When you give a student a break…

A couple of weeks ago, the University of Chester had their personal development week. While students here do not get fall break or, understandably, Thanksgiving break, they do receive a week off during the fall semester which is commonly referred to as reading week. Most students take this as an opportunity to go home or to catch up on school work, but my roommate and I took it as a chance to travel. We spent two days in London and then three days in Paris.

We took the train from Chester to London Euston on Halloween. The first thing that we did was walk over to Kings Cross Station to get a picture in front of the trolley cart under the sign of Platform 9 ¾ from the Harry Potter books and movies. On the way, we passed the British Library. Despite seeing tons of historic sites in London, that was one of the places that I was the most impressed by (it was way bigger than I thought it would be). We waited in line for a long time, and then a worker from the Platform 9 ¾ store let us choose which scarf we wanted to wear and flipped it while we had our pictures taken by a professional photographer. We were then funneled into the store and had the option to buy our pictures on a keychain (I stuck with the cell phone pictures). We took the taxi from there to our hostel.

It was the first hostel I have ever stayed in and it was pretty much as nice as I anticipated hostels to be. It was very clean, but very small. The room we were in housed six girls and had a number keypad on the door to get inside. The first thing we saw were two stacks of three bunk beds with a girl sitting on the top bunk working on her laptop. Each bed had a UK plug-in, a European plug-in, and a light. The only thing that really bothered me was that the closest I could get to sitting straight up was almost doubled over with my head bowed.

That night, we passed Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament on our way to see the London Eye. We had fish and chips right off of the Thames and then saw the outside of Westminster Abbey, 10 Downing Street (through the police and metal dividers), and we visited Trafalgar Square. My favorite part of London was when I visited Westminster Abbey with a friend I hadn’t seen in a few years and his family. When we were going through, I had to slowly realize that yes, it probably is THAT Fill-in-the-blank-with-a-famous-name buried there. I also had not realized that Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and other prominent scientists were buried there. I loved Poet’s Corner, but I also really enjoyed seeing where Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I were buried together (I hadn’t realized that they were buried together before seeing it firsthand). After the Abbey, we visited the Natural History Museum and I got to see the archeology exhibits we are studying right now in class which was really cool. We had just watched some videos about the making of their mannequins that week in class.

We took the early morning train to France and arrived before the check in time, so we decided to go sightseeing. We walked around our hostel until we found a Boulangerie/Patisserie where we got baguette sandwiches and talked with a couple of great ladies from Paris. (Everyone we ran into in Paris speaks very good English, and when I would say “bonjour,” they would just look at me and tell me that they could speak English. It was helpful so I didn’t have to struggle to remember my French from four years ago.) The ladies told us to buy day passes so we could save money on the Metro, so we headed over there and took the train to the Arc de Triomphe. On the way back, we visited the Eiffel Tower. It was beautiful when we just sat in the park right next to it and watched the leaves fall. All around Paris, there are men who carry around rings of small Eiffel Tower figurines and selfie sticks to sell to tourists. That night we visited Pont Neuf, Notre Dame, and Sacre Coeur. We got to Sacre Coeur at sunset and it was an amazing view of the city.

The next day, we visited the Louvre. I loved wandering around the museum and seeing all of the amazing pieces of art. The building that houses the collections is almost as beautiful as the pieces of art it contains, and the part I liked the most was the Apollon gallery dedicated to Apollo and the sun. My favorite collections were the French sculptures and the Coptic artwork from Egypt, but the most emotional part was when I visited the room with the Mona Lisa. I had been walking down a long hall of Italian paintings and I decided to go into a small side gallery when I noticed some huge crowds inside it. Half of them were staring at the wall with the doorway I had just come through and half of them were staring on another wall opposite. I glanced at the wall nearest me just long enough to see that it was a giant painting and then noticed that the other wall held the Mona Lisa. As soon as I realized that, I looked behind me at the large painting again because it was the spot my dad had described to me a thousand times as where his favorite painting is. When I realized that it was indeed the painting he liked, I started tearing up because it sank in that this was where my father had visited when he was my age and that probably millions of visitors have walked by that spot since then. I wasn’t as impressed by the Mona Lisa as I was by other pieces of art I saw in the Louvre. I had always thought that it would be bigger and possibly brighter, but there were also crowds of tourists taking selfies in front of it so I couldn’t examine it very long.

Later that day, we visited the catacombs. There was no line, just two men standing outside a small doorway which had the name above it in a very non-obvious location. We had our bags checked (like everywhere in Paris), showed our tickets, and started walking down a very long set of spiral stairs. We walked for a long time through the old mine shafts until we reached a doorway which said overhead that we were about to enter the empire of the dead (as close as I could tell from my translation skills). We had not seen any bones before that, but as soon as we walked through the door, there were stacks of bones to about my shoulder height. There was no barrier between the visitors and the bones, just signs saying not to touch or take any of the bones. It was really weird because I could identify some of them. A majority of what we could see were bones of the arms and legs forming the bulk of the base with skulls and other bones on the top. At one point, there was a scapula just resting on top of the others like there had been no other place to put it. There were different areas which contained shapes like hearts and crosses made of the craniums. There were also inscriptions periodically to denote which cemeteries the remains were from. As I was walking through, it started to sink in just how many remains had been moved under the city. The whole experience seemed surreal, and I have still not fully realized the whole extent of the catacombs. Before I went through, I was a little worried that it would seem sinister, but it just seemed more bittersweet than anything. After we left the catacombs, we visited the pillar where Bastille had been, Pont Alexandre, le Grand Palais, and le Petit Palais.

The next day, we visited Versailles. It was impressive and my favorite parts were the ceilings. They featured different murals and paintings along a different theme each time. The Hall of Mirrors definitely lived up to all of the hype it gets, but there were a lot of rooms that I loved which usually get overlooked. One of those was the Hall of Battles. It contained huge paintings of influential battles of France dating back to medieval times. One of the most shocking to me was when I looked up and saw George Washington and the Battle of Yorktown. Fans of the musical Hamilton will know about the importance of the French to the colonies during the battle, but I had not connected the dots that it had been monumental for France. In the audio commentary, it mentioned that the painting showcased the French dedication to fighting for liberty. I am accustomed to hearing that phrase from Americans, but I also love hearing it in other countries around the world because it reminds me that we are not by any means alone in that aim and that we have shared that goal for a long time. It was a cold and rainy day, but we walked around the gardens and saw the Petit Trianon and the Grand Trianon. We did not visit the Queen’s Hamlet because we were frozen all the way through, but I enjoyed seeing all of the buildings we did see. The gardens were filled with beautiful sculptures, like the one in the picture above (that fountain also contained some really pretty but grumpy swans). It was amazing because I studied the history of France in high school French, and it was like all of my textbooks came to life with gold covering everything.

I loved seeing all of the areas throughout Paris which I have wanted to visit for years. Paris was my favorite city of the two we visited. It reminded me of Chicago and Washington, D.C. mixed together with a very long history, and all of the people I met were very friendly and proud of their city. I would love to visit both London and Paris again sometime to revisit some sites and see lots of new ones.




Exploring Wales

Last Sunday, I went on a bus tour of Northern Wales which was organized by the international office. The city where I am staying is only about twenty minutes away from Wales, but I had not been there before. The first place we stopped was Llandudno, a seaside town popular with the Victorians. When we first stepped out of the bus, it felt like I was about to blow away because the winds were so strong. We walked around the town for about an hour. I was able to walk on the pier, see the Victorian facades on the beach, and see gardens laced with running trails. This town was reportedly the source of some of the characters featured in Alice in Wonderland, so there were Lewis Carroll themed statues and art installations all around the city. Our next stop was for lunch and walking the Roman walls in the city of Conwy. In both Chester and Conwy, people have built right up to the edges of the walls. As we walked along the walls in Conwy, we saw small turrets in the wall where people had dragged garden hoses into the bottom for storage or small patio tables to keep them out of the elements.

One of the prettiest view that I see here is when I walk into the city center of Chester, and I can see mountains over the tops of houses through a gap in the buildings. I especially love that part of the walk when the light is hitting the clouds just right so that pinks, purples, and oranges appear above the outline of the mountains or days like today when the mountains appear extremely green. My favorite part of the tour was when we visited Snowdonia National Park because we were able to drive into the Welsh mountains and walk around on some beautiful trails. As we walked around, we kept running into backpackers who had been hiking the trails for long distances and small groups of people who were just there for a couple of hours. When we left the bus, our guide told us to run around like children, and it did feel like when I was younger and discovered the first small bunch of snowdrop flowers each year in our yard because you felt like you were finding something that had never been seen in the same way before. When we walked up one trail, a dammed up lake became visible sandwiched between two mountains in one direction and a clearer view of other mountains appeared in the other direction. More trails branched off the further you went, but you could also explore off the trail whenever you felt like it. When we had only a short time left before we needed to leave, a couple of us decided to explore a small trail which went between two steep cliffs of rock. We climbed over rocks and ladders and were unable to see more than about twenty feet ahead of us at any one time because the trail would often disappear behind another outcropping of rock without warning. As we neared a point when we would need to head back in order to make it to the bus on time, we reached the end of the trail. It ended in a small copse of brilliantly green trees (the only ones we had seen on the trails) growing around a small pond which was very serene (and unexpected) in its isolated location.

Our next stop was Betws-y-Coed, which our guide told us was popular for its “horizontal waterfall.” The waterfall turned out to be a ripple where the water crossed some rocks, but the drive to the town was beautiful because we were on “the long and winding road” going through trees turning all sorts of colors for the fall. The town itself was also very nice and filled with outdoor gear stores and tourist souvenir shops. Even though it was chilly, I bought an ice cream in one of the countless ice cream stores because I have a personal belief that it is never too cold for ice cream. We were only in this town for about half an hour before we headed to our last stop of the day.

The final stop was at the Pontcysylite Canal Aqueduct. The portion where we stood on it carried a man-made canal over a natural river beneath it. The aqueduct was centuries old, but there are still flat barges available for rent on it. We were unable get a good view of the aqueduct from the side, but it was definitely a good height above the ground below it. From the middle of the aqueduct’s expanse over a valley, we were able to watch the beginning of sunset over the mountains covered with the multi-colored trees. It was a beautiful place, but we had to keep moving to get back to the university.

All in all, I had a great time on the trip through Wales, but I was exhausted at the end of the day and ready to fall into bed and sleep. The rest of the week since then has been busy between trying to start essays for my classes and plan for my trip this upcoming week. This week is personal development week, which means that I am not required to attend classes. Most of the students here use it as an opportunity to go home and relax for a week, but my roommate and I are travelling down to London for a couple of days and then to Paris for three days. This is my first time visiting either of these places, and I am very excited about what I will discover. We will also be staying in hostels, which will be a new experience for both of us. We will mostly be sticking to the main tourist sites, but between the two of us, we know people who have lived in both cities who we will be able to catch up with for at least a small amount of time. Every time I think about the trip, I get excited all over again because these are two of the cities I have wanted to visit for as long as I can remember.


First Week of Classes

This week was the first week of classes at the University of Chester. I have a different experience than most students here because I am enrolled in five different subject areas with Introduction to Archeology of the British Isles, Victorian Literature, Introduction to Biomechanics, Biological Psychology, and Introduction to Forensic Biology. Most students will take classes from one subject, and a few will take classes from two different areas, but none of the domestic students will take classes in so many subjects. I also differ from the other students because I will be taking classes in all three levels. In the United States, it is not unusual for a sophomore to take a class with seniors and juniors in it and then have a class with freshmen because there is more variability in the scheduling of the classes. At Chester there is more of a feeling of starting with the same people you will finish with because you have them exclusively in your classes.

Most of my classes this week simply involved a brief overview of the course handbook and a short introductory lecture. The only exception to that was my Victorian Literature class. It was my first class on Monday and it was a second-year class. The lecture had at least sixty people in it and the teacher just walked up to the front of the classroom and launched into an overview of social dynamics during the Victorian Era. I have the same professor for the lecture and seminar of the class and I really like her so far. I can definitely tell that she has a passion for literature and is patient with students. As I was sitting in the class, I was also really grateful for the British literature class that I took at my home university and my advanced placement language arts class in high school. As a result of those two classes, I have already read many of the books that I will be covering this semester, so I know what to expect from the class. I also feel more comfortable because even though it is not my major, I do have some previous knowledge about the class content.

My second class last week was Introduction to Archeology of the British Isles. As the professor was leading the class in a short group quiz to determine the previous knowledge of the class, I realized that I was sadly lacking in my knowledge of British history. When she asked a question about where Richard III died, and the other people in my group regarded that as an easy question, I knew that I needed to do a lot more reading. Consequently, I am reading A Short History of England by Simon Jenkins to get up to speed for the class. The book is especially interesting when it discusses the Revolutionary War (or American War of Independence) because it points out that the American Colonies were better treated than Ireland and that the Boston Tea Party (although the author did not call this incident by any name) was conducted by rivals of the East India Company, which was the only company to ship duty-free tea to the colonies. It was a little jarring to hear these details rather than the parts of the war which I was taught about, like Paul Revere’s midnight ride, the Boston Massacre, and that the Boston Tea Party was meant as a protest of the importation taxes.

The rest of my classes are linked closely to my major, and I am really excited for them. Based on the brief overview of forensic biology on Thursday, I think that I have covered a lot of the material in other biology classes, but I am excited to learn what might be taught differently because the professor said that America has different forensic science techniques than what they teach in England. My biological psychology class is through the psychology department and it is by far the largest class that I have ever taken. I am in a lecture hall with a stage for the lecturer, riser seating in the back, and folding chairs in the front. The professor said that there are 167 students in that class, and I do not know any of them. It is also my only class on the third-year level class.

The scheduling will be one of my biggest adjustments because I have every Wednesday off and every other Friday free. For example, I had biomechanics lecture and lab this week, but I will only take the biomechanics lab every other week. That is unusual for me because I am accustomed to having one or two labs per science class each week. When I am at my home institution, I am usually in class or working on campus between 8-5 Monday through Friday with an hour for lunch every day. Here, my most crowded day only involves a maximum of about four hours in class.

The trade-off for the scheduling is that I am expected to complete much more outside reading for each class. I will not be taking tests more than once in each class this semester, but I will have larger assessments than I would at home. I am a little nervous about the assessments because I will not have tests to use to get used to the layout. Instead, I basically get one chance in each class to complete the assessment to the satisfaction of the professor.

Overall, I had a good time in my classes last week, but I am definitely ready for the classes to get into more of the heart of the material.


Adjusting to the City

Today was a pretty relaxed day, but I did buy a new phone to use while I am in the UK. That involved walking the short distance into the city center to England’s version of Best Buy Mobile. It is fascinating to see the way the modern stores like the cell phone store fit themselves into buildings which date back to the 13th century (according to the city guide). On the outside of the buildings, you can tell that the buildings definitely have medieval influences, but the insides have been completely renovated so that there is no sign that these are not new structures. For example, I had my money changed over in a department store in one of the original buildings, but the travel section was housed behind the “electronicals” section. Because of the history contained in the city, it is a tourist attraction, complete with people who dress up as Roman soldiers.

I buy most of my groceries from Tesco. It is the closest store that the UK has to Walmart in America, but still not anywhere near the same thing. Tesco has Express storefronts which are a lot like well-stocked gas station convenience stores, but with shampoo and conditioner instead of ball caps with the company’s logo. The main location of Tesco has groceries and small meals available for a quick bite to eat, along with some miscellaneous household items. I was most surprised by the fact that eggs were stored on shelves and sold at room temperature (my roommate and I have discussed it every day since we discovered it). I have also noticed that the foods are not packaged to within an inch of our lives and the organic milk was actually cheaper than the regular milk when I went to the store. The healthier foods also generally seem to be more affordable than the sugary treats (which is something that would be great in America). I am also detecting slight differences in taste between items in the UK versus the US. Different flavors, like prawn cocktail potato chips and chewy candy filled with powder, are also offered here. On a side note, I also discovered that what I would call an English muffin is also called a crumpet, which is not what I expected when I read books which mentioned crumpets.

Since I have been here, I have met people from all over the world. Not only have I met a lot of international students from the United States, but also from Malaysia, Belgium, Spain, and Norway. I have also met two students from the Isle of Man, which is a part of Britain, but not the UK, so they are technically international students (according to one of them). I was very surprised to hear how many accents there are within the UK. I have been told that, in general, Americans can understand the southern accents more easily, but there have definitely been exceptions to that rule. For some people who have accents that are hard to understand, I have to watch them as they speak so I can try to figure it out. I also think that it is really funny when I hear two people from England teasing each other about their accents, partly because it makes me feel a little better that I have to ask some people to repeat everything multiple times. There is also apparently a debate over whether northern or southern England is better, which I have heard quite a bit about.

I have been stopped by several people when they hear me talk so that they can ask me about America. Yesterday, I was stopped while I was in the lunch line so that another student could ask me why I sounded American. When most people find out that I am from Missouri, they freeze with a smile because they have never heard about it or are busy trying to place it. While very few people here know exactly where Missouri is, it does seem like half the students I meet have visited New York, California, or Florida or want to visit one of them. My roommate’s orientation session was actually interrupted by the other students’ questions when they found out she is from the San Francisco area. Most people want to know what the biggest differences are between America and England, and what I think of England. Many of them also ask how I am handling the weather. So far, it is not that different than Missouri’s, although it does change more often.

Please enjoy the picture that I took on top of a portion of the original Roman walls around the city. There are businesses situated all along the original parts of the city, as you can see on the left.





Induction Week

Today was the last night of induction week here at the University of Chester (UoC). This week has been full of orientations and fairs to discover more about the university and the activities that take place here. I am still really enjoying it here and I have gotten more accustomed to the crosswalks beeping at me like I am shoplifting every time it is clear to cross the street. Last weekend was really busy between trying to settle in and figure out where the most important things were, but this week I really started to acclimatize to my new atmosphere.

On Monday, we had a welcome talk for study abroad students which really helped me get my feet under me. It was taught by the international personal academic tutor. She discussed the structure of the courses that we will be taking and paid special attention to the differences between the U.S. and the U.K. While at home, I have several assignments and tests in all of my classes (in some classes that means more than one test a week); here I will only be receiving one assessment–an essay of 2000 words or an assignment that has been deemed equivalent. For example, in my Victorian Literature class, the assignment will probably entail an essay, while my Introduction to Forensic Biology class might lean more toward a practical. Because I will only be here a semester, I will only be taking half of each of the yearlong modules (classes). I am also different because I am taking five classes in five different departments.  The typical student at the UoC will take five or six modules each year in a maximum of two subject areas. By structuring the university this way, students here typically graduate within three years. When I talk to the domestic students here, I receive almost universal looks of shock from them after I say that I am studying so many different areas. Because they do not have the same general education requirements that we do, many of the students will not take any classes outside of their area of emphasis.

Tuesday was the first day that we met with our academic departments. I attended the Sport and Exercise Science department’s orientation that day. They talked quite a bit about how important it is to attend your classes. The university is starting a new policy of taking attendance electronically through the university’s application on smart phones by tracking the students’ location when they check in for class. At the end of the class period, the professor will also mark absent the students who checked in and then left early. If a student does not attend a class, the app will automatically ask for an explanation of the student’s absence. If the student misses multiple class periods, the app will email the student and teacher to notify both of the continued absence so that the professor can get in touch with the student to request an explanation. That is different than in most American classes, because while most professors prefer that you email them if you have a legitimate excuse to miss class (especially if it is an extended absence), they do not typically take it upon themselves to seek you out for explanations.

One of the hardest things for me to understand was when they explained the attendance policy, but continually referred to the person in charge of the classroom as the tutor. In America, tutors are typically other students who have already taken the class and agree to help others with that subject outside of class, but that did not seem to be the context in which they were using the word. When I went up to ask questions after the main speech, the program leader explained that the hierarchy in the academic community here is different than in America. When I attend my home university, I call all of my professors “Dr. Soandso” or “Professor Suchandsuch” regardless of whether they are tenured, emeritus, or on semester contracts. Here, the department directors and deputy directors are the only ones who are typically referred to with that amount of deference, and most of the other professors are more informal in their address. In fact, the program leader told all of us to only refer to him by his first name or a specific nickname derived from his last name, not as mister or doctor anything. During our international welcome talk, our tutor said that most of the professors will tell us the same thing.

Between the two of my departmental talks, I learned quite a bit about how to find different resources on campus. I also learned that the library just completed a renovation which doubled the size inside. When I went into the library today to print off a piece of paper, I discovered that I even need to tap my student identification card on the printer to complete the print order. On the wall to the left of the main entrance, there is a series of small vaults which house laptops available for rent. There is also a coffee shop in the bottom floor of the library. I know that I will have no shortage looking for resources to help me complete my assignments.

I have not been very active in the evenings because most of the nocturnal activities this week center around going out to pubs and clubs for nights out, but my roommate and I did go to a pub for supper one night. I had a cheesy potato pie which was really good. (I am quickly discovering that I enjoy savory pies here in general, which bodes well for this semester.) I did attend the Christian Union meeting on Tuesday evening and had a really fun time meeting and worshiping with people. That is the one place where I have met domestic students from the UoC who are not freshman, and I have also met a lot of people who are not in my major. In fact, tonight I plan to out with them to give warm drinks to people coming back from their night out.

One of the biggest things that I am discovering is how many pop culture references people use in everyday conversation. When I am at home, I can follow the conversations pretty well when pop culture is referenced, but I am discovering just how much the U.K. has maintained its own culture. For instance, during the Sports and Exercise Science meeting, they had a fun quiz about different professional sports. I enjoy watching athletics of almost all kinds, but I mostly follow college football and professional hockey. When they were asking questions, it tended to revolve around rugby and soccer leagues in Europe, so I was not able to follow along as well as I might have liked. Despite the different emphasis in sports, many students here are excited because the university recently started an American Football team. It is interesting to hear them talking about because it is something that I have grown up with, and they are explaining it to other students in reference to rugby, much like we would explain rugby using football as a point of reference. I do like hearing about the different sports because I like watching and learning about competitions of almost any kind. Mostly, I really appreciate the fact that the people I meet are willing to answer my questions about the different references so I can learn more about this great country I am visiting.

I am going to sign off on this blog post because it is getting a little long and I still have a lot I want to tell you about. I hope to post another article tomorrow to talk more about the people I have met and the city of Chester. In the meantime, please enjoy the picture I took of my view from the outdoor seating area of a restaurant in the city center.



First Full Day in the City

Well, I am in England! I arrived in Chester yesterday at around noon. My flight arrived in Manchester around 11:00 A.M. here, but what was about 5 A.M. to my body. I started out Friday by driving to Springfield to catch a flight to Chicago. That was my first flight that I can remember, and it was the least enjoyable of the two. The plane sounded like my ’95 Toyota when I go highway speeds, which is not comforting when I am a couple thousand feet up in the air. It was also a lot smaller than I expected. I have only seen planes on TV shows, and they show really roomy planes with about nine rows. This plane only had a ceiling a little taller than I am, and it had one row of seats by the window which was divided from the other two rows by the aisle. I was seated in row 13, which was toward the back of the airplane. The international flight was more like what I expected an airplane to look like. I was in row 40 this time with probably five more rows until the back. I was also seated in the middle section of seats (three across) which was divided from the sides (which had two seats on each side) by the aisles. That flight was much more comfortable, but it also helped that I had an idea of what to expect.

The people I met when I was en route to England were really nice. One guy sat next to me at O’Hare when we were waiting for the flight and talked to me for a while. I was really happy to have someone to talk to because I had a four hour layover and didn’t really talk to many people.That was the first time that I had an issue with understanding people’s accents, because I thought that he was saying “island” instead of “Ireland” so when he told me that I needed to see it, I kept asking what was on the island. I figured it out after the third time he said it, but it was not my brightest moment.  He was from Manchester and it seems like he has travelled around the United States about as much as I have. When he heard that my flight was to Manchester, he started warning me that there are a couple of areas that I am going to want to stay away from, but when I said that I was staying in Chester, he reassured me that it is a nice area. The exact same thing happened when I was talking to the woman sitting next to me on the plane. All of the people I have met in England are also really friendly and willing to answer my questions.

Yesterday after arrival, local student guides showed us to our housing and we were able to unpack and rest before eating pizza with the other international students. I share a bedroom and bathroom with a student from South San Francisco and we share a kitchen area with about ten students. We were originally supposed to have private bedrooms, but the guide who showed us to our room said that they doubled us up because we are Americans. Our RA introduced herself to us the first night, and she called herself our Hall Warden. She said that was what they were called last year, but this year they are called Assistant Residence Tutors because it sounds nicer. The main difference between the RA and the ART is that our RA’s have much more authority in the U.S. At my home university, the RA can write you up and give you a fine if you have a serious infraction, but the ART said that she can only ask people to be quiet because the porters (security) are the only ones with the authority to ask you to quiet down.

Today my roommate and I went to the City Center to do some shopping for essentials and a little bit of sightseeing and then went on a walking city tour and ate fish and chips with the Christian Union. The city is really pretty and has a lot of history. Chester still has walls in place that were built by the Romans hundreds of years ago. As a result of the age of the city, the businesses have built up instead of out and the streets are narrower. I did not get to see a whole lot of the city, but I have mostly figured out the main streets I need to go different places. The biggest thing that has surprised me is just the small things that I have never really heard about. I knew that the traffic drives on the left hand side of the street, so even though I still need to get used to it, I was forewarned going in. What surprised me the most are the radiators in the dorm room and the sinks in the academic building. In my house and dorm room at home, I can just adjust the temperature on the thermostat and wait for the heating or air conditioning to kick in. Here I didn’t know that we even had control of the temperature until my ART explained how to work it to me. The sink in our bathroom is what I am used to, but in the academic building where we had pizza yesterday, there were separate taps for hot and cold water and a rubber plug for the drain to mix them together. One thing that I was pleasantly surprised at was how quickly the chip readers for credit and debit cards work because it takes a third of the time that the transactions in American stores do. I also like how close everything is to the university because it makes it a lot easier for me to walk to the store or do different activities without having to arrange transportation.

I am going to wrap it up for now because it is getting late, but I will update this blog regularly with what I am doing.



Looking Ahead

Dear Reader,

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I hope that you will enjoy going on this journey with me. I am planning to study for a semester in England this fall. I will be the only person from my home university at the university where I will be studying this semester, so this is my way of keeping all of you informed about what I am doing. While I still have a long to-do list before I leave, I have already booked my airplane tickets, confirmed my accommodation, and been in contact with my host university’s study abroad office. Last night, I even explored my new neighborhood on Google Earth’s Street View to see if I could identify the building where I will be staying. My next order of business is to work on my class scheduling.

As I sit here writing my first blog post, I have a jumble of half-processed thoughts floating through the back of my mind. Most of them include last minute preparations for my upcoming trip to England. I have about 38 mental packing lists that never stick around long enough to have more than four items on them, there are the barely-remembered dreams that never seem to end up with a smooth arrival to my host university because of my oversights when travelling, and a to-do list that only seems to grow with each minute (here’s looking at you, designated folder in my email).

Often, when people talk with me about my exchange, they operate under the assumption that I have travelled extensively before. I have gone on several trips, but I have not had the experiences that most people assume are prerequisites for travelling for almost three months alone. I have flown on airplanes before, but I was too young to remember anything about the trip other than that I hated going through the metal detectors. I have also been out of the country before, but only to Canada when I was two years old. Needless to say, I remember nothing from trips when I was that young, so in my mind they do not really count. This trip will be a series of firsts for me: first time travelling alone, first time that I will remember flying with any degree of accuracy, first time out of North America, and a whole host of others.

Since starting college, I have been blessed to experience a lot of great adventures within the United States, and I look forward to what I will discover in a different culture. Please keep reading, as I will update this blog regularly.