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.

Take Some Time and Forget the Map

On day one of orientation here in London, our program put on the screen a list of several apps to help make sure we knew where we were going the next few days. There was a frantic rush as everyone grabbed their pen or pencil to scribble down the names, myself included. I was nervous and overwhelmed, terrified of showing up late to any of the meetings or required events. Honestly, I needed all the help I could get.

Going to and from school and our residences, we were constantly clutching on to our phones, double checking that we were entering the right tube station, turning the right direction, or getting on the correct bus. By about day three, we were slowly starting to get the hang of where we needed to go—that is if we were going to school or back.

The Saturday after we arrived, my roommate and I decided to get some lunch before heading out to get our groceries. We mapped our way back to what we thought was our street, only to discover that there’s a difference between Angel and Angel street. Angel street just happened to be near St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is about twenty minutes away from our home station. St. Paul’s was beautiful and ginormous, and it was a nice surprise to stumble on. After snapping a few pictures, we headed back to the bus using our trusted map app.

Bumping along the jammed London streets on the double decker bus, we got to see a lot more of London than we were expecting. Before we knew it, we were driving along Oxford street with all of its beautiful Christmas lights still up, and traveling through the West End, the bright marquees blinking furiously. We were so entranced by it all, we weren’t paying attention that our bus had crossed a bridge over the river Thames and onto the South Bank—definitely the opposite direction of where we needed to be. And there our bus stopped.

We ended up finding our way back to our residence, slowly but surely, and stopping to take pictures of the sun setting on the London skyline and the London eye in the process. It was quite an adventure. Almost two and a half hours in an attempt to get some measly groceries!

 

Since then, I’ve wandered into neighborhoods that are nowhere near where I live, found some great cafes and bakeries, turned the wrong way out of tube stations and discovered bookshops and theatres for shows I want to go see. Though I always have my map ready in case I need it, I’m starting to put it away and just explore, letting the city take me where it wants to.

 

London Calling!

This past weekend my friends and I took a weekend trip to London! I booked an all-day tour to Windsor Castle, Roman Baths, and Stonehenge, which was definitely my favorite part of this study abroad experience so far! Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge history fan, so I was incredibly stoked for this tour.

First we stopped at Windsor Castle, which is where Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip live. As it turns out, we were in London for the Queen’s birthday celebration so all of London was decorated with photos of the Queen. Windsor Castle is the oldest operating castle in Europe, and is one of the most beautiful castles I have seen.

After Windsor Castle, we headed to the ancient Roman Baths, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These baths are still running from the same hot spring the ancient Romans used. The baths had tons of Roman artifacts and I learned a lot about Roman life. I definitely hope to come back to Bath, UK, to explore the beautiful city more!

  

 

Lastly, and my personal favorite, we visited Stonehenge. Stonehenge is in my bucket list top five, and I could not have been more excited to finally see a historical site that I have wanted to experience my entire life. Stonehenge is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so the UK definitely has a lot of history I cannot wait to come back and explore. Stonehenge has fascinated me since I was little, and I was happy to learn on the tour that Stonehenge is actually an astronomical calendar. On the summer and winter solstice, the sunset and sunrise line up exactly through the stone arches. I had a ton of fun on this tour and saw some of the highlights of England!

Unfortunately, Big Ben is under construction so we were not able to visit the famous Benjamin. Although, we toured every other spot in downtown London. I, of course, had to take a photo in the iconic red telephone booth! We also visited Parliament and Buckingham Palace, where we saw the famous British guards.

    

 

   

To cap off our fantastic weekend in London, we rode the London Eye and saw the best view of London! The London Eye was a lot higher than I thought, but was a memorable way to close our last night in London.

    

 

Just before we left, our flight was delayed by several hours. I was happy about this because it meant I had time to explore the British Museum! This was one of the best museums I have been to, and my favorite artifacts included the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles, and an Easter Island head. Experiencing more world history was a great way to close a fantastic weekend!

Cheerio!

-Alissa Smith

Big Hope 2: Liverpool, Day 2!

 

Today was the second day of our trip at Liverpool Hope University for the Big Hope 2 Conference. The day started off pretty easily, with meeting new local students from the university, seeing children in their English school uniforms, and a beautiful walk across campus to our first Keynote speaker of the week.

   The biggest highlight of the day came mid-morning when I attended a discussion forum on Women in Leadership. It was such a brilliant and inspiring talk, given by four talented women.  An interesting quote that stuck out to me during the talk was by Angela Samata, who said, “ Don’t assume that everyone has your back just because they’re a woman.” What a strong thing to say.

    She then continued on by explaining how women become afraid of other women who could be a possible threat to their position; the worry of being passed by another woman. This ultimately can lead women to knock one another down, instead of lifting them up. My belief is that we should create and have a sisterhood between the women in leadership today. Another message that all of the speakers portrayed to the audience was that you need support from others in your journey in leadership. We cannot do it alone, and that is why I think it is extremely important for women to empower each other rather than tear each other down. We must “have a vision and see the possibilities, see the talent and power around us” as another speaker stated. The entire panel was excellent and there were many inspiring ideas said. There were lessons here today that I hope to take with me back to America and share with other women.

  That afternoon (and into the evening) the delegates gathered in their learning tracks for the first time. I am a part of When Love Hurts, which discusses relationship abuse and teaches the students about the motives behind the abuse and how to spot the signs of it. I look forward to learning more throughout the rest of the week and to see the projects we come up with.

    After dinner I took a much-needed walk around campus with a friend to explore the parts we had not seen yet. We strolled passed other residential halls, out onto the streets, and even into a lovely little neighborhood. It was refreshing and wonderful to experience Liverpool on my own in someway. On this trip I hope to see more of the city, and view it in a way that is different from how most tourists would. I want to get an insight into the everyday life and observe what life is like for locals, rather than simply find all the tourist attractions.

  Today was a great start to an exciting week we all have ahead of us! I am looking forward to the other discussion sessions, meeting new people, and experiencing Liverpool even more.

By Anna Vostrizansky

PS: Below are some photos showing some of our explorations of the city of Liverpool this far!

Concert in Glasgow

After spending nearly three weeks traveling around the UK and mainland Europe for the University of Aberdeen’s spring break, I arrived back at Aberdeen late last night. I rarely had reliable WiFi on the trip, so I had planned on submitting a few blogs about the trip today. When I went to do this; however, I discovered that I had never actually hit the “Submit” button on my most recent blog about a concert I went to about a month ago now. After spending a week downloading all of the bands’ new music and walking to classes in t-shirts with their names plastered across the chest, this is what I had written:

 

“Anyone who has been on a road-trip with me has experienced my many road-trip games, and my girlfriend had the pleasure of putting up with them all morning last week (as in the week before I actually wrote this three weeks ago) when we took an early morning bus to Glasgow to spend a day in the city and see a concert at night. One of the games I like to play is called “top-3,” and it is pretty self-explanatory. Basically, I give a category and the contestants share their “top 3” for the category. One of the categories for this trip was “all-time favorite concerts,” and after narrowing down a top 3, we were each excited to see if the one that night would rank among the likes of Elton John, Darius Rucker, Ben Rector, and OneRepublic in our lists.

Since I had already been to Glasgow for a weekend trip with some friends, we only briefly visited some of the major tourist attractions that I had already spent time in: the Necropolis, Glasgow Cathedral, and Kelvingrove Park. We spent the rest of the day walking around in the heart of the city, trying a highly recommended Kebab restaurant, and exploring the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow. Glasgow’s city-center (or “centre”) is filled with walking streets that pass through shopping and dining areas, kind of like an extensive outdoor mall. On the day we went, these streets were crowded with street performers and groups of people stopped to watch or listen to them. The walk was really enjoyable, and we wound up stumbling onto a kebab place that I had recognized from reading positive reviews online the night before.

**Quick foodie interjection: For anyone who hasn’t had or heard of a doner kebab (since I hadn’t before getting here), a doner kebab is essentially lamb shavings and vegetables wrapped in pita bread. It is not a Scottish dish. I believe it is Turkish. But, they are wildly popular here as a late night snack to share with friends or as a quick meal. I highly recommend googling it right now and finding the nearest location to you that offers them, because they are delicious. I have probably eaten between 15 and 20 of them since being here.**

With full-stomachs, we headed to explore the beautiful architecture of the University of Glasgow and were intrigued by signs pointing toward the Hunterian Museum. The Hunterian is a large collection of artifacts started by a fascinating man named Dr. William Hunter who had a wide-variety of passions. The collection is about as diverse as Hunter’s interests were, containing anatomical and medical, technological, political, and biological artifacts. This diversity was perfect for my girlfriend (a kinesiology major) and me (a biology major). The collection is really impressive and informative. You could spend an entire day there, but we only stayed for a couple hours.

At the end of the night, we went to this concert venue called “the Garage (attic).” The venue was small but not too crowded. The first band in the lineup was Indigo Velvet, followed by Vistas, and then Marsicans. These bands are not incredibly well-known (yet) but they all have really great music. If you are at all interested in alternative rock, I would recommend checking them out. Every one of the bands put on a fantastic show, and my girlfriend and I were both left with a new concert holding the number one position on our list of “all-time favorite concerts,” as well as a continuous ringing in our ears.

 

Thanks to my slip-up of not pressing submit, I had some extra time to reflect on the significance of this concert to my study-abroad experience as a whole. I love music, and I appreciate the way that music ties in with memory and inspiring emotion. I will always be amazed by the power that a specific song has in taking me back to a specific time, place, and feeling. This entire spring break trip, my girlfriend and I found ourselves humming or singing parts of the songs we’d heard at this concert. The concert itself was a wonderful experience that I will always remember, and the songs from the concert will also always take me back to this special period of time abroad and all of the times these songs were stuck in my head, like while eating gelato in the streets of Vienna or hiking the hill up to the Citadella in Budapest. But more on that spring break trip soon.

Poorly taken photo of Marsicans performing at the Garage (the Attic)