Friday, April 27, 2012

Spring Break Adventures!

Hello again! Other than travels over spring break, which I will discuss shortly, not much has happened since my last blog post over here on the other side of the pond. Rugby season has ended for me so I have been spending the rest of my time focusing on my studies. One day, though, I did go up to London for an interview with a PR firm and met up with my friends Marnie and Michelle for some drinks and dinner at a pub with Michelle's aunt! It was a lot of fun and nice to catch up with them and see them again.

Me with a Gibraltar monkey!
Now on to the good stuff. In England, spring break is known as Easter Break and is normally about a month long. Here at UEA it lasted for three weeks, giving me plenty of time to do some traveling. The first week I went on a class field trip to Gibraltar, a territory of England at the southern most point of Spain, and Ronda, Spain. Much to my delight it was quite a fun trip! In Gibraltar we had an academic day where people who worked at the museum gave us an overview about the culture of Gibraltar and its history, which was very interesting. We also took a trip up the infamous Gibraltar rock to see some of the tailless monkeys and to go inside St. Michael's Cave, a cave that was turned into an auditorium, and into the Siege Tunnels that were used during World War II. We also went down to Europa point, a point at Gibraltar where you can see both the Africa and Spain. It was hard to see when we went because it was very foggy and rainy, but nonetheless it was still cool. That night our professor took us all out for dinner (on Dickinson) to a buffet style Brazilian restaurant. The food was absolutely delicious! Afterwards we all went to a pub and met some locals, one of which plays for the Gibraltar rugby team. Just goes to show rugby follows me everywhere!

After going to Gibraltar, we went down to Ronda for a night. Ronda is absolutely beautiful: it has so many mountains and hills, not to mention the town is aesthetically pleasing in general with all of its white houses! That night we went to a Church to watch a Holy Week processional, where people where capes a and pointed masks to hide their identity and process throughout town with items and floats symbolizing Jesus and the hardships he faced. It was very spiritual and fascinating to watch.

After returning from Gibraltar and Ronda, I met up with my friend on the rugby team Katie and went to Paris for the weekend! We were only there for about two days in total, but still got a lot done. We saw all of the sites: the Moulin Rouge, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Louvre (and Mona Lisa, of course!),  Sacre Coeur, and Notre Dame, among others. We were there for Easter weekend and had the privilege of attending mass at Notre Dame on Easter morning. It was quite an experience, despite the fact the entire service was in French and neither of us speak a word of that language. Also in Paris we met up with my friend Nick from Dickinson who is studying there for the semester. He took us around for a bit before bringing us to the Seine River to hang out with his friends. It was a very fun evening and we got to wave at and have our picture taken by the tourists on the river cruises. The hostel we had in Paris was awesome as well, as it was more like living in a home than a hostel. We had two Chinese women, who are teaching Mandarin in England for the year at different locations, in our room and they were very nice to talk to. It was interesting hearing their perspective on England and the places they have traveled to. The hostel also provided us home cooked meals at Breakfast and Dinner, which were very delicious! Breakfast was a standard spread of bread, butter, jam, eggs, and fruit, but dinner was a different Korean meal each night. In the kitchen, everyone who was eating sat around a dinner table and ate together. This way, we got to get to know people who were living in the hostel. We met people from all around the world who were all in Paris for different reasons. It was surreal how many people of different races, nationalities, and ethnicities were all sitting at this table.

The team on the last day of Tour
After Paris, I went back to Norwich before heading off to Salou, Spain for tour! Tour is basically when sports teams from different universities across the UK go to a set location (Salou, in our case) and play their sport as well as go out at night. Obviously, I went with the women's rugby team. This week ended up being one of the best of my life! We did not play "proper" rugby, mostly playing friendly games of touch with other teams, but it was still fun. Every night we went out we dressed in fancy dress, as did the people from all of the teams, and we went out on the town. It was really fun because club entry was free so we could club hop as we chose and got to meet a lot of people from around the UK. It is definitely a week I will never forget!

Blurry, but Josh, Lottie, and I in Essex
Once I returned from Salou, I relaxed for a few days before taking a trip down to Southend in Essex to visit my friend Lottie on the team for the night. When I arrived she showed me around the town and brought me to the beach, where there is a GIANT amusement park, which she works at over the summer. Her parents cooked us a delicious meal for dinner when we got back to the house: roast chicken, cheese and onion quiche, roasted potatoes with garlic butter, bread and butter, salad, and rice pilaf, along with an ice cream bar for dessert. It all tasted amazing and it was very refreshing to have a proper home cooked meal, something I had not had the luxury of enjoying for awhile. That night we met up with our friend Nicky on the team at a local pub to catch up before going to a club with Lottie's friend Josh. The night was very fun overall, and I ended up meeting and making friends from UEA!

My trip to Essex was the last of my spring break adventures, and as you can see I was a very busy bee! Now I am beginning to prep for final exams, which start for me next Friday. I am very nervous about them because they count for 50% of my final grade, but hopefully with lots of preparation I will do well.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

To Be, or Not To Be?

Anne Hathaway's cottage
Two weekends ago I took a trip to Stratford Upon Avon with the Dickinson humanities crew to see a production of Taming of the Shrew and to see places relating to Shakespeare. Though I was unfortunately ill due to food I ate at the hostel, it was still an interesting trip. We paid a visit to Shakespeare's birthplace, his home when he was older, and to Anne Hathaway's Cottage. I was very surprised that all of this buildings have been preserved in such good condition and that they are still standing today. Who would have thought they would be able to withstand all of England's fires!! After spending the day doing this, we finished the evening off by seeing Taming of the Shrew. I was unfamiliar with the play, but found the production, which was a play within a play, to be very entertaining.

Lizzie and I posing with a jester statue

In two days my friend Marnie is going to be visiting me from London and I cannot wait!!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

There Are NO Kangaroos in Austria

View of the Alps
The last weekend of my winter vacation I went to visit a friend who is teaching English in Salzburg, Austria. When I first came abroad, I must admit, Austria was not one of the places I really wanted to visit, but I figured because I had a friend living there, I might as well take advantage of a free place to stay and a free, fluent German speaking tour guide. After all, if I didn't go now, when would I ever take a casual trip to Austria?

I was not sure what to expect at first, as all I knew about Salzburg is part of The Sound of Music was filmed there, but it turned it to be a beautiful city, with its glorious view of the Swiss Alps, and has a lot to offer. My first day in Salzburg my friend had to work, so while she was working I spent the day wandering the city. I went and saw Mozart's birth house and the house he lived in when he was older, the Hohensalzburg Castle, and decided to splurge and do a little shopping in the old village at an Austrian H&M (where I found some nice jewelry, I might add!). I was tempted to do the Sound of Music bus tour, which takes you to all of the places the movie was filmed, but did not have enough time and did not want to spend the 40 euro on it either.

Mozart's birth house
That night, I went with my friend and some of her English and Irish friends to Vienna for an evening which surprisingly only cost about 46 euros roundtrip via train. I don't know what it was, but something struck me about that city; I absolutely loved it! You could also purchase a 24 hour or 48 hour underground pass for a small fee, which made it cheap and easy to get around the city. The night we arrived we went out to a really awesome club called Flex which was underground and was designed to be like a cave. It was not overly packed, was relatively cool, and played indie music, which was a nice change to all of the dubstep and drum and bass that are usually played at clubs. It was tons of fun!

Schobrunn Palace
The next day while most of the crew spent their time recuperating, two friends and myself wandered the city, however we were not really sure what most of the sites we were seeing were called; we just knew they were aesthetically pleasing and looked important. We did see the UN building, though, and once everyone else had recovered, we went to the Schobrunn Palace and continued to walk around the city up until we had to leave for our train.

Overall I'd say I had a very fun and successful trip. The only downside to Austria, in my opinion, is that there are few places to take out food, so one must go to a sit down restaurant if they want to eat out. Normally this would be okay, except the food was on the slightly more expensive side and service was very slow. If anyone was looking to go to Austria, I highly recommend you go with someone who knows the German language relatively well, as there are few signs in English and, though most people spoke English, they seemed to look down upon those who spoke English as their first language.

Now, however, vacation is over and I have completed two weeks of classes already. Boy how time flys! We won our second rugby match this past Wednesday against a team that SLAUGHTERED us last semester. This time we beat them 60 to 5 and I made two tackles by myself! It was a proud moment for all of us and we hope to keep up our winning streak.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

An Irish New Year

So, instead of spending another New Years Eve at a friend's house or apartment, a few American friends and I decided it was time for something different. That being said, we decided to spend this New Years Eve in Dublin, Ireland, and it has been one of the best New Years' yet!

Temple Bar Area
All of us were coming from different places, as my other three friends were traveling, so we all came separately and met up in Dublin. In order to save money, as the price for a flight home on New Years Day was simply outrageous, I opted to take the train and ferry to and from Dublin, which took about 16 hours each way. Unfortunately the actual time it took to travel to Ireland was six hours, so I spent the other 10 hours waiting around at train stations in between trains and ferries. It was not fun, but I made it through.

The Spire

Dublin is a small, but really awesome city. The first night there my friends and I went out to a traditional Irish pub in an area called Temple Bar which, to my surprise, was actually quite different from English pubs: the crowd was a lot older and there was live Irish music performed there and in most other pubs around. I felt like I was in the film P.S. I Love You. On New Years Eve day we walked around to all the sites: we saw the lovely Trinity College, Christ Church, the Dublin Castle, the Molly Malone statue (as my Grandpa suggested), the Spire, the tallest monument in Dublin, and paid a visit to St. Stephen's Green, which is equivalent to Central Park in New York City. I was surprised at how tiny the Castle was, but I may have thought this because the only free area of the Castle we could see was a small church located inside. I was also surprised at how small Christ Church was in comparison to all of the famous churches in London, as they were a lot larger and more extravagant. Though I enjoyed seeing all of the sites,  I am not going to lie, my favorite part of the day was visiting a milkshake bar named Shakes. It had a vast amount of topping options, including, but not limited to, Nutella, Kinder Bueno Bars, and Digestive Cookies. If there was a place on Earth that could be Heaven, this would be it!

View from the Guinness Factory
That night, in order to ring in the New Year right, we went to an outdoor concert in the center of town that was only 10 euro, followed by going to an Irish pub. It was a lot of fun and I am glad I spent my New Year this way. The next day all but one of my friends left and we spent the day wandering the city and at the Guinness Factory. The Guinness Factory, in my opinion, was a lot more interesting and aesthetically pleasing than the Carlsberg Factory in Copenhagen: it was larger, more modern, and had more interesting displays. Just like at the Carlsberg Factory, my friend and I got a free pint and got to sip on it inside their bar which was on the top floor, giving us a beautiful view of the city. That night I left Dublin and made my long journey back to Norwich.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

In Search of a Pot of Gold!

Christmas has come and passed and luckily for me I did not have to spend the day alone thanks to the hospitality of my professor and his family! A fellow student and I went to his house and had a delicious meal of duck and pheasant, followed by traditional Christmas pudding and Christmas cookies. It was definitely different from the usual Thanksgiving-esque meal we have in the Davis household but was still delicious nonetheless! It was also nice to converse with my professors two children and their friend, all of which are around my age.

Now that the holiday is over, it is time to move on to New Years celebrations! I just finished packing my bag for a trip to Dublin I am taking tomorrow night with a few of my American friends to ring in the new year. I am SO excited I cannot put it into words. The only downside of this trip is, in order to save about 150 quid, I chose to take a 15 hour train ride there and back, and, because all of us will be coming to Dublin from different places, I will be taking the train alone. I am not too down about this though, as I am planning on spending my time listening to music and writing in my Beatles notebook I bought especially for this trip (very cliche, I know). We do not have finalized plans for this trip yet, other than paying a visit to the statue of Molly Malone (or "the tart with the cart" as my grandpa says) and to the Guinness factory, of course! We are planning to go with the flow and see where our adventures take us.

Talk to you all in 2012; HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Have A Holly, Jolly Christmas!

WOW I cannot believe it has almost been a month since my last post! I guess you never really realize how busy you are until the time passes!

At Constable Country

So much has happened this past month! My program took a field trip to Constable Country to see the areas Constable painted in his artwork. It was very interesting to see, as many of the locations Constable painted looked exactly the same today. I also got injured playing rugby, which I shouldn't be surprised about considering I am constantly getting injured, so I could not play for our last two games. We did win our first game, however, against Leicester! Even though I wasn't playing, I could still feel the same joy and excitement on the sidelines as the players on the field.

The team at our meal!
To top off winning our first match, the rugby team all went out for a Christmas meal together. Though it was pricey, all the food was delicious! We went to a restaurant called The Library in town and had a three course meal, which we picked from a preset menu. I know you must be DYING to to know what I ate so I will tell you; for a starter I had goat cheese and red pepper bruschetta, for my main I had turkey with stuffing and roast potatoes and other vegetables provided, and for dessert I had creme brulee (along with a taste of everyone else's, of course!) Though at first I was disappointed with how small the portions were considering I paid almost 30 pounds for my meal, the portions proved to be the perfect size as I was completely stuffed before I even reached dessert!

At our holiday party
In addition to the rugby Christmas meal, my professor and his wife hosted a holiday meal for everyone in our program as well. Just like on Thanksgiving, the food was absolutely delicious. Everyone also brought a gift and we had a mini gift exchange. Everyone drew a number. The person who drew number one picked any gift they wanted and opened it for everyone to see. After that, in numerical order, each person picked a gift. However, before they picked a gift, they could choose to "steal" someone else who had already opened their present's gift, causing them to have to either choose a new gift or steal a gift as well. It was a very interesting, yet fun game. Not many people stole gifts because we are all just so kind and moral 0:). I ended up getting a bunch of Hershey Kisses and a pack of hot chocolate. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. We ended the night by watching the cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, one of my personal favorites (though I do greatly enjoy the Jim Carrey version). I also went on another Christmas meal with all of the people in my building. We went to a carvery, which essentially was a buffet of food that is provided in a traditional English roast. Though it was not all you can eat, we all managed to pile so much food on our plate the first time we went up we were stuffed anyways. After this, we had a Secret Santa gift exchange. The person who got me gave me a rugby ball, so thoughtful!

Other than these three delicious meals, I have been very busy with writing my final essays for my classes and only just handed my last essay in this morning! It was a very stressful time as all my deadlines were very close. But I still managed to complete everything to the best of my ability so I can now only hope for the best!

Also, the majority of my American friends who were studying abroad for just this past semester went home: some for the holidays, some for good. It was really sad saying goodbye to all of them, as I developed close friendships with people I knew prior to this trip, with people I had vaguely met before this trip, and with people I had never seen before in my life. Next semester definitely won't be the same without them, especially because I lost three of my teammates. I know when I return as a senior, though, we will also still be close friends as I plan on keeping contact with everyone while I am in England next semester.

On another note, currently I am sitting in my room watching Never Been Kissed as I chose to stay in my flat at UEA over winter break to do some traveling and to save my parents money on a roundtrip flight ticket. So far it has been a bit lonely, though I have been keeping busy with looking for and applying to summer internships and was busy earlier in the week completing my final essay, which I happened to write about rugby. Luckily a few girls on the team were here for part of the week so I went over to their house to watch movies and help cook my first ever pasta bake. At first it seemed like our efforts were going to result in a failure, but the pasta bake turned out to be delicious! It was nice leaving my room and having real life human interaction instead of digital via Skype and Facebook. I am also going to have some more human interaction tonight as there are other people who remained on campus for the winter break as well. UEA created some activities for us to get involved in as well as a Facebook group for all of us. Tonight a member is having a few people over to hang out and I plan on getting involved just so I can get out of my stuffy, small room in the Village for a bit.

Though you may think my winter break has a grim outlook, I can assure you it does not. I am spending Christmas Day at my professor's house with his family. Another student from Dickinson who stayed for the year is going as well and my professor also has two kids around our age. It will be nice to be around another family, despite the fact that it is not my own, for the holidays. Plus I am guaranteed to be provided a delicious meal by my professor's wife; she has yet to disappoint so far!

I have also made a couple travel plans for this break, though I am hoping to go on more trip. I am going to Dublin, Ireland for New Years with two of my American friends, Emily and Julie, who have not gone home yet and am going to visit my English friend I met at Camp Vega in Salzburg, Austria as she is studying there for the year. I am greatly looking forward to both trips and am sure that New Years in Dublin will be a blast!

Monday, November 28, 2011

A "British" Thanksgiving and Some More Education

My friend Kate and me with my food children. Yes, multiple children.
This past Thursday was THANKSGIVING!!!!!! and while at first I was not sure if having a Thanksgiving celebration in England would be the same as having one at home, I was pleasantly surprised. My professor and his wife cooked us a DELICIOUS Thanksgiving feast, not meal, FEAST, supplemented with items each member of the class brought. Let's just say I had a few food babies in my stomach before we had even moved on to dessert, and I'm not ashamed of it.

Other than that nothing new or especially interesting has occurred, but I did have an interesting conversation with a British student today about their experience at university. It is quite different than from an experience at an American university; here, all students are required to choose their course upon entering, therefore not being able to enter as "Undecided" like at many schools in the States, and they have to pay in order to switch courses. They also have to pay to switch classes they are enrolled in if they want to change them. However, unlike with majors, students do not have specific "requirements" they have to complete in order to get their degree: they just simply have to take some classes in their course. The grading system over here is a lot different and harder as well. Everything is out of 100%, but receiving the highest mark (equivalent to an "A" in America) is a 70% or above, and getting a mark that high is almost unheard of according to many students and my professors. Grading of papers, at least at UEA, is anonymous and these grades are the only ones factored into your final grade, meaning teachers do not use participation and attendance, for example, as factors towards calculating your final grade. Also, at least in the two classes I am taking, students only have two essays per class, so if they bomb one they are pretty much screwed, whereas in the States students will normally have four or five papers to write so if they do poorly on one, they have a fair amount of leeway in making sure they can still receive a final mark. Teachers also normally take participation and attendance into account with their grading as well. This puts a lot of pressure on us abroad students, who are not used to having such a hard grading scale and such few items to be graded. Oh well, you just keep calm and carry on!!