Friday, September 18, 2015

Everything is falling into place!  I have moved into (and organized/decorated) my “permanent” room.  I know what classes I am taking this semester.  I have my “Freshers” wristband and am ready to party (or maybe more accurately stated, watch others party).  And, most importantly, I have made lots of friends!
            Going to a foreign country is both exhilarating and terrifying.  But, an all-new experience is made entirely less frightening with good friends.  There are so many people on campus!  It is a much bigger University that NWOSU.  Of course, many students are native to the UK, but many are International Students, like me.
            I have never been an International Student before.  Others have always been the ones to have accents.  My vocabulary has always been standard.  But here, I am experiencing an entirely different culture.  It amazes me how many people there are in the world!  Just today, I met someone from Turkey, someone from France, someone from England, someone from Finland, and someone from Canada.  Each of these people has had separate unique lives, have families, strengths and weaknesses, pains and joys.  I suppose the word I am looking for is “sonder”.  I am currently filled with a great sense of sonder.  I have never considered myself an overly self-centered person, but I also don’t necessarily often think outside the borders of my friends, town, state, or even country. 
            I don’t know that this seeming preoccupation with one’s own area is wrong, and is in fact probably very good as that selfsame preoccupation is what allows one to form bonds.  But focusing only on what is visible either in front of you or on the news truly limits the world, or at least one’s perception of it.
            I am not saying I have a solution for this.  I don’t.  I could study a hundred years in every university on earth and still not fully grasp the different cultures and peoples represented in them, but I want to understand.  I want to experience life and all that it has to offer.  I want to look back at this time and say with confidence that I “didn’t waste a minute.”  This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I intend to take advantage of every minute of it. 

            Just some end of the week thoughts.  God bless, and have a good night!

My room!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Hello all!
     Sorry it has been so long, but these past two weeks have been hectic!  First things first, a list.
Things I have learned places other than America often don’t have:
            Drinking fountains
            Well-labeled Buildings
            Obviously placed Street Signs
            Free shopping carts at super markets
            Disposable bags at super markets
            Air Conditioning
            A combined hot AND cold-water tap (they have them separated)
            Free Wi-Fi
     It is because of this last note that it has taken me so long to write.  But in truth, I have been very busy so finding time to write would have been hard even with internet access.  These past two weeks have been some of the most fun, interesting, educational, and exhausting weeks of my life!
     After a slight hiccup in our travel plans (and many hours on various planes), my mother and I flew into London.  Once we arrived there, we made our way through broken down trains and far away buses to Stratford upon Avon.  Upon arriving in Stratford, I realized many of my expectations were wrong.  Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Colonial Williamsburg.  It was small, quaint, touristy, and a replica of what Colonial Williamsburg most likely looked like.  This was what I was expecting in Stratford (that is a little town dedicated entirely to Shakespeare), but not so.  Stratford upon Avon is a real town, with stores, hotels, pubs, shops, and more!  It is a small town (so I am told), but a real town nonetheless.  Despite my surprise at the makeup of the town, I found it to be pleasant.  My mom and I visited Shakespeare’s birthplace and his place of burial (Holy Trinity Church).  We walked along the river, and took many pictures!  We even had Shakespearean actors perform parts for us!  We heard Emilia’s speech to Desdemona about a woman’s role (from Othello) and heard the opening lines of King Richard III.  It was wonderful!
     After Stratford, we went to Oxford.  I had been told that the University was not a central campus, but rather scattered, what I had not been prepared for was the sheer size.  It seemed that everywhere you looked there was another building that was related to the campus!  Each of the buildings was beautifully and artfully decorated (or carved).  The architecture of the town was wonderful!  It seemed as if every corner and surface had been given great attention and care.
      My second favorite part of Oxford was our tour of the Bodleian Library.  They had books on the shelves that were from the 1600’s!!!!!  They weren’t behind protective glass or anything like that (although we were assured that an alarm would go off if we pulled one from the shelves).  We ended the tour by going into the Radcliffe Camera.  Our guide told us that the Camera wasn’t normally a part of the tour, but that the usual tour route was being used, so we were given a special opportunity.  And what a beautiful opportunity it was! 
      However much I enjoyed the tour, my favorite part of Oxford was the library across the street from the Bodleian, the Weston Library.  In the Weston Library was a special collection, included in which was a First Folio (the second I saw as Shakespeare’s birth place had one too), fragments of Jane Austen’s orginal draft of The Watsons, a fabulously illustrated version of The Canteburry Tales, and a 14th Century version of The Divine Comedy (along with MANY other important works/images)!!!  It was so wonderful to stand among such amazing works of literature, but to realize the history and the amount of time represented in each was truly over whelming.
     After Oxford, we went back to London, to prepare for leaving for Paris early the next day.  Paris was wonderful.  It also featured beautiful works of architecture, including the Eiffel Tower, which we climbed!!!  It was very long climb, made of almost 700 stairs, but it was worth it.  By the time we reached the VERY top, it was a full moon lit night, and the twinkling Tower provided a gorgeous view of Paris below. 
     We also visited the Louvre.  We did a very quick (1.5 hour) tour, and saw the “highlights”, the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and the Nike of Samothrace.  We passed by so many other fantastic works of art (although we did take time out to visit the very small Impressionistic Gallery as that was my main wish).  I had heard people say that you need at least a week to properly see the Louvre, but I am not sure if that would be enough time to fully appreciate and learn about the art. 
            After the Louvre we had a wonderful meal and boarded the train back to England.  On our way back, before we entered the Chunnel, we were stopped as someone had spotted “possible migrants” in the tunnel.  The migrant crisis is unbelievable here.  It is on every news station and the front page of every paper.  It is so odd to think that as an American, I would be hearing some of this and would be seeing some of the headlines, but nowhere to this extant.  I am learning that part of experiencing a different culture means embracing their habits and food as well as their pain and crises. 
     Once we made it to London, we did a bus tour and learned how to make the treats for and host a proper tea!  We also got a chance to ride the London Eye, and, my personal favorite, visited The Globe and saw As You Like It!!!!!!  It was fantastic!  We did opt for the seats where you sit, which was nice as it began to rain on the standing people 5 minutes in.  But the (initially a) downside of the seats was that only part of the stage was visible.  After I got used to it however, I began to more fully appreciate the power of the play.  It was originailly designed to be heard rather than seen, and I found that looking at the stage (and the people in front of it) was sometimes more distracting and less enjoyable than simply listening.  Now, I am not saying I am ready to give up my visual forms of entertainment, but the experience of simply listening to a performance was amazingly refreshing and powerful.
     After London, we made our way to Wales.  We had a lovely sunrise breakfast on the beach, and fed lots of sea gulls before heading off to the Campus.  As I write this LONG overdue post, I am sitting in my dorm room (for the next week and a half until I move again).  Today was the first day of our pre-sessional course which is basically a crash course in all things British which is designed to help us be better acclimated to the area when real classes start.  We visited two beautiful places today, and I had the opportunity to walk along the beach with several new friends.  Swansea is very different from my NWOSU home, but I think it will still be a wonderful (if temporary) home. 
     I had best be signing off, I have several things to do to prepare for tomorrow, but I am sure I will be updating you soon!  Thanks to a fantastic IT person I now have Wi-Fi on my computer as well as my phone, and should (fingers-crossed) for the rest of my time at Swansea.  I will update you soon, but until then, here are some pictures of Bill and I’s adventures so far!


The center of Stratford upon Avon

Big Bill enjoying his first "pub meal"

Dante's Divine Comdey

Bill was not impressed with the advertising 

Shakespeare's birth place

Actors who performed for us.  :)

Holy Trinity Church

Inside the Bodleian 

Radcliffe's Camera

Wheel that pulls the elevator's in the tower up

Little Bill enjoyed his Fancy French food!

At the globe!!!

The London Eye

Big Ben!! (Or at least the tower that houses Big Ben)

Scary but fun ride next to the London Eye

Back at the Globe!!!

Tower of London

Tower Bridge

Me and a "Beef Eater"

Our tea teacher, Miss Caroline

Stone Henge!

Welsh Sunrise

My (temporary) dorm.

I may currently be at Swansea, but I will always be a Ranger at Heart!  #RideRangersRide

P.S.  Many, many thanks to my mom, the photographer for the trip up until this point, the pictures are beautiful and I have loved experiencing this with you!  Love, BBK