Fresh Air is Good for the Soul

Ever since I figured out what I wanted to do with my life, I’ve dreamed of living in a city.  Getting an apartment in New York or Chicago, taking public transportation to work every day; it all seemed like the dream. And living in London was the perfect trial run for it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am loving living in the city. There’s so much to do and see every single day. It really keeps you on your toes too. The other day as I went by on the bus, I saw a man serenading some people very enthusiastically with his saxophone. But one thing I didn’t anticipate was how much I was going to miss grass and trees and air that doesn’t smell like bus fumes all the time.

This past weekend we had a field trip to go see Stonehenge and spend a night in the city of Bath. I missed most of the drive up due to being asleep, but once we arrived at Stonehenge, I was surprised at how green everything still was. I’m so used to everything being brown and dead-looking in the middle of January.

After we walked around the stones for a while, my friends and I decided to not take the bus back to the visitor center and hike along the path through the hills instead. It was a bit blustery, but eventually the sun came out, and it was gorgeous. It was then that I realized how much I missed my shoes slipping in the mud while hiking, and the damp smell the earth gives after it rains.

In Bath we had a similar experience. The line to be able to sit in one of the baths fed by the hot springs was much too long, so once again, we decided to walk around. As we looked around the city, we noticed a large park that was situated a bit higher up than the rest of the city. We had no idea how to get there, but we were determined to find it anyway.

We walked out of the city center, into a neighborhood just outside of the city (accidentally walking through a few people’s garden paths in the process). Soon, we found the park. It’s green carpet was a vivid difference in comparison to the pale architecture of the rest of the city. We made our way up.

All of us decided not to look at the view until we hit the very top of the hill. As we stood with our backs facing the city, panting slightly from the incline, there was no doubt that smiles were plastered on all of our faces.

“One…Two…Three”

 

 

It was worth the biting wind, the muddy shoes, and forty-five-minute hike. If nothing else, it made me realize just how much I loved exploring in this capacity. It was refreshing to be able to clear our lungs and take a moment to appreciate this amazing journey we’re on.

“Cheerio” From England!

If you know me, you probably know that I’m studying this fall at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. However, my parents and I traveled abroad early so that we could have a little UK vacation before moving me into “uni.” Here’s a little bit of what we did and saw!

Aberdeen Blog 1- London phone booth

We spent most of the first day traveling around on a hop-on-hop-off bus. It took us all around the city, and even though I was having trouble staying awake, it was easy to tell that London is gorgeous. It’s full of old charming buildings surrounded by glass skyscrapers. One of the best examples of this is the Tower of London. This old structure is situated in a modern area of the city and was home to many royals and executions back in the day. This was so fun to tour, and the “yeomen” that work there were incredibly interesting to talk to!

Aberdeen Blog 1- Tower of London
The Tower of London is also where you can see the Crown Jewels!

Another one of my favorite parts of England was the Harry Potter Lot Tour. This Universal lot is located a ways outside of the city, so a tour bus took us there. Guys, if you are a Harry Potter fan, this is the place to go. It has everything! Costumes! Diagon Alley! The Great Hall! Moaning Myrtle’s robes! Dumbledore’s beard! The Knight Bus! The Hogwarts Express! Everything! I totally went crazy at this place.

On my way to Hogwarts! That's actually where I'm studying abroad...
On my way to Hogwarts! That’s actually where I’m studying abroad…

Another highlight of our trip was seeing Shakespeare’s Globe. If you don’t know, this is a recreation of Shakespeare’s original theatre, but everything is made to look authentic. We took a tour and got to go around the building and in the actual theatre, and the best part is that we saw actors warming up for their matinee production of MacBeth. They were fighting with swords and shields and rehearsing lines on the stage. I wish I could have seen the show!

This was our view of The Globe from the Thames!
This was our view of The Globe from the Thames!

One show that I did see, though, was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and OH MY GOSH. IT WAS AMAZING. I read the script before I even knew I would be able to see it, so I went into it knowing the story. However, the play still shocked me. The “magic” made me do double takes. The actors were incredible (especially Anthony Boyle as Scorpius Malfoy). I wish I could see it every day of my life. If you have any doubts after reading the script, try, try to see the show performed live because it’s full of all the wonderful J.K. Rowling magic we know and love.

Even the outside of the Palace Theatre looked straight out of Rowling's world.
Even the outside of the Palace Theatre looked straight out of Rowling’s world.

We saw other things in England as well: Churchill’s war rooms, The National Gallery, Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford. We even got to see the Chatsworth House (aka Mr. Darcy’s Pemberley Estate from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie!).

Me with the bust of Mr. Darcy from the movie. Can you tell I was excited?
Me with the bust of Mr. Darcy from the movie. Can you tell I was excited?

So my verdict on England is that it’s absolutely fantastic. I loved London and its history (even its underground trains!). The English countryside was also nothing short of lovely. However, I’m not studying in England. I’m spending the semester in Scotland, which, from what I can tell already, is just as exciting and beautiful. Hopefully I can perhaps zip over to England again this semester, but until then it’s goodbye London and hello Aberdeen!

 

Fútbol, Football, Soccer

Camp Nou. The vibrance erupting through the stadium, the echo’s of yelling fans, the articulate yet free flowing style of Barcelona football, is all simply magnificent. A few days ago I had the pleasure of experiencing this firsthand as Barcelona FC played Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey quarterfinal. Barcelona triumphed Bilbao 3-1, winning the quarterfinal 5-2 on aggregate.

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Watching the likes of Messi, Neymar, Suarez, and Iniesta, whom are all some of the greatest soccer players of the modern era,  has been the highlight of my time abroad. I will certainly be back!

Charlie and I after the game
Charlie and I after the game

A few days after the Barcelona game, I traveled to Leeds, England to visit and watch a proper “football” match with two Hope College Alumnus: Will Morlock and Connor Kogge. We watched a Championship League match between Leeds United and Nottingham Forest. The Championship division is the 2nd division in England, underneath the Barclays Premier League. It is said to be the “real football experience” as these clubs are typically smaller in stature, but have a stronger, more centralized fan base than Premier League Clubs.

 

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Leeds Stadium just after the 2nd half kickoff

This stadium’s atmosphere differed entirely from Camp Nou (Barcelona FC’s stadium). First off, it is much smaller, holding just under 40,000 fans. Second, the style of football being played is completely different. Leeds played a very direct style with many long balls forward and over the top of Nottingham’s defence. The  Leeds United fans actually booed their own players whenever the ball was passed backwards. Finally, there were no tourists (besides myself), only locals at this game. Leeds United fans bleed Leeds football until they die, and have a deeper passion for their team than Barcelona’s fans do for Barca FC.

Experiencing these two games, totally different in culture and location, represent the possibilities available to Hope students through studying abroad. One day you’re in Barcelona, and the next you are halfway across Europe on a flight costing you less than $40. I could not fathom doing this at any other time in my life, especially while in school. To be able to experience theses tastes of different cultures firsthand is a memorable experience and one I recommend to any and all.