Cultural Differences

I’m going to Spain! I get to meet my cousins that I haven’t seen since I was about six years old. They live in Alicante (on the coast, a few hours south of Barcelona). I’m flying out on Saturday morning and heading home on Monday night. I’m missing classes Monday (sorry, Mom) but I know people in them so I can get the notes. The weather is supposed to be sunny and in the low 80s so I am beyond excited to lie on the beach and experience Spanish culture with some great people! There’s an island called Tabarca Island about an hour boat ride off the coast of Alicante that I’m hoping to check out as well! Who knows what the weekend holds, so stay tuned to hear about some adventures in Spain!

I did laundry on Tuesday for the first time and it was a little different than in the U.S. but nothing major. There are only four washing machines for the whole Digby Hall (almost 300 students) so that could mean walking several blocks to one of the other buildings if they are taken. I brought as many socks and underwear as I could though so hopefully I won’t have to do it too frequently. Speaking of differences, I realized that I haven’t really gone into detail about the differences between life here in the U.K. versus life back in the U.S. so that’s what this post is going to be dedicated to!

Transportation

Transportation in England is extremely different than in the U.S. Here they drive on the other side of the road, which took some getting used to when crossing. They also drive extremely fast and they do not slow down when there are pedestrians near the road. It seems that they just assume you know what you’re doing when crossing. Public transportation is huge here, which is really nice. The double decker buses pick us up from campus and our residences and bring us to the city center and back every ten minutes until 11:00 every night. There are also buses that only go from residence halls to campus that are super long; about the size of two buses put together! They are really bumpy and cram way too many people on board, but they get the job done. Transportation from England to the rest of Europe is also really nice. There are low cost planes that take you pretty much anywhere. They are pretty small but sometimes you can get round trip tickets for well under $100 (depending on the time of travel).

Education

The education system is also quite different. Here, they have a three-year course to get their degree. Their semester also begins a lot later and continues into January. Most courses are only graded on an essay and an exam, no other small assignments. The exam period is after Christmas, which is why study abroad students have alternative essays instead of the exams. They also receive a classification for their degree, depending on the grades they receive throughout. One thing I found surprising was that if a student decides to change their major in their second or third year, they have to start all over as a year one student because they do not have general education classes here. Back home, students change their majors right up until their senior year, and often many different times, so that idea was new to me.

Food and Drink

After nearly a month in England, I am pretty sick of the food served at the dining center. I never thought I would miss Wilkerson but it’s a lot better than here in my opinion. Every meal consists of white rice and potatoes of some sort, no matter what. They switch up the meat and vegetables but they’re usually pretty similar from day to day. For example, variations of beef and sauce and veggie pie are commonly served. The food in restaurants is really good, though. They serve a lot of paninis and cold sandwiches, often with chutney on them. As far as drink goes, cider and beer are pretty popular. It seems that not many people drink milk with their meals (it’s not even an option at dinner in the dining centers). Coffee and tea are commonly served while pop is less common. Speaking of tea, that’s what they call meal times here. Some girls in my house said that they missed tea and I was confused until they explained that they had missed dinner.

Money and Shopping

Here, the British Pound Sterling is used, which is worth a lot more than the U.S. Dollar. Each pound is worth about $1.60. This took some getting used to, as I would think, “Oh, that’s only £5,” when in reality it’s over $8. It’s especially difficult when eating out or having drinks. The shopping here is pretty comparable to back home. Their version of Walmart is called Asda. I struggled the first time I went in because each aisle is labeled differently than what I’m used to. For example, they have a “biscuits” aisle full of cookies and a “tinned” aisle full of canned goods.

Clothing

The clothing is pretty comparable to the U.S., just more trendy. I think that I’ve only seen skinny jeans (no boot cut) and a lot of girls wear shorts over tights. You don’t really see people in sweatpants here, which I struggle with. Hoodies and yoga pants are the go-to for early classes at UND, but here you don’t see too much of that. Maybe as the semester progresses people will start to get lazy and dress up less for class (hopefully, anyways). When we went out, a lot of the girls were wearing platform heels that resembled the ones from the 80s. The boys dress quite preppy in my opinion. They also wear skinny jeans with short boots or sneakers and are pretty polished overall.

Architecture

As you probably noticed in my pictures, the architecture is a lot different. It varies quite a bit depending on which city in England you are in. Salisbury was very Gothic, Bath was Georgian, and many others are Victorian. I love that the original buildings are restored and still used. Leicester is actually known in England for how many of its original buildings still stand today. Another thing that is present in the U.S. but more common here are the vines growing on and around the buildings and trees. It really makes everything feel enchanted. Even a simple walk through the park or some neighborhoods can feel like something out of a movie.

Weather

As most people know, it rains a lot here in England. There’s a kind of damp, humid feel to the air most days. I don’t mind the rain but it’s a different kind of cold than I’m used to. It takes forever to warm up after walking across campus in the rain, whereas back home it only takes a short time after stepping inside from the wind and ice to feel warm and dry again. The temperatures are much warmer here though, and they don’t get much snow so that will be nice come November and December. The sunny days are really beautiful, especially during this time of year. I took another walk through the Botanic Garden on Thursday and the fall colors were incredible.

Landscape

I haven’t had the opportunity to explore too much of the landscape yet, besides looking out the window on the train. So far, I’ve noticed rolling hills, scattered forests, and lots of pastures. Everything is very green, giving it a fresh and healthy look. I’ve noticed that there are a ton of sheep grazing in most pastures, especially around Stonehenge. I’m hoping to take a trip next weekend to the Lake District, a mountainous national park, to explore more of the great outdoors of England.

Entertainment

Drinking is a pretty prominent form of entertainment here and you can do it at 18. When the first year students arrive, there’s a two-week-long event called “Freshers Festival” in which the University sponsors two weeks worth of parties, usually held in the club underneath the Student’s Union. Coming from a dry campus, this was strange to me. It’s totally acceptable to have alcohol in resident halls here, as well as walk around with open drinks. There was even a society at the university dedicated to drinking real ale and ciders. Most of the other societies host bar crawls throughout the semester as well. On Thursday night, we went to Gone Girl at the theater downtown, so that’s an option for entertainment too. There’s also a racecourse near town that hosts horse races every couple weeks. Though we haven’t discovered too much yet, I’ve also heard that there’s a lot of live music downtown, and holiday markets as well.

I’m sure as the semester progresses, I’ll notice more and more differences in everyday life in England versus the United States, but hopefully this gave you a general idea. Please don’t hesitate to comment if I missed anything that you’re curious about!

Thanks for reading!

Chelsea

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”

Jawaharlal Nehru

Bath, Bristol, Stonehenge, and Salisbury

This last weekend was full of amazing architecture and history with great people. We started in Bath, spent the evening out in Bristol, headed for Stonehenge the following morning, and finished our trip exploring Salisbury.

Bath had so much history preserved within the city. We arrived via train and first walked through a small park near the station. It was sunny when we got into the city so the park was very pretty under the rays of light, especially the view of the Bath Abbey in the distance and the river flowing nearby. Next, we ventured to the Abbey. It was absolutely beautiful. The Great East Window contains 56 images of Jesus while the West Window contains images of the Old Testament. Right next to it was the entrance to the Roman Baths Museum. This was an awesome experience because I didn’t know much about the site before arriving so I learned a lot. The museum is a well-persevered Roman site that has been refurbished to allow public viewing of the location and artifacts. It’s still flowing with natural hot water, making it the only hot springs in the United Kingdom. We were actually able to taste some of it and it was full of mineral flavor. After exploring the Roman Baths, we walked to the Circus. Not like most circuses you would imagine, this was actually built in the 1700s and consists of three long segments of buildings that form a giant circle with a grassy patch in the middle. The Royal Crescent was built around the same time, which we visited next. This was similar to the Circus with the Georgian architecture, but much more impressive. It overlooks the Royal Victoria Park.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey

Great Bath

Great Bath

Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent

After exploring Bath, we headed back to Bristol for the night. We had a nice dinner out and explored a couple pubs, one that had great live music, before heading back to our hotel.

In the morning, we checked out of our hotel and took the train to Salisbury where we hopped on the tour bus to Stonehenge. It was a chilly day but not raining so we lucked out there. Stonehenge was remarkable. The site is nestled in the hills and surrounded by burial mounds. We stood for a long while, staring and questioning how the stones came to be. After walking around the site, we went to the museum and learned a bit more about the history and mystery of Stonehenge.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

The bus then took us back towards Salisbury where we visited the Salisbury Cathedral. The cathedral is magnificent; the tallest spire in England. When we walked in, there was a service going on so we sat and listened before exploring. The organ and the voices of the choir echoing off the walls of the huge cathedral was incredible. I had chills the entire service. The best preserved original piece of the Magna Carta (there are only four pieces left) is kept at the Salisbury Cathedral. We were disappointed to learn that they lock it up at 4:30 pm and we arrived around 5:00 pm. We were able to see the world’s oldest working clock though, built in the 1300s. It has no face but it still struck the hour on a bell.

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral

Inside of the Salisbury Cathedral

Inside of the Salisbury Cathedral

Oldest Working Clock

Oldest Working Clock

We had an hour and a half layover in London so instead of sitting in the station, we ran through the rain to get a glimpse of breathtaking Big Ben and the London Eye. It was a bummer we only had a few minutes because I could have stared for an hour. We caught our last train and made it back to Leicester a little after midnight. It was nice to sleep in my own bed, unlike the previous Sunday night spent in the St. Pancras station.

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Big Ben

Looks like another rainy week of classes here in Leicester but after seeing such amazing things each weekend, it’s hard to get too down about it. Thanks for reading!

Chelsea

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless then turns you into a storyteller.”

Ibn Battuta

First Week of Classes

With the first week of classes complete, I’m finally getting into a routine, which has been really nice. I will say that the first couple days after a weekend in Berlin and missing a full night of sleep were brutal, though. I felt like I was dreaming the entire first day. I’ve been trying to catch up this week though because this weekend it’s off to Bristol, Bath, and Stonehenge!

Classes here in England are similar to classes in the United States in some ways. They are the same length of time (approximately fifty minutes) and have a similar setup with a PowerPoint and lecture hall. My professors are very diverse, as one is French, one is Spanish, one is American, and two are British. My favorite class based on the first week is probably Abnormal Psychology, mostly due to the professor. He was hilarious and the perfect example of what you would imagine an older British man to be like.

It poured rain all week, which is typical but still a little bit of a bummer. I’ve quickly learned to carry my umbrella with me always, regardless of how the sky looks in the morning. Odds are, the weather will change dramatically throughout the day. It’s a different cold than back in Minnesota and North Dakota too. Here you stay cold and damp, even after you’re back in a warm building.

Our train leaves for Bath tomorrow morning at 6:45 so I better get some rest. Thanks for reading!

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

Henry Miller

Berlin

Berlin was inspiring.

We arrived in the morning on Friday, had coffee and some lunch, and checked into our hostel in the early afternoon. I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. We had two other girls and a guy that we did not know staying in our room, but the entire building was very new and clean. After getting settled in, we decided to venture out to the Charlottenburg Palace. It was stunning. I didn’t quite realize the immensity until I was staring up at it. The design wrapped all the way around the palace, with many different statues accenting the peaks of the roof. Behind the palace was a fountain surrounded by beautiful gardens and walking paths. The best part was the river that followed, with many ducks and little birds chirping for hand outs. It was completely serene staring out at the water, with the sound of laughter and birds in the background. We followed some of the paths along the river and discovered more monuments and beautiful scenery. After it began to cool down and we began to get hungry, we headed back for an authentic German dinner. We selected a random little place and were not disappointed. We hit the hay early that night, as we had been up since 3:30 am to catch our flight.

Charlottenburg Palace

Charlottenburg Palace

On our second day we woke up early, stopped for coffee, then headed out on the underground train to explore the city. The first place we stopped was the Victory Column. We were actually able to climb to the very, very top for a lovely view of Berlin. Next, we visited the Brandenburg Gate, which is an iconic place in Berlin. There was actually a fair going on right by the gate, which gave us yet another opportunity to experience German culture, including authentic food and music. There were various street performers that were fun to watch, and some were actually really impressive. We then visited Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. There was a protest going on outside Reichstag against the use of drones, so that was interesting to see. The Memorial was also very interesting, consisting of nearly 3,000 concrete slabs and the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims. Checkpoint Charlie was very crowded with tourists so we headed to the East Side Gallery to see the murals and the Oberbaum Bridge. This part of the city was completely different than the other parts we had visited. It felt very artsy and hipster to me. We saw the most famous mural, My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love, which depicts Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker in a fraternal embrace (kissing), as well as many others. After a long day of walking, we took the underground train back to our hostel for dinner and an early night in with some chocolate. One thing I’ve noticed is that I would take a night in and miss out on the party scene any day if it means I’ll be able to get up early and spend a little longer in a beautiful foreign city.

Victory Column

Victory Column

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

Reichstag

Reichstag

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

Oberbaum Bridge

Oberbaum Bridge

My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love

My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love

On our third day, we woke up, checked out of our hostel, and headed for the Jewish Museum Berlin. It was pretty powerful, especially the Holocaust Tower and the Memory Void. Next, we visited the Berliner Dom, or the Berlin Cathedral. As we approached, we heard the distant sound of an acoustic-electric guitar and the fountain’s steady rush of water. As we got closer, we saw the immense beauty of the dome and found the source of the music, a young man playing and singing next to the fountain. We layed back in the grass, listened to the music and the fountain, and stared up at the dome. The sun beat steadily down on our faces but the cool breeze kept us comfortable. I couldn’t help but reflect on how blessed I am to have this beautiful life. A couple of my best friends back home are dealing with the loss of one of their closest friends, whom I also came to know over the last couple years. It’s so unfair to me that I’m out here seeing this world and he’s leaving it. It makes me realize that I truly have to embrace it, because not everyone will have tomorrow to do so. Every friend I make, every sight I see, every step and breath I take. Nothing is guaranteed and we can’t do anything on this earth but enjoy each day and truly make the most out of everything we have. This trip to Berlin reminded me that we don’t know what the future holds so we have to embrace each opportunity and live in the present, always.

Jewish Museum Berlin

Jewish Museum Berlin

Memory Void in the Jewish Museum

Memory Void in the Jewish Museum

Berlin Cathedral

Berlin Cathedral

We spent the remainder of our time before heading to the airport at the cathedral, browsing the art market, and people watching at the fair. We actually had to sleep in the St. Pancras train station in London because our flight got in just a little too late to catch the last train back to Leicester. This was obviously not ideal and very cold and uncomfortable, but it saved us a lot of money since the train we took in the morning was at an off-peak time. Overall, I would highly recommend Berlin to anyone traveling in Europe. It was my first real feeling of culture shock, as we were unable to read the signs and communicate with many of the locals in the shops and restaurants. But that’s what made it so inspiring. Thanks for reading!

Chelsea

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights. It is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”

Miriam Beard

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Day Trip to Brighton

Yesterday, our group of friends took a trip to Brighton for the day. Brighton is a beautiful coastal town in southern England, about a three hour train ride from Leicester.

We took a cab to the train station at 4:00 am. It was my first time on the train and it wasn’t a terrible experience. We slept most of the ride until our layover in London and then we slept again from London to Brighton.

We arrived so early that none of the stores were open yet so we walked down to Brighton’s Cathedral and the Royal Pavilion. We spent some time exploring the museum near the Royal Pavilion. There were a couple temporary exhibits that were very interesting, one being “War Stories: Voices from the First World War” and the other was called “Ocean Blues.” The exhibit about the war was very moving, as it featured real stories from real people. The one about the ocean was very interesting as well. It discussed the impact of modern day society on ocean life and many current threats to its populations.

After visiting the museum we continued down towards to the coast. The beach was made up of very smooth rocks instead of sand, something I’ve never experienced. It was pretty chilly with the wind coming off the ocean, but we dipped our toes in anyways.

Next, we had lunch and ciders on the beach at a little seaside restaurant. It was really good and authentic. After lunch, we explored the Brighton Pier, rode the Brighton Wheel to catch a beautiful view of the city, and lounged on the beach. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring The Lanes, a collection of several narrow streets that house various little shops. I slept in late this morning to compensate for the lack of sleep from the night before and the busy activities of a day well spent.

Believe it or not, my friends Kristin, Brooke, and I are going to Berlin tomorrow! Our flight leaves at seven in the morning and we’re arriving back late Sunday night. We thought we would get in one more trip before classes start. Check back in a few days to hear about adventures in Germany!

Thanks for reading!

Chelsea

“To those who stay put, the world is but an imaginary place. But to the movers, the makers, and the shakers, the world is all around them; an endless invitation.”

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Royal Pavilion

Royal Pavilion

View from the Brighton Wheel

View from the Brighton Wheel

Botanic Garden

On Sunday morning, my friend Kristin and I walked back to the village of Oadby and had breakfast at the coffee shop, Costa. We sat at a little table outside, sipped our lattes, and people watched. That evening, the British freshman (“first years” or “freshers” as they call them here) began to arrive. There are several girls in my house from England and one from Ireland that I have met so far. On Sunday night we went to a pub called the Dry Dock. It was really cool because it was actually a boat on land. We met some girls from Denmark there and some more locals.

Early Monday afternoon, we went to visit the Botanic Garden. It was beautiful. There were so many gorgeous plants and sculptures that I could have stayed there for hours. There was even a pond with fountains and giant goldfish swimming to the surface. There were greenhouses within the grounds of the garden that house plants from different climates. There was a Desert House with cactuses, an Alpine House with mountain plants, and a Tropical House with rainforest plants. It is said to be the most diverse garden in the East Midlands of England.

After visiting the garden, I headed to campus to sort out my schedule. Classes don’t officially start until next week but we do have a couple welcome meetings this week. I mentioned in my last post that I have class every day except for Thursday, but I found out that I have a seminar that day. The lectures are not mandatory but the seminars are. I think that the seminar is comparable to the labs we have for some classes back in the states. It’s very strange because I do not take any exams. Instead, for each course I have to write two 1,200 word essays on assigned topics. I have four Psychology courses so that means eight essays. I think that I will like this, as I prefer essays to exams and I have had plenty of practice using APA style. Let’s hope, anyways.

Tomorrow we are heading to Brighton at 4:45 in the morning via train! It’s a beautiful coastal town about three hours from Leicester. Since we have a few more days before class, we thought it would be nice to visit before the weather gets too chilly. Thanks for reading!

Chelsea

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”

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Adventure Awaits

On Thursday I completed my visa checkpoint and received my student ID. I register for my modules on Monday and Tuesday. I got my schedule for some of my classes and so far I have class every day except for Thursday. I was hoping for Mondays off so that I could have an extra day when taking weekend trips but that’s alright, I’ll make it work!

On Thursday night some of my friends and I checked out the Leicester nightlife and it was a blast. It seems that all everyone does is dance for hours. There are a lot of school sponsored evening events this next week so that should keep us busy until classes officially start.

On Friday we began to plan our travels. Aside from experiencing college in a different country, this has been what I was most excited for. There are eleven weekends this semester and I hope to spend many of them traveling. So far, the trips that are certain are London, Dublin, and Edinburgh because one of the clubs at the university sponsors them. My boyfriend, Drake, is coming to visit sometime this semester and we are planning to take a trip to Paris as well. I’m also hoping to visit a cousin in Alicante, Spain (I haven’t seen them since I was six years old) and take day trips to Manchester, Liverpool, Stonehenge, and Cambridge. I would also love to see some of the English and Scottish countryside. When my mom, aunt, and cousin come to visit (December 12th to the 21st) we are planning trips to London, Paris, and possibly Italy or Greece. The possibilities that come with the opportunity to study here are endless and it’s unreal that I have this chance.

After discussing our trips, we took an evening walk into the little village of Oadby, which is near our residences. It was a very quaint area and the road that all of the stores are on actually reminded me a lot of Main Street in Park Rapids. There were some fun little crafty stores that I think will be amazing come closer to Christmas.

Today we woke up early and headed back into the downtown Leicester area. This time we did some shopping and I was able to find a charm for my Pandora bracelet that is only sold in the UK. It’s a little double decker bus with the UK flag on top. We also checked out a store called Primark. It reminds me a lot of Forever 21 but British style of course. It was very inexpensive and trendy so that will be a fun place to keep in mind for future events. We also visited a vintage fair that had tons of antique items made in England. I wanted to buy a tea set but the chance of it making it back to the states is pretty slim.

Thanks for reading!

Chelsea

“I haven’t been everywhere but it’s on my list.”

Susan Sontag

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