Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Shakespeare's Country

"Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart." - William Shakespeare

As an English major, I have appreciation for the words of William Shakespeare. Yes, he is an integral part of every high school curriculum, but nothing compares to experiencing his works in his hometown. Last week, my program went to Stratford-upon-Avon to see Shakespeare productions and tour around the town. It was a full three days of Shakespeare overload, but rewarding in the sense that we all witnessed the roots of Shakespeare.

When we arrived in Stratford, I was struck by its quaint market town feel, which is exactly how it felt during Shakespeare's time. Two of the professors for my program led lectures about the two Shakespeare plays we were seeing, "Antony and Cleopatra" and "Richard II", as well as Moliere's play "Tartuffe". Their lectures were really interesting, even though we were always a bit tired from the long days of sightseeing.

The first play, "Antony and Cleopatra" was an amazing production. I wasn't too familiar with this play of Shakespeare's, but even without a lot of context, the acting, and production as a whole was phenomenal. The set had water in the background, which was used throughout the play. The actors and actresses all took on multiple roles, except for Antony and Cleopatra. I was intrigued how they could manipulate the different characters, as I am no actress myself!

Set of "Antony and Cleopatra"

The second play we saw, "Tartuffe", isn't a Shakespeare play, but a play written by Tartuffe. We traveled to Birmingham for this show, and it was a special treat for a lot of us since the man who played Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter movies was the main character. Guilty as charged, I was definitely starstruck! I had no expectations of the play, as I honestly never heard of it before. In our lecture, we learned it was a comedy, so I was looking forward to possibly something more light-hearted. Indeed, this play delivered. I found myself laughing throughout the play, as it had some very raunchy humor with a definite integration of British humor. All the characters had spunk and sass, and it broke up the two Shakespeare plays that carried more of a heavier tone.

Set of "Tartuffe"

The last show we saw was "Richard II", one of Shakespeare's historical plays. David Tennant was the star of this show for any Doctor Who fans, and extremely enjoyed this play. I had read it before, though it's a experience to see it in person, let alone in the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford. The use of the set, which was minimal in design, but complex in its usage, brought the production to life. It was haunting in a sense, as I felt myself drawn into the emotions of each character.

During these three days in Stratford, we all did some Shakespeare related sightseeing. We visited Shakespeare's birthplace, Anne Hathaway's Cottage, and New Place, which is the home that Shakespeare bought once he acquired some fortunes. Unfortunately, it no longer stands, but there are beautiful gardens that grace the area now, and we got to look at some artifacts that were dug up at the site.

Shakespeare's Birthplace
Gardens at New Place

It was a definite whirlwind experience to go to Stratford for three days, but it was definitely a three days well spent. I couldn't have asked for a better time, as this is something I probably would've done otherwise. It's these kinds of trips that have made my abroad experience even more memorable and unforgettable!

P.S. If anyone makes it to Stratford, you have to go to Blue Cow Milkshakes. Here, I was reunited with my love of Reese's in milkshake form and it was a beautiful thing!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Midsemester Break Adventures

It seems like quite awhile since I've written about my time here in Bath, but for a little over a week in October, I wasn't in Bath at all. From October 17th-27th, my program had our mid-semester break. When I thought about where I wanted to go, my brain went in a million different places. Unlike the United States, it only takes a short flight to be in a completely different country. I've been back in Bath for a week now, and I'm finally settled back into my routine. It seems unreal that I was in a different place a little over a week ago, and now, I'm back in Bath. During break, I traveled to Dublin, Edinburgh, and Liverpool. I didn't travel far and everywhere that I went spoke English, but I still noticed the cultural differences in each place that I visited.

I left Thursday the 17th after my classes were finished to leave for Dublin. My friend Amanda is studying abroad there, so I stayed with her the few days I was in the city. Dublin is an amazing city, and is full of life. In just the 3 days I was there, I met some amazing people and learned things I'll never forget. Dublin is full of history, some of which I was completely unaware of. On Friday, I toured Kilmainham Gaol, which is a jail that imprisoned many of the men who took part in the Irish Revolutions. It was remarkable to hear about these men and women's stories, and how the prison has changed over its existence. I was haunted by some of these stories, one of which occurred between a prisoner and his wife. He was a Irish revolutionist and the night before he was to be executed, the government allowed him to marry his fiance in the Catholic chapel found in the prison. The day of his execution, he was allowed to see her for ten minutes in his cell, with guards counting down the time. There are many stories like these that are forever trapped in the walls of the jail, and it was eye-opening to hear them all. 

Kilmainham Gaol
I will say that Dublin, like Bath, has its unpredictable weather. On Friday, my umbrella broke (the wind got the best of it) and I invested in a snazzy green umbrella with a shamrock on it. Not touristy, at all, is it? I wandered into a covered market and stopped one man's vendor. He was selling old coins, and I knew I had to get something for my brother, who absolutely loves collecting international currency. The man was the cutest thing, and I talked to him for about a half hour, both about the coins (because I had no clue what I was looking at) and about my travels, as well as his travels. He was an older man, and told me about his life growing up in Dublin. Although I will probably never see that man again, I will always remember our conversation. I can honestly say that was one of my favorite moments abroad thus far. It wasn't very significant, but I've learned that one of the best ways to learn about a place is through the locals and all the stories they have to tell. The layers of the city are built upon these stories.

View of Edinburgh from Edinburgh Castle
My next stop on my travels was Edinburgh. I was meeting my friend Morgan, her mom, and their family friend Pam there, as Pam lives in Newcastle. My dad was stationed in Edinburgh for a period of time when he was in the navy, so I was excited to see a place he always mentions in conversation, usually followed by "And when you go, you have to try their fish and chips!" I was immediately struck by the cozy feeling of Edinburgh, though it is filled with a complex history. Pam, having worked in the city for years, knows it very well, and showed us around the city on Tuesday. We drove around Arthur's Seat, a tall hill in the city, which has amazing views from all angles. My personal favorite event of the trip was our tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia, which is the decommissioned royal yacht of Queen Elizabeth II. We got to tour around the boat, which was still decorated the way the royal family had it, and was filled with personal family photos. It was, and probably will be, the closest I will ever get to feeling like I got to meet the queen! The next day, we toured Edinburgh Castle, which has a rich history tied to the city and its growth. It was remarkable to hear how the castle has evolved, similar to Kilmainham Gaol. I learned about the most precious story while in Edinburgh, and I urge you to look up the story of Greyfriars Bobby. I don't want to ruin it for you, but you won't regret looking up the sweet story about the relationship between a man and his dog.

Plaque on the Royal Yacht Britannia

Edinburgh Castle

My last stop during break was Liverpool! Now, when you think of Liverpool, what do you think of? Any guesses? Well, if you're thinking musically, you should know that The Beatles came from Liverpool, and for the night we were in Liverpool, Morgan, her mom, our friend Shawna, and I were in full-blown Beatles mania. We toured "The Beatles Story" museum, but the cherry on top of it all was the "Magical Mystery Bus Tour", which drove us around Liverpool, stopping at important places related to the Beatles (think childhood homes, Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane, and The Cavern). Our bus driver probably thought we were all a bit crazy, but we had a grand time singing to the music and taking part in the legacy of The Beatles. I was starstruck seeing the childhood homes of all the band members, but the best part was where the tour ended. The bus drops you off at The Cavern, which is where the Beatles played 292 times! When we were in The Cavern, I could feel the energy that someone felt in 1961 when the Beatles played there the first time. 

Entrance to The Cavern Club

I can say that I will always remember this trip. I feel so lucky to have been able to spend my break in three amazing cities. They were all so different, yet all the people I met accepted me into their culture with no hesitation. The week flew by, and it's hard to believe that the break marked the halfway point of my semester abroad. If my week traveling is any indication of how fast the rest of the semester will go, I know December will be here before I know it! If, and when, you go abroad, I urge you to go someplace that you've always wanted to go, or maybe have a personal tie to. Also, my best suggestion is to not fit a lot of places into one small chunk of time. I found three cities manageable, but they were all very close together, and my flights were only 45 minutes long. What I will say, no matter where you go, talk to the locals, enjoy the surroundings around you, and soak it all in! 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Experiencing Bath and Venturing Outward

These past two weeks have been nothing short of busy, as the first round of papers were due, and I've seen and experienced England. Here's a play by play of some exciting things I've got to do:

Bath Rugby Match:

The ASE program got discounted tickets for anyone who wanted to attend the Bath vs. London Irish Rugby game. Although we were standing for two hours, it was great to be a part of something that brings the whole city together (and I had to get my sports fix in somehow because I can't watch hockey over here!) The crowd was really into the game, and a couple of the ASE staff explained the game to us since we had no clue how the game was played. Bath won 33-19, and it was quite the celebration after the victory! 

Rugby Match!

Day Trip into London:

Big Ben
For one of my classes, Ghosts and the Gothic, a study trip was involved as part of the class. This past Saturday, we left Bath at 7:30 in the morning (a bit too early in my opinion for a Saturday) and arrived in London around 10:30. We took the scenic route into the city, passing by Parliament, Big Ben, and the London Eye. On this trip, our first excursion was the Jack the Ripper Tour. Our guide took us around parts of London where the murders took place, and described the legacies and mysteries behind Jack the Ripper. The second part of the trip brought us across the city into one of the surrounding towns of Twickenham. Here, we toured the Gothic castle/home of Horace Walpole, named "Strawberry Hill". Walpole is the author of what is considered to be the first Gothic novel, "The Castle of Otranto". It was quite the spectacle to see the castle, as it was added to after Walpole died. There is quite the history behind the castle, even after Walpole no longer lived there.

Tower of London

Strawberry Hill

Birthday Week!: 

I got to ring in my 20th birthday here in Bath, and it is definitely a birthday I'll never forget! My only class was cancelled that day, so I treated myself to breakfast (Patisserie Valerie, you know the way to my heart), and did a bit of shopping. My roommate Jeanine and Lindsay treated me to dinner at Sotto Sotto, which is an Italian restaurant right on our street. It was absolutely delicious (my stomach was very happy to say the least) and the waiter surprised me with a Happy Birthday dessert. The girls bought me a small cake too, which was so nice because I'm so accustomed to spending my birthday at home with my family. It was the absolute best way to celebrate the day away from my family. 

Well, there are just a few things I've been up to! I'm planning away my mid-semester break which is coming up soon! I'll have lots of stories to tell, so I'll keep you all posted! 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Month in Reflection: What I've Learned

It was a month ago today that I was eagerly awaiting my flight to England, of which I would board the next day. After being in England almost a month, I can't believe the wealth of knowledge I've already gained, not only about the culture of England, but about myself. People always say that studying abroad is one of the best things a person can do. Now, I see why. There's no way I can put an answer into words....well, not yet at least. What I can do is provide a list of all the things I have learned one month into my abroad experience.

  • Even though you may be in an English speaking country, you will still find yourself not understanding everything being said.
  • With that said, get to know the common phrases of the culture and language. They're fun to learn and use in conversation.
  • Food from home does exist here (Ben and Jerry's rejoice!)
  • However, food isn't always the same, or named the same thing. It's important to adapt to new brands and names of food. You'll find your favorites.
  • When eating out, try local or cultural dishes. You'll never know what you like
  • Appreciate the scenery around you. It's easy to get caught up in the quick pace of life, especially once classes get into full swing, but you're abroad! Enjoy it!
  • Talk to your family when you can. It may not be every day, but they want to share the experience with you. Trust me.
  • Talk with the locals. Yes, you're American, but they're just as intrigued with you as you are with them. 
  • The faucets (well, taps here) are different. No more is the one faucet providing an even mixture of hot and cold water.
  • Make friends with tea. Everyone drinks it.
  • British children are the absolute cutest....and have the best names!
  • Tour around the city you are in. It's far too easy to travel to other countries and ignore the city you chose to study abroad in. 
  • Take care of yourself. It takes time to adjust to a new area, so spend some time by yourself if you need it. Take a shower, take a nap, or go buy a coffee and a snack. If you've ever been stressed at school before, you know how to cope best with stress. The same applies abroad.
  • Be patient. It takes time to get into a new routine, let alone in a new country.
  • And last, but certainly not least, driving on the left hand side of the road will make you feel like you are on a roller coaster. Period. 
I'm sure as the next few months come along, I'll have more words of wisdom to share, but this is just a preliminary list for starters. It's hard to believe how fast a month flies, but I can't wait for all the adventures that are to come these next three months!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Off to Oxford!

“I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful.” 
- William Butler Yeats

This past week has been eventful, in more ways than one. Last Saturday, my whole program packed up and traveled to Oxford for the week. The program puts us in dorms at University College, the oldest campus that comprises the 39 colleges of Oxford. When we arrived, and settled, all I could think about was “it is too cold for words”.  Little did I know that my professors, who attended college at Oxford, would tell us that the heating wasn’t very good at all. After bundling up, the adventures began. On Sunday, I attended a church service at Christ Church Cathedral. Christ Church is another college of the University of Oxford. The cathedral itself was beautiful, and the service was a nice change of pace to reflect on everything that’s been going on in my life (traveling, settling in, and of course, getting accustomed to the culture). It was a rainy Sunday, per England’s usual weather, so we were all content to watch movies throughout the day.

Christ Church
On Monday, I had my morning class. My program sets up the same class schedule like we were all still in Bath so we can have our classes on the University College campus. Yes, the room was freezing, but all the while, it was nice to say that I did take some classes at an Oxford college. I had the next two days off from class because I didn’t have my placement at school, and I always have Wednesdays off. This meant I was definitely going to do some sightseeing.

As a girl, shopping is always a go-to when exploring a new area. In Oxford, we were all introduced to Primark, which is the Target/Marshalls/Forever 21 of England. They have clothes that are inexpensive, but good quality. Having packed a bit light (well, not too light) for my trip here, I thought I’d buy a few things at Primark to get me through these colder days….and I got a few other things too. How could I not? Thank goodness there isn’t a Primark in Bath because it would be dangerous for my trip back home.
I got some time to venture around Oxford by myself, and one of the first places I went was the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. Now, I didn’t go for mass, but I went for another hidden gem of this remarkable building. For just a small admission fee, anyone can climb to the top of the church tower for an amazing view of the whole city of Oxford. They weren’t kidding. The morning I went, it was a bit overcast, but clear nonetheless. I climbed up the 129 stairs (which was my leg workout for the day), and reached the top. The views were stunning and each side of the tower provided a different view of the city. It was truly something I’ll never forget. The next stop on my sightseeing list was the Pitt Rivers Museum. This museum has anthropological/archeological collections, and is named after a man, General Pitt Rivers. I was immediately overwhelmed by all of the different items and displays in the museum, partially because it was unlike any museum I had been to before. The displays ranged from art to tools, and musical instruments to pottery. It was spectacular to see artifacts from all over the world.

View of Oxford from the top of University Church of St. Mary the Virgin

Inside Pitts River Museum

While in Oxford, we had to eat dinner at local restaurants. This allowed us to try out many of the delicious foods around the city. One night, my roommates and I ate at The Eagle and the Child, which is where C.S. Lewis would write his books. Another night, my program took us out for Indian food at a local restaurant, where we each got to order curries. The highlight of the week was the formal dinner for our program held in the dining hall at the college. We were served delicious appetizers, main courses, and dessert. It was great to be with our teachers and the program’s staff.
Outside The Eagle and Child restaurant
After dinner chocolates with Univ crest

On our way home to Bath, we made a stop at Blenheim Palace, a gorgeous site where Winston Churchill was born. The palace was built after a British victory against the French as a celebration, and was given as a gift to the first Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill. Obviously, the most famous member of the Churchill family was Winston Churchill, who was the son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. I couldn’t believe all of the history and scenery of the site, which was picture-perfect. We got to eat lunch at the Palace’s cafĂ©, which overlooked some of the gardens.

Blenheim Palace

Gardens of Blenheim Palace
All in all, this past week has been nothing short of remarkable. It’s hard to believe I’ve stepped foot in some places that are hundreds of years older than me and full of stories. I am just a sliver of them. It’s truly an opportunity I’ll never forget.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Let the School Year Begin

This past week has been nothing short of eventful, as I have traveled to some beautiful sights in England and started my classes. It still hasn’t quite sunk in that I’m studying here for the semester because the new environment I’m living in is lively and full of adventure.

Orientation week ended this past Sunday and the whole ASE program traveled to Stonehenge and the towns of Salisbury and Lacock. Stonehenge was nothing short of amazing. Since I have hiked into Machu Picchu, I realized I’ve now visited two of the Seven Wonders of the World. Stonehenge isn’t as big as I thought it would be, however it was so interesting to see the mixture of cultures that came together to see this sight. After visiting Stonehenge, we traveled to the town of Salisbury, and visited the Salisbury Cathedral, which has one of the four original copies of the Magna Carta. The cathedral was awe-inspiring. I was amazed to be in a building so beautiful that is centuries old. The highlight of the day was visiting the small village of Lacock. We visited Lacock Abbey, where, surprisingly enough, scenes of Harry Potter were filmed. In fact, the whole village was used for filming. We ate at a small pub before returning home.


Salisbury Cathedral

Classes have begun for the semester, and my brain is now returning from summer mode. My first class was Education in England, and I will be analyzing the UK educational system while comparing it to the US educational system. Along with this class, I am in an Education tutorial and will be a placement at the Bathampton Primary School every Tuesday. I met my teacher on Tuesday, and she is the sweetest! The school is over a hundred years old and its small, cozy values are still felt today. The staff was so welcoming and excited for my arrival. I found it funny, and maybe I should get used to it, that when I introduce myself, people are surprised by my name. Apparently, Shelby isn’t a popular name here, and I have been the first Shelby people have met before. Back to the subject, I’m so excited for my placement and to finally meet all the kids! In my class, the kids will be 7-8 years old. My teacher already warned me that I will be the topic of discussion, as the kids will want to know all about me. We will be focusing on the Roman Baths, along with other general subjects. The other two classes I’m taking, UK Media in a Globalized World and Ghosts and the Gothic: The Literature of Terror, are unlike anything I’ve taken before, but I thoroughly enjoyed my first class (yes, call me crazy!) I’ve managed my work so far, in between sightseeing and getting some sleep! There really aren’t enough hours in a day!

I’m sure I’ll be busier and have much more to talk about once the semester kicks into gear and I become more acclimated into the city. The two universities here in Bath don’t start until the beginning of October, so it’ll be nice to see more people my age! I’ll keep you all posted, so until week!

All my best,


Friday, August 30, 2013

Settling In into the British Life

It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been in England (yes, I made it!) for five days now. I’ve also amazed myself how much I can accomplish within those days. I’ve traveled approximately 3500 miles from home, experienced driving on the left hand side of the road (no, I wasn’t driving, don’t worry), and gone grocery shopping in a foreign country. Most of all, I’ve met some great people so far, both British and American.
I arrived in Bath with about an hour of sleep under my belt, so exhaustion definitely came into play. Morgan and I arrived and settled into our new homes for the next few months. I am living in Nunes House, which is located right on the River Avon, and smack in the middle of the city. After growing up in Vermont where everything has to be accessed by a car, walking is a nice change of pace. It’s remarkable what you can see when you take your time to appreciate and observe your surroundings. I live in a flat, which is similar to an apartment, and I live with two other girls. We have a kitchen, dining room, two bathrooms, and two bedrooms (one is a double, the other is a single). The only drawback of the flat? It’s located on the top fifth floor of the old Georgian style building, which means lots of stairs! So far, it’s been a great experience to cook for myself, and have a place to call my own. I love the girls I live with, and we all get along really well. I’m excited to get to know them better, and see what adventures we’ll go on!
Since this is the first week here, orientation is in full swing. The program I’m studying abroad through is academically challenging, therefore we’ve had to take diagnostic tests these past couple days. Our professors wrote prompts and asked questions for us to answer in essay form. We had an essay for each class. The worst part was getting my brain back in gear for academics after not writing all summer. As I mentioned before, I am in the Education program, therefore I’m in an education placement every Tuesday at Bathampton Primary School. I’m taking three other classes here, which are UK Media in a Globalized World, The Ghosts and the Gothic: The Literature of Terror, and Education in England. Besides the education related classes, I’m taking classes totally unlike those I would take at Saint Michael’s. I’m excited for these classes, as they have study trips and will surely broaden my love of English and academics in general.
Generally, this week has been full of adjustment including everything from jet lag to the realization that many of my friends and family are five hours behind me in their day. It’s helped to get out and explore Bath. We toured the Bath Abbey, which was absolutely phenomenal. I’ve also gone on a couple runs, and to my surprise, saw some extraordinary views along the way. During my runs, it dawned on me that I am finally here in England, and what an opportunity I’ve been given. Yes, this transition period isn’t always the easiest, but I know these next 15 weeks are going to fly by, and before I know it, I’ll be heading back home to the 802. One of the biggest pieces of advice the faculty at ASE told us this week during orientation is to not be a tourist, but become a citizen of Bath. Right now, of course it is hard, but there is a complete change in the experience when one gets out and explores everything the city has to offer.
So what’s ahead these next few days? Tonight, we have a reception at the Victoria Art Gallery to meet our professors. Tomorrow, our student helpers (students who attend Bath Spa University or the University of Bath and help acclimate us to the city) are taking us on a tour of the Saturday markets. Sunday will be an exciting day, as we travel to Stonehenge, and the towns of Salisbury and Lacock, where we will have a traditional Sunday dinner, and look at the sites that were used in Harry Potter movies. I’ll let you all know how it is!
Below are some pictures that I took on my phone when I was on my run the other day. I couldn’t resist!