I am completely aware that if this blog was part of a course right now, I’d have to take it over I’ve been so dreadful at keeping up with it. In my defense, over the past two months, I have slept in my bed in Manchester for approximately seven days. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to jump around Europe for most of my holiday break and the weeks beforehand. I have one more week of travels and that will be all she wrote. I come home in a matter of weeks and I am going to try my hardest to catch up on all the travels I’ve done so you all can hear about them and so I have something to remember! Let’s travel back to March 4th for a little journey I like to call “Lo Siento Que No Lo Siento”
PS. I’m on the hotel’s internet connection which is not at all as high speed as it claims. So right now there are no pictures but I will be putting them in as soon as I have a good connection, so hopefully tomorrow!
I lucked out really. I had been researching flights to Ireland for my mom in February for the beginning of March to see if she would be able to visit me. As it later turns out, she has been able to visit (she actually just flew off back to Boston an hour ago from the time I am writing this) and she’s loved it. Why do I tell you this? Well, the week that I ended up getting the best deal for round-trip flights just happened to land during BSU’s Spring Break! I was hyped but I still didn’t know if anyone would want to give their Spring Break to come visit me.
I spread the word around to my friends a little bit. At first, it didn’t seem like there were any takers. Obviously taking a vacation for Spring Break is becoming increasingly difficult for college students because of the economy and so many other external factors. After a week or so, I got an email from my best friend Lisa saying “send me the info, I want to come!” You honestly could not even imagine how much I freaked out. A week later and Lisa and our friend Nia were booked on a flight to Dublin for Spring Break!
As luck would have it, I flew into Dublin from Manchester an hour after they landed from Philly. It was the first time that I had seen anyone from back home in over three months so the reuniting was a bit emotional, even for someone like me. After we finally got our bearings, we headed from the airport to the city centre. Luck ended up being on our side as our hostel was off of Dublin’s busiest street, O’Connell, so we were very centrally located. We grabbed lunch at the Bachelor Pub (it was so good that I brought my mom and met some cousins from Ireland to the Bachelor!) and then did some sightseeing. We walked around Trinity College, saw Dublin Castle, and toured the Temple Bar area (Dublin’s night life). We grabbed dinner at ThunderRoad, which was an American restaurant because clearly we don’t know how to immerse ourselves (Just like the Bachelor, I brought my family here last night because it was so good)! Then we headed to the hostel to shake some jet lag.
While in the hostel, we met a guy around our age called David (I pray that I got his name right). He was from Seattle and moved to Dublin three months ago. He was a very cool guy. He street performs to earn an income and he really earns a lot! In Dublin, you don’t have to be licensed to perform in the streets so anyone is able to jump on a plane and start earning money. We then continued to shake our jet lag until about 10pm, when we decided to go out.
Unfortunately, it was a Monday night and there was not a lot happening in Dublin. We ended up going to a bar/club called Q Bar. When we got there, we were a little nervous since not that many people seemed to be there and we wanted to socialize. After about 45 minutes, we decided to take a look around and realized that it was multi-level and didn’t see the dance floor. We relocated to the ground floor near the dance floor and had a great time. Even though some Caribbean men tried to pick my friends up, we did not walk away with any battle wounds on our first night out in Ireland!
The next day, we headed to Galway on a coach with three hours of sleep. We were lucky to book ourselves a tour of the Cliffs of Moher but we needed to get to Galway by 10 in order to catch the tour so we were forced into an early morning. We got to Galway around 9:15 and quickly sorted ourselves at our hostel before rushing back to the coach station and catching the tour. I have to say that the tour was very long. It went for about seven hours, though it was fun. We didn’t luck out when it came to the weather as it was rainy and foggy. We didn’t even get to see off the Cliffs! However, our tour guide was so empathetic that he brought us down to the water and we got a great view of the cliffs from below. Honestly, it made up for the cruddy weather.
After a long day touring on a coach, we headed back to the hostel and reenergized before going out for the night. I was lucky and found a bar in Galway that does a silent disco and we lucked out because it was the night we were there! Lisa had gotten to be part of a silent disco when she went to NACA last year but this was Nia and I’s first time. For those of you who don’t know, a silent disco is where everyone is given headphones before getting to the dance floor. Those headphones can switch between two channels, each channel with a different DJ playing a different genre. So you are clubbing like normal but the room is silent!
We headed out around 11 (it’s crazy how late everything begins in Europe!) to a bar called The King’s Head (and no surprise, I took my mom here when we were in Galway!) that had a lot of roots with Shakespeare, I believe. We got to enjoy some live music while in the pub as we prepared to go to the silent disco. I didn’t realize how silly I was but I ordered a pitcher of Black Russian for myself fifteen minutes before last call! I was a trooper and downed the entire thing though. My Irish relatives would be proud.
We then headed down the road to the silent disco. I have to say that we lucked out with where our hostel was again. The first bar was a one minute walk from the hostel and the silent disco was only about five minutes away! We got to the silent disco around midnight and it was a great time. I definitely suggest to anyone that is able to check out what a silent disco is all about.
Another day meant another coach ride as we headed back to Dublin from Galway. I have to say that if you are planning to travel to Ireland and want to see traditional Irish culture, skip Dublin and head to Galway. Dublin has really become a metropolitan European hub and reminded me a lot of Boston. Galway was much more traditional, with a whole section of the city being pedestrian only and loaded with wonderful traditional pubs.
We got back to Dublin in the mid-afternoon and we headed straight for a tattoo parlour! I bet you are saying that I am psycho but this was planned much before my friends and I got here. After an hour and a half in the parlour, Lisa and I had matching tattoos on our hip saying “Cairdeas” with a shamrock beside it (Check out my blog post below for a more in-depth analysis of why I got the tattoo!). Cairdeas is Gaelic for “friendship” and was a perfect symbol for Lisa and I to have for the rest of our lives (: . In addition to that, I was crazy and got a SECOND tattoo! This one was a celtic cross on my left shoulder with a shamrock at the intersection. I have always loved crosses and this tattoo symbolizes how much I care about my faith and my Irish heritage. The tattoo artist told me while I was getting the second tattoo that I was one of very few people who is brave enough to get multiple tattoos in one sitting! As annoying as the pain was during the entire thing, I am proud to have that accomplishment!
Guess what we did after we got tattoos?! Took another coach! I swear that coaches need to have air miles like airlines because I would be making bank with those. This time, we are headed to Manchester. The cool thing about this nine hour coach ride is that it was cut in half. The first half we spent on a cruise from Ireland to England! The ship had a cinema, mini casino, shopping area, and bar/restaurant. Unfortunately we didn’t take advantage of it because we were so exhausted. We slept for 90% of the four hours cruise on some couches. We then mustered through the four hour drive from Holyhead to Manchester and crashed at my flat until around noon.
When we woke up, it was my one day to show off the city that I’ve come to love. We got lunch at a place that had five pound beer & pizza, which was a wicked good deal, before heading to the city centre! We got to ride on the Manchester Eye and see the entire city from above. While in the air, there were a bunch of people in the city centre chanting for their football team. It turned out that Manchester United was playing Bilbao in the Europa league and a BUNCH of Bilbao fans had crowded in the city centre to cheer their team on. After that, we went to the Manchester Cathedral which was amazing. Even though I had been in Manchester for three months, I still hadn’t seen a lot of the city. I got to introduce my BSU friends to my American friends that are studying abroad in Manchester at dinner, which was great. Then we headed back to the flat to get ready for another night out!
As it turns out, our plans had us going out to Manchester’s Gay Village, Canal St. This was actually my first time going out on Canal St since I had moved to Manchester! Canal St is the largest gay village in Europe so it was a big deal. We went to two clubs and had ourselves a great time. I will be honest and say that I really don’t remember a lot of that evening so that’s why there are not many details about the night. But apparently I had a great time!
Guess what we did after our big night out?! Another coach journey! This time our destination was London, which was exciting since this was the first time I was seeing London as well. As luck would have it, one of my friend’s friend that we met the night before was on the same coach as us so that was a fun coincidence. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally got ourselves to London and made our way to SoHo, where our hostel was located.
In case you didn’t know, because I didn’t until after I booked the hostel, SoHo is the Red Light District of London. Yikes! It also is the best location if you want to go out so we lucked out. We explored the area for a bit and grabbed dinner at this very modern café/restaurant. We then decided to refuel before going out for the night. After few hours rest, we decided that it would be in our best interest not to go out. As much of a bummer as it was, our batteries were teetering on empty and it was better we enjoyed our only full day in London. Lisa and I decided to go out and explore a bit more after dark and it was crazy! Like, New York City style crazy with all the excitement and lights and activity. I know NYC is the city that never sleeps, but London can claim that title in Europe!
On Saturday we were in full sightseeing mode. We got ourselves a free walking tour of London and got to see Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, and so many little gems we wouldn’t have known to check out otherwise. After the tour, the same company that did the tour told us that they also did a pub crawl and we jumped on that bandwagon quick! To kill some time between the tour and the pub crawl, we went on the London Eye. I was surprised at how long the wait was! It took us more than a half hour to get on that dang ferris wheel!
The pub crawl that we went on took us to two bars and three night clubs. I have to say that we really enjoyed ourselves throughout. The only downside was I had to still to vodka & red bull as my drink since that was the crawl’s drink special. After the fifth venue, they wanted to bring us across the city on the subway to the final venue. That was definitely not in the brochure they gave us and we snuck away real quick. We were tight on cash and weren’t going to try to navigate London at 3am on a Saturday night after a pub crawl! We ended up going back to the hostel but all of us were wide awake and decided to chill in the hostel lobby. We ended up meeting a couple of guys from the States and we chilled for about four hours until after 5am! It was really an awesome way to finish our trip.
We woke up all bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready for another coach back to Manchester (sarcasm is bleeding out my fingers right now)! We were really down because we knew we only had a few more hours together. We got back, grabbed some Subway, and chilled in the flat for a few hours. Then I brought Lisa & Nia to the coach station, where they headed off on the same nine hour coach to Dublin to catch their flight (bless their hearts).
I have to say that this week was the most fun I had. The thing that I hated most about studying abroad is not being able to enjoy it with my friends from back home. As great as it is to travel with new friends, being able to see new places with my close friends is really what the doctor ordered for me. It completely cured any homesickness I had and gave me renewed energy for the rest of my stay over here. The amount of inside jokes and memories made this week are endless and those are going to be with me for the rest of my life. Oh, and a tattoo or two as well (;
Tonight I am heading back on a coach from Dublin to Manchester (yes, the same coach we took in the blog!). As soon as I get to Manchester, I am jumping on a plane literally an hour later for Ibiza! I am in Ibiza for a week and that is my final holiday while I am studying abroad. After that, I have two weeks in the UK, studying and taking my exams, before I head home! I hope to have my blog up about my second trip to Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day at some point this week. I’m not sure if it will happen depending on how much I love Ibiza. We have an apartment rather than staying in a hostel so the chances are much higher that a blog will be up! Thanks for reading about my journeys; I know it’s a very long read and I appreciate that you care enough to hear about it!
Oh and if you’re wondering what’s up with the name of this blog, it’s one of the inside jokes from the week. It’s “Sorry I’m Not Sorry” in Spanish and we just started screaming it in the empty streets of Dublin after going to Q Bar the first night. So… lo siento que no lo siento
I’ve really enjoyed the past two weeks in Manchester. I can finally say that I am settled here. It was funny this weekend when I was getting home sick. Except I was more homesick thinking about Manchester than about the US. I’ve gotten really comfortable in the city. I still have moments when I have an out-of-body thought and say “How the heck am I living in the city?” when I’ve lived in the suburbs my entire life. It’s just really convenient living in a big city because you can do just about anything and get just about anything. I think that means I’m going to have a much tougher time with reverse culture shock come return. Oh well, there’s only so much time I have here so I got to live it up!
One of the most impressive things I’ve done so far is really learn how to budget myself. One of the things that I am most proud about is the fact that I have worked since I was 14 and how that’s given me a very strong work ethic. That also means I’ve had a steady cash flow since I was a 9th grader. Being in England also means it’s the first time that I haven’t had a job since I was in high school which also means I am on a finite budget. The first two weeks I was in Manchester, I really splurged. Without giving any figures away, I spent more the first week here than I did the whole rest of January. I’m realizing that I need to save the majority of my money for travelling and groceries. That means sandwiches instead of meals at pubs, forgoing nights out, and curbing the liquor purchases. I just keep thinking in the back of my head that I can go to restaurants, clubs, and buy booze back in the States. Being able to travel to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, Prague, and Berlin are things that are completely impossible to do once June comes. I’m just lucky that I’ve realized this now instead of in April when I would be on the streets asking for fifty pence!
So last weekend I got to go to Glasgow, Scotland for the weekend.My first piece of advice when travelling is to not to have a bottle of wine the night beforehand… especially when it’s a five hour bus ride that leaves at 9am! I almost didn’t wake up for my bus because I didn’t wake up for my first alarm. The bus ride was not as bad as I was expecting, though. I love travelling to new places so I didn’t even really sleep on the bus so I could see the Scottish countryside. Seeing green hills was a stark contrast from the past month and the tops were covered in snow! The rest stop that we went to was always amazing. The sun came out while we were at the rest stop and the dining area had full-length windows overlooking the Scottish countryside. The best part was that the stop was on a pond so there were ducks wading right against the window. It was really pretty. One of my American friends from MMU has a friend from her uni back home who is studying in Glasgow and it was her birthday so we visited her.
We got to Glasgow at 3pm on Friday. I was actually pretty surprised how old-fashioned the city was. Manchester’s architecture was much more modern compared to Glasgow. We then went to the University of Strathclyde where our friend is going to uni. We walked around the city centre for a little while and grabbed dinner at a Brazilian pub that was really delicious. I was so excited because I ordered a caipirinha, which is THE Brazilian mixed drink. The reason why it got me so excited is because there is a song that is played at my Zumba studio called “Caipirinha.” Yes, feel free to judge me.
After that we headed back to uni and got ready to celebrate our friend’s birthday. We all headed out to a club about five minutes drive from the uni. We were all having a good time. There was quite a long queue but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the night. When we got to the front of the queue, the unthinkable happened: the bouncer wouldn’t let ME in. My friends were wicked confused because the bouncer was saying that I was too drunk to enter when I hadn’t had much to drink (as in, I was stone cold sober). The bouncer said I sounded drunk and for me to take a walk around the block and have something to eat. I asked if I’d be able to come to the front of the queue to get in when I was finished and he said that I’d have to wait in the queue. I don’t know about you but if it’s cold out and you’d just waited fifteen minutes in the queue, I wouldn’t want to wait another thirty (the queue had gotten huge) to get into the club. I decided to just go back to uni. My friends told me that they think the reason he didn’t let me in is because my accent is strong and it could come off as if I’d been drinking… I hope every Bostonian collectively laughed at that.
I woke up the next day wicked late. A lot of my friend’s friends really felt the night before when they woke up to say the least. It was decided that Saturday would be a lazy day and we would have a movie night rather than go out again.
I was okay with that. I guess I am strange in that I don’t necessarily need to see every inch of the city to enjoy the experience. I care more about getting the essence of it, seeing the important things, meeting some of the locals, and having some of the local food (more on that later). All of my friend’s flat mates and us went into the city centre to grab lunch. The problem is that there were a total of nine of us and every place we went was too small to seat us all. We ended up going to a Mexican joint. Yes, I had a quesadilla in Scotland while studying abroad in England. Go figure. We then went back to the flat and had ourselves a movie night. The common room was filled with mattresses and everything. It was actually quite enjoyable.
The next day we had a flat dinner. They decided that since all of them were international students from around the world, they would each take a turn on Sundays cooking the flat a dinner. My friend volunteered to do the first meal: Southern comfort food. The meal was delicious. We had double baked mac & cheese, roasted potatoes, and baked chicken. I am usually not a fan of chicken, never have been. But I really enjoyed the meal; even though I’m not from the South it made me feel like I was back in the States. That night my friend had a date with a boy she met at the club on Friday. Being the great friends we were, me and two others followed her to the pub she had her date to be there if it tanks. Luckily enough, it didn’t. Their date went three hours actually so I have high hopes that there might be some international love!
Monday was our day to leave but luckily our bus didn’t leave until 11pm so we had another full day in Glasgow. We decided today was going to be our tourist day. We went to a Scottish high tea, where I had my first cup of tea EVER! It was alright but I will definitely stick with coffee, soda, and milk. We walked around the city centre of Glasgow for the afternoon. I have to say that the city centre really reminded me of Downtown Crossing in Boston. It was a huge walking plaza with shops everywhere. The best part was that musicians were playing in the streets most of the time and I got to hear bagpipes infused with guitar and drums; it was the first time that I really enjoyed listening to bagpipes.
The best part of the afternoon was when we spent an hour at Lush. Lush would be a organic version of Bath & Body Works. The only difference is that their stuff is, yes, organic, and the employees love to help you test out their products. We spend a good 45 minutes having one of the workers put on hand lotion bars and all these other products with us. It was really awesome. I left with my arms smelling absolutely amazing. The store even gave our friend a free bath bomb because Monday was her actual birthday (if only she had a bath at uni!). I found out that even though it is a very popular store in Britain, there are stores in Massachusetts! If you’re on Newbury Street or at the Natick or Burlington Malls, definitely make an effort to check it out. If anything else, you’ll walk out smelling awesome!
That night we had a farewell dinner. We went to a small Scottish pub, the flat and us. I realized that this dinner was going to be my last chance to have anything Scottish so I decided to go big. I bought haggis! Now for those who haven’t watched Rocket Power and seen the episode where Squid and Tito eat haggis, it’s sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs encased in its stomach. I know; sounds delicious. To be honest, I was expecting to hate it and starve on the bus ride now. Now I will say it’s not something that I plan on buying on the regular, but I could tolerate it. The consistency of it was very weird, like the meat in sloppy joes. It did upset my stomach a tad after I ate it but only for a couple minutes. I can say that I had haggis in Scotland, which is all I really care about! After that, we went to pub trivia for the remainder of the time before we headed to our bus and back to Manchester.
Glasgow really surprised me. I was expecting it to be this very Scottish area with people walking around in kilts and playing the bagpipes up the wazoo. I was surprised to see it was quite urbanized. Yes, there were kilts here and there (we even went into a Kiltmakers shop… and took a picture of it) but it was mostly another busy city. The city is busting with shopping areas, including one of the largest malls in the UK and the largest Ikea! If you’re looking to get a true Scottish feel of Scotland, I would suggest trying Aberdeen or the Highlands. However, if you want a taste of Scotland and be able to enjoy the city as well as many attractions, make a stop in Glasgow!
This week has been focused on my internships for the most part. I am very happy to say that I have accumulated twelve interviews so far! Seeing as this program is geared more towards graduate students, I’m very happy to have gotten so many interviews. Every single interview I’ve had has really made me want to get into student affairs that much more. I am learning so much from each school that I interview with. There are so many amazing programs across the country that it makes me excited to truly begin applying for grad programs. Offers for internships start going out on the 13th and I am crossing my fingers that I get at least one! I am very hopeful that I will but I hope everyone can send luck my way! It’s strange that I might be coming home from studying in Manchester and within as little as a week, be going off to an internship that could be in Texas, California, Chicago, or even Ireland (obviously I’d stay in the UK in this instance!).
Yesterday was probably one of the most exciting days that I’ve had and none of it involved me leaving my dorm (yes, dorm. As much as I HATE the term, it would be an insult if I called the hall I am living in a residence hall since there is no community, as sad as it is). It started off with me waking up to an email from my best friend and former floor partner at BSU. She asked me to look up flights because she might be coming to visit me for Spring Break! I legit shrieked when I read it… again, feel free to judge me. The only thing that I upset me about study abroad was that I was not going to get to share the experience with the ones that I love. Getting that email made me the happiest person in the world. I am crossing my fingers so hard that they might break in hopes that she gets to come.
To top that off, my friends and I finally booked our trip to Paris! I had gotten quite nervous about it because my friends were telling me that travel had gotten so expensive that it was out of our price range. It got so bad that they had even planned a replacement trip to Bath & Nottingham. Now, as much as I like Roman-style spas and the story of Robin Hood, it could never duplicate the experience of being in Paris on Valentine’s Day. So I decided to do some hardcore research and found roundtrip buses for 75 pounds. Then I found a hostel ten minutes from the Eiffel Tower for fifteen pounds a night. In total, 135 pounds ($213) for five days and four nights in Paris the entire week of Valentine’s Day! I am so lucky that I am able to do this. This trip is truly going to be something that I can have with me for the rest of my life. Regardless of how harsh life might be in the future, I will be able to say that I spent Valentine’s Day in center of Paris!
I am only a month into my study abroad experience and I have memories that will last me for the rest of my life. Thanks for reading about my experiences. I know that I am extremely long-winded and my posts are a lot to take in but I’m glad that you’re vicariously living through my experiences! I can only hope that through my experiences, some people will take the initiative and try to study abroad. It’s truly an experience that cannot be duplicated. It’s the one thing most graduates regret not doing while in college. So I hope that people will be able to take advantage of the situation they’re in and see the world! I’ll have another blog up after Valentine’s Day to share my experience in Paris and to report on how the internship search ended up! Cheers
So updating my blog might be a little more challenging than I originally thought. I assumed that because I was not working that I would have a lot of free time to write about everything going on. I forgot to factor in that I have classes, a huge city to explore, tons of travel to do, and can sleep for twelve hours if I feel like it (and let me tell you, I feel like it often).
It’s been two weeks since my last blog so I am not going to do a play by play of everything that’s gone on in my life because… well I’m very long-winded. I wrote almost 2200 words about my journey from America to England… which was two days. I’ll try to be chronological but there is so much happening that I can’t promise anything!
For the weekend I arrived, I didn’t really do anything. I slept for eighteen hours one of the nights and couldn’t adjust my sleep schedule that well. Napping and those eighteen hours sleeps do not help me out. It took me until the following weekend to correct my sleep schedule to a proper one. When I wasn’t sleeping, I was mostly looking around Manchester. It really is incredible how great this city is. I would consider myself a city kid being so close to Boston but it doesn’t compare to Manchester. The buildings are overwhelming. I’ve been here two weeks and I still shake my head in disbelief that I am living here.
Monday was when all of the international students met for the first time. It was essentially an orientation for us where we learned what resources were where. After two hours of that, we had registration for classes. I was very lucky to land into two classes that I am very interested in: International Order & Disorder and Human Rights in World Politics. I also ended up getting into Crime and Popular Culture for my Criminal Justice minor as well as Personality and Abnormal Psychology for my Psych minor.
After we picked our classes, there was an international student reception. It was my first chance to try some British food. I had tuna jackets and cheese and bean jackets. Jackets are basically sushi-sized wraps from tortilla bread. We also had lamb kabobs which were delicious. The reception was not that engaging and most of us students left after an hour or so. We made our way a mile down the road to ASDA, which is owned by Wal-Mart and once you go in, you can see why. It’s basically a grocery store on the first level and a department store on the second.
I also met most of my flat mates on Monday. I have to say that I’m really lucky to have landed with such awesome people. They really seem to want to engage with me. They wanted me to keep talking to hear my accent, haha. My flat is a ten-person one so I was lucky to land in one where everyone is so cool.
Tuesday was my first day of uni. Schooling is different in Manchester. Instead of going to one class twice/three times a week for 75/50 minutes, you have one hour of lecture for a unit (unit = class) and one hour of class. During lecture, the entire hour is spent by the professor talking on a topic. You don’t even raise your hand; it’s solely for the tutor (tutor = professor) to teach. The class part of the unit is where students discuss what was talked about in the previous lecture. It’s mostly student-run with the tutor there to guide the conversation. I am a big fan of this system because you know what you’re in for each hour rather than in America where you don’t know if it’s a lecture, PowerPoint, group work, or what have you for each class.
On Tuesday night, some Americans and I went to the student union for pub trivia. First, yes the student union has a bar in it. The trivia was mostly about British pop culture but we still didn’t come in last so that was an achievement. When I got back to the flat, everyone was getting ready to go to the club and invited me along. Let me tell you that clubbing in America is archaic compared to here. We went out at like 11:30 and didn’t get back til 3:30 (and this is a Tuesday night!). The music that is played here is so much better than in America too. They went from Eminem, to Backstreet Boys, to Destiny’s Child, back to LMFAO. It was the best mix of music I’ve ever experienced. If you didn’t know it, now you do: the Brits know how to party.
I honestly don’t remember much of anything important happening Wednesday thru Friday. I didn’t have uni any of those days. I spent a lot of time writing cover letters and submitting applications in for summer internships. I also went to a pub for food for the first time. Dining here is so much more casual. There aren’t really any restaurants in the first place to eat, only pubs. At the pubs, menus are at the tables already and you seat yourselves. When you know what you want, you go up to the bar and order it. They usually give you an empty bottle with a spoon that has a number on it for your table. If not, they usually have the number permanently etched on the table. You get your drink from the bar tap and they serve you the food from the bar. I like this much more than in America because your dining experience is paced how you want, rather than someone waiting on your every so often.
On Saturday, two friends and I went to Liverpool! Our day started at eleven, walking to the train station. Our train was scheduled for 12:07. At 11:50, we were on the platform and they announced that our train was cancelled! I was not a fan of that. We had our tickets reissued for the 1:07 train and got some Burger King in the station to kill time. At 1:02, they announced that the 1:07 train was 33 minutes delayed. Needless to say, none of us were happy. We finally got on the train to Liverpool at 1:45, almost two hours after our ticket was issued for.
Liverpool was really nice, I must say. We walked thru a shopping area then went to the Liverpool Cathedral. I had never been in such an ornate and beautiful cathedral in my life. It really was inspiring. After that, we wandered a little more until we came to The Cavern Club. This is important because it was the first venue that The Beatles performed in. They charged a pound to get in, though, so we didn’t eat there. We ended up going to an Italian restaurant called Castro (I believe that’s what it’s called at least!). I was ecstatic because I love me some Italian food. I had garlic bread with cheese along with salmon topped pasta in garlic sauce (they don’t have alfredo sauce!). Oh, and three glasses of wine, tehe.
Once we got back to Manchester, our flat was getting ready to go out again. Needless to say, I was game. However, the wine that I had didn’t mix well with the smoothies that my flat mates were serving so I ended up staying in. I wish I could have gone out and enjoyed my first Saturday night but it would have done me a lot of damage had I gone.
On Wednesday (yes, I skipped three days since it was mostly filled with eating food, going to the pub, and sleeping) we went to the Refreshers Fair. It was basically an involvement fair where a lot of the unions were showing why we should get involved with them. A weird part of being involved in Manchester is that you pay a membership fee for each union that you join. The flipside to that is that there’s no mandatory involvement fee like there is a Bridgewater. I put my name down for the school newspaper, surprisingly. There is not that much commitment and if I can write an article or two that gets published, that would be really cool.
Yesterday I had my first psychology lecture. It was at 10am and I had to walk a mile and a half to get there. Obviously it was raining. I know there is a bus service that could get me there quicker but I really don’t find the worth in buying bus fare to go a mile when I am able to expand my knowledge of Manchester on my way to class. After class, shocking enough, I took a nap (hah). The rest of the day was spent on internship applications. I had a couple glasses of wine with the flat mates and American friends and went to bed.
Today has been spent completely on internship applications. I am so excited to start interviewing for several positions that I have been contacted for. I know that I am going to learn a lot over the next several weeks. I can only hope that the end outcome will be me getting an internship. I am hopeful that I will be able to get one!
I’m very excited for the next several weeks! I am going to Scotland next weekend, Amsterdam the week after that, Paris the week after that, Dublin several weeks after that, Spain and Italy two weeks after that, and Prague at some point after that. Being able to finally see the world gets me so excited!
I’ll hopefully put up another blog this weekend on things that I’ve learned since being in Manchester and some things that are much different comparing the US and England. Cheers!
This is a very long post so make sure you have plenty of time to read it!
It’s been a whirlwind of a past three months, spontaneously deciding to study in Manchester, England, getting everything ready, and waiting anxiously for the day to arrive where I depart. Yesterday, the culmination of all that came to a head and I headed off to begin this wonderful journey.
I left home Thursday at 5:30am and my father drove me to Logan Express. Let me just say that it was so hard leaving my family, especially my mother and sister. They both started crying as I left and it was then that it hit me that I was gone for six months. I bussed into Logan Airport and went through baggage and security. I was so pumped when my luggage was below the maximum. I left at 5:30 because I am very paranoid about being on time so I always like to make it fairly early. It kind of bit me in the arse (yes, arse. I’m allowed to do it since I’m in Britain) because I was waiting in the terminal two hours before my flight. I got very acquainted with airports over the next day, haha.
I boarded my flight and I was off to the UK. For all the hate that American Airlines got, my flight was rather good. They served us breakfast and lunch free along with unlimited beverage service. The only negative to the flight was that there was a toddler across the aisle in the same row I was. For a seven hour flight, he was very well behaved but he still was a bit antsy and got noisy at times. Being the longest flight I’ve ever been on and the first time flying solo, I was very satisfied with my flight.
When I landed in Heathrow Airport in London, I went through border check, which took a good hour surprisingly. During that time, I made friends with a college student who was on the same flight as I named Stacy. She goes to Suffolk University so we were able to chat up about back home. After getting through border check, Stacy and I decided we wanted to be ambitious and try and see a bit of London before I was off.
We took a free train service from terminal three, where I landed, to terminal four, where my Yotel was (yes, Yotel. I will get into detail below). By the time we checked into my Yotel, it was 10:30 in London. We researched places to go and realized that places were not open and the cost of going in was just not worth it. It was a tad bit disappointing but I know that I am going to have plenty of opportunities to see London over the next six months.
The other unfortunate thing is that by the time I checked in, all the airport’s restaurants were closed for the evening. We ended up getting room service and enjoying a Chicago style pepperoni pizza… Yes, my first meal in England was a pizza I could get down the street. We decided we were going to down the pizza and head to the bar outside the Yotel for a couple drinks and call it a night. Unfortunately, we finished eating as the bar closed so our plans were thwarted again. Thank goodness for room service, as I was able to have a glass of Merlot and then I called it a night around 12:30am.
So you are probably asking what a Yotel is. To me, Yotel is a modern-day hostel that looks like a train cabin. On one side, we had an elevated bed capsule. Inside of the capsule was a TV that played shows as well as music and internet. On the other side was a small area with a monsoon shower and toilet. It was located in the airport so it was extremely convenient for getting a few hours of rest before my layover. Along with that, it provides 24 hour room service with some good food and drink options. The best part is that you don’t book a Yotel for a night but by the hour, so the booking works around your layover. I landed in Heathrow at 8:30 and booked my Yotel for 10pm until 5am. The rate at Heathrow is eight pounds (I’m still getting used to calling pounds currency rather than weight!) per hour, so it’s extremely reasonable. There are Yotels in Heathrow, London Gatwick, Amsterdam, and New York City (only four blocks from Times Square!).
I woke up the next morning around 3:15am (I know, I ate about fourteen pounds but, again, very paranoid about being on time). I gathered my stuff and headed off to my connecting flight. I took a free bus to the terminal and arrived there around 4:15am (D’oh!). I checked in at 5am when it opened and was at my gate by 5:45, after wandering the ground level of stores in the terminal. The fact they had Gucci, Prada, and Dolce in the terminal really surprised me. At 6:30, I said goodbye to London and flew off to Manchester!
Let me just say one thing comparing American Airlines, my first flight, and British Airways, my connecting flight. I found it so funny at the difference in appearance and age between the flight attendants of the two flights. On American, there was not a flight attendant that looked below forty years old. On the flipside, British’s attendants all looked younger than thirty. British also was much more traditional than American, sporting those old-fashioned hats that reminded me of the 30s as part of their uniform.
I landed in Manchester at 7:30am and the University provided me with free transport from the airport to my hall of residence. Driving from the airport to the hall was surreal. The buildings are so old-fashioned, with a lot of them being the style where it’s two houses in one that are connected. It reminded me of 101 Dalmatians. I was so thrown off about the cars being opposite too. I knew beforehand about it but being in one was so weird! The driver is on the right side of the car and you drive on the left side of the road.
I arrived at Cambridge Hall at 8:30 and checked in. I was very intrigued to see how things are handled in comparison to how it’s done in the US. Completely different is all I have to say. Hand-off to the max! The Hall Warden (yes, warren. There are no RAs. Just security wardens) gave me my flat inventory and let me go. Let’s just say that I am going to miss having a sense of community for the next six months.
My flat was different than I was expecting. It’s a ten person flat with two toilets and two showers along with a kitchen room. I opened my flat door and it was a long hallway ahead of me with a smaller hallway to my right. The hallway in front of me led to the ten bedrooms, all individual, five rooms on each side. To the right was a bathroom and a shower room on each side of the hallway, with the end leading into a kitchen room. Again, disappointed in the lack of community that the set up fosters.
I have to say that I like my room a lot. When you enter the room, there is a very small open foyer area with a bookcase to my left and a sink and mirror to my right (yeah, I have a sink and mirror in my room! Doing my hair just became ten times easier!). Into the room further is my bed to the left, heater to the right, and a desk spanning the width of the room ahead of me. The desk is now adorned with pictures from home. Above the desk is a window that has a nice view of the courtyard, though the courtyard isn’t that special. I’m on the ground level of the building so the warden suggested that I keep my window locked at all times. That’s a promising sign… Oh, and the best part to my room? There’s a bulletin board above my bed! Part of me wants to do a board each month just for kicks and send pictures to school.
I took a nap after putting my things down for about an hour. I was so tired that I fell asleep even though I had no sheets. I just passed out on an empty mattress. When I finally woke up, it was about 11am and I decided that I needed to start acquainting myself with the city. My hall is literally about four blocks from the city centre so I wanted to see what it had to offer. I also needed to try and get some errands done since some of the stuff I needed to do aren’t possible on the weekend.
First I visited the International Office and got my student ID. Let me just say that I was ecstatic that my ID picture is one that I like… it was a Christmas miracle. After that, I headed into the city centre to get some linens for my bed. Unfortunately, the student union is not open until Monday so I wasn’t able to purchase things there or take a look at what it has to offer. I ended up walking about two miles to Primark. Primark is a hybrid of TJ Maxx prices with Walmart’s size.The Primark in Manchester city centre is the largest store they have, with three floors of retail. I bought a duvet, two pillows, sheet set, and duvet set for twenty-five pounds.
On my way back from Primark, I walked past a hair salon called Razor’s Edge and doubled back for a cut after dropping my bedding at the hall. I was floored at how awesome the experience was. Back in America, I’d always go to a Supercuts and get something done for like $14 and the experience was very informal.
At Razor’s Edge, I made my reservation and while waiting, they asked if I wanted tea or coffee as well as crackers. They sat me within three minutes of me getting in even though I walked in. They had a coat rack and hung my coat and fitted my apron. My stylist was very nice. My request was a simple one: “I want something that’s flattering to my face and British.” She laughed and started giving suggestions. In America, they’d just start going at my hair. The stylist pulled out like four hairstyle magazines to give me an idea of what she was doing before she did it. We ended up deciding on a side quiff, which she says is in now. Before she started cutting, she had my hair shampooed and conditioned, again something that I’d never had done before. She was very interested in my travels and things from the states. One of her favorite movies was The Town so she wanted to hear about Boston (though she was shocked to hear that I’d never seen The Town!). I was very impressed at how precise and detailed she was as well. She took about a half hour to do this cut and would trim my hair if something was slightly off to her. I was impressed by that dedication to her work.
After that, I grabbed a frappuccino from Starbucks (there is literally a Starbucks every two blocks. It’s worse than Dunkin Donuts in Massachusetts!) and headed back to my hall. I took a nap and woke up about an hour ago. Right now, I’m thinking that I am going to stay in for the night. As much as I’d like to jump in and start meeting people and seeing places, I am going to take the safe route. The last thing I need is something happening to me at night alone in a brand new place.
Tomorrow is the day where students are able to return to the halls (I paid fifteen pounds extra to move in a day early). I am hoping that I am able to meet some of my flat mates. Luckily for me, my door now isn’t a fire door so I can prop it :). The only other thing I have to do is go to a mobile phone store and buy a phone and I will be all set. I am hoping to enjoy this weekend, hit it off with some of the people in my flat, and acquaint myself with the city more. Monday begins the actual work, with International Enrolment (yes, one “l,” not two!) and a reception for international students, where I hope to meet some more people. I need to find me some travel buddies!
It’s been a very interesting start to my journey. I feel more independent than I ever have and am proud that I’ve taken this step in my life to explore. I’m 24 hours in; only six months left!