Friday, February 26, 2016

Kristina and Lucifer in Keele!

Let’s Crack On!

I’ve been in England for about 6 weeks now, learning and growing. Being on a college campus is a fairly insular experience, especially on this campus that is considered rural with acres of beautiful English countryside surrounding it. I’ve had opportunities to travel so far to places a few hours away from campus.  I visited the National Football Museum in Manchester, (and tried my first margarita!), went to the Jane Austen Center in beautiful Bath, and witnessed a historical and scientific marvel in the form of Stonehenge. The ease and affordability of transportation is amazing and one of the best parts of being here so far. Having the access to so many different cultures is, to me, an incredible opportunity to learn about history, customs, and ways of life that are different from my own.

Alley in Bath

Chinese New Year in Manchester

John Rylands Library

The arts
One of my goals in coming abroad is to experience the arts in as many forms as possible. I recently attended a local production of Robin Hood and Marian, performed in the round in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, the city around my university. It was an absolutely delightful production by talented actors and actresses. I saw the show with the Drama Society and it’s off campus activities like this that I love to take advantage of to meet new people and explore the area I live in, at least temporarily. Another society I’m involved in here, Harry Potter Society, recently held a 24 hour filmathon screening of all 7 Harry Potter films in a row. I wasn’t strong enough to stay the whole time, but I loved spending time with my fellow Harry Potter enthusiasts enjoying movies we love and generally geeking out! Next up on my culture tour of Europe takes place mainly over my Easter Break, a common time to travel for international and local students alike. I have 3 West End (think London Broadway) musicals, a concert, an island tour in Scotland, and multiple museums and historic landmarks waiting for me to discover. 

Lucifer on the bus to Stonehenge

Sinclair's Oyster Bar in Manchester

Street corner

The Weather
At least where I’m living, it definitely has not stormed every single day like I might have expected. The rainfall is pretty typical of the climate I’m used to, and it’s not a nuisance in the slightest. The area around my campus is filled with trees, many squirrels, and beautiful landscape such as a lake with a walking path around it. The air is consistently cold during these winter months, but is as crisp and refreshing as the air at the top of a mountain. It’s easy to keep myself busy with my computer sitting in my comfy bed, keeping up with news and happenings back home. I’ve actually found, unsurprisingly, that the most memorable times I’ve had so far have been outside my room with new friends, having exciting adventures exploring new cities, or even simply going out for pizza Friday at Lindsay Bar. Speaking of friends, I have made many wonderful friends so far, but it didn’t happen instantaneously, and this is an important part of culture shock. I came here knowing no one, and it’s been difficult at times dealing with loneliness and missing the people back home who I’m comfortable with. Being here has been a study in learning how to be by myself, but also how to place myself in unfamiliar, and sometimes uncomfortable positions, to take a chance at making meaningful connections with people from all over the world, and all walks of life. Sometimes I feel like I have one foot in the states, and one foot here but I view this as grounding rather than distracting. This is one of the reasons I’m writing this post, I want to share my experience with the people I care about and inspire other students to take a chance and go someplace new. 

Lucifer at Stonehenge


My Advice to Students Considering Going Abroad
  1. You’ll pack too much clothing. I promise you will, I only brought 1 backpack and 1 large suitcase and I still brought too many clothes. That being said, especially if you come to Keele University, the weather is not drastically different so just dress like you do at home.
  2. If you have the financial means to study abroad, don’t hesitate to spend half your money on spring break, but be smart about it. It’s easy to forget about conversion rates and transaction fees.
  3. This one might seem cheesy but SAY YES. It’s a cliche piece of advice for a reason, 9 times out of 10 you’ll be happy you did. Trust me, it is very hard for me to break out of my shell but every time I’ve said yes, I’ve been so glad I did. 

    Kristina Bowers
    Keele University
    Staffordshire, United Kingdom