Friday, September 30, 2011

I Survived

Welp, it's official: I have survived my first week at the University of East Anglia in Norwich!! It has been a very hectic week, but is definitely a lot of fun. I spent the week trying to meet people, befriending my flat mates, and doing logistical things for the school, including changing one of my modules due to class conflicts and registering with the medical centre. I live in a flat with five other people: three boys and two girls. They are all first years: four are 18 and one is 21. Many first year students here are older because they either took a gap year or worked to earn money to pay for school before they came. I met one who is 23! Anyways, my flat mates are all very nice and we all seem to be getting along well so far. Hopefully this will last for the entire year.

Our flat is pretty nice. We live in an area called University Village, which is about a 10 minute walk from campus (yes, the amount of time it takes to walk across the entire Dickinson campus). Each of us has our own room and bathroom, and a cleaning lady comes and cleans our bathroom once a week and takes out our trash every day. We do not have a common room, but do have a decent sized kitchen that we all share. There is no cafeteria, so we all have to buy our own groceries. There is no laundry either, so we have to walk to a laundromat nearby to do laundry. Luckily there is one in our general area. Only first year students (also known as "freshers") and some medical students can live on campus; all second and third year students have to live off campus in Norwich. This is much different than Dickinson, as, for the most part, everyone lives on campus. If one wants to live off campus, they must be a senior and be approved by the school.

I have been to both of my classes and already notice a difference in how they are taught compared to my classes at Dickinson. Instead of waiting for a later date, the professors give you the assignments for prompts the first day with the syllabus. I find this helpful, as I can look for information that will help me with my essays in my readings as I read them instead of having to go back to them later. The teaching is also more abstract and less straight forward. My professors tend to ask a lot more questions, some rhetorical, some not, that really cause the students to think about the material they are teaching, whereas at Dickinson I find the professors tend to lay things out on the table more. I also have less assignments to do for each class over the course of the semester and, despite the fact that I am taking level two and three classes, the essays I am required to do are shorter than essays I had to write when I was a freshman at Dickinson. It is unreal. I was also pleasantly surprised at how small the class sizes are (they are about the same size as Dickinson), especially because this school has thousands of students more than Dickinson. I also like that many classes here have a larger lecture and then split up afterwards into smaller seminar groups to discuss the lecture. I find this makes a better and more comfortable learning environment.

As far as differences in the social aspects, I have already noticed a TON. Of course the British use different words than Americans for some things, like pavement instead of sidewalk and jumper instead of sweater, but they also talk a lot quieter as well. It sounds like they are mumbling. Many times I have to ask people to repeat what they said not because I don't understand, but because I simply can't hear them. There is also a much larger and more accepted drinking culture here. There are two bars on campus as well as a student union that is turned into a club some nights, which also serves drinks. People are allowed to drink outside of the bars in the central part of campus called the Square, similar to Britton Plaza at Dickinson. This was quite a shock to many of us.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bye Bye London, Helloooo Norwich!

The last few days we had in London were very busy, as we were all preparing, giving, and going on tours of certain areas of London for class. My group decided to do post-World War II reconstruction and brought  our fellow classmates to various areas of reconstruction around the city, including the Royal Festival Hall, the financial and law districts, and to the housing complex named Churchill Gardens. It was very interesting to see how much of London was affected by the war and how much did need to be reconstructed. It was unreal.

The last couple nights of London were packed with fun; we saw the production, Top Girls, and went on a dinner cruise with our program. Top Girls was a weird play, and one does not really understand the feminist points that are trying to be portrayed until the end of the play, as the acts do not follow chronological order. It was still enjoyable, though, but was a bit out there with some of the scenes. The dinner cruise was loads of fun! We went through Regent's Park while eating a delicious three course dinner. It was a great way to end our time in London.

While being in London, I noticed a lot of cultural differences between London and cities, such as New York, in the states. London rarely had any trash cans around, and, if they did, it was normally a clear plastic bag. I found out this was because during past wars, people would hide bombs in trash cans, so the city removed them or made them clear as a precaution. Despite the fact there were no trash cans, the city was remarkably clean, unlike New York which is very dirty and has trash cans on every street corner. There are also a lot more smokers in London, at least from what I saw. The architecture of the city is very unique as well, varying from new, modern designs to designs from the Gothic and Victorian era. Though Prince Charles despises the architecture in London, I happened to like this great variation a lot: it gives the city character. Another interesting fact I learned is that many buildings are built with the people in mind. For example, the BBC Broadcasting Centre was not built symmetrical because, if it was symmetrical, it would have blocked light from reaching certain peoples houses. Also, unlike the States, people cannot make changes to their houses as they choose, for if their neighbors do not want them to make this change (even a change as simple as painting their house), they are not allowed to do so. Additionally, everything in London closes surprisingly early for a city. For example, pubs close at 11 or sometimes 12, and clubs are not open too late either. Unlike New York, the city that never sleeps, Londoners definitely get their eight or nine hours.

Yesterday, after a long three hour bus ride, I arrived in Norwich!!! It is very different from London, being very rural and having more modern architecture. I like it a lot. My room is not as small I was expecting and I am anxious to meet my five flat mates! I did not realize the flats are coed, so it will be interesting to see if any boys are placed in my flat. I guess it would kind of be like living in the Jersey Shore, minus all of the pointless arguments and excessive partying (Mom and Dad, you should be proud). The next couple of days are going to be devoted to settling in and orientation, so I will post again after that!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Let the Tours Begin

This week was very busy for the humanities program! We had class a few days this week and our professor gave us a tour of the London Eye and Canary Wharf areas. The Canary Wharf was an awesome area, though I probably thought this because there was a giant shopping mall there. Typical. Thursday night a Dickinson alumni hosted a reception for the science and humanities program at the Royal Auto Club in Pall Mall which was filled, to our surprise, with more wine than food. It was really nice to speak to Dickinson alumni and hang out with all the kids going to Norwich.

Friday we had the day off to prepare for our tours. We were all divided into different groups and have to give tours of different areas in London. My group decided to focus on the reconstruction, physically and mentally, of London post-World War II and found locations near the Tower of London and the financial and law districts to go to on our tour, though it took us about two hours (no big deal) to find a good location for my topic (of course) which focused on the high rise housing that was constructed after the war. We visited Fleet Street when we wandered through the law district which, contrary to belief thanks to Sweeney Todd, had no demon barbers... or so we think. I decided I would want to live in the law district when I'm older. Why, you ask? 1. It is a beautiful area with lots around it and 2. The possibility of me meeting a future rich, attractive, and lawyer husband would greatly increase. Yes, I am shallow. Sorry I'm not sorry :)

Today we went on another groups tour of the Kesnal Green Cemetery. It was really interesting to compare this cemetery to ones in the states: it was a lot more crowded and, instead of simply having a grave stone to signify where a body is buried, most of the buried had large, intricate monuments to signify their burial spot. It seems that people have a different attitude about death over here, as many of them start building their monuments long before they die because they know they are going to die at some point in their life.

After going on that very interesting tour, we went to Portobello Road, which is another market. It was a really cool place, full of vendors and stores selling antiques, nice clothing, and a variety of ethnic food. Too bad the price of a dress is more expensive than a plane ticket! Oh well, saving my money is probably a good thing. We would have stayed longer if it didn't start down-pouring.

It is SO weird that we have less than a week left in London. The next few days will be devoted to tours and then we're off to Norwich!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Museums, Museums, and... More Museums??

To start off this post I wanted to briefly talk about my one day off. A few friends and I had a picnic in Regent's Park and then went shopping (don't worry, Mom, I just went window shopping) and got the most AWESOME frozen yogurt ever at a place called Snog in Convent Garden, a very cute area, and then to the Thames Festival at night. The Festival was so much fun! There were a lot of cute little vendors selling clothing, homemade items, baked goods, and food in general. We obviously took care of that, eating burritos and Nutella and strawberry crepes. DELICIOUS!! The night ended with an awesome fireworks show right over the bridge. It was a very nice day off indeed.

In other news the past two days have been entirely devoted to going to visit different museums, including the Natural History Museum (not to be mistaken as New York's Museum of Natural History), the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Imperial War Museum.

I enjoyed the Natural History Museum a lot more than I thought I would. It was indeed similar to the Museum of Natural History in NYC, but, based on memory, I felt that this museum was a lot more interactive. For example, in the dinosaur exhibit they had robotic dinosaurs that moved around and “roared” at people walking by. There were also computers around the exhibits providing information and allowing people to become more engaged by doing things like making a fossil collection. I thought this was very fun and made the museum more kid-friendly. 

I thought the V&A had an excellent variety of artifacts, with exhibits ranging from collections of silver to jewelry to items used at teatime. I thought the most interesting exhibits were the ones showcasing the jewelry and providing information about what it means to have tea. The jewelry exhibit was interesting because you got to see the evolution of jewelry over the decades, from tiaras to rings to necklaces and bracelets; they even had a Kennedy pin. From my perspective, much of the older jewelry looked more like costume jewelry today, except a lot more extravagant and sparkly. I liked the tea exhibit because it helped me better understand why Colonists were so angry about the Tea Tax the King put upon them before the Revolution. I always thought they were just upset because they simply enjoyed drinking tea, but this exhibit taught me that having tea was a daily practice for the English, especially those in the upper class, so taking this tradition away from them was a huge slap in the face and implied they were of “low” society. The one thing I was upset about in the V&A is that the fashion exhibit, one I really wanted to see, is closed until 2012.

At the Imperial War Museum, I looked at exhibits relating to World War I, II, and the Holocaust specifically. I thought that the World War I and II exhibits were set up very similarly. They each showcased artifacts, had images from the war, and played video clips from the wars. The main difference I noticed was the music that was played in each exhibit. The music that was played in the WWI exhibit was more upbeat and prideful, almost congratulating the work of the soldiers. This went along with the pictures of specific people in the war that were commemorated for all of their successes in the war. There were not many of these images in the other exhibit. The music in the WWII exhibit, however, was quite the opposite. It reminded me of the music played in the final scenes of the film, Inglorious Bastards, when everyone gets murdered: it sounds like opera music that is both holy and depressing at the same time. This music, for me, evoked more emotional feelings than the music in the WWI exhibit. This type of music went along with the images of the murdered people, and the people still alive screaming for help. I think this definitely evoked more feeling than war music, such as the music of Mars from Holst’s Planets, because it provided contrast to those images shown.

The Holocaust exhibit definitely provoked greater emotion out of me than the other two exhibits. I believe this is because it focused in more on the genocide of the Jews and other people Adolf Hitler deemed to be inferior to the white race as opposed to the war as a whole. Seeing images of murdered people and shoes that they used to wear was heartbreaking. It was also weird for me to go this exhibit in general. When I was younger, about 13, I went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. However, when I went to this museum at that age, no emotion was really evoked out of me. I think that is because I was too young to comprehend the severity and horror of the situation, and therefore did not appreciate the museum or take in anything it was giving me. Now that I am older and am more educated and understanding of the horrors of war, I was able feel the pain and suffering of the Jews more than I was when I was younger. Interestingly enough, I believe the English understand this concept as before entering the exhibit, there is a sign saying it is not suitable for children under the age of 14.

In addition to the museums, we also visited the War Rooms, where Winston Churchill and other important figures worked to strategize about how to stop Hitler. I thought it was very interesting to walk through those rooms and see how people worked and lived under there during the war. Not much feeling was evoked for me during this tour, however. I think this is because I do not understand what it is like to live through a war and, unless another war breaks out directly around me to the point where my life is threatened constantly, I will never understand. I think this also has to do with how conditioned people are to war and violence today, thanks to the help of certain media and how and at what age we are taught about war in school. I think learning about war at such a young age takes away the impression of how terrible it is because, as mentioned above, kids are too young to comprehend and understand it, therefore not thinking much of it other than something they are taught in school.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Last Night at the Proms

Me (wearing Auntie Sue's earrings!!!) and Bruke at the Proms
Last night we went to the BBC Last Night at the Proms in Hyde Park and it was SO much fun! Originally I was expecting it to be an outdoor classical music concert, but it was so much more than that. There were a variety of different artists, from opera singers to old pop boy bands to drum players. I was surprised to see how patriotic this event was, reminding me a lot of 4th of July in America. People were decked out in their country colors, waving flags high up in the sky to the beat and singing along to all of the inspirational songs being sung. Everyone brought their own food and drinks (yes, alcoholic) and set up a picnic for themselves on the lawn. In the back of the lawn, everyone was sitting down and watching but up in the front everyone was up dancing around with each other to the music. As Tony the Tiger would say, it was grrrrrrr-eat!

Today is our first and only day off since arriving in London and I am currently waiting for everyone else to wake up. Not sure what the day has in store for me, but we shall see! I would say I would just go shopping, but I'm trying to save my money for my upcoming travels.

Another side note: THETA GOT IT'S NEW PLEDGE CLASS YESTERDAY!!! Can't wait to meet all of PC '11 <3

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Just A Few Tours

The last few days have been filled with lots of theatre and tours of different areas. We went back to the Globe and watched the Globe Mysteries, which was essentially a collection of excerpts from the Bible. It was an interesting production, but I was not a big fan of it, probably because I am not very religious. Also, as time progressed in the show, they made the costumes more modern. This is what one would expect to happen, except the costumes got WAY too modern for me. For example, when we arrived at Jesus' crucifixion, the people nailing him to the cross were wearing construction worker outfits and when King Harrod was killing babies, his henchmen were dressed as thugs. One aspect of the costuming I did like, however, was that one character who became the Devil, Lucifer, had a tattoo of his name across his chest that was visible on stage. When he played other evil and devilish characters the tattoo was still visible, symbolizing that they were of the devil.

In addition to the Globe Mysteries, we took a tour of the National Theatre and saw a production called The Kitchen, which is about a bunch of people working in the kitchen of a restaurant in Europe. I was not a fan of this production either, though everyone else seemed to enjoy it. It was very different, realist, and did not really seem to have a plot. I felt like I was watching a live reality show which would normally be okay, except I was expecting there to be a more defined plot as that is how traditional theatre is done. Though I was not a fan of the play as a whole, I thought that the directing and the acting was extremely well done.

The night before The Kitchen, we saw a performance of Holst's The Planets at the Proms. I thought this performance was excellent, though I find that I prefer to listen to classical music in the comfort of my room as I was very distracted throughout the piece by watching all of the people play their instruments and therefore could not take as much in as I would have liked. Tonight we are going the the last night of the Proms at Hyde Park. Luckily the weather is a bit nicer today (knock on wood!) so it should prove to be a fun evening!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


The other day my friends and I went into a famous department store called Harrod's, now owned by Princess Diana's deceased boyfriend's father. Let me tell you, this place is HUGE!!! There are many floors filled with designer shoes, clothes, accessories, and many other items in addition to restaurants, a pet salon, and a champagne bar. Though the store was neat and cool to go through, it was also very depressing, as the cheapest items I liked were a minimum of 50 pounds: most were in the hundreds or thousands.

....Christmas presents 2011 anyone?? A girl can dream, right?

Billy Elliot

The other night we all saw Billy Elliot. I knew the show in New York had won many Tony Awards, so I was expecting it to be a good show. Soon after it began, I realized that "good" was not the word to describe it: more like fantastic, phenomenal, or superb. I was blown away. I don't consider myself to be a very emotional person, and this show actually brought tears to my eyes. I became emotionally invested in it and really felt for Billy and the struggles he was going through for his passion: dance. I knew I was becoming personally involved in the show when intermission began, as I was angry I had to sit around and wait 30 minutes for Billy's story to continue to unravel before my eyes. All of the actors and actresses did a great job, and, for a young boy, Billy's dancing was incredible. I thought the show did a very good job intertwining the struggles of the miners and and the struggles of Billy as a dancer and through the numbers they had to visually illustrate this. After meeting Rick Fisher, a Dickinson Alum who won an award for the lighting design of the show, I paid special attention to the lighting effects and saw why he won the award. Fisher did a great job putting the spotlight on the people who the audience should pay the most attention to, while having dimmer lighting on the still important, yet background action going on. I especially liked when he used color to create and evoke feelings and emotions during certain scenes. I highly recommend this show to anyone looking for a fantastic broadway show.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

What Goes Around Comes Around

So remember in my last post when I said the weather was getting better? Yeah, I lied. It went back to chilly and rainy today. Tarter sauce.

Anyways I want to start off by saying I did a very good deed today! I went to a sandwich shop right before closing today and they let my friends and I take their leftover fruit because it was going to go to waste if they didn't get rid of it. Obviously, being a poor college student on a budget, I took advantage of this situation and stocked up. On the walk back to the hotel, we saw a homeless man on the street. So, out of the kindness of my heart, I gave him some of the extra fruit I took from the store. I think (and hope) he was happy, even though after I gave it to him he asked if, instead of fruit, I had a hamburger or fries. As you can probably gather, I did not. At least I tried.

In other news, today was another fairly relaxed day. We went to the British Museum which is HUMONGOUS in order to complete an assignment. Later on, a few friends and I took a tour of the BBC Broadcasting Centre, which is the current home to the radio station and soon to be the home of both the radio and television stations. The tour was very interesting! We got to see the building and learn about the history of the building; for example, in World War II a room that is somewhat underground was used for people to sleep in in case there was a bomb threat. We also got to participate in a mock drama radio show, and I was selected to press the buttons on a computer screen that adds in the sounds. Pressing those buttons was exhilarating, let me tell you! Don't worry, my friend captured my happy, child-like expressions on film. After the tour, I decided I definitely want to apply to become an intern at BBC this summer. I think it would be perfect, especially because I personally believe that journalism and hard news are more appreciated here as opposed to the states: there are a lot more major newspapers here that people read and almost everywhere I turn someone is handing out newspapers to people for free. It is quite refreshing. I like knowing what is going on in the world instead of being stuck in the dark and only made aware of soft news, like when Lindsey Lohan checks into rehab for the fourth time or when a celebrity goes through a divorce or dies. Don't get me wrong, I do have a guilty pleasure of catching myself up on this kind of news, but only every once and awhile, not everyday. It also should not be the main source of news I receive, which is normally what happens back in the states.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Days Are Heating Up

Literally. The weather finally warmed up here and it no longer feels like October. It now feels a bit more like early September. Thank goodness. Anyways, I had a very successful last couple of days. Yesterday we paid a visit to Regent's Park, a gorgeous place, almost like a maze, that I would say is both nicer and larger than Central Park. It is like a maze there, kind of like the city of London. Why was I able to make that comparison? Probably because I got lost for a half and hour on a run yesterday and ended up going in a circle, as I kept running in the wrong direction. Whoops. At least I am getting to know other areas of London better now!

Today, we attempted to go to the Sir John Sloane Museum. Unfortunately, they would not let student groups go in today, so we were unable to go inside. Fortunately, that meant we essentially had a free day. WOOHOO! As it was a nice day once again, a bunch of us went to check out the Camden Markets. They were like a bigger, more upscale Canal Street, filled with shops, kiosks, and delicious food. They were awesome! And, yet again, I had a successful shopping trip (don't worry parents, I haven't been spending too much money). I bought a Beatles tank top and FINALLY found a nice, affordable pair of brown combat boots. I've only been searching for them for a few weeks now, no big deal.

Tonight we are having a mixer with the kids who came here through the Dickinson Science Program at a  pub along the Thames River. Here's hoping to a nice night, filled with lots of laughs and fun!

A Chocolate Devil

Okay, don't judge me for this but I had the BEST chocolate cake I have ever had IN MY LIFE the other day. It was so good in fact I felt that it was necessary to devote a blog post solely to the description of this slice of heaven. It was a very moist chocolate cake, filled with chocolate mousse,topped with a sweet chocolate ganache frosting, and embellished with a mini cream puff on the edge. Just typing this description is making my mouth water! Oh my gosh, I'm actually dying for a piece now. Crap.

Now you might wonder why I would refer to such a delicious treat as a devil, but I have very good reasons: 1. the bakery shop where I bought the cake is right around the corner from my hotel, 2. it was very inexpensive, 3. after eating it, I crave it all the time, and 4. it was SO GOOD I ate the entire slice. Yes, by myself. It's fine. However, I am proud of myself as I continue to fight my will and resist buying and enjoying another piece. Trust me, this is not a hard thing to do.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Much Ado

Jess, Ariel, and I outside of the Palace
The last two days have been the best so far on the London trip! Other than the fact that I got to see my friends on the science program, as they arrived two days ago, I went to see the former home of Henry VIII, Hampton Court Palace, and saw my favorite play to date: Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.

The palace was absolutely GORGEOUS!!! It was giant and filled with great detail, from extravagant paintings on the ceilings to carved designs on the wood surrounding the door. What I found very interesting was that the rooms open to the public back in the day were much larger and of better taste than the private rooms. The paintings were larger, the ceilings were higher, and the details were more extravagant. I believe this was done in order to show off wealth and power to the public, and make them become envious of the occupants living in the palace.

Me, Lizzie, Julie, Mae, Oanh-Nhi, and Emily with Joseph Marcell
Yesterday, I went to see Much Ado About Nothing at the replica of the Globe Theatre. Though I read Shakespeare in high school, I had never seen one of his plays on the stage. I was worried I would be lost in his language and not be able to understand what the actors were trying to say. On the contrary, I actually understood pretty much everything and found it to be quite humorous. We were all standing by the stage as opposed to sitting, as most people did in the Shakespearian era, and loved that the actors interacted with the crowd during the performance. It always makes a play more fun and enjoyable when the crowd gets involved. There was also icing on top this cake, as I got to meet two famous actors that were in the play: Joseph Marcell, also known as the butler Geoffrey from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Charles Edwards who played a character in Batman Begins.

Today, we got to meet Rick Fisher, an excellent lighting designer and Dickinson Alum. He was very nice and told us his life story how he went from wanting to be an actor to being a lighting designer. It was very interesting.

We are returning to the Globe in a couple of weeks to see another production, and I am absolutely ecstatic!