Thursday, March 20, 2014

Time and Acknowledgment

I have a total of 6 weeks left in England, three of those in Ormskirk and three traveling around Europe. Everyone said enjoy every second you are here because time goes by so quickly and boy were they right. It's an interesting combination of feeling like I just stepped off the plane and feeling like I've been here my whole life. Edge Hill feels like home and I'm not sure I am ready to leave. Don't get me wrong, going back to America, my big comfy bed, my friends, my family and Mexican food will be amazing, but being in Europe is not something I want to give up just yet.

I have learned to appreciate many things about America that we do not have over here, One being wifi and 3G readily available and at your disposal. It was nice not to have to worry about international fees and have the internet at your fingertips. Not having internet has taught me to be less technology dependent. I've learned that it is okay to ask for directions and use a paper map instead of the Maps app on my iPhone. Also, not having constant contact with those back home is okay. It is nice to be in a foreign country and just enjoy the scenery. People watch. Focus on the present, here and now.

I also appreciate America's connivence. Stores are open 24/7 and have a wide variety of every product. The options of food at restaurants here is minuscule compared to any restaurant at home. Here there is 1 maybe two pages of choices while in America you can spend hours looking through a menu. (I probably shouldn't say this- it only perpetuates the stereotype that all Americans are overweight)

I recognize the worth of the strict schooling system in America. Here, students seem to take their education as an option and not as a priority. People skip class, talk while the tutor is giving the lesson and do not focus on the presentation. (This is obviously a generalization as not all students are this way.) In America, college is not even an option for many people, it is a must.  Professors at home are much more respected and looked up to, which I think suits their profession.

Even though it can be time consuming and frustrating, I appreciate America's safety and security. Airport security is much less strict and police officers carry pepper spray instead of guns. It can be a hassle in America going through so many security precautions, but I'd rather be safe than sorry.

With that being said, there are SO MANY things I am going to miss about Europe!

1. Trains: the rail systems in Europe are amazing. You can take a train nearly anywhere, at any time, for a very low price. I was worried about not having a car over here (I've had a car since I was 16 and I'm way too overly dependent on it) but taking a train is so much nicer! You can relax and get to your destination quickly and safely.

2. Budget Airlines: Ryanair and Easyjet are a lifesaver! You can get tickets for less an 20pounds to some places in Europe. This is absolutely unheard of if you were flying through America. It has made traveling while in Europe affordable and possible.

3. Sales Tax: There is none! What you see on the price tag is what you will pay.

4. How appreciative everyone is of a bright and sunny day. I know I take that for granted in America.

5. Proximity: Towns are designed so that you can walk everywhere. There isn't even the need for a car in many places because you can walk to the grocery store or clothing stores to get everything you need. It is so nice to take a walk into town and just appreciate the scenery and atmosphere.

6. A great English breakfast complete with eggs, sausage, toast, mushrooms, tomatoes, bacon, beans and more!

Thought I would throw in some fun pictures of my adventures lately

About 20 of us dressed up as Gatsby theme for a night out

Guiness Factory Tour in Dublin

The Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Definitly the most beautiful place I've ever been

Sunday, March 2, 2014

10 Tips For Surviving England

1. First and foremost: To get the most out of your experience, you have to put yourself out there. Sitting in your room and waiting for something fun and exciting to happen is like expecting to get 4.0 after never going to class. Introduce yourself to everyone. Ask if you can tag along to dinner/movies/going into town. Stepping out of your comfort zone is half the reason for studying abroad anyway.

2. I feel like this should be obvious but bring  RELIABLE rain boots and a raincoat with a hood. It rains about once a day here in Liverpool but usually only for an hour or so. It just so happens that the hour it rains is when I'm walking to class/town/anywhere outside.

3. People dress nicer here than in America. Don't expect to go to class in sweatpants and a messy bun. Bring jeans, cute sweaters and dresses with black tights. And when you look better you feel better so why not? 

4. You will get homesick. You will miss your friends. You will see Facebook pictures from everyone at home having a great time and feel like you are missing out. But you will also be making amazing memories of your own, growing up, learning about yourself, meeting great friends and more. Don't get caught up in stalking everyones Facebook pictures, it only makes things worse.

5. Buy train tickets in advance. Don't just turn up at a train station and buy a ticket unless you still haven't realized that money does not grow on trees. You will save literally hundreds of pounds if you purchase tickets weeks in advance. The same goes for hostels and airfare.

6. Buy a young persons rail card. It is 30 pounds but you save 30% on each train ticket you buy. It pays for itself within 1-2 trips.

7. Lots of drinks over here are carbonated. Lemonade is the same thing as sprite because it is carbonated. Their version of gatorade is carbonated. Sometimes water is even carbonated. Look at the label before purchasing.

8. Have a rough estimate of the currency exchange from dollars to pounds. Right now it is around 1.7 dollars to 1 British pound so money goes FAST. I am not a math person so every time I look at a price tag (and cry for my bank account) I multiply the number by 2, then subtract a little. Very scientific I know, but it actually works for the conversion very well. 

9. Bring a wallet that is coin-friendly. They have 8 coins -1 penny, 2 pence, 5, 10, 20, 50, 1 pound, 2 pound-  compared to our four coins. You jingle everywhere you walk but you get used to it. 

10. Come prepared to eat chips (french fries) EVERY SINGLE DAY. I would actually suggest avoiding fries for about 3 months before you come over here just so you don't get sick of them. They are served with every meal, every where, at all time, constantly etc.. Also, be prepared for lots of peas and mushrooms. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Life at Edge Hill

I've been talking about traveling so much that I thought at a post about home would be nice. It's funny how I consider Ormskirk home now. I feel comfortable here and like it is where I belong. It is easier for me to write in lists so here it goes

1. This time of the semester is when essays begin to be due and group projects are starting to pick up. I have 2 essays due within the next week. It really isn't as stressful as it sounds because we have known about them since day 1. Not much guidance was given because the tutors want you to explore the whole topic and be creative with your writing.

2. The Hub- where you go for meals, a convenient store, a big screen TV and to hang out. It is located in the center of campus so it is the perfect meeting place for a coffee or to hang out with some of your mates. Every week day a few vendors come to the hub and sell everything from fresh produce to clothing to school supplies.

3. The common room- each residential building has a common room with couches and a TV. This is where I met a majority of my friends. It is a great central meeting point and where everyone hangs out after class.  Because our hall is half American students and half British students, I have met a variety of people.  Everyone in our hall is friends and we have a great little community feeling.

4. Ormskirk- It is like the perfect small town you see in a movie. It has absolutely everything you need with multiple clothing stores, restaurants and pubs etc.. but is still small and friendly. It is personable and home-y compared to a big city such a London where you could live there for 3 years and still not have seen all of it.  I go to Ormskirk about 2-3 times per week. There are some coffee shops where I go to do homework with a friend or sometimes I just have to run some errands.

5. Tutors here are much less formal than professors at home. You address them by their first name and can send casual emails about questions. They are always willing to help and have many open office hours. They seem to be able to make more jokes while in class- but it may just be the British humor.

I've made great friends to where I know I never have to eat alone, always have someone to talk to, and know I have a place to stay if I want to travel to their hometown. Some of my British friends already have plans on visiting the States and I already have plans to visit some friends I met over here who live in South Carolina. I have a little over 2 months left and that is not nearly enough. Time has flown by and I am not ready to leave (nor will I ever be).

Some friends I've met along the way

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Tube and The Castle: My weekends in London and Scotland


This weekend I felt like I was living on the Tube (their subway system). It is really a curse and a blessing. The tube is crowded and busy, yet simple and extremely convenient. After the first day or so I got acquainted with the social etiquette of the Tube… You stand on the right side of the escalator and walk on the left. If you are only going 1-2 stops, standing is easier. Have your ticket ready when you need to scan it through the machine, don't be "that" person to hold up the line…

I saw all of the touristy destinations, which are 100x better and more beautiful in person than you would think. We went on a free walking tour which is a necessity for every city I visit. I want to know what buildings I'm looking at and the context for how and why they were built.  

Visiting for a weekend was a great getaway yet the hustle of a big city is not for me and only makes me appreciate Ormskirk that much more. There are hundreds of museums, restaurants, pubs and shopping centers which are great to see but a weekend is not enough time to see even half of the city.


I say this every time I go to a new city but…. Edinburgh may be my new favorite city. It is absolutely breathtaking. The history, the mountains, the people- everything was perfect. We did a free walking tour through Sandemans (all of their tours have been GREAT) and also did a tour through the Edinburgh Castle. The castle dates back 3000 years and is sitting on volcanic rock. Parts of it were built specially for cannon balls to be deflected and there is a prison inside with carvings in the wood are still remaining. We learned where the drink "Bloody Mary" came from (the war between the Catholic and the Protestants) and also the game Capture the Flag.

Walking through Edinburgh, expect to see Bagpipers, hundreds of cashmere and wool shops and beautiful cathedrals. The city is a mix of old and new, traditional and new age culture. My travel partner  Katie and I had to try Haggis (lamb) for Edinburgh is known to have the best. To my surprise, I loved it! This is just one example of the many times I have tried new things and been taken out of my comfort zone while abroad. 

On the tour, we saw the birthplace of Harry Potter. I have always enjoyed the series but have need considered myself a huge fan. After seeing the coffee shop where J. K Rowling wrote the series and walking through the cemetery where she sought inspiration for characters names, I grew much fonder of the series and the author. 

The Edinburgh Castle

 My favorite picture from Scotland- the view from the top of the castle overlooking Edinburgh

If you look closely, you can see Thomas Riddell written on the stone. This was just 1 of the many tombstones I saw that got turned into characters.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Day Trips to York and the Lake District

Hey there! 

Well today officially marks one month of being in England! Being here has become normal, sometimes I even forget I'm in another country. Days have fallen into a type of routine and classes are in full swing. I have met so many great people and I am so thankful for the awesome friends I've made. My time here would not be half as memorable if it were not for all of the wonderful people I have become close with. 

I have taken 2 day trips to other parts of England since being here. Edge Hill's student union paired with a bus touring company to offer students the opportunity to see popular English tourist destinations. They are around 30 pounds (or 50 dollars) for a day filled with a guided bus/walking tour along with time to explore independently. 

First, I went to York. The history and the buildings in the small town is so interesting and beautiful; I am extremely grateful I was able to experience it first hand. York was discovered in the 12th or 13th century. There were wood walls created by the Vikings surrounding the town but they were replaced with brick and a moat to keep out unwanted visitors. There are only six gates entering the city and the Queen is only allowed to enter through the Mickel Gates Bar with a special knock. 
In York, we walked through the town seeing modern day clothing stores along with small souvenir shops. There was also a free walking tour we took part of which explained the history of the city more in depth. If you are in England, York is a must see! 

                                        A beautiful cathedral called the York Minster

                          Clifford's Tower. Go to the top and you get a view of the whole city
You can see the 4 layers of brick all built in different centuries

                                 And now for the Lake District!

Words cannot describe how beautiful and perfect the Lake District is. It is a National Park about 1.5 hours north of Edge Hill full of Lakes, rivers mountains and valleys. Fun Fact: there is technically only 1 lake in the Lake District, called Lake Windamere. The rest are called Tarns and Meres. We took a boat ride around Lake Windamere, viewing some if its islands and the beautiful homes around the lake. We also went for a small hike through the forest and drove around the mountains on roads way too small for the bus (A warning sign said no vehicles over 6'6" wide were allowed… Our bus was 9' wide).

Our bus driver, Frank, was knowledgable yet really fun and personable. We listened to Beatrix Potter children's stories on the drive up. I didn't think I knew who she was, but after hearing Peter Rabbit, I remember hearing her stories as a child. She lived and got all of her inspiration from the Lake District. We stopped at the birthplace of Gingerbread! It was the smallest store I have ever seen, but it is where Sarah Nelson created Gingerbread. Of corse we had to buy some and try it for ourselves, and let me tell you, it is worth the hype. If you are interested in nature, hiking or merely a beautiful view, the Lake district is a must! 

                                       Beautiful, Breathtaking, Surreal

                    My good friend Katie and I had to take a picture to prove to ourselves that we weren't dreaming. It was THAT beautiful.

Next Blog: My Weekend in Edinburgh, Scotland! 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Liverpool, Studies and Culture Shock

Hi All!

Last week was filled with meetings and orientations for the international students. We learned about the British culture, got an idea for how our classes (here they are called modules) would be, and learned more about the university. Tuesday we took a trip to Liverpool with a member of the international office. It's about 5 pounds round trip and a 25 minute train ride. I have to say it may be one of my new favorite cities. It's historic buildings mixed in with modern day shopping and night life makes for the perfect balance of old and new. It is a large city, but most major landmarks seem to be within walking distance.  I can't wait to go back and explore the vast Liverpool One shopping center :)

The culture shock is a little more than I expected but still not too bad. Yes I probably stand out and Yes people probably stare a little bit longer, but I still feel welcomed and a part of the student culture. It is actually harder to understand the British accent than I was expecting. Not everyone speaks all "Posh" like you see in the movies. It's interesting to hear all of the variations in the accents depending on what part of England they are from. Also, there are many different words they use for everyday things and lots of slang (this will have to be a whole blog by itself.)

Classes started this week. I am lucky to only have class on Wednesday and Thursday, which gives me a nice long weekend to travel. All of my classes are lectures, with two of them having a seminar every other week. The lectures are around 60 people, and last 2-3 hours (thankfully they give us a break in the middle) and the seminars are around 10 people, where we discuss the material more in depth, ask questions, etc..

In each module, I have 1 paper and 1 project/exam. This is your whole grade. I am not sure if I agree with this measurement of our progress, but I understand why they choose this way. We are expected to turn up (their version of "show up") to each class and we are not bribed with points for attendance. There are no easy assignments or take home quizzes to easily boost our grade.  With this being said, their grading scale is much different. Anything over a 40/100 is considered passing. Anything over a 70 is something to be very proud of. Their reasoning is that there is always room for improvement, no one assignment is perfect. This is hard to understand, our whole American schooling career has been aimed at earning a 100%. I respect and enjoy that they know we are not perfect and don't expect us to be.

Here, the tutors (their word for professor) expect you to do work on your own and critically think about the material. I really enjoy how we are given the freedom to criticize and question the material we are learning, and not believe every theory we read. It is different and slightly intimidating to know that papers we are assigned are broad, without much direction. In America, we are so used to specific, step by step directions that being able to make choices on our own is scary but such an incredibly necessary life skill.

(I'm no photographer so bare with me)

         St. Georges Hall- This is a beautiful building on Lime Street where many people get married and concerts are held.

                                                            The Walker Art Gallery
 My favorite stop of the Liverpool trip. The Cavern Club is where The Beatles got their claim to fame. Unfortunately, it is much smaller than it was when The Beatles were there because they sold part of their building (before The Beatles made it big and they realized how much history was in the small pub.)

Next Post: My day trip to York!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

My first few days

Yesterday, all of the international students took a trip to the town of Chester. It is a pretty big town with great shopping and restaurants. We went into a Cathedral and saw a street performer. It is interesting how different the daily lives are over here. People walk to the grocery store everyday to pick up just a few items. Everyone is more patient and has been so extremely kind and welcoming (especially when we are trying to figure out how much each coin is worth). People here seem more laid back and concerned with others and not so rushed all the time like in America.

I have met so many international students (there is about 60 of us) as well as British students. The British students have welcomed us with open arms and I know they will be great friends. Everyone usually hangs out in the common room.

Next week the international students have different types of orientation everyday. I find out my class schedule and meet my professors, hopefully learning my way around campus more. We are also being taken on a trip to Liverpool to see the town. Jason, Bill and Joanna from the International office are great and always willing to help.

I've only been here a few days and I absolutely love it! I love everyone I have met and I've been having the time of my life. I cannot wait to see what the rest of the semester brings!

                                  This is a clock tower in the lovely town of Chester.

                               This is the clock tower/ center of town in Ormskirk
                                 The next two are Cathedrals in Chester.

                               Here is the street performer we saw in Chester.

Of corse I had to take a tourist picture in a phone booth!

                                  These are some pictures of my room.