The Final Days…

Apologies for not posting in a very long time! Since my last post, I have finished with all of my papers and projects (I lucked out and didn’t have any final exams like all of my other friends here), and have traveled to 4 more countries! Myself, Amanda and Abby went to Morocco and Milan, and from there Amanda & I met our other friend Wayne in Cinque Terre! All of those places were absolutely amazing and unique in their own way. About 2 weeks ago, Mary, Amanda and I took a day trip to Bangor, Wales-which I’m really glad we were able to do. I really wanted to see Wales before leaving because it was so close to us and I had heard so many great things about it; and people were so right! Bangor was absolutely beautiful and so green. We lucked out with really good weather which just made the experience so much better. Finally, Amanda & I just returned from a 4 day trip to Barcelona! Coming into my study abroad experience, Spain was my #1 country I wanted to visit. It just looked so beautiful, the weather looks amazing and I had heard so many great things from my friends that have been. I must say that this trip was definitely one of my favorites (probably tied with Prague). It was a very relaxing and hot 4 days, and very bittersweet since it was my last trip with Amanda- and we checked off our 12th country in 4 months! I found the people in Barcelona to be very friendly & helpful, and I even got to practice a little Spanish!

It’s crazy to think that it is now the beginning of June and I arrived here at the end of January. This experience has flown by so fast, and I have experienced so many different things and changed so much as a person. I feel so much more cultured, open-minded and grateful for things in life. Being able to have the opportunity to travel as much as I have is an absolute blessing. At the same time, being able to experience the town of Manchester has been incredible. I couldn’t imagine doing my study abroad in any other city. Manchester is a perfect mix of everything I could’ve asked for. It’s a wonderful college town, but also a good mix of city, with very friendly people. I feel as though it’s a very accepting city, and there’s always something going on! Whether it’s heading into city center to try out a new restaurant, visiting a new museum, going to a Manchester United game, trying out new pubs, or visiting Trafford Centre to go shopping. Manchester has been my home for these past 5 months and it’s so weird thinking I have to leave it so soon.

My family arrives in Manchester this Saturday-which I’m so excited about! I havn’t seen any of them since January, so it will be a very nice to finally see them. I’m excited to be able to show them around Manchester as well (even though I still get lost myself after 5 months. I think I’m just directionally-challenged). Thinking about going back home stirs up a mix of emotions. Like I said before, I feel as though I’ve changed so much, but everything/everyone back home is going to be the same. Granted, my family did move while I was away so I am excited to be able to start working back at a new Chick-fil-A and experience that. But I definitely think I will go through a culture shock going back to America-especially the South. I am very thankful I have so many memories & friendships to look back on for the tough days. I am so grateful to have met everyone I did, because they played such a big role in this experience. I wouldn’t be this happy and in love with these past 5 months if it wasn’t for everyone I met, so thank you for that.

Until then, it is time to start packing up everything and taking in my last few days in Manchester! When my family comes, we are going to be traveling to Ireland and Scotland-so I’m excited for that. Also I am hoping for good weather! I will be posting pictures very soon as well 🙂

 

Germany!

As it is approaching the end of April..this means it’s time to actually start on all the papers and projects I’ve been procrastinating on. But aside from that, I’ve had a very eventful past two weeks since being back! Last weekend I was fortunate enough for my cousin Bryana to come visit me in Manchester! She is currently studying at a University in London & I’ve been able to see her the few times I’ve been to London which has been so cool. But it was such a treat for her to visit me at my school & to be able to show her around the town and what I do every day. We spent the weekend exploring the Manchester, visiting a massive mall, checking out the night scene, & of course trying a lot of different food. It was an unforgettable experience and I find it so cool to say that we were both able to hang out and make memories in another country together.

This past week, Manchester has been blessed with SUNSHINE! Since being here, I kind of forgot that sunshine existed. It was high 50’s, low 60’s, & not a cloud in the sky. I finally got to break out my sandals! This weather brought a whole different feel to campus which was really cool to observe. Everybody was sitting outside in the grass, at picnic tables, listening to music & doing homework. This was such a nice change and I’m hoping for the weather to stay this way for awhile. On Tuesday, Amanda & I decided to plan a last minute trip to Germany from Thursday-Sunday night! (That’s another thing I love about being here. Planning trips to other countries, even super last minute, still aren’t as expensive as if you were to leave from the US).

Thursday afternoon we made our way to the airport and landed in Berlin later that night. We met a really nice guy while waiting for the train who helped us navigate to our hostel. My first impression wasn’t the best (especially since it was dark, & I was lost and tired), but we had multiple drunks approach us while navigating to the hostel which was quite unnerving. This was our first time staying at a hostel, so it was a new experience for us. We stayed in a 4 bedroom room, so we were going to have 2 random people as our other roommates; which was a little strange to me. But we met a really nice guy from Poland, so it was cool to be able to talk to him and learn more about where he’s from.

We got up on Friday and made our way to see the Brandenburg Gate, which was neat to see in person. We were lucky with beautiful, sunny weather most of the weekend! (except Sunday). We took our typical touristy pictures, made an appointment at the Reichstag for the following day, to go up to the dome and overlook the city. We ended this day by having dinner on a rooftop bar, which was spectacular. When we sat down to eat, we made sure to ask the waitress if they had a ‘card minimum’, since that is a very popular thing here. She told us no, so we placed our order and enjoyed the view while we waited for our food. (side note, they played sweet home Alabama over the speakers at this restaurant…in the middle of Germany..I couldn’t believe it). After our yummy bratwurst, we went to go pay and we handed her our cards and in a thick german accent she says “no! no cards!” I said “I asked you in the beginning about card minimum and you said no?” She then said “No, I said no card!” But all was okay because she led us down to an ATM to take out cash. It just gave us quite the chuckle because Germans are just very blunt & to the point.

Saturday morning started off with another funny experience (we had a lot of those on this trip). Amanda & I stopped at a bakery to get breakfast before visiting the Reichstag, and she ordered a sandwich with no tomatoes & I was going to ask for a pastry. Before I could even ask for my pastry, he sets the 2 sandwiches on the counter along with 2 random pastries and charges me 13.50. I then tried explaining to him I didn’t order any of those so he finally fixed the order but I still ended up with the sandwich. The best part was, we get outside to eat our sandwiches with no tomatoes, and take a big bite to realize that there is tomato paste smeared all over the inside of the sandwich. (you would think if we said no tomatoes that we definitely wouldn’t want tomato paste), but hey, just another thing to laugh at. Luckily, there was a Dunkin Donuts right next store so we just stopped there, because you can never go wrong with a donut. After the Reichstag we also stopped by the Jewish museum, a shopping center, & Checkpoint Charlie.

Sunday was a cold & gloomy day but we spent it walking the Berlin Wall trail across town! We started at the East Side Gallery and worked our way throughout the whole trail until we ended back at Checkpoint Charlie where they had a nice outdoor exhibit about the wall & you got to see the part of the wall that was left. That was such a neat experience to be able to see it with your own eyes and read all about the history of what took place during that time. We ended by grabbing another amazing German dinner and getting Haagen Daz for dessert! (we got Haagan Daz every night for dessert on this trip..but it’s okay because my Fitbit was blowing up the whole time so we really just burned it straight off..right?).

This trip was filled with a ton of delicious food, loads of laughter & of course adventure. I officially finish with all my school work/classes on May 11 so I have a whole month of free time to travel/do whatever until my family comes to visit! I’m looking to visit Morocco, southern Italy & Spain before I leave. So far in 3 months I have visited 8 countries. I’ve loved being able to travel so much because it’s so fun comparing all the different countries & cities we visit. It’s always so interesting to me how each place is unique in its own way.

Spring Break!

The past 2 weeks I have traveled to London, Paris, Tours & Nice! The University of Manchester gives all students a 3 week Easter Break [which is amazing & I highly suggest all schools get that long of a break :)]. To start, myself, Amanda & Kathleen traveled to London for a few days to explore and visit Bath & Stonehenge through an organized trip through our program. Sadly it rained all day (surprise, surprise), but the Roman baths were truly gorgeous! Easter Sunday I was fortunate enough to get to meet up with my cousin Bryana and get lunch at CHIPOTLE! This was my first time having Chipotle since I left America, and I could not have been happier. After lunch we got to go see the Oxford vs. Cambridge boat race! Like I mentioned before, people aren’t lying when they say you go through all 4 seasons in one day when in London. Before getting on the tube, the weather was pretty nice and sunny. Getting off the tube, the skies were dark and it starting hailing and the wind was insane! It went back and forth like that for a good hour…but hey! It’s all part of the experience, right? It was so great being able to spend the day with my cousin, especially since it was Easter.

That Monday Amanda & I took off on our 9 hour Megabus adventure to Paris! When booking our ticket I remember thinking “oh 9 hours, we can do it..we’re saving so much money..it can’t be THAT bad..”. Fortunately, it wasn’t THAT bad, but it was definitely very long. We arrived at the bus station around 7pm and made our way over to the train station, where we were going to meet Manon. [Back story, Amanda came to France 2 years ago during an exchange through her school & stayed with a sweet family in Tours. Their oldest daughter lives in Paris and she was kind enough to let us stay with her for the 5 days we were in Paris!]. Neither of us had met her before, but she was just the sweetest person and so welcoming & hospitable! She guided us back to her flat that night and we stayed up talking and telling her all about our plans. Let’s just say we slept very good that night.

While in Paris we visited the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the Catacombs, Palace of Versailles, Sacre-Couer, the Louvre, Musee D’Orsay, Le Marais, Champs de mars, and of course a TON of bakeries. I highly suggest for anybody visiting Paris, that they make a pitstop at Laduree (the famous macaroon shop from Gossip Girl). This was my first time trying a macaroon, and I was not dissapointed. My favorite day here was probably Friday, for multiple reasons. 1) We woke up and Manon made us crepes for breakfast (which were better than any crepe shop). 2) Manon, Amanda & I were going to spend the day at the Palace of Versailles. 3) The weather was BEAUTIFUL that day-and we finally had sunshine! 4) We ended the night back at Manons’ with  a wine & cheese night. She went out and bought multiple cheeses that we got to taste (fun fact-trying putting cheese on bread and adding jam to it! It’s actually quite tasty). My experience in Paris was unforgettable and I enjoyed every single day there. We saw a lot of famous monuments, tried a lot of amazing food, and were surrounded by such lovely company. Now off to the next stop-Tours!

Tours is where Amanda’s French exchange family lives and it is located in Northern France, south of Paris. When she came last, she got to spend 10 days here; so she really got to know the family and get to know the town. We stayed with Agathe (who is our age) and her parents, Bruno & Sophie! This family (just like their oldest daughter), was SO kind and welcoming to us. They had breakfast waiting for us upon arrival and were constantly happy and wanting to hear about our experiences and travels. We spent the weekend exploring the town, meeting with old friends, and we even got to visit a castle! Thankfully, the weather in Tours that weekend was absolutely gorgeous as well (such a nice change from the rain). It was so different being in a not so ‘touristy’ place, because not that many people in the town & in shops knew English; which is understandable since French is the main language. Luckily Agathe is fluent in French & English so she was able to translate for us! But it was cool being exposed to that & trying to interact and communicate with people whose first language isn’t English. Another observation were the meals. When we sat down for lunch one day and finished the first course, I remember thinking “okay time to clean up the dishes”, but no, the food kept coming out. They break up their meals into 4 courses instead of eating it all at once like we typically do. I really like that concept because it gives everyone a chance to enjoy their food & the company of who you’re with. Also, the main food group in France is definitely BREAD. Breakfast, lunch & dinner consisted of bread, bread & more bread! I think I’ve officially turned into a loaf by now. But I am not complaining because the bread was SO much tastier than any other bread I’ve had before. Again, my experience wouldn’t have been as good as it was if it weren’t for the sweet family we stayed with (and of course my amazing travel partner Amanda).

Next stop, Nice! I was really looking forward to coming to Nice because I knew for a fact there would be sunshine & warmer weather. I was also excited because our two good friends from Manchester, Kane & Oscar, were meeting us here! Stepping off of the train was so wonderful because you felt the warm sunshine and cool breeze on your face. Except Amanda & I had no more room in our luggage so we had to wear 3 layers of clothing, so it was a pretty hot trek up to our AirBnB. We met up with the boys and spent our first night exploring, grabbing dinner in Old Towne & sitting on the beach. The next day we hiked up to Castle Hill, which had the most breathtaking views overlooking the city. It was a gorgeous day as well, with not a cloud in the sky. The whole next day was spent laying out at the beach which was absolutely wonderful. The beaches here are different than America because instead of sand, they have rocks. It wasn’t the most comfortable thing, but it wasn’t as bad as you would think. This day was super relaxing, and pretty successful considering I didn’t get too sunburnt! [Different story for Amanda & Oscar though :)]. Our last day we took a train to Monaco which is known as “the playground of the rich”, and after being there, I totally understand why. Everything was high class & super fancy. On every corner there were either Maserati or yachts. Let’s just say my new goal is to retire here one day. Having a few days to relax in Nice and hangout with friends was the perfect was to end my Spring Break! I made so many good memories and got to bring back a little tan to Manchester.

This was the first time I’ve ever been on the road traveling for 2 weeks straight. It was definitely an experience traveling in a country where the first language isn’t English, and trying to find your way around; but  I’m so thankful I get to do it with my best friend Amanda. I met so many amazing people during my travels, indulged in so much food (especially bread), shared so many laughs & made memories I’ll cherish forever. After being on the road for so long, I also became homesick for Manchester. I think that’s such a great feeling because after only 2 months here, Manchester truly feels like home to me. Now it’s back to school & actually having to attend class! This week will be fun because Amanda, Kane & myself are going to a Manchester U21 game, Amanda turns 20, & my cousin Bryana is coming to spend the weekend with me! It’s also time to start looking for where to plan my next trip….any suggestions?

Ireland!

Hello all! Apologies for not having posted in awhile. I’ve been busy traveling and my laptop decided to stop working when I got back from Ireland and had a few days in Manchester to actually do work (I guess that’s a sign?); but thankfully there is an Apple store in town, so it is fixed!

Wow, where to begin? Life has been going so so great. Our 3 week Easter Break started this past week, but Amanda & I read the schedule wrong when we were still in America planning our trips. So we planned our Ireland trip the week before break started-so we really get a 4 week break from school (I swear I’m getting an education here..maybe). Amanda & I set off for Ireland early Monday morning and stayed until Friday! We were so fortunate because the weather was absolutely amazing. It was still a little cold, but it was sunny the majority of the time we were there! This was great because I feel like I was truly able to appreciate Ireland and all of its green beauty.

The first day there we got tickets for the Guinness Factory. That was a neat experience to see how they make their beer. After you take your tour, you even get to pour & drink your own glass! The best part was probably the view from the Sky Bar; it overlooked the whole city and we got to watch the sunset while ‘drinking’ our beer. Fun fact, we took about 2 sips then asked these guys next to us to drink it so we could take the glasses. I just don’t think beer is for me.

The following two days we had signed up to take PaddyWagon Tours. Tuesday we drove 3 hours to see the famous Blarney Castle! Along the way, we made a few pit stops in these cute Irish towns. Finally arriving to the castle was thrilling because I had seen so many pictures of people kissing the stone, and I couldn’t believe I was getting the opportunity to do the same! We got about 2 hours to explore the area and again, the weather was so beautiful, so everything was so green and plush. Walking to the top of the castle to kiss the stone was interesting. The stairwell you walk up is veryyyyy narrow, and the further up you get, the steps get thinner and thinner. At one point my whole body and feet were turned sideways. If you get very claustrophobic, this wouldn’t be the best situation. But once you get to the top, the view is amazing. They say that kissing the stone gives you the ‘gift of gab’ and 7 years of good luck. After the kiss, I really did feel on top of the world. I just couldn’t believe I was actually in Ireland kissing the Blarney stone!

Wednesday we took the PaddyWagon Tour to the Cliffs of Moher. This time, we just drove 3 hours in the opposite direction. We stopped at a few castles along the way to the cliffs, as well as a cute town for lunch (which had GREAT Irish food)! Again, I had seen so many pictures of the cliffs before, but seeing them in person beat every expectation I had. Once at the top, you were able to walk down for about 30 minutes (of course it took us longer because we couldn’t stop taking pictures), and you could sit on different parts of the cliff. I was overcome with such bliss just being able to sit on the edge of this cliff and look out over the water. Not to mention, the views were spectacular.

Thursday was St. Patricks Day (I guess we chose a pretty good place to celebrate). We wandered out into town to watch the parade that started at noon. There were so many people and it was such a cool experience being surrounded by so many people all celebrating the same thing. Everyone was decked out in green and cheering as different floats, bands & performers walked by throughout the parade. There were so many precious children in green, smiling and laughing (of course their accent makes them 10000x cuter). To be able to say I celebrated St. Patricks Day in Ireland is going to be something I’ll never forget. Once the parade was over, it was a little hectic. Trying to find somewhere to eat & a bathroom to use deemed quite impossible since everyone around us was trying for the same thing. We ended up going back to our AirBnB to rest up for a bit. That night we went to a local sports bar called “The Living Room” to watch the big Manchester vs. Liverpool match. The Living Room is probably the coolest sports bar I’ve been to hands down. There were TV’s everywhere you looked, including two massive screens on opposite sides of the room. There was also an outdoor area where you could watch games and it turned into a dance club once the matches were over! I highly recommend this place if you’re ever in Dublin.

Before we left on Friday, we explored town a little more and visited Trinity College in Dublin. It is a very elite school, with a beautiful campus & was founded in 1592-crazy! This trip was such a fun-packed week. My family is coming to visit in June and we get to go back to Ireland, so I’m looking forward to that! I can’t wait to show them around, and see their faces when they get exposed to all Ireland has to offer. I leave again tomorrow for 2 weeks! I’ll start in London, then work my way to Paris, Tour & Nice! I’m super excited to get to see Paris and Southern France because I constantly hear how beautiful it is. I’m also excited to finally meet french people because I’ve gotten mixed feedback on them; some love them, and others not so much. I look forward to all the new and exciting adventures that are going to come out of these next 2 weeks!

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Prague!

This past weekend myself & a few of my other friends were fortunate enough to visit the beauuutiful city of Prague in the Czech Republic. Before going, I really had no idea what to expect. I knew my brother had been when he studied abroad in Italy, but I didn’t really know what all there was to do there. Upon arrival, it blew any expectation I had out of the water. We arrived in Prague Thursday, afternoon after a 5 hour layover in Munich, Germany. We made our way to our airbnb, which was quite confusing due to the fact that they speak another language (but shout out to Mary for getting us around the whole trip). We ended the night by going to a beautiful restaurant called the ‘Marina’ which was inside an actual boat on the water! It was a very nice restaurant, (but another wonderful thing about Prague is that everything is so cheap). I ordered salmon pasta and it was only 8 US dollars! I’d say that’s a pretty good deal for a fancy restaurant.

Friday morning was glorious because we woke up to SUNSHINE, which I have not seen in so long. Even better, it snowed in Manchester that day, so I was glad to not be there for that. It’s amazing what a little bit of sunshine can do to your mood. We stayed in Old Town Prague, so that was a treat to walk out to every morning.The first day we wandered over to the Jewish cemetery and got to tour around; then went to a traditional Czech restaurant! I must say, the food here was very good. So much more taste & variety than England (in my opinion). Even though I feel like all of Europe is one big carb since that’s all I’ve been eating. We ended the day by taking a hike to view the sunset over the city.

Like brother like sister, I just had to visit the Ice Bar since Caleb did when he visited! We went Friday night and it was such a cool experience. The room is set at -7 degrees and everything inside is ice (obviously). They give you a massive coat and gloves and they even put your drink in a glass made of ice! You could only spend 30 minutes inside due to the temperatures, so afterward we made our way next door to Karlovy Lazne (the biggest club in Central Europe, 5 floors tall). That was super cool as well because each floor had a different theme! The next day we got to explore the castle (which was of course, breathtaking, like everything else in this city); and we also got to see the John Lennon Wall!

One observation I made while in Prague was how peaceful the streets were. There were tons of tourists groups out and about during the day, but it never felt over crowded or super loud. Once again, this is proving my point that Americans are just naturally very loud. The architecture was so impeccable as well. This is called the “untouchable” or “golden” city, which makes total sense. The buildings were all so gorgeous and most would be pastel colored with gold roofs.Walking through this city truly brought me happiness and bliss. Being here was such a joy and I’ve vowed that I definitely want to return one day. This trip had just emphasized how fortunate and lucky I am to be traveling the world while studying in England. I can’t wait for many more adventures. Next week, I am off to Dublin for St. Patricks Day! 🙂

Amsterdam vs. Scotland

These past two weekends I was fortunate enough to get to travel to two different countries! Last Thursday morning Amanda & I went to Amsterdam until Sunday night; then Friday morning, myself & some friends traveled to Glasgow then Edinburgh until Sunday morning. When in each country, I observed many things and found some interesting differences in the two, as well as similarities. To start off, both countries are absolutely gorgeous. Rain or shine it really doesn’t matter because the architecture of the buildings are breathtaking.

When in Amsterdam, one of the obvious beauties were all of the canals dispersed throughout the city. Arriving in Amsterdam was interesting because we had no idea how to get to our AirBnB from the airport. Luckily we ran into a nice man that was headed to the same exact town, so we followed him from the train to the bus and he told us exactly where to get off. That was a great first impression of the city so it made me very excited (also because it was SUNNY! A nice change from gloomy Manchester). We spent the rest of Thursday exploring the city center and just wandering around (and getting lost quite a few times), but those are always the best memories to me. Before coming to Amsterdam, a lot of people had told me how nice the people were and what not, but I did not have the same experience. The customer service here was absolutely horrendous. One pub in particular, the owner was a very sassy older man who would answer my questions with smart remarks and roll his eyes at me. I observed him as others ordered and he treated them the same way. At a pancake house the waitress got upset because we didn’t know what we wanted to order all of about 1 minute after sitting down. It just baffled me since I work at Chickfila & I thought if I ever treated anyone this way I would 1) be so embarrassed & 2) be fired. Those experiences aside, I really did enjoy my stay in Amsterdam. We got to see a lot of famous places & went to the Anne Frank house which was so cool! People aren’t kidding when they say get there early; Amanda & I waited in line for 2.5 hours.

When it comes to the people, Scotland was the complete opposite. Every person we ran into was incredibly friendly. We would stop in stores to ask for directions and they went above & beyond to help us out. They recommended places to see & pubs to go to as well! We went to one pub for lunch & I ordered a chicken sandwich but I asked for no tomato on it & the waitress responded with “I can ask if the kitchen will do that but no guarantees” I responded with “Isn’t it just a slice of tomato?”, “Yes, but sometimes the chef gets annoyed when people ask to change the way it’s made”. Then she proceeded to ask me what my second option would be if they weren’t able to take the tomato off for me. I was so baffled by that. Again, I think of Chickfila & how we always aim to please the guest. But also, it’s a slice of tomato. Yes, obviously I could take it off, but still this is your job. Don’t worry though, she ended up bringing out a completely different sandwich than what I had asked for :). The beauty of Edinburgh was absolutely amazing. It had a different feel than Amsterdam as well. Amsterdam you could tell was a lot more touristy, whereas Edinburgh didn’t feel as crowded with tourists at all. It felt a lot more rugged & also had a LOT more hills. It was

greener & the cobble stone streets were fun to walk in. Saturday afternoon we climbed up Arthur’s Seat which was one of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen. The very top was so windy that I was physically being moved by it (it felt like mother nature was slapping me around).

All in all, each place was unique in its own way. I’m so happy I’m able to travel inside Europe and see all these different countries! Our next trip is hopefully going to be to Prague which I’m excited about. But for now I guess I should start focusing on school (I keep forgetting that’s a thing). My Monday/Thursday classes finally start this week so I will be in school for a whole 4 days, woo!

 

One Month In

Well, it has officially been a month since I’ve packed up my bags and left home to come to England! It’s crazy to think how fast this journey has flown by (and still continues to). Only being here one month has already exposed me to so many different things and differences between England and the United States.

The most obvious difference being that they drive on the other side of the road. Thankfully I’m able to walk everywhere (or grab a bus), so there should never come a time where I would have to drive a car. Also, walking & biking are such huge things here. Manchester is a good size city with a lot of people and a lot to do so you constantly see people out and about walking to work, class, city center, etc. I remember my first few weeks here I had so many blisters on my feet because I had never walked that long for so many consecutive days before.

The second biggest difference to me definitely has to be the style here. Everybody dresses a little more “edgier” here. People are not afraid to mix and match different styles, patterns and colors. The best part is that nobody cares! Typically in the U.S. where I’ve been you notice people staring at you if you’re outfit doesn’t match, or if you’re dressed nicer than your peers around you. But here, everybody just keeps to themselves and dresses how they want to without caring what other people may think.

Before coming here, I had never heard of the stereotype that the British come across “cold” upon first impression; but now I can understand why some people think that. When you’re in a large crowd it is pretty easy to “spot the American” because they will probably be the loudest & most outgoing ones in the group. I’ve noticed when meeting new people I think sometimes I scare them because I may be a little too outgoing and chipper than what they’re used to. Nonetheless, they are still very nice people, it just takes a little longer for them to warm up to you.

Then of course there’s the weather. I had been warned plenty of times before leaving for England to get ready for the rainy, gloomy & cloudy weather. I’m the type of person that loves sunshine, the beach & a bright blue sky-so being somewhere where I don’t get that as much has definitely been a transition. But I would have to say it’s not been as bad as I thought it may be. Yes, it does rain a lot in Manchester; and yes, it’s not just a quick shower (typically it may last a good portion of the day). But lately the weather has been super nice with a blue sky and sun! With all the gloominess just helps you to appreciate when the sun does shine.

Everybody I have met in Manchester has been nothing but nice to me. Before coming here, I had no idea what to expect, what the town was like, or even what the university would be like. It is way more diverse than I expected; it feels as though there are more international students rather than British students. It has been so incredible to interact with people from all over the world and get to experience things I wouldn’t be able to experience back home. It has been a challenge, but it has been very rewarding. I look forward to all the new and exciting adventures I will get to go on in these next 4 months!

New Decade, New Country

I have officially made it to a new decade! It is so cool to me to be able to say I celebrated turning 20 in a different country. An early birthday present to me was finding out Monday that my class on Tuesday was cancelled, yay! So, Monday night quite a few of the international kids went out to celebrate two girls 21st birthdays at a bar which was a blast! We stayed until midnight to ring in my birthday as well, which was very nice. A few of my friends surprised me with birthday presents as well, which was so sweet & thoughtful of them. It included a TON of chocolate; they just know me so well :).

Tuesday night we attended a Manchester United game which was absolutely amazing! My friend Amanda has been a die hard fan for years now, and this was her first time seeing a game live at the home stadium; so it was so cool to be with her to experience that. Also, I was able to sneak a few videos of her crying tears of joy. The atmosphere at the game was just unreal. Everybody there was so passionate and so excited to support their team. We won 5-0 as well! I guess us Americans being there was a good luck charm 🙂

Today I FINALLY had my first class (my parents were starting to wonder what they were actually paying for). It was quite a small class, only about 25-30 students, and all girls. I’m used to only having about 50 minute classes back home, so sitting through a 2 hour lecture got a little tiring after awhile. My teacher for this class is American and he informed us that we only have 7 lectures for this class, then an individual paper and a group project for our grades (which will be due in the beginning of May). Like I said before, this is set up very different than the American school system. Tomorrow, I am taking a field trip for one of my classes to look at 10 different venues in Manchester, because I am going to have to choose one & plan an event to present in front of a panel of professional (nerve wracking). Needless to say, I am excited to see what my other classes have in store for me!

This Saturday, the international society is taking a trip to the North Lake District, so I am very excited for that! When my parents used to live in England, they always talked about how beautiful that area was. Then a week from tomorrow, Amanda & I head off to Amsterdam for 4 days! I am very excited to travel there and sight see. My brother and some friends of mine have been, & they had nothing but great things to say about it. Thanks to everyone who wished  me a happy birthday as well! I have been enjoying every second of this wonderful opportunity & I can’t wait for everything more that is to come.

One Week In!

Tomorrow will officially make it a week since I have been in Manchester! Time has gone by so quickly and it’s crazy to think how fast these next 5 months will fly by! Classes don’t start until Monday, so this past week we have been attending orientation events, meeting other study abroad students & exploring the town of Manchester. We started the week by taking a walking tour of the city, which to my surprise, offers tons of different things to do & see. Manchester is home to multiple free museums, art galleries, concert halls, shopping centers & so much more. Everywhere you turn there always seems to be a cafe connected to a store or on a street corner. That is definitely a big trend I have noticed since being in the UK.

I have discovered a store called “Primark” that I have fallen in love with. To compare, it is like a Forever 21, except cheaper and with even cuter clothes (in my opinion). It is a little strange how cheap they sell everything there, but hey, I’m not complaining!

The weather is still something I am definitely getting used to. Everyday it has rained at some point; whether all day or just occasional showers here and there. I have now considered it to be “sunny” if the blue sky shows for at least 10 minutes in the day. I think it’s safe to say I definitely won’t be getting a tan while studying here. The wind here is also crazy! I have never been somewhere where it has blown so strong; it practically pushes you down the street while you’re walking! It’s awful too if you’re walking against it because it’s so strong. Then again, it makes you feel like you’re in a movie, with you’re hair blowing against the wind, in slow motion (it never looks that elegant though).

This past week we also received our class schedules. I will be taking four different classes while here & I am lucky because I have no Friday classes! The education system here is very different than the United States. Students here have to decide in high school what they want to study in college and take tests for it. If they decide they want to “change their major”, they have to go back and take the test for that subject, then start over in college with those new classes. So students here are very knowledgeable in the one subject they’re studying; whereas in the States, our knowledge is very broad. I will be taking a live events class, events feasibility, tourism destinations, and a speaking & listening class. The grading system is also very different here. For a majority of my classes, I will just have one (maybe two) big assignments at the end of the semester that will count as my grade. I know for my events feasibility class I have a paper due that is worth 100% of my grade. Unlike back at ECU where I had multiple grades to submit all throughout the semester; independent study is very big here in the UK.

This Tuesday is my birthday and I will be turning 20! I am excited to be able to celebrate in a different country, but I will definitely miss not being able to be with family. Myself & some friends are going to see a Manchester United game Tuesday & we will go out and celebrate after. I am very excited for that 🙂 I am very blessed with the friendships I have made so far on this journey and for the people in my program. I couldn’t imagine doing this trip without them. Below are some pictures from around Manchester and campus. Enjoy!

I Made It!

Well, I have finally made it to London! It was a long & tiring venture; but oh so exciting! Running off only 2 hours of sleep from a 6.5 hour flight, I started my adventure early Thursday morning. We arrived at the hotel and explored a little before heading to a quick introduction orientation and dinner at a local restaurant. After dinner, we wandered over to see Big Ben & The London Eye (no big deal or anything…). It was absolutely breathtaking to see these landmarks live and in person; especially because they were lit up since it was nighttime. The architecture was so stunning! After taking only a few (hundred) pictures, we decided to take “The Tube” (metro/subway) back to the hotel. Our advisor had told us we would never need to go out of Zones 1/2 when taking the Tube. Well, we missed our stop and having lived in DC, I figured that it would circle its way back to the stop again. Well, about 35 minutes later we end up in a deserted Zone 5 which was so far out of town with no one around and no one else on the Tube. Luckily, Amanda found a lady who was able to help guide us back on and tell us which stop to take. All in all, a quick 10 minute Tube right took an hour and a half. I guess you live & you learn.

Friday mainly consisted of orientation and learning about England & what school will be like in Manchester. One thing I have learned here is that the drivers are RUTHLESS. They do NOT yield to pedestrians & I am pretty sure they do not know how to use their brakes. If you’re in the street and the light isn’t green to walk, you will most likely get hit. Luckily for me, they have spray painted on the pavement to either “look right” or “look left” since it is opposite from what I am used to. After orientation, we made our way over to the Tower of London. We made it just in time for the sunset and got fish&chips as we watched the beautiful pink sky glow behind this immaculate bridge. We headed back to the hotel to get ready to see Billy Elliot live! It was such a wonderful play & so cool to hear a play where everyone had British accents.

Today we started the day by going back to the Tower of London to actually tour the inside. We got there around 11am and it was sunny and pretty warm outside considering it was January. We stepped inside for about 10 minutes & when we got back out, it was cloudy, cold and windy! Crazy how quick the weather changes here. We continued by walking across the Tower Bridge & headed over to a British pub for lunch. After lunch we headed over to see Big Ben again, as well as Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace! The weather ended up being great as the sun set, still a little chilly though. Although I think it is warmer here then the East coast back home now! I ended the night by meeting up with my cousin, Bryana for a little shopping & dinner! It was so wonderful to be able to see her, catch up, and hear how her experience has been so far.

Being in London so far has been so wonderful & eye opening. I have already learned so many things and have been able to tell so many differences compared to the US. The people in Central London definitely don’t come across as “warm” & “hospitable” at first glance. If you accidentally run into someone & say sorry, they tend to not care and just keep moving. Personal space isn’t a big thing here either. Also, I love how diverse it is here! Granted, where we are is a very touristy area. Tomorrow morning we head off to Manchester for move in day! All next week is orientation, which is nice so we can get adjusted before classes start February 1st. From what they have told us so far, the education system is very different than the US system, so it will be interesting to experience for myself! I hope you enjoy the many pictures posted below, feel free to click on them to make them bigger 🙂