Sunday, September 29, 2013

Living Situations and Meeting People

While abroad I'm staying in the dorms at my university, which has been a fantastic experience so far. As I said in my last blog, I lived at home back in Pittsburgh so this is my first experience with campus life. At my university there are four colleges, which are just the different areas with a lot of buildings. Each college has dorms and at least one building with lecture halls. I happen to be in a college that also has a cafe, so I have coffee and prepared food easily accessible. My college is set up where the two dorm buildings, the lecture hall building, and the cafe are all facing each other with a giant grass quad in the middle. There's also a Church at my college, which holds activities every so often. The whole university's campus is gorgeous, with ponds and ivy archways along the path from college to college. It reminds me of a fairy tale, and I love going on walks just around the campus. Here's a picture I took of the pond near my college.
The dorms are quite different depending on which college you're in, and I've heard that the ones I'm staying in are about the second cheapest. While I wouldn't have guessed that, we have had a few minor problems in our flat already. My seven flatmates and I have laughed it off, though. The problems were pretty easily fixed for us, too, all we had to do was notify the university.

I've really enjoyed living on campus overall, as it's made making friends a lot easier. Also, I guess it depends on who you end up sharing the flat with, but everyone in my hall seems to like each other well and enjoy spending time with each other. We've even decided on having a flat dinner day once a month, and tend to spend a lot of our free time with each other already. Living on campus also means I don't have an hour commute before classes, so I'm not crying over having a 9 am class. I do miss having candles and pets, though.

Meeting other students in my study abroad group has been really easy, too. While I haven't met many students with the CISabroad program that don't go to the same university, I've managed to befriend a lot that do go to my university without realizing it at first. I think the university having us all arrive on the same day, and before the rest of the first year students, helped a lot in meeting other study abroad students. Having some activities for study abroad students helped, too. The first friends I made here are the other study abroad students, because that's who was around at first. It helps that we were all going through similar experiences and able to relate to each other.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

London and University Life

London reminds me of Pittsburgh so much. London is big, filled with smaller neighborhoods, has a lot of public transportation, and is very diverse. After getting to the airport, I took a shuttle provided by Roehampton to the university. Along the way I noticed that the neighborhoods seemed to have a main road with a lot of shops and then the surrounding area was streets with homes all squished together. This immediately made me think of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods, and how they're set up very similarly. The transportation and diversity are also a lot like Pittsburgh, just on a larger scale. There's more transportation, and a lot more diversity.

I think the diversity of London really hit me when I was taking pictures at Westminster Abbey. Everyone around me was speaking a different language, it was so unlike anything I'd ever experienced.

The transportation is similar enough to Pittsburgh that I understand it well and don't mind waiting for a bus, but there's definitely more ways to get to where you're going. Combining both the transportation and diversity, there is also an incredible amount of people who use the public transportation here. I believe during one of my orientation lectures about the transportation I was told nearly three million people use the underground daily.

The orientation events have been great. Both the dinner at The Old Bank of England with CISabroad and the talks at Roehampton have been really informative. Not only was the pie, beer, and being on Fleet Street fantastic at The Old Bank of England, but the presentation was really thorough. I've been really impressed by how much information has been given to us. I really love random facts, and luckily it seems there are plenty about London. It was really dark so I wasn't able to get a decent photo of The Old Bank of England, but it was literally grand. It was the first bank in England, and since people weren't used to the whole idea of making deposits, they designed it to be very ornate to help comfort everyone.

As I mentioned before, Roehampton gave a really good lecture about the public transportation. They combined the information with the lure of a photo frenzy, where we were challenged to a scavenger hunt around the city to take pictures at landmarks. It was really fun, we were split up into groups and given cameras and all day travel passes. My group eventually decided we were going to just wander the city and have fun, so we only ended up checking off about seven of our twelve hints. We saw a lot of landmarks and got used to the underground, and even got momentarily lost in Russel Square. Here's some pictures from that:
Waiting for the tube

Piccadilly Circus

Big Ben and Parliament

The London Eye

Buckingham Palace

Besides the more informational parts of the orientations, though they were also loads of fun, I think Roehampton has done a terrific job of helping all the new students meet each other. The international students arrived on September 11th, and all the first year students arrived on September 15th. The few days we had on campus alone were nice and I met tons of students from all over the world, but the first years arrival began Fresher's Week, which has been so much fun. There have been events every night that are either on campus or around London at cool places. Getting to hang out with all the new students has made it really easy to make new friends, which was something I really wanted to do here.

I also want to include more photos I've taken, so here's some from when I went on a day trip with some new friends to Primrose Hill and Camden.

Primrose Hill

Walking to Camden

Resting and taking photos on the way to Camden


Camden Market


Roehampton has also given me the taste of university life that I hadn't experienced at Carlow because I lived off campus. I remember hearing about how everyone always saw each other at Carlow, and how people felt like they had known each other for ages after just a few weeks because of the close proximity. I can really understand that now, because even after just about ten days I feel like I've made some friends I'll keep in touch with long past leaving in December.

Friday, September 6, 2013

And So It Begins...

I moved a lot throughout my life, even up until this day I haven't spent more than a few years in one house. My family and I often joke about being nomadic. I have never traveled outside of the United States, though, except for brief trips to Canada. Since college is a great way to easily live abroad for several months, I knew that once I was in college I would travel beyond our borders. I was hesitant on going someplace where I didn't know the language for a lengthy amount of time, so England seemed like a perfect choice. I've also always had a fascination with London and how old of an area it is. The close proximity to so many other countries I've wanted to visit is another reason I chose England, so that I can easily take weekend trips to various places.

I'm not entirely sure how I'll be changed by this experience, but I'm expecting to definitely be changed. I know spending months away from my family is going to be hard, and I'm hoping I'll be even more independent when I come back.

My main goal while studying abroad is to develop and maintain a great studying method. I know the education system is more dependent on a student's personal studying and work outside of the classroom. I know I'm prone to procrastination, and I really want to fix that so that I can relax and travel. Which leads me to my other goals, to travel as much as monetarily possible. I enjoy walking a lot and don't mind lower-end transportation services, so my hopes are to see as much of England as possible. Some other places I'd like to visit are: Scotland; Wales, the Netherlands, France, and Italy. One of my bigger goals is to go to the Louvre, and maybe get a chance to try real Champagne, for my 21st birthday. I'd also like to visit as many museums, historical sites, and gardens as I can. I'm also sure that my goal to meet many interesting people will be accomplished with how much traveling I want to do.

I should be able to do all this by managing my time and money well. Getting my studying done and spending both time and money wisely will not only keep me on track academically, but allow me maximum traveling time.

I don't really have many fears or apprehensions at all. If anything, I'm scared that culture shock will affect me more than I'm expecting.

One the other hand, I'm looking forward to every aspect of studying abroad. I'm looking forward to getting to experience the differences between Pittsburgh and London. To meeting new people, and visiting new places. I'm even looking forward to classes, as they are ones I'm very interested in and it will be nice to challenge myself with the style of lessons and work.

I'm off to London in less than four days, and my next post should follow shortly!