Archive | August, 2013

Is my American showing??

31 Aug

Today is my third day in Harlaxton and I still wake up with that crazy feeling in my stomach like I’m not sure what to expect, but I’m excited about it. I couldn’t sleep at all last night as my body is still adjusting to the time change. I was wide awake until three am here, which is really frustrating when you know you have to be up early in the morning.

This morning after breakfast we took a shuttle bus to Grantham, the town nearest harlaxton. I was surprisingly nervous about this. Unlike the faculty at Harlaxton these townspeople weren’t going to ease us into British life. They wouldn’t be as accommodating to our cultural change. But once we got into town I was immediately fascinated with the scenery. The streets are tiny and narrow, some paved and some made of stone. There are tons of little shops lining the streets, with everything from food shops to pet shops. Lots of people were walking up and down the streets, making it a little overwhelming.

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I wasn’t sure where to go but quickly me and my friends decided to go inside the first shop we found. Poundland, an equivalent to our dollar stores in the states was awesome. They had a big variety of stuff and 90% of it was in brands I was completely unfamiliar with. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to shop when you don’t know anything about the brands or what it is like. It’s kind of like a huge trial and error with everything.

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After Poundland we headed down the streets stopping in cute secondhand stores, charity shops, and drug stores. I felt very American in every store, not sure where to go, what to get, or how to pay. I felt really uncomfortable paying at the registers, not sure what to give them and how to use the currency. There was also an outside market down the main streets with spices, meats, flowers, and fresh fruit and vegetables. It was so fun looking at everything and seeing how people sell things on the streets like that. I wish downtowns in the States were like this. Ours just aren’t as magical and enchanting as they are here.

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Interested in the young adult fashion we stopped into a shop called Internationale. It was a lot like a Forever 21 or like a Wet Seal. I loved everything!! British fashion tends to be a bit more sophisticated and conservative than in the States but still just as trendy. It is also much more classic and old fashioned base. I am in love! In the shoe section of the store we found these amazing hi-top sneakers that were patterned like the American flag. It was so cool to see that they wear stuff based on us. Of course I had to take a picture. I’m such a tourist.

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Being in town was definitely a culture shock in some ways trying to figure out how to shop without looking like a total rookie, but eventually I realized something pretty important I think. I am American and regardless of how hard I try people here will spot that from a mile away. So I’m gonna take advantage of it, taking as many pictures as I can and walking around with that goofy smile and fascinated look on my face. I’m fine with that!

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What I miss the most:
1. Being able to make a simple phone call. I really want to call my mom and friends whenever I want without having to make plans and trying to figure out Skype and facetime. Being able to call my friends here with me to schedule meet up times would be great too!
2. Being able to eat or drink when I want. Having a cafeteria like meal place that only serves three specific times a day is a little strange. I miss being able to go grab food or anything when I want.

British Lesson for the Day:
I don’t think the British like making eye contact. It seems to make them uncomfortable. So don’t look too hard.

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It was Love at First Sight

30 Aug

When I signed up to do study abroad all I could think about was seeing amazing places, what a rush it would be to travel the world. I was only filled with excitement, enthusiasm, and big plans. When the day finally arrived that I would be getting on a plane to fly to Harlaxton College in the United Kingdom I suddenly realized something… I would be traveling to another continent!! I had no idea how to use British pounds, public transportation systems, communicate effectively with people from another culture, and a whole lot of other things. Suddenly sitting in the O’Hare airport I started wondering what in the world I had signed up for. I could not be ready for this. But like it or not, I had to get on that plane.

And trust me, I didn’t like it. I hate flying and get severe motion sickness. It was eight hours of nauseous feelings, dizziness, misery, and crying. Luckily the flight attendants were all incredibly nice and helpful. Somehow I made it over the ocean to England where I had another task ahead of making it through customs and lots of other scary places. The airport was a little overwhelming with people of all cultures and languages swirling around me but somehow I made it to the right place and waited in a long line to cross the UK border. The customs people are definitely not the friendliest people in the world but if you just answer them directly they don’t give you too many problems.

Finally I found my group of fellow Harlaxton students and sat with them, hoping my sickness would go away soon so I could get equally as excited as the people around me. Shortly afterwards we all got on a huge coach bus to make our three hour trek from the airport to the college where we would be living. It was so funny on the drive up seeing the cars and driving on a different side of the road. Other than that, everything on the drive to the college mostly looked the same as in America. Same interstates, same crazy driving, and all. But as we approached Grantham, England where the college is located I started to really feel like I was in a new world. Houses are so much more quaint and old fashioned. The roads are tiny and skinny, weaving every which way. The shops in town are all small and look like they came straight out of a movie.

Then as we turned the corner to head up to the manor I saw Harlaxton for the first time. It was definitely love at first sight. This place is amazing beyond words. It literally almost took my breath away. The castle is huge and masterfully built. It is perfect in almost every way. It is beautiful. I looked at this place thinking this is my home for the next fourteen weeks. Part of me was so excited I couldn’t stand it. Another part of me that is a little more embarrassing was so terrified and ready to jump in a car home. I’m from the Midwest from a close family that I don’t leave very often. This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life. And I was scared to death. But looking at the castle made me feel safe and welcome in a way.

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I walked in welcomed by teachers and faculty. They were all so welcoming and friendly. I couldn’t help but be fascinated by their outfits, accents, and just everything about them. I’m such an American but I felt like I was literally in a Harry potter movie. That’s the only thing that kind of compares to this. It truly is magical here.

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Orientation has been welcoming and informational the past two days but honestly I’m just ready to jump into my everyday life here. The best part by far has been simply exploring the manor inside and out. It is the most amazing place I’ve ever seen. I am so enchanted by this place and can’t wait to see what it has in store for me.

*My British Studies Classroom*
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*This place has the best ceilings*
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*The carriage house where I live*
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What I miss the most:
1. My family and boyfriend. Being homesick sucks and I miss them like crazy.
2. Ice. I never appreciated it before but cold drinks rock. Not a fan of the no ice here.

British Lesson for the Day:
Peckish = Hungry. Doesn’t that sound so much better than “I’m starving.”