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


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.