Thursday, May 16, 2019

Cameron in Uruguay!

Cameron in Uruguay!

Here’s to spreading your wings, falling, soaring, and all of the moments in between.

My name is Cameron and I am studying abroad in Montevideo, Uruguay at Universidad de Montevideo (UM). I looked forward to studying abroad because I was dying to travel outside of the United States since I was a little girl. Having lived in the same small town for 14 years, I was more than ready to leave (or so I thought). When I got in line to go through security at the airport and turned to say goodbye to my family for what seemed like the fifth time, I realized that they were already gone. I felt a pit in my stomach that I would never forget and I didn’t know this then but that feeling would stick with me for days to come. I had images in my mind as to what my first few days in Uruguay would be like, but my true experiences did not match up to the picture-perfect expectations in my head.

I didn’t know that I would spend my first days in Uruguay feeling so alone.
I didn’t expect to fail having a conversation in Spanish with my host mom and with locals all around me after spending 2 years learning Spanish.
I didn’t anticipate the difficulties of completing simple tasks in a different country; going for a walk, buying groceries, and taking a bus all suddenly became incredibly daunting and mentally exhausting tasks.

Hi MTV! Welcome to my crib! (Casapueblo in Maldonado, Uruguay)

To me, studying abroad is a lot like riding a roller coaster; you initially think it is a great idea, wait in line, mentally prepare yourself, buckle up, wait for crew instructions, and can hardly contain your excitement for the ride to start. Then, as soon as you feel the roller coaster carts move on the tracks, the doubts and fears you tried so hard to push down suddenly appear at the forefront of your mind. What have I done? Why did I choose a place that doesn’t speak English? What if I don’t make friends? What if I make a complete fool out of myself trying to speak Spanish? Are my friends and family going to be okay without me? What will I be missing out on? What if it isn’t everything I thought it would be?

 On top of Intendencia de Montevideo where you can get a free 360 view of Montevideo! I am pictured with friends from all over the world. From L to R: Emmanuel (Uruguay), Juan (Argentina), Me, Janneke (Netherlands), René (Germany), and Marie (France). The cup in my hand is called "mate", a very popular beverage in Uruguay.  

However, after that first incline when you are sitting at the top waiting to drop, you start to realize that there is really nothing you can do except adjust, breathe, and ride it out until the end. Then, you descend quickly; you loop, twist, turn, go backwards and you feel all of this adrenaline, excitement, and joy! But before you know it, the ride is over. When the ride ends, you recognize that the decision you made was a great one. You experienced something incredibly thrilling and you would have never known it had you skipped the rollercoaster, gave into your fears, or tried to make yourself seem too short to ride.

It has been almost two months since arriving in Uruguay and according to my countdown clock, I have approximately 3 months and some days before returning to the United States. Truly though, I haven’t been checking as often anymore; I dread it now. After some time, I have realized that studying abroad and choosing Uruguay was one of the greatest choices I have ever made.
I didn’t expect to make lifelong friendships with people from various countries all over the globe.
I didn’t know that I would hike gorgeous landscapes in Patagonia, visit beautiful beaches in Punta del Este, volunteer with other UM students in Minas, and continue to further explore Uruguay.
I didn’t anticipate to find myself in Uruguay or to grow to love life in Montevideo.

An international students school trip to Punta del Este, Uruguay would not be complete without taking a picture at Los Dedos (the fingers). 

This may have not been the blog that you imagined yourself reading. I realize that, in stark contrast to my colleagues, I admitted to some hard truths about a semester abroad. At the beginning (and even the middle and end of your experience), you will feel threatened, insecure, frustrated, anxious, nervous, and/or homesick; that is completely normal. Those feelings are what make you human and that is what makes your experience so unique. One of the best truths that I can share with you though is that you will not always feel this way. It will get better. You will make friends. You will enjoy your time. Your friends and family still love you back home and think about you every second; don’t worry about them too much though, they still have their own lives. You may have gotten yourself into something completely new, but that doesn’t make it bad.

My dragon, Frijole, in front of the great mountains of San Carlos de Bariloche in Patagonia, Argentina. We traveled together throughout Argentina for Semana Santa (Holy Week), or as known in Uruguay: Semana Turismo (Tourism Week). 

It may seem scary at first but try to enjoy every second and constantly find yourself in the presence of wonder. And for those moments where you cannot seem to find an ounce of joy, dare to learn. Then, prepare for the next ride and do it all over again.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Lexi in Glasgow!

Hello! My name is Lexi Raphael and I am a junior double-majoring in Accounting and Finance currently studying at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. I am super lucky to be studying at Strathclyde’s renowned business school this semester. As I write this, finals season is now in full swing and the weather is finally warming up - spring has sprung here in the UK! The exam period for Strathclyde students is really long compared to UNCG’s, with a full five weeks dedicated to studying and taking our final exams. So now I am able to take the time to reflect on this truly incredible experience and share with you what my life has been like in Glasgow. When my LIHC dragon, Rory, and I arrived in Glasgow I had no idea what this semester was going to be like, but I was so excited to get started on this wonderful journey.

My dragon, Rory (which means "red king" in Gaelic) and I ready to fly to Glasgow.

Rory visits the famous arches underneath the University of Glasgow.

When I arrived in early January it was quite cold in Scotland and the sun would set as early as 4:30pm which was hard to get used to, especially being in a brand new place. However, Glasgow itself is an incredible city that is full of history as well as the strangest creatures - also known as Glaswegians. “People Make Glasgow” is the city’s official motto and could not be more true. I have met the most funny, warm, and welcoming people while staying in Glasgow. Glaswegians are natural storytellers and are always willing to talk (especially if there is a pint involved). They love to go out and have a good time almost to a fault. I say Glaswegians are strange because some of the stories I have been told are so weird they have to be true. Glasgow is kind of a weird place: from eating ground-up sheep organs cooked inside its own stomach (haggis is not actually that bad), to placing traffic cones on the heads of all the statues in the city, to the insane lingo that makes the Glaswegian accent practically its own language. But, I was really happy to find that despite Glasgow being a large city, the biggest in Scotland, the people are just as friendly as the ones in the South. I have also made friends with people from around the world, including two of my lovely flatmates (even though they are actually also Americans). Who knew that I would be able to call people from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Italy, and Denmark my friends?

Myself, my two flatmates from California, and our friend from Australia.

Some of my friends and I on a night out!

The rest of Scotland is just as remarkable as Glasgow, with amazing sights and a landscape that could bring tears to any nature lover. I have been able to travel all over the Highlands to places like the mountains of Glencoe, the ruins of Dunnottar Castle overlooking the ocean, and one of the most beautiful places on Earth - the Isle of Skye, a small island off the Western coast of mainland Scotland. There is so much Scottish history attached to every place in Scotland with castles and old forts scattered across the country. Even without it, the stunning lochs (Scottish term for lake) and mountains are reason enough to come to Scotland. There have been multiple movies, shows, and music videos filmed all around Scotland like Harry Potter, Outlander, and James Bond: Skyfall just to name a few.

Seeing the ruins of Dunnottar Castle with a great view of the ocean.

Climbing the Old Man of Storr in the Isle of Skye.

I have also been super lucky to fulfill my life-long dream of traveling across Europe to the cities I have wanted to visit for years. With my semester abroad being over in just a few short weeks, I am really happy that I was able to see all of the places on my “To-See List” while I was here. Other than places in Scotland, I have been to London, Amsterdam, Reykjavik, Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Venice, Prague, Krakow, and the Canary Islands. (I am tired just typing that). I am so grateful to both the Lloyd International Honors College and UNCG for making my study abroad experience possible. Scotland has been an adventure of a lifetime and I already cannot wait until I come back to visit. If you want to follow my travel adventures or even ask me some questions about going abroad follow me on Instagram @lexiraphael. Goodbye!

Rory and I taking in the views of Reykjavik, Iceland!

The mountains of Glencoe and the Scottish flag.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Kayleigh in Glasgow!

I can still remember the thick smell of rain in the air as I stepped out of the airport in Scotland, completely alone and in a new country. Hi, I’m Kayleigh and I am a Psychology major with a Pre-medicine track. Currently, I am studying abroad in Glasgow, the most populous city in Scotland. Glasgow has two main universities: the University of Glasgow (it looks like Hogwarts) and the University of Strathclyde, the school I go to. Strathclyde has student flats on campus and most international students live here. I am in one of the most central flats on campus with 5 other international students. I have flatmates from Wisconsin, Canada, and Australia. Our flat is quite small but it is nice to have my own room after living in a dorm for the last year and a half. It is also really nice being in an international dorm (some international students live with Strathclyde students that have been there all year) because we’re all going through this experience together and they are automatic travel buddies.
Celtics "football" game with two of my flatmates.
The Highlands are my favorite place in Scotland because of their beauty and amazing stories. Scotland was originally a Pagan society before Christianity was introduced here when the Romans invaded. Due to this, a lot of areas in Scotland (really almost all) have some sort of myth or legend tied to it. The common legend everyone knows is the Loch Ness Monster, Nessie. Legend says that the monster lurks deep in the loch, below the water where no one can see it. My first trip out to the Highlands was to see Loch Ness and the area around it. While I did not spot Nessie, the Loch is very pretty and has an amazing view when you look out into it. Also, I was able to see Highland Cows on this visit (or Highland Coos as the Scottish say).
Highland "Coo" I saw on my trip to Loch Ness.
My dragon, Sorcha, in front of Loch Ness. Sorcha is a Scottish Gaelic name meaning "brightness".
Recently, I took a trip to the gorgeous Isle of Skye. It is often said that Skye is proof that sometimes God was just showing off. And that is true! I took a 2 day trip up there with multiple other international students. We visited a few different places on Isle of Skye, all of them more beautiful than the last. The big spot/most famous spot on Isle of Skye is the Old Man of Storr. The Old Man of Storr is a large pinnacle of rock. It is said that the rock formed when a giant died and his thumb was left sticking out when he was buried. You might recognize the Old Man of Storr from Harry Styles’ music video for Sign of the Times.
View out from Old Man of Storr.
Isle of Skye has multiple myths and legends tied to the fascinating sights there. Another famous place is the Sligachan Bridge and the River Sligachan. The legend is that if you stick your face in the river for 7 seconds then you will be blessed with the gift of eternal youth and beauty. Of course, I had to trust the legend and stick my head into the river. It was absolutely freezing sticking my face in the fountain but definitely worth abiding by the legend.
On top of the Sligachan Bridge with the Cuillins in the background.
While there are many legends and myths involved with the history of Scotland, there is a lot of actual history. Bidean nam Bian, a complex mountain, features the Three Sisters of Glencoe. Glencoe is famous for the Massacre of Glencoe. The massacre took place in 1692 and saw the murder of the MacDonalds. 38 men and women of Clan MacDonald died because the clan leader waited until after the deadline to give their oath of allegiance to King William and King William chose to make an example of the clan. Even though Glencoe has a gory past, the Three Sisters are a gorgeous sight.
This picture was taken at the base of Three Sisters.

Sorcha with the Three Sisters of Glencoe. 
Although my time in Scotland is more than halfway over, I am thankful for the time I have had here. It has been completely eye opening to be in another country and see another culture. Since coming here, I have traveled to multiple places outside of Scotland like London, Amsterdam, Iceland, Paris, Barcelona, Venice, and Rome. Before I head back to North Carolina, I have a few more trips planned that will be really fun! Feel free to check out my past adventures and the ones to come on my blog:

Friday, April 5, 2019

Makenzie in Malta!

Hi everyone! I’m Makenzie and I’m a sophomore at UNCG double majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies and History. I’m currently studying History at the University of Malta which is a small country in the Mediterranean Sea that actually consists of three islands: Malta, Gozo, and Comino. The University of Malta is the only public university on the islands and is located in a town called Msida. It is a commuter campus so I live in Lija at the University Residence for international students.  The university provides a free shuttle to and from campus every day. One of my favorite classes is History of the Mediterranean since World War II. The Mediterranean region is quite large and has so much history, so I find this class fascinating. I have never studied Mediterranean history before, so I didn’t realize how important the region was. I also really like my Sociology of Social Welfare class - I am learning about the welfare system in Malta and how it compares to the U.S.
Malta’s pace of life (also known as “Island Time”) is much slower than what I’m used to in the United States. It is typical for classes to start late and for buses to run behind schedule due to this. No one is ever in a rush, which is slightly relaxing but can be frustrating for me as an American since we always seem to be in a rush. The official languages of Malta are Maltese and English and the country is very English-friendly. This is especially helpful because I do not know any Maltese. It is a very difficult language to pick up because it has both Arabic and Sicilian origins.
Living in Malta has a lot of positives including the beautiful weather. It can get chilly and rainy here but it is usually sunny and gorgeous. Since I’ve been here, I’ve experienced two really intense Mediterranean storms. One storm basically lasted an entire weekend and was as bad as a lower category hurricane. Another one of my favorite things about this country is a food called pastizzi. This is a warm, flaky pastry, typically filled with either cheese or smushed peas. I prefer the cheese flavor but I did give the pea one a try, just to see. Study abroad is all about new experiences, so why not? Aside from the great taste, pastizzi is awesome because it can be found for really cheap at any pastizzeria, which is a street food restaurant.
Upper Barrakka Gardens, Valleta, Malta

St. Pauls Cathedral, Mdina, Malta

Two of my favorite experiences so far have been visiting the cities of Mdina and Valletta. Mdina, a medieval fortress city, was the capital of Malta until the Knights of St. John arrived in the 16th century. Malta is a predominantly Catholic country so Christianity is everywhere (which means I visit a lot of churches). The biggest church in Mdina is St. Paul’s Cathedral. The cathedral was built in 1696 and has a beautiful painted ceiling and dome. One fun fact that I learned while visiting the Cathedral and the attached museum is that Napoleon once came to Malta. The clergy of the churches painted all of their silver black so Napoleon wouldn’t steal it. As a fortress city, Mdina has a beautiful view of Malta through the view of the Mediterranean from Valletta is even more beautiful. Valletta is the current capital city of Malta and is home to the St. John’s Co-Cathedral. The outside of the church was not as unique as I expected but the inside was astounding. There was so much detail in each of the nine Chapels, the main nave, and the Oratory. Like many churches across Europe, the Cathedrals in Malta are built in the Baroque style of architecture and art. The floors in the Cathedrals in Mdina and Valletta are quite unique as they are actually a collection of tombstones honoring knights and bishops. In Valletta, I also visited the Upper Barrakka gardens which are situated above a 16th-century gun battery. These gardens have an amazing view of the coastline of Valletta and the Mediterranean Sea.

St. John's Co-Cathedral, Valleta, Malta

My dragon, Margertia, and the Mediterranean Sea

Recently, I had the opportunity to celebrate Karnival in Valletta, which was an amazing experience. Karnival is a five-day celebration that precedes Ash Wednesday and is full of parades, performances, and parties. I viewed a performance of something called Il-Qarcilla, which is a reenactment of a traditional Maltese wedding. Through song and script, the performers presented the bride with gifts. The performance was entirely in Maltese so I couldn’t understand a word of what was happening, but it was still entertaining. The Karnival parades actually take a few hours because each float leaves the departure area about half an hour apart. The floats are accompanied by people dressed up in elaborate costumes that relate to the theme. Some of these, for example, was a German beer float with beer wenches, a Wild West float with cowboys and Indians, and a Circus float with clowns and other circus performers.
I have also celebrated two public holidays since I arrived in Malta. The first was the Feast of St. Paul’s Shipwreck on 10th February, which was actually my first weekend in Malta. The second was the Feast of St. Joseph on 19th March and the university was closed for the day. On these Feast days, the Maltese go to Mass and then carry a statue of the saint through the street. In total, Malta has fifteen official Feast days although many localities have their own feast days during the summer.

I have been in Malta for a month and a half visited lots of churches and towns, and have taken a weekend trip to Rome. I have more exciting trips planned for the remainder of my time in Malta and I’m really looking forward to new experiences! I have blogged about my experience so far and will continue to do so at

Monday, March 18, 2019

Carolyn in Peru!

Hey. I’m Carolyn. A full-honors Arts Administration and International &Global Studies double-major. And I won’t lie to you, I’m going to have to find another source of motivation to get me through the last two years at UNCG. I didn’t realize it until I’d arrived, but studying abroad was the number one thing I was looking forward to in my college experience. When I finish my time in the beautiful Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola in Cusco Peru, I’m going to have to face returning to “real life” in the States. I guess all dreams end.

This past week has brought a few mile-markers.

·         February 12th – I’ve officially lived in Peru for a month
·         February 13th- I found good flights home. It’s surreal to have a departure date.
·         February 15th – 30-Day countdown to my 5-Day hike to Machu Picchu.

View of the Andes from my flight

Alpacas in a Quechua farm outside of Cusco

I’m not going to lie, I’ve never been more prepared for a time abroad. I was further along in Spanish that I expected to be, and during high school, I’ve had a couple trips that took me away from home 5 or 7 weeks at a time. As a hard-core family gal, it’s hard to believe I was actually ready to be this far away from home for an entire semester. To be honest, I had a whole list of things to do to cope with being homesick. It confused me when a week went by and I wasn’t. Another week. A month. I miss hanging out with my parents in the morning, drinking my Dad’s coffee, talking about life. I miss the piano. I miss the puppy. I miss the hugs from my little siblings. But I won’t lie to you - there’s still nowhere else I’d rather be than right here: a few miles from downtown Cusco, sandwiched between magnificent Andes mountains. On a clear day, I can see snow-capped peaks when I get to the main street. In the true style of my childhood hero, Maria von Trapp, I can hike up and over the mountain behind my apartment. Yes, I’ve been more than tempted to burst into that famous “Sound of Music” song (never mind the fact that this is totally the incorrect mountain range).
Who could have imaged it though? Sure, it’s a dream, but Cusco also feels like home. A “ciao” to my homestay mom, stepping out from the apartment building, through the alleyway, flagging down a bus, jammed up against strangers and the bad breath of old men that chomp on coca leaves, and shoving my way off when I get to my stop. I’m not exactly in the lap of luxury, but luxury has never really been my thing anyway. I like a challenge. I love the beauty in the quiet authenticity of the way people live life. Even when it means cold showers, rain every day, no heating in the house, running out of breath because of the altitude, and the annoying way that clothing takes four days to dry.

View of snow-capped peaks on a mountain behind my apartment

Just hangin' out in the Incan remains above the clouds

When I got here, I decided not to get an international phone. I can connect to wifi at home and at school and in certain cafes. But in-between, hiking, exploring, and simply taking a walk - I’m not connected. Some people might say that’s unsafe. But I’ve never felt so free in my life.
 Speaking of being unplugged, here’s something I’d never thought I’d do: in less than a month, three other students and I are meeting a guide and some donkeys, and with just our backpacks, we’re going to hike to Machu Picchu for five days. Yes. You read that right. I’ll literally disappear into the Andes mountains, hiking toward the snow-capped peak of Salkantay, sleeping in tents overnight, rain, wind, cold, and absolutely no connection with the outside world. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. And I never thought I could do it. I don’t have experience and I certainly didn’t have the funds. But the impossible happened. We found a deal. And I decided I’d work on that lack of “experience” within the next month and do what I can to be trained for this.
I knew I’d get some experiences under my belt in my time here. What I didn’t expect, was do to all those things I wished I could do, but never thought possible. I started a blog and a YouTube channel. I’m exploring photography. I’m working on a novel and writing songs. I’m going to hike for 5 days in the wild of the Andes and end up at the famous Machu Picchu at the end of it. I study in a building that literally is built on Incan foundation – and yes, I walk through a doorway created by the Inca’s every day. And believe it or not, I even found beautiful painted Incan pottery at an archeological site with my professor the other day.
Getting to Cusco (which is not a direct exchange) required a lot of emails, questions, and paperwork. To be honest, if the people at the IPC office hadn’t been so wonderful, I don’t think I would have stuck it out and made it here. This place is so far beyond how wonderful I pictured it to be. I cried when the clouds parted during my last flight and I could see the layers and layers and peaks of those Andes mountains. I cried when the plane tipped downward and I could suddenly see those orange rooftops of the city I had hoped to see for a year and a half.

And yes – in three months, I guarantee you I’ll cry again when this city fades from view. 

13,000 feet and lovin' it

Indigenous weavers dyeing wool 
Carolyn has a lot to share with you! Check out the additional links below to read and see more about her fascinating journey overseas.

Carolyn's Travel Blog
Carolyn's YouTube Travel Playlist

Monday, February 18, 2019

Bella in Spain!

I remember when the wheels of the crowded plane touched down on the runway of an airport in Spain. I nervously clutched my passport, trying not to look at the very unflattering picture of myself as we came to a full stop. Even though I hadn’t gotten a wink of sleep during those seven hours in the air, I was much too excited to feel tired. I struggled to get my carry-on out of the overhead compartment, and with the help of a very kind flight attendant, I was soon on my way out the door to an adventure of a lifetime.
My name is Bella Clark and I am a sophomore at UNCG majoring in Spanish! Typically, you would find me on floor 8 of the Jackson Library, studying hard for my next exam (or occasionally watching Netflix to avoid my responsibilities) Now, however, I spend my days exploring the beautiful city of Granada, located in the Andalusia province of Southern Spain. Don’t get me wrong, I still find some time to binge-watch a series or two on Netflix, but you will more often find me downtown trying tapas or belting out Dímelo by Enrique Iglesias at the nearest karaoke bar.
Having never traveled to another country before, I have definitely been met with some culture shock, but after a few weeks, I am starting to adjust to the life of a Spaniard. For example, the milk is boxed and unrefrigerated and hamburgers are served rare. As someone who likes their burgers cooked well, this was certainly a surprise. Although this style of burger is a popular preference here in Granada, I have decided that trying it once was more than enough for me! Another thing that I have noticed is that stores will not offer plastic bags, and if they do, they will always encourage you to purchase a reusable bag before giving you a plastic bag. I first saw this as an inconvenience, but I am coming to realize that this city is very environmentally-friendly and I am hoping to carry this idea into my daily life when I return to the United States.
From the moment I stepped off my flight, I have been constantly learning new things. One of these is that even though I have spent many years studying Spanish, I still have a lot to learn. For example, if you are ordering juice, they call it zumo here instead of the very popular jugo that you would learn in Spanish 101. They will understand what you mean, but they definitely have no problem correcting you when you use improper Spanish! I have found myself lacking the occasional vocabulary word when asking for help in a store, and the result is almost always me playing charades with the owner of the store until we can finally come to an understanding of what I am trying to say.
In the same light, however, people here are eager to practice their English skills as well. I remember mentioning that I am from the United States in a little pandelería downtown, and while handing me my change from the purchase, with the biggest grin, the store owner said, “Thank you very much for your visit!” He was so excited to practice his English, and was very understanding when I made small errors with my Spanish. At first, I was afraid to practice my Spanish, but the natives here are so understanding and I know even if my Spanish isn’t flawless, I will still be met with kindness and an eagerness to help. After just a few weeks here, I am finding myself talking with the native Andalusian accent, leaving the endings off of some of my words and adapting to the popular use of vale. (Anyone who has taken Spanish 301 with Profesora Laura Lopez will be familiar with this one!)
Although my visit here has barely begun, I have already had so many opportunities to meet new people and to explore this beautiful country. Last weekend, I was able to visit the Sierra Nevada, a beautiful mountain range located just an hour away from Granada by bus. The 7-mile hike was definitely a workout, but with Daddy Yankee’s Dura playing from a loud speaker in the background, (the remix with Bad Bunny, of course) the walk wasn’t bad at all. I traveled with a group of about 50 other college students, and I was delighted to see that even miles into the hike when we were exhausted, they still wanted to sing and dance to the lively Spanish hits that were playing. I have noticed that any environment is the perfect environment to salsa dance and sing louder than the music that is playing. There is never a dull moment when you are around a group of Spaniards, and I think I am starting to fit in perfectly. From trying fried squid to learning a Spanish line dance, this experience has already pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I can’t wait to see the adventures that every new day brings me. I hope to write more blog entries which I will advertise on my Instagram page, @bella_rosina for those who are interested; but for now, I will say adiós. ¡Hasta pronto chicos!

This picture was taken at the peak of the Sierra Nevada after a 2-hour hike (even though the guide kept telling us it was only cinco minutos to the top)!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Christian in London!

Hello! My name is Christian Cagle, and I am a third year Psychology major with a minor in Biology. Normally, I would be at UNCG staying on campus and being an RA; this semester however, I am having the privilege of studying at Keele University in the United Kingdom! Keele is the largest single-site campus in the UK with over 600 acres of nature trails, student housing, educational buildings, and historical sites. While I was initially nervous to be going on my own to the UK, it has been the most wonderful experience! Coming to a new place or country knowing nobody there and nothing about the area sounds terribly daunting but has been the best growing experience for me. Before I came to the UK, I had hardly ever used public transportation and had never gone far from home on my own. Now, I am able to moderately navigate how to get from place to place here (either with company or by myself), and while I may on occasion miss aspects of home, I have settled in quite nicely here. Some strange and funny differences or quirks I have noticed about the Brits/Keele in comparison to the US/UNCG:

  • A common greeting here (as opposed to “hello, how are you?”) is just simply “You ok?”. This was confusing to me at first because I wondered if they thought something was wrong with me.
  • They love a good “queue”. Seemingly called the “Great British Queue”, this essentially means they are very accustomed to waiting in line, and don’t mind it or complain nearly as much as many Americans I have observed.
  • The British are much less likely to complain and (when sober) are usually very polite and kind to anyone they meet. I added the sober part because when drunk personal space and manners are nonexistent.
  • Chips are not chips and fries are not fries and what even are crisps? Essentially, “skinny” fries are just called fries, “thick” steak fries are called “chips” and all chips are called “crisps”. This alone has been a great struggle when ordering or having a food-based conversation.
  • “College” is different from University. College for students here is held between 16 to 18 years of age and is a more specialized version of high school where they narrow down what their future University major will be down to a few topics and only learn about those things. University is the same as our college and is commonly referred to as Uni.
  • Most students can get an undergraduate degree in three years and they do not have to take general education courses (which saves both time and money!).
  • They love a good party and the chance for alcohol, and they have easy access to both. On campus, there is something called the Students’ Union (most universities have one here). Basically, they are student ran/focused buildings that contain food, lounge areas, a store/shop, advice, and…massive parties. Almost every night there is a party going on at the SU that cost a few pounds (money here) to enter. They have several fully functioning bars, two dance floors with DJs, pool tables, and lots of drunk people.
  • The drinking age here is 18, and so in addition to the SU alcohol is sold at the convince stores on campus and at campus bars/pubs.
  • Pubs are a common British gathering place. Different than the US bar, pubs usually serve good food and double function as a restaurant. They also can serve some families and are a great social space to hang out with friends or meet new people.
  • Most UK students DO NOT HAVE ROOMATES! For the same price or potentially cheaper, the students here get their own rooms in on campus housing. Where it becomes more expensive is when they add sinks or personal bathrooms into the cost, but that is up to how much you want to spend.
  • The textbooks here (at least where I am located) are much less expensive! In fact, I haven’t had to pay for a single textbook because the teacher either made the textbook available online or the library had it available for me to borrow. I will deeply miss this upon my return home.
  • Some classes have multiple instructors that teach them, and they take turns giving lectures.
  • Assignment frequency is so much different! Whereas back home I would have a test or quiz every week/couple of weeks and had homework constantly due, here most classes save assessments for the end of the semester and don’t give homework. If you do have an assignment or test, it is most likely an essay or project. 

As I was typing the above list (which is only a small sample of the overall environment), I realized I had much more to say than I originally thought, and could have kept going if prompted too. Most everything I would have to say would be positive, as this has been an incredible experience and I wish that I could keep my adventure going for longer. Coming here knowing nothing and nobody, and now about to leave feeling as though I could make a life for myself here, and being happy with amazing new friends is so surreal. If this experience has taught me anything, it is that we are capable of much more than we know; I now feel as though I could potentially move to another country I know nothing of and find happiness given the right motivation and environment. I cannot recommend study abroad enough! Try, something new, put yourself out there…the world awaits.
Guard exchange site in London

Telephone booth in London

Big Ben (under renovation) and parliament

Buckingham Palace with two good friends I met at Keele

Keele Hall at my University