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!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ely, Wicken Fen, and A Bit of Schoolwork

View from the Cathedral
Last Saturday, my Dickinson class took a field trip to Ely and Wicken Fen. We were reading the novel Waterland which takes place in that general area, so we went to visit it to see the location up close and personal. In Ely, our class split into two groups and each got to tour a different Cathedral. Each group climbed all the way to the top of the Cathedral and got to look into the distance and see Wicken Fen from afar. After visiting Ely, we went onward to Wicken Fen, only to find it was exactly as the novel described, except a little more dry. Wicken Fen was full of marshlands and had a tiny stream going through it. It was muddy and the only animals seen were two bulls, some chickens, and an ugly duckling that was in the process of turning into a swan. It was really awesome seeing the location the book was talking about, as it allowed me to have a more clear and accurate image of the area the author was describing.

Aside from this field trip, I recently handed in my first two assignments for my UEA classes. It was the most horrifying experience I have ever encountered, as in each class, unlike Dickinson, we only have two assignments for the entire semester, meaning that if I did poorly on one assignment, there would be no way for me to succeed at my normal level. SO MUCH PRESSURE! Almost too much. It was also scary as my professors reiterated to us that it is very rare for any student to receive marks in the top tier of the grading system here. At Dickinson, because we have so many assignments, doing poorly on one does not necessarily mean one will do poorly in the class. Dickinson professors also grade on attendance and participation which could potentially help boost one's grade, whereas the professors at UEA do not. Another interesting aspect about the UEA grading system is that all papers are submitted anonymously, only have one's student number as their identifier, and are submitted to an information desk in the building of the class. This is good in the sense that the professor won't have any bias when grading.
My class at Wicken Fen

On a lighter note, in two days I will be celebrating Turkey Day here at my professor's house! I am SUPER excited. Everyone in the class is bringing either a dish or drink to share and my professor's wife will be cooking for us as well. It will surely be delicious and I am mentally preparing to be full for days!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Copencatz and an English Roast

Last weekend I went to Copenhagen with a few of my friends from Dickinson to go to an event called Sensation White and it was a blast!! We called ourselves the Copencatz (we love cats and obviously had to have a "z" instead of an "s" so our name has more flavor) and stayed in a hostel called CPH Downtown that was right near the main street in the center of town, Stroget Street. We met up with one of our friends from Dickinson that is studying there and she took as around Copenhagen and showed us the few sights there are, such as the home of the Queen. She also took us to a delicious cupcake place called Agnes Cupcakes. I got a red velvet cupcake and chocolate coconut cupcake during my time in Copenhagen and they were just divine. The next day we all met up with my friend from home who is also studying in Copenhagen for breakfast and had the most phenomenal eggs I have ever eaten in my life at a restaurant, though I forget the name of the place! That night we went to Sensation White, which is like a music festival for techno music. A few DJs were there including Martin Solveig, the DJ for the new hit song, "Hello" featuring Dragonette. It was such a surreal experience, not only because it was so fun but because all four of us travelers ran into people we either personally knew or people that knew some of our friends. For example, we were in the bathroom and starting talking to two other American girls. It turned out that one of them happened to live ten minutes from me in my hometown and be one of my good friend from home's college roommate! It just goes to show how small the world really is. The next day was our last day in Copenhagen, so all of us and our Dickinson friend who is studying there and her boyfriend who was visiting her went to take a tour of the Carlsberg Brewery. It was a really cool place and it was interesting to see the history of the beer, how it is made and how much work is needed to make it, and how it has changed over time. Though I had the time of my life in Copenhagen, I was happy to go back to UEA.
My friend Mary's roommate that I met at Sensation!

The twins and I with our feast! Delicious.
This past weekend was another great weekend as well and today was the icing on the cake! One of the girls on the rugby team (my friend Rhiannon Chandler-Day who is also running for Miss. Norfolk... VOTE FOR HER!!! TEXT: MUN23 to 81118, votes are only one pound and you can vote as many times as you want!!) had a few of us over for a traditional English Roast, which is similar to a meal we would eat at Christmas or Thanksgiving, and to watch a rugby match between her team, the Saints, and the Wasps. It was absolutely delicious! We had chicken, pork, Yorkshire puddings, gravy, stuffing, roasted potatoes and parsnips, and some broccoli and carrots. It was a great change from my usual meal of peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese, or pasta, so I obviously I had to go for seconds. But don't worry, the meal gets better! For dessert we had apple strudel covered in creamy custard. Lets just say I was full for a VERY long time after that!

I am really enjoying myself while abroad and am definitely finding time to work hard as well as have some good responsible fun while I'm at it.