend getting a few microwaveable snacks from the local ASDA (think a small Walmart). Because we eat dinner early here and I find a cup of noodles or bowl of cereal takes the edge off. The Cup of Noodles here comes in variety of flavors and I will cover all the food choices in a later blog to follow.
Also, if you’re a coffee lover such as I am, pick up some coffee and creamer or ½ gallon of milk while at ASDA because you can’t access the coffee in the Refectory (cafeteria) until meal times or later on in the evening. Also, they don’t unlock the doors for evening use until around the second week of classes. The bistro (pub) does provide drinks but it isn’t open until 8:30 p.m. 

Another handy item to have is a Bobble (filtering water bottle) which is wonderful! You will receive a house travel mug the first week of classes but it does leak if tipped over and doesn’t filter. I brought mine from the U.S but they are available to purchase here in the UK at stores such as ASDA. So these are a few helpful items and tidbits that helped me get going the first few days here.

Written by: Stacy Flanery

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Communicating While at Harlaxton

An easy guide to keeping in touch with family and friends back home and at Harlaxton

The Importance of Technology and Communication While Abroad

When you are abroad, it is easy to get sucked into this secret world that is Harlaxton. In such a connected world, it is so easy to communicate and I think we take it for granted sometimes. When it comes to being abroad, here are some things to consider:
  •  Do you need a phone with data, texting and/or calling ability?
  •  Do you normally talk a lot with friends and family?
  •  How often would you say you use social media sites like Facebook? How about photo sharing websites?
  •  Do you plan on using GPS or any location app?
  •  How do you plan on booking trips/making reservations on weekends?
What I’m Doing

I knew that I wanted to be able to use a phone while abroad. I have traveled many times before, and my family and I had always carried a little international phone with us wherever we went for emergencies, hotel check-ins, dinner reservations, calling family, etc. Before coming to Harlaxton, I recently acquired a new iPhone 6 (my old phone was an iPhone 5, so I was already familiar with the interface and vast array of settings and apps available to me). 

Every phone carrier will have their own international abilities that you can investigate so it is always best to call and ask. My carrier (Sprint) offers a Global Roaming Plan which gives you free data and texting plus 20 cents per minute calling. The only catch is that it is 2G data; however, upon my arrival to the UK, I discovered that I could often find 3G very easily and it is also free. Essentially, if your phone can find it, you can use it. I was skeptical if this would work so I also called Sprint to get my phone unlocked before I came over. With this option, I can take out my current SIM card and buy a local SIM. Another popular option is to forget about finding international phone service and use your smartphone as a WiFi device only.

I love keeping in touch with people back at home while I am abroad and it is very easy to do if you have a WiFi signal. I use FaceTime Audio to make calls (Apple products only) and FaceTime Video and Skype to talk with people as well. While at Harlaxton, it is also important to be able to contact people who are here. Some people do not bring their phones for various reasons. One of the best ways that I have found to communicate with people is Facebook Messenger (works on the website and there is a phone app for quicker use when you are away from your computer). It is quick, easy and simple to use. You never know when you will need to make a group message to talk about a project, schedule a meeting or just have a fun conversation. Email is vital when conversing with professors. Also, never underestimate the power of a fun postcard or letter when communicating with family. It may seem old fashioned, but it is kind of fun!

Friends and Family Back Home

While at Harlaxton, your parents and friends at home will want to know what you are up to, so do everything you can to share your experiences with them! Additionally, contacting friends and family from home could maybe take away some homesickness. Remember that there is a huge time change in most cases. When preparing to go abroad, look at your schedule and prepare your family and friends for the amount of time that you will be able to talk during a given week.

Friends at the Manor

While in the manor, it is still very important to communicate with those who are in your classes. You may need to know when to meet them to work, eat, etc. Along with technology, there are also whiteboards outside of everyone’s rooms that can be used for quick messages or important information.

Written by: Kelsey Fields

Monday, 7 September 2015

Top Seven Ways to Combat the Homesickness That WILL Set In

Don’t doubt us, we’re experts.

We all know that immediate feeling of freedom (“I’m in EUROPE and AWAY from my FAMILY!”) and right now, we’re all riding on that glorious high. But soon, we will all come crashing down in a blazing glory of realization (“I’m in EUROPE and AWAY from my FAMILY!”). So here are some tips to help ease the inevitable fall of homesickness we all succumb to eventually (We’re looking at you, yes you.)

1. Make your room feel like home.

We know this seems basic, but adding a touch of familiarity to your room can go a long way in fighting against homesickness. Something as simple as a collection of photographs, or letters from home can help ease pain and promote feelings of happiness. And if you don’t have these things at your disposal, buy something at PoundLand that makes you smile—such as that photo of One Direction you’ve been eyeing, or even just the calendar full of cute puppies/baby animals. And if you want to be REALLY cheap, write favorite quotes on a piece of notebook paper and stick them on your bulletin board. Seriously guys, it’s that simple.

2. Talk to your family

COMMUNICATION IS KEY. We know it kills your vibe to be calling Mom instead of going to the Goose, but even just a ten minute conversation will really help both you and the family member across the pond adjust to the major move to Harlaxton. On the flip-side, don’t become that person who talks to their family on the screen more than to their family in real life (cough your fellow homesick students cough). To quote a favorite Wildcat, “We’re all in this together.” So, to sum it up, find the right balance between screen time and face time.

3. Settle into a routine

We all remember the awful first days of living at Harlaxton and living hour by hour out of a little packet; do yourself a favor and don’t do that. Setting a routine can reduce stress significantly and can help to make a strange situation feel more familiar. Traveling constantly won’t help the whole routine thing, but when at home base (Harlaxton) try to find a steady schedule that works during the weekdays.

4. Exercise!

It stinks, yes, and we are not all exercise junkies (us authors included), but exercising releases endorphins, endorphins make you happy, and happy people just don’t shoot their husbands! (Thank you, Elle Woods.) But seriously, it can be something as simple as walking around this glorious campus or as hardcore as a workout in the gym. Whatever works for you— just make sure you get moving!

5. Get some “Me” time

Getting some time to yourself is important for your mental health, whether you’re living at home, on your normal college campus or, you know, Hogwarts. And by “Me” time, we don’t mean time by yourself doing homework— we mean take time to chill and do something relaxing, like reading a (non-school) book, knitting, or exploring the gardens. Whatever it is for you, just make sure you do it… for your sake and all of ours.

6. Spend some time with the locals

With convenient shuttles departing Harlaxton at hour intervals, you really have no excuse to not explore the charming town of Grantham. And not only is exploring shops like PoundLand a magical experience, it can also help ease your homesickness by slowly introducing you to local culture. It’s important to escape the little American bubble we’ve created at Harlaxton, and while it’s nice to come back to the ‘Home of the Free’ capital of Grantham, it’s important to dip your toes into the local scene and feel connected while abroad. Having some roots here locally will help ease the pain of having your home roots so far away—and you may meet a cute native while you’re at it ;) .

7. Know it’s going to happen…

…but don’t fear it too much. Homesickness is a natural mixture of emotions that most of us mortal beings can’t escape. To put it into layman’s terms, homesickness is like British Studies. As much as you wish to avoid it, unless you want to be deported because of Visa requirements, you can’t! All jokes aside, homesickness is a real issue that hits almost everybody—and everybody eventually has to deal with it in their own way.

Hopefully, these seven tips will help make the transition a little easier and your experience more “I’m in EUROPE and AWAY from my FAMILY!” rather than “I’m in EUROPE and AWAY from my FAMILY!”

An & Chels