Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Thank You


Well this is a tad surreal. After three months I get to see the States, family and friends with a whole new set of eyes. Will continue to be thanking my Lord for this experience. Living in England offered an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the everyday for people here and for a short period of time their everyday became mine. To my surprise living in England also gave me a better understanding and appreciation for the lives of people from so many other parts of our world. Realize I have much to be grateful for. No worries though - I wont get too mushy gushy on you. I think you can probably imagine the other words I would use to describe this study abroad experience.

The probably five of you, thanks for caring enough to read J Wish this opportunity on anyone.

Beyond excited to see the people I love so much back home. Leaving England tomorrow with a fuller heart. Be prepared for big hugs and sloppy kisses.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Paris

My last weekend in Europe was spent with a quick trip to Paris with Allie, another exchange student from SDSU. We have each had our own friends and experiences while here. Sharing stories, lessons learned and memories from the semester was a nice way to end our exchange semester. I will also be flying home with her Thursday. 

The weather wasn’t the most ideal but Paris is just that beautiful it didn’t seem to even matter. We opted to save money and not buy a metro pass so everything we saw of Paris was by foot. This made for some tiring and cold days, but ultimately glad we chose to do it this way. Don’t regret seeing this now favorite city in winter. It was less touristy and pretty darn magical with the fresh snow.

Had planned to make Paris the trip to enjoy the food and desert. And taking breaks from walking and the cold to enjoy just that in caf├ęs and restaurants was memorable. Luckily, Allie was on the same page. Enjoyed observing the French and listening to them speak, especially while in these cafes. It seemed we were often the only tourists in some places, I think because of the time of year. This French city doesn’t cater to the English speakers, which I can understand and appreciate. It offered some nice and interesting challenges throughout the weekend. For the most part the French were patient and kind with us. Our first night out to eat had NO idea what I ordered. But was treated well by the waiter and even given a lesson in speaking French. Enjoyed trying to use some of the phrases the rest of the weekend.

One highlight was the 4 hours we spent at The Louvre: a great, massive, maze-of a-museum. Similar to time spent at other museums and galleries these past months, it was a treat to see some of the many famous and important artifacts/sculptures/painting I have studied in art history courses.

Paris is such a beautiful place and no wonder it has been an inspiration and home to many artists and creatives. Look forward to returning one day. Feel blessed to have seen this charming city with fresh snow and hopefully will again when the weather is warmer and spirit of this place is completely different.


The snow however did pose some problems for many others and us on Monday. As some of you may know, because of national news, Europe is experiencing some problems with transportation because of the weather.

Our day started at 3 am. Traveled to the CDG airport (this place is massive) by shuttle and were greeted by many people sleeping under neon blankets provided by the airport. Some travelers have been trying two days to get to their destinations. The day was long for us so can’t image how wretched it was for others. We were told after getting in line to board for out 7:45 flight that the airport was now going to be closed until 12 due to snow. But then maybe 15 minutes later heard over the intercom that Manchester passengers needed to go to the boarding gate as soon as possible. After being shuttled to the plane and waiting for a few hours were off the ground. We were so blessed to get out of there when we did. Talking to friends back in Manchester, who knew of others experiencing problems was told that no flights were going to or from Paris or London Heathrow.

It seems that all of the friends that have left so far have either experienced delays or cancelations. England has broke a 100-year-old record this weekend for cold and snow for this time of year. But believe it is nothing compared to weather back home, they just don’t have the equipment needed to handle it. Those of us that are left here are just anxious now to be home safe. Have been checking the weather frequently and think Thursday looks hopeful. Trying to enjoy these last days here despite being anxious to safely step foot on the Sioux Falls airport and hug family. 

We’re Saying “See You”



This week was the start of saying goodbye to the people I’ve grown closest to here. Said my goodbyes to classmates earlier in the week. Wednesday night was our last traditional night out at the Czech Bar and the Footage. But Thursday is when it sunk in that we were really all leaving. The morning started with eating a traditional soup at the Czech Bar with Ondrej. The afternoon was then spent saying goodbye to Enrique. And Thursday night I spent with some ladies from my hall. We shared our last meal together in the kitchen, each making a dish from their countries back home. Carmen, Banan and Wadi have treated us to their Spanish omlettes several times this month. Will attempt to make it for people when I get back home. They are difficult to flip but so good if done right.

We spent a good few hours eating and talking. And when the night was about to come to a close for some of us, I couldn’t help but feel really sad. Didn’t want to think this would be some of the last moments with these ladies. Our hugs turned into one big group hug and the “goodbyes” changed to “see you’s.” We plotted out how every so often we should meet up in a different home country. Want to believe we will all try to keep these friendships going. Trusting that we will all meet up again is making these “see you’s” a bit easier.  

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gumption

Saturday was one of those average days filled with many little blessings. It consisted of nothing more than a traditional english breakfast with Enrique (eaten at noon), window shopping and cafe stop with friends from my hall and watching the movie "The Holiday" that night. People are what is making this experience so special. England just happens to be the backdrop. Enrique, a recent engineer grad living in Manchester for a few months to improve his English and Banan, Carmen and Wadi, intelligent, funny ladies living in my hall, also doing the same, have given me a better insight into the Spanish culture.

Banan, Carmen and Sham made our way to the city center. We had the funniest discussions about prepositional verbs. English would honestly be a difficult language to learn and analyze, thanks to the many exceptions to the rules. Having slight language barriers between these new friends is teaching me a lot of good things- not actually all about grammar. 

Those same ladies and a handful more spent the rest of our evening circled around a tiny laptop screen in our tiny lounge at Hartley Hall. Popcorn, cheesecake, chocolate covered peanuts, minced meat pies and grapes (to balance the rest of that goodness out, of couse) managed to share space with us on the floor. We watched "The Holiday", which was for some was the first, third or in my case probably the 10th time. It takes place in England and the U.S. And not that I have a better understanding of the scenery and lifestyle here, enjoy analyzing the film that much more.

The modest and lovable 90-year-old man in this movie used the word "gumption" to describe his favorite ladies. I later decided is exactly what many of people I've been blessed to meet here have: gumption.

Love everyday being in the presence of new people - finding that common ground and learning more about who they are and where they come from. People make being in new places special. As much as I can appreciate time spent alone exploring this city, I appreciate it even more when doing it with friends here. If anyone I've mentioned in this blog happens to stumble onto this page - hi and I hope its alright I used your names :)

Will probably have the chance to write a bit more during these last few weeks now that my essays are nearly finished and time is on my side.

Hope all is well in the States!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An English Thanksgiving Weekend

The day of cooking, feasting and good conversations was a success.
Preparing the meal began around 3. Friends from Austria were such a big help and the meal couldn't have happened without them. In between the laughing and snitching, we managed to make two batches of everything, on time and without setting off the fire alarms. The menu consisted of chicken (turkey was not in this budget) garlic mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing and apple crisp. An attempt at making homemade cranberry sauce resulted in extreme failure. But added some comical moments.

Twelve people sat around the tables in what we called "the secret kitchen" of Hartley Hall. A lot of laughing was done thanks to some crazy stories Ondrej and his friends from back home in the Czech Republic shared. Friends from Spain joined, and other guests included Ondrej's guests and Julia's friends from back home in Austria. It ended at the Czech bar. Ondrej and his smooth talking ways convinced the bar owner to keep it open past regular hours. So we had the place to ourselves to play pool and fooseball.


It was fun to celebrate Thanksgiving in a slightly different way this year. Traditions and spending time with family and friends back home were missed. But taking a year off from that to introduce Thanksgiving to some new friends helped make up for it.

Saturday afternoon, I caught my first traditional football match: Manchester United vs. the Blackburn Rovers. 74,000 + were in attendance that day. Thankfully the score was 7 to 1, so we we found ourselves entertained the whole way through.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Everyday

I’m realizing I have written few blog posts about actual experiences in Manchester. I suppose it’s partly due to lack of time and thinking trips are more interesting for family and friends to read, who are choosing to do so.

As much as I have enjoyed experiencing bits of the culture through the holidays fit in around the UK and recently Amsterdam, it is ultimately time in Manchester that I will miss the most. I will continue to travel but realize the opportunity to live overseas may not ever be possible again. It has now been over two months. And in these two months I have spent so many walks, bus rides and restless nights just thanking the Lord for all I have learned and gained more appreciation for. When describing Manchester to people back home, diverse is usually one of the first words used. It is completely different than the other places I have traveled to while here. And I think my friends in Manchester agree. The city and university are home to people of many different races and religions. Greater Manchester has a population of over 2 million I believe. The fashion is crazy and the buses during rush hour are even crazier. Not all of it seems safe, but that’s with any city. It is known around Britain for its shopping, restaurants, many universities, nightlife and Asian food. They have a good amount of art galleries and museums. And there is really so much I have left to see of this city.

Balancing school, travel outside of Manchester, and spending time within the city is probably the hardest thing about the experience. But I guess that’s just life in general. There were a few days this past week where it felt like I should be carrying a brown paper bag around. Was feeling the stress of having to work on my three essays, creating prints for my textile course and somehow still making the most of the month left here. Irrational fears were getting the best of me. And ironically, I’m back to thinking more rationally thanks to studying the theories of the irrational in art through uses of the sublime and gothic for one of my essays. Balance is back on.   

Still finding hard to sleep though thanks to my ever analyzing mind. So much has been learned here. The list goes far and wide. And as I said earlier, there much I have gained a greater appreciation for. It has been even the simplest times in these past two months while here that have brought me the greatest joy. Teatime with friends, conversations over diner in the kitchen, time spent with my head in books, walking, lectures, weekday nights out and riding the bus (which I spend a lot of time doing).

Here is a bit of my greatful/appreciation list I seem to repeat in my head all to often:

Black tea, the jacket potato, bisquits with my tea, apples, pears, mayo, cider beer, a warm hall to come home to, shared kitchens, three-in-one bathroom, living out of all that fits in 2 suitcases, reading, critical thinking, so much about art history, fabric, screenprinting, public transportation, the lectures and my tutors, Hartley hall and all the people in it, hiking, friends in my courses. Diversity, diversity, diversity. I didn’t expect to live in England for three months and learn so much about other cultures and people as well as gaining a better understanding of British life. Hartley Hall and this city have offered so many unexpected little daily gifts.

One month to go! As much as I look forward to seeing family and friends again, I know it will be hard to leave. Not constantly surrounded by new things will be missed. I’m learning to appreciate and prefer “un-normalcy.” 


Monday, November 15, 2010

Mainland Europe via Amsterdam



Bicycles, bicylces and more bicycles. Couldn’t help but be reminded of my summer spent in Minneapolis thanks to all the bicycles in Amsterdam. I expected to see the notorious red light district and special coffee shops in this city, but bikes? They lined practically every inch of free space along the many canals, as well as the sidewalks on side streets. We were more likely to have been run over by all the people bicycling along their designated sections on the roads than cars or trams. Luckily, the little bells most people had signaled for us to quickly leap out of the way.

On Wednesday I took an ironically one-hour plus bus ride from Hartley Hall to the Manchester airport and a short 25-minute flight to Amsterdam.  The travel companions were all fellow Hartley Hall-ers - Athan from Greece,  Sercio from Spain, Tina from Swedan, Julia and Iris from Austria, Mo from Saudia-Arabia and Katlin and Mike from the U.S. We met up Tina’s friend from Serbia, who she hadn’t seen in over 10 years upon arriving in the city.  It was nice to see them so happy to finally get to see each other again.

We got creative with the sleeping arrangement seeing the hotel room was only made for seven people. And the room was a little sketchy to say the least. It was about a 15 to 20 minute walk to the city center and thanks to the many canals in the city, it was easy to get turned around. A lot of lost moments, which actually worked out since we probably saw more of the city than had it been any other way.

Overall, Amsterdam surprised me. Some things I was saddened to see but a lot more good countered that. The extensive canal system and Victorian style attached buildings are very charming. Probably a great place to see in the spring or summer. Unfortunately it was cold and rainy for much of our time there. But that made those times when we could be inside something to look forward to. The Dutch were nice and their pancakes were even nicer. Shared a Dutch pineapple bacon pancake at a cozy pancake bakery that felt more like a pizza parlor.

Time spent at the Anne Frank house and Van Gogh Museum were highlights. My interest in the holocaust probably began upon receiving the Anne Frank book and my own diary when I was a kid. It was hard to rap my mind around actually seeing the rooms, two Jewish families spent over 2 years hiding in. The Frank family moved from Germany to Amsterdam when things started to seem fishy with the Nazi’s. Otto Frank, Anne’s father, ran his business in the same house they would later hide in. Once the Nazi’s controlled Amsterdam, the business was put under other people’s names, his family hid in a secret annex on the top floors and Otto continued to help run the business. They were betrayed by an unknown source and the eight people hiding in the Amsterdam home were brought to various concentration camps just months before the war’s end. Otto, the only survivor, returned to the house and found it was emptied by the Germans. For that reason no furniture is found in the house to this day. Replicas were made to show what it did look like that between 1943 and 1945. And pictures Anne collected on her walls also remained. One of the person’s who helped in hiding them had however found papers and Anne’s diary, saved them, and they were eventually returned to Otto. He was quoted with saying “To build up a future, you have to know the past.” Anne’s diary, published in over 70 countries and their preserved home do just that. It was a touching experience.

The Van Gogh Museum houses over 200 of his painting, along with his sketches and painting from other artists who inspired him or were inspired by him. I enjoy the how Van Gogh approaches color and brush techniques. Loved seeing everything up-close. Found my-self even more in awe of all of his creations and what he brought to the art world.

First experiences in mainland Europe were good. Didn’t expect Amsterdam to be my first taste of it. I was impressed by Amsterdam’s beauty and would recommend a trip there to others.

The rest of November is going to require buckeling down with school but the recent weekends away will make it easier. Will be working to put about 10,000 words to paper in the 3 essays required for my classes.

The work will be broken up with a Manchester United game, Manchester Christmas market and trip to Lincoln, which is the home to England’s largest Christmas market. Being surrounded by Christmas spirit is making me excited to see all of you!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

London

Today and everyday since Thursday was a breath of fresh air. Surprisingly much of it spent in one of the most populated cities in the world. I expected to be impressed with London by not this impressed. People prepared me with this information and advice about the city: Crazy and hectic, fashion fashion forward,  stay to the right on escalators as the left is for those in a hurry who climb them, see a show, walk along the Thames River, visit the Tate Modern and British Museum, be prepared to spend a lot of money, and use The Tube and love The Tube. Because I was somewhat warned and prepared, many things seemed less surprising and crazy. I found the city and people to be in not any more of a hurry than in Manchester . The people didn't seem to dress any less crazy than in Manchester either. You do, however, need to stand on the right side when using the escalator. Walking along the Thames riverwalk is a great way to see the sites. Seeing a musical while here is well-worth it. And the Tube can be your best friend and it was.

London has a great mix of Victorian and Roman architecture, green parks and gardens, small boutiques and markets, restaurants and pubs, theaters and museums. Time there was memorable, educational and well eye-opening.

Nina, an international student from Austria also living in Hartley Hall, and I left by train Thursday morning and returned by train Sunday. It was nice getting to know her better. We often joked that this was our "romantic" holiday spent in one of England's most iconic cities. The sites are all breath-taking during the day and some even better at night. And romantic I would say for couples who come here.

Some highlights were seeing the London Bridge, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Parliment, Covent Garden Market Trafalgar Square and Big Ben. We made our way inside Madame Tussauds, the London Dungeon, National Gallery, British Museum and the Tate Modern. We explored districts like Soho, the West End, Southwark, and Westminster. Our legs hurt, brains filled and eyes blessed.

We packed sandwhiches and snacks to cut back on food expenses leaving it possible to eat out at two quaint places when the food did run out. The first was an Italian restaurant in the West End. And the second was a "london locals favorite" pub in Soho. Nice to rest our feet and chat over great food in equally great atmospheres.

I thought of many family and friends who I wished could have been there at certain points during the trip. I thought of my Mom while at the musical Dirty Dancing as she loves the movie, Martha as we ventured through the West End, the famous theatre district in London, Jessy while at Tate Modern, Grandma Dorothy as I was by the London Eye and Dad as he would have probably put as many miles in his shoes as we did. Others too.

Nina is a kind, open-minded, postive person who happens to make a great travel buddy. So glad we made the trip. Look forward to the time I can make it back.


Here is a short synopsis of the trip with photos.
london video

Some of the future travel plans include: Amsterdam this week as I dont have class due what they call "reading week" and Paris after classes are done in December.

Liverpool, Lincoln, and Cambridge are some of the British cities I also have my eye on. Can already tell England is a great place to be during the Christmas season. They take having good holiday spirit quite serious.

Continue to feel blessed and grateful for everything experienced both in Manchester and away. And even though enjoying each day here can't help but each day also anticipate seeing family and friends back home.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hartley Hall Banquet

If I have learned one thing in the past month it's that love for food brings us all together but is a sure way to tell us a part. Hartley Hall is currently home to students from all parts of the world. Many of us are international students but even those from England actually come from other countries. Diversity is best seen in the kitchen. I share a kitchen with some very lovely ladies who I have quickly grow to love. They are from places like Austria, Ireland, Pakistan, Spain and England. Its always exciting for me to open the door and see who's in there and cooking what. It seems everyone's eating habbits are very fitting to where they come from. Even the times people eat fits into the lifestyle they have back home. The ladies from Spain will often have their breakfast late in the morning and dinner around 8 or after. Have inquired many questions about the dishes people have made. Should actually start taking notes. Look forward to bringing some of what I see home.


I am about the worst representation of American eating habbits at the moment. Choosing to be stubborn and cheap, I refuse to buy any cooking utensils. So all I have to survive on is plastic utensils, plates and bowls brought from home that I re-wash. A pampered chef microwavable container- i could not live without, 1/2 cup measuring deal, coffee cups, a knife and a set of food storage containers are also in my small cupboard. Getting creative with microwavable dishes though. Jacket potatoes (an English thing) are my new best friend. Upon discovering that our microwave had a jacket potato butter I decided to embrace a bit of the English culture.

Hartley Hall has grown to be a tight community. And on Saturday twenty or so of us gathered around the second floor kitchen for an international banquet you might say. We made our way over to AZDA-the walmart equivalent and picked up groceries for the dishes we were each going to make from our own countires. And the next hours after consisted of every kitchen on the three floors to be in use. We had traditional dishes from places like Spain, Greece, Austria, Morocco, Libia, Pakistan, England and America. I chose apple-crisp as it is one of my favorite fall dishes from back home. Somehow the three batches of apple crisp turned out by just using utensils listed above plus the aluminum disposable pans I purchased. Served it with ice cream and surprisingly was a hit. The food was good - too good. After three months over here and the weeks of holiday celebrations when I return, well I for-see problems. I'll worry about that later :)
Truly grateful to be living in this hall. Look forward to my visits to the kitchen everyday as it time to sit, eat, and get to know people I wouldn't otherwise. We have plans to make a thanksgiving feast happen too.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saturday: Day of Hike Sunday: Day of Rest

Recently joined the MMU Hiking Club, turns out it's considered a sport. And I can easily say Saturday was the most physical activity I've done in a long long time. We left around 8:30 am to the Lake District, an area north of Manchester with sixty or so lakes - they've got nothing on Minnesota except the beautiful hills/mountains surrounding them. I did share the nifty land of 10,000 lakes fact with the Brits and they were in awe. Manchester is a great location for outdoor lovers in that it is a short bus ride away from mountains and the sea. The Peak District and Lake District are popular destinations for hikers. The hiking club has outings every Saturday to some of these areas as well as in North Whales. They also have socials once a week.


Around 7 hours of our day was spent hiking the lake district hills/mountains (not sure what they qualify as). The group split off towards the beginning and I decided to head off with the group that was going longer and planning to reach higher elevations. Sometimes I don't really think my decisions through. Ok, so a lot times. My body felt pretty limp after it all. The views were amazing every moment able to take eyes off my large feet. The Lake District is known for a rockier terrain.  And at one point we were high enough to see the Irish Sea in the distance.

Me bum hurt a bit after it all. A pint was the prize at the end of our little/big excursion and I have never looked forward to one more.



One fun fact of the area is the stretch of land know as High Street. It happens to be the route Romans would take back in the day when doing all that Roman business. Its mind boggling to me really. High Street is now one of the paths hikers can take.

It was great to spend time in the English countryside and getting to know other British students. We made a stop at two pubs in small villages on the way home and a proper chip(fries) shop where they gave us proper forks to eat with our chips. The English take their french fries very seriously. They also seem to take their badger friends pretty serious too. The Badger Pub happened to be a shrine to the little guy with stuffed badgers, badger paintings and a variety of badger sculptures. Look forward to more outings to come. Fresh air is so nice.

This Sunday was a beautiful fall day. We've had sunshine this entire last week. The nice weather is also a surprise to the English here. Think I've gotten lucky and need to appreciate every day I see the sun as it will probably soon change. Went to the cinemas with a friend from my hall. Haven't watched any British television while here but got a bit of their good humor in the previews before the film. English and the States seem to share a lot of the same music and movies. Here is one of the ads they had shown. Iowa - they are proud supporters of their farmers and cows here too. Cow Ad

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Together We Can See What We Can Find

Currently unable to sleep due to hacking up my lung, so decided to write. Caught a cold, like everyone else here last week and have yet been able to get the sleep needed to recover. But on a more positive note, my week long trip with Maggie couldn't have gone better.

Here is a brief summary. We started the weekend out in Manchester and on Saturday night saw Mumford & Sons perform at a theater here. Everything about this trip was made up of last minute decisions except for that. Hostels, our B&B, airfare and some public transportation were booked less than a week in advance. And packing was done just the night before. But Maggie and I agreed we couldn't have imagined our trip going any other way. Leaving some of our plans open ended was definitely the right decision.

Maggie and I were gone from Sunday to that next Monday. We traveled by bus, train and air around parts of England, Scotland, and Ireland. They led us to York in England, Ediburgh and St. Andrews in Scotland and Dublin and Galway in Ireland. It was nice taking the train and bus as it allowed us to see some of the countryside. Our nights were spent in hostels except in Galway where we treated ourselves to a B&B - best decision we could have made! Mary and Charlie, the owners, provided us with useful information about tours, let us use their personal computer, fed us traditional irish breakfast and Mary even did our laundry! It was our saving grace after some exhausting days and lack of sleep while staying in hostels.

Can't say enough about the places our eyes were blessed to see. Each so uniquely beautiful and filled with fascinating history. Getting to know other travelers and some locals in the town were highlights.

Some of our best days were spent at seaside towns. On Tuesday we took a bus from Ediburgh to St.Andrews- the home of golf. It is a small village located on the North Sea. Maggie and I ate our breakfast on a beach there. We had no timelines and were able to leisurely visit the Abbey ruins, university, beaches and quaint shops. When in Dublin, we decided to extend our stay in Galway, another seaside town. We canceled one of our hostel nights there and contacted Mary and booked another night at the B&B. Dublin seems like it has a lot to offer, as it is a large international city but we wanted to have a more authentic Irish experience. It turns out Galway couldn't have been a better place for that. We were able to visit parts of the Atlantic coast by tour bus, one of the stops being the Cliffs of Moher. Galway has a beautiful spirit. The town is filled with street vendors, music and a people during the day. And at night completely transforms into another kind of lively town. We enjoyed hanging out with locals both nights. Some of the funniest people I have ever met.

I feel like there are so many stories I could try and share. But my patience while writing is not the best and Im sure anyone reading would get rather bored anyways. So In short, I feel completely blessed to have gotten a week long break from reality to travel with my good friend from back home. We turned out to be quite the team. So many memories made and travel lessons learned. Glad I can say she is now safely back in America and officially chalk this trip up as a success.

Here is a short video, lacking in quality, but non-the-less a video, hopefully more interesting than my words. A very condensed summary of our trip.

Follow this link for better quality. Cheers!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXOvB_ZiXCc



Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mumford and Sons + Maggie!

Going to quick fit in a blog before Maggie and I are off for our week adventure to York, Edinburgh, Dublin and Galway. Maggie's flight in on Friday went well! So proud and grateful she made her way over here.



As many of you know (since I tend not to hide it) I have a slightly large love for the band Mumford and Sons. And actually purchased my tickets to their show in Manchester before even purchasing my plane tickets to England. 

Once getting into the Apollo theater last night we attempted to get into the standing room only by following some people we met in line. The guard at the door didnt seem too fond of our idea so we abided and found our seats on the second level. The concert would have been great from there too but we wanted to see their faces and had gotten there so early had the opportunity to get good standing places. So we walked down to the bathroom on the first floor mostly hoping to spot people who looked like sitting seats would be more appealing. The first few didn't want to trade but in a last attempt I visited the beer line, asked an older couple and to my surprise they quite liked the idea. We traded and I can't imagine the concert without the spots we had. We were able to watch Johnny Flynn (the opener) and Mumford and Sons in all their amazing banjo, accordian, mandeline glory from five heads away. I think Ben the accordian/piano player and I should probably meet and fall in love. Hope the concert can be inbedded in my head for awhile. Their spiritual lyrics seem to be continued out into the new set of songs we heard. Looking forward to the next album.


It was a great way to quick start this week. Today we are off to York by train, Scotland by train tomorrow and fly to Ireland after that. Everything has gone smoothly so we are ready for that surprise speed bump! But I guess that is just part of the fun.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

North Wales: Snowdonia and Scones

I joined the international society here which is a program offered to international students at all Manchester Universities, Weekend trips are offered throughout this semester to different cities in the United Kingdom.

On Sunday I boarded a bus to Wales. Unable to find anyone else I knew also interested in going, I went anyways. I don't regret the decision of going on my own. It lended the opportunity to meet people I may have not otherwise. The day started with a bus ride to the Snowdonia National Park. I met other exchange students on the bus ride and continued to get to know some throughout the trip. We took a train ride up the mountain to the summit. We had a short time to enjoy the views from on top of the mountain and lucky enough for us it was a perfectly clear and sunny day. Many visitors choose to take the hike, which I would have probably prefered had their been enough time. The air was so clean and crisp, colors vibrant and landscape different than anything I have seen before.
The second part entailed visiting the touristy town of Betws-y-coed. The architecture seemed very unified and many shops aimed to appeal to tourists. So many tourists. I spent my time there with two students from Germany, Julia and Mira. We had good conversation over tea and scones at a quaint restaurant. That was a highlight.
I look forward to taking advantage of other trips offered by the international society. Well worth the money and a great opportunity, again, to meet people from different parts of the world. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pringles and Wine

When Simon, a professor (or tutor as they call it here) walked up the stairs with grocery bags filled with pringles and bottles of wine I couldn't help but smile. O how they do school differently over here. I just attended a little social event the tutors of the history of art and design department put on. It consisted of mingling with some faculty and second and first year students.  This would never happen back at SDSU, well at least with the pairing of wine and pringles (pringles of all things)! People have been genuinly nice and helpful over here and the faculty seem to really care about providing students wtih worth while encounters. A day trip to Liverpool and four day trip to London are on the agenda for the department this semester. I hope to take advantage of both.

Today, I also received my fate for the semester. It was slightly dissapointing in that I won't have long weekends to travel as I'd hope. But I think I`m less dissapointed by this now than I would have been several weeks ago. And I only say this because I am genuinly excited about the courses I do get to take. Monday: "Significant Surfaces: Photographic Modes and Meanings" Tuesday: "Print and Textiles". Especially excited for this because it is a hands on, all day course where I will be creating textiles. This is something I wouldn't have the opportunity to do back at SDSU and well, I could say the same with all of these courses. Friday: "Altered States: the Irrational in Visual Culture" and "Designing the Modern World."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Poo On a Silver Platter

I couldnt help but blush and laugh when my lamb kabob was served to me last night. And everyone else couldn't help but laugh at my reaction. Two large wrinkly, brown poo looking tubes were placed in front of me on a silver platter. Not what I was expecting! I found it didnt taste any better than it appeared. But I was glad to have tried it non-the-less.

Many countries were represented by the twenty or so students sitting around the table at this Indian restaurant. Swedan, Holland, Czech Republic, Greece, Saudia Arabia, England and the US were among them. It was nice to go out with such a random combobulation of people. Many of our conversations so far have consisted of comparing the lives we live back home. All are residents at Hartley Hall. The buses were mostly full at this time so we did a lot of walking instead. We made our way to the "Curry Mile" which Manchester is famous for. It is located on Wislow road and has several Asian restaurants as well as Shisha bars. This was my first taste of it.

Our group split off after diner and a few girls and I opted to attempt catching the last bus to Whalley Range for the night so we could save money by avoiding paying for a taxi fare. Running was involved and I couldn`t help but laugh the entire time. What a sight we must have been. But we made it!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

And Then There is School

Universities are very different here: pubs in the student union, three year study programs instead of 4, courses that only meet once a week. I would say they take a more laid back approach and I am not going to complain. We are just all signing up for courses this week. It looks like I'll be getting into the ones I want but still I have yet to know exactly what the next semester will look like class wise and its almost October!

Today students in the Histoy of Art and Design program split into groups for a walking tour activity. And by the end of the day the instructors took us to the tallest building in Manchester to get a skyline view of the city. I have enjoyed their approach to teacing so far. They are far from intimidating and actually quite interesting to listen to, maybe it`s their accents.

Michael, one of the instructors (they dont call them professors here) talked about how our time at uni (which is what they all call a university) is the opportunity to "make our own bag of tricks" for when getting into the work field. I like how he chose to put that. We pick the electives we want to take to point us in a certain direction in our field. I am grateful to be able to put everything learned at this English university in my bag of tricks per say.

So much can be said about understanding the history of anything. And for artists it is important to see how solutions were solved in the past to better solve the ones we are dealing with in the present. I look forward to their teaching styles at this uni and diving into a subjects I find quite fasciniating. Critical thinking, essays, visiting museums and reading are on the agenda. A break from using the computer will be nice.

The First Week in a Nut Shell


Last week was orientation for international exchange students. I would say the highlight was just meeting people from all different parts of the world. Students are here from places like Columbia, Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Australia, Japan, Czech, and the US. It has been fun being a apart of the international community.

Thursday we attended an event where we ate some traditional English food and uncoordinately danced to traditional Scottish and Irish music. In the video show, Celia, a student from Spain, gives her impression of Americans and Milan from the Czech Republic has a bit to say too. Friday, we took a bus through the Enlgish countryside (which is as beautiful as I had hoped) to one of "England`s best theme parks". It was a great day and the sun managed to shine all the way through. Saw me a castle and ate some fish and chips.

Sunday, a British friend and I went to the city center on a quest to get internet at one of the cafes since ours hasnt worked since Saturday. And later in the day met up wtih Aisha, a completely sweet Manchester native who happened to study at SDSU as an exchange student last year. And I would say Sunday I officially felt like Manchester could be a comfortable and fun home for the next few months. Aisha was nice enough to show us around and I got hints of all I have left to explore and do here.

Another highlight has been getting to know other Brits and international students in my residence hall. They are all so kind. It has been nice to get a taste of how they live by observing the food they eat and through the conversations we all have together in our shared kitchens. I had Indian food for the first time this week, delicious! There are three kitchens joined together so it allows everyone to sit and chat. Look forward to friendships we will continue to form.

My experience so far has been completely different than I expected but I like it this way. I think this experience is going to be just as much about the people I meet as it is the places I see. The culture and way of life here is farther from ours than I ever realized. The ladies in my hall think its crazy that us Americans use a coffee machine. That's right, they dont have coffee makers in England, only some wierd instant stuff. I have conformed and bought some as well as milk, sugar, and bisquits (which we call cookies) to have with my tea.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sleep!


It is the second full day spent in Manchester and a complete 360 from the prior day for the other exchange students and I. We arrived in Manchester yesterday at 7:30am UK time when it was about 1:00am back home. We were advised to stay awake all day and go to bed at a regular time to get on their schedule. So yesterday was actually quite exhausting. We didnt think it would effect us as much as it did. It made the culture shock a little more shocking. This very large city is like any other where it has its shady parts and the really really charming/historical parts too. But students and I were alittle disheartened by what we saw and were experiencing right away, I think mostly because of tiredness and wierd/new feelings that came with it.

I had met a student at the Chicago airport who was from North Carolina and also going to be studying at MMU as an exchange student. Gorev ventured around Manchester with the three other students and I. We set out on a mission to look for phones, check out bus passes, and have a drink at our first British pub. A celebration was essential. As we made our way to the city center my feelings changed about the place. It was what I was hoping the city would be: charming old buildings, some cobblestone streets, and pigeons. So many bloody pigeons. The city is also very fitting for students with lots of pubs and cool venues with surprising reasonable deals. I couldnt move in to my place until today so I slept on another student's floor. Needless to say sleeping didnt go as well as I had hoped at a time I really needed it, but I got it. The exhaustion and inability to fall back to sleep caused doubt and anxiety to set in about the whole situation but today helped completely change that.

We had our welcome session where all the international students were briefed by faculty. It ended early enough, leaving more time to explore the city. I had met another student from North Carolina and she also ventured out with us. Sleep made me look at everything different. Manchester is a very diverse city and the University is as well. I look forward to this opportunity to live in an environment completely different than home and with people completely different too. I am living in a hall run by the Islamic association. That, on top of many other things will be quite unlike than anything I've experienced before. But so important and beneficial to experience. I came over here to familiarize myself with different people in this world just as much as different places. Manchester is a perfect city for that. The Brits have been so helpful and friendly. I am quickly feeling more acclimated. Glad to have been able to move in today. It is in a beautifully renovated building. I love the charm and feel quite comfortable here.

Wow this post is getting way too long so I best stop. In summary, the first day was iffy, and the second day was much more reassuring. I look forward to everything to come! I really need to find a better/shorter way to summarize everything. Ok Cheerios.

Monday, August 30, 2010

No Room in the Inn

This Monday marks exactly three weeks until I board the plane with three other SDSU students to Manchester, England. It is quite surreal and nice to say at the same time. I will be blessed with the opportunity to study art history and design and advertising brand management through Manchester Metropolitan University. I hope to keep those family and friends that care to know, up-to-date on all I am doing, learning, seeing, and hearing. And since one cant bottle up feelings to keep for later, I hope this blog will be a way for me to gather those moments of bliss.

One feeling I dont want to bottle up was a 24-hour period which began last Thursday morning. Prior to Thursday, the three other SDSU students set to study at MMU received their housing accommodations through email. I however heard nothing. Before getting ready for a full day at my internship I checked my email only to read that my bad premonitions were true. MMU informed me that no other on-campus accommodations were available for short-term lease. They proceeded to give me two options. One: I could apply at this one private hall, not through the university. Two: I could fly over that big blue ocean not having any place to stay and during orientation week meet with renters and hopefully find someplace to provide a roof over my head. My stomach had sunk and I just couldn't believe that after 10 months of planning and dreaming, my study abroad experience could potentially end 3 and some weeks before I was set to leave and less than one week before SDSU was going to begin classes. 

Thankfully, I was given the next few hours off at my internship to search my options. It all needed to get figured out right away because I just needed to be a full time student somewhere. This gave me about 5 days to either find a place to live in England or enroll for classes back at SDSU. I applied at a private accommodation, Hartley Hall, located in a nearby suburb. It is a newly renovated building and the only tenants are MMU or University of Manchester undergraduate or graduate students. It also had short term leases. 

The rest of the day was spent confused, stunned and bummed by the whole scenario. Where was I suppose to focus my thoughts? Did all of this mean I really should just give up on the whole idea. This was definitely not the first road block. The entire process has been full of challenges and surprises. Luckily I had my parents, Maggie, Jessy, and Kolby to be angry and sad for with me. Cole was also a help in saying, regardless, over there and find a place to live. So before I went to bed that night I had it decided in my head that no matter what happened in the next few weeks, I was flying over to the UK, home or no home. 

24 hours later I read my email and was accepted into Hartley Hall. Amen! Amen! I am gladly going to live there. And honestly, I think it is a blessing in disguise. So what if I am located in an area different than the other SDSU students and a 15 minute bus ride from campus. I have a roof and a mattress. And after those 24 hours I realized all the other little things I was fretting over were minute problems in comparison to not having those two things.

All of the roadblocks I've hit over the past few months are making my actual arrival in England that much sweeter. I plan to appreciate every moment while there. Good things don't come easy and since this definitely hasn't come easy, I expect it will be quite good.