Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Two Days Down in Canterbury

My journey from Kansas City to where I am now (sitting at the kitchen table in my flat in Canterbury) has been filled with ups and downs for lack of a better phrase.

My trip begins with me sitting on the floor of the Kansas City airport with my two suitcases open and overflowing in front of me at 5 a.m. My checked bag weighed 25 pounds over the limit (whoops) so I had to shove anything I could into the carry-on that I was now checking as well for $100. Hopefully I was able to provide some entertainment to the long line of people next to me at the cost of my pride and dignity.

Luckily, that was the most unfortunate part of the trip. I did wander around alone at the London Heathrow airport at midnight looking for the taxi driver who, when I came back, was standing right where I had left to go on my absolutely pointless search. However, he was extremely pleasant so I didn't even mind.

The first night in my flat was slightly unsettling. It seemed like I was the only human being in my entire student village, which was not exactly pleasant in a new country. I accepted it as part of the experience, though, and fell into a much needed and undisturbed 9 hours of sleep. I woke up the next morning and headed into town trying my best to look like I knew where I was going. I got food and a new number in order to have a working phone--2 essential things. My friend, Sarah, who is studying abroad in Belgium, arrived at my flat that evening, went out for dinner (where we asked for a "check" not a "bill," which should be avoided in England unless you voluntarily want to confuse everyone).

This morning definitely set a new tone for my short experience so far. Jara arrived, and as we settle in, our flat begins to feel more and more like a home. If I feel this content on only my second day, I can't wait for the next few months as I meet people, make friendships, and live the life of a Canterbury local.

Canterbury Cathedral

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Chasing Thailand

Study Abroad: Thailand
My name is Chase Barnes. I am a Junior at Columbia College. My major is Political Science. My home town is Wellsboro, PA. I am studying abroad on an exchange in Thailand.

Where: Rangsit University, Pathum Thani, Thailand (about 45 minutes North of Bangkok)

When: I will depart from the United States on January 5, 2015. I will return June 17, 2015.


1/05/15 Wellsboro, PA > Elmira, NY                      

1/05/15 Elmira, NY 5:45 am > Philadelphia, PA 7:00 am               (3:15 hr layover)
1/05/15 Philadelphia, PA 10:15 am > Doha, Qatar 6:50 am            (14:10 hr layover)        

1/06/15 Doha, Qatar 9:00 pm > Bangkok, Thailand 7:10 am                                         

1/07/15 Bangkok, Thailand > Pathum Thani, Thailand       

Total Distance: 8,580 Miles
Total Time: 39 hours  (2 hrs driving, 19.5 hrs flying, 17.5 hrs layover)

Why: I wanted to do an exchange through Columbia College because it would allow me to retain my      current scholarships and represent CC abroad. Because I study political science and there were two available options for me: Canterbury, England or Bangkok, Thailand. I would have studied American Studies in England while enjoying the company of two lovely CC study abroad ambassadors, Donnie Andrick and Jara Anderson. Thailand offered International Development Courses and a significantly lower cost of living. Canterbury is safe, not tropical, and expensive. Bangkok is exotic, cheap, and warm (it's the worlds hottest city). After a few months of pensive thought and one really long walk, I decided on Thailand. 

What: At Rangsit I will attend the International College so all of my courses will be taught in English. I will go to class on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. My courses are:

Asian Leadership
Theories of Democracy
Thai Language for Beginners
Development and Human Rights

Who: I am the first student from Columbia College to go to Rangsit. I will be traveling alone. Based on the email lists I am on from the coordinators at Rangsit, a majority of the other students are from Finland. 

Other Pre departure FAQ's

I am staying in a single apartment 3 blocks from Rangsit. It is called Sita Villa Apartments. 

I do not speak any Thai. 

I have never been to Asia (I have traveled to England, Africa, Spain, and the Caribbean). 

A beer costs about $1 (USD).

Outlook as of December 28, 2014

I am terrified, yet excited. I guess one could say that I am anxious. I am confident that I will be able to manage for 6 months. Now it is just a matter of actually doing it. There is a German term called Zugunruhe that describes the restlessness of birds before they migrate--I think this describes me in anticipation of my adventure. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Thoughts Before Canterbury: 2 Days to Go!

Packing to go to another country makes a mess, both literally and mentally. As I tear apart my room to find every possible trinket that may or may not be useful in my adventures abroad, a plethora of thoughts bombard me (which I'm sure happens to every student traveler). Questions and thoughts range from packing to immigration to new food to weather to how on Earth can I survive in a different country.

1) Why did I even sign up for this? I mean, I'm quite content at my current domestic college, so why must I shake it up and go abroad? There are many answers to this notion: adventure, wanderlust, the desire to see the world, to be culturally mindful. All of these are true. However, I think there is an even bigger factor that is applicable to some oversea-ers as well as myself. I have yet to feel like I've done that one "thing" that makes me develop--and trust--my abilities as an adult. Some people buy a car or take out a loan. I wanted to be immersed in a place so unfamiliar that I had to rely solely on myself. I truly believe it will be the one way that I learn not only how to interact with the world but initiate my independence.

2) Do I really only get to pack four pairs of shoes? I am the kind of person that reads every article and website that gives tips on studying abroad and pack-this-not-that spreadsheets. So when I kept coming across the tips that encourage packing a small amount of footwear, I cringed. I am an eternally heavy packer, which is becoming more and more apparent with each added item to my already cramped suitcase. But what I have to remind myself is that I will be near several stores if needed; I'm not being dropped off in the middle of the wilderness. Also, it's kind of freeing when I realize that I don't need to take absolutely everything. I will be mobile, living out of a suitcase (okay, two and a carry-on). It's a new feeling. Future travelers should take solace in this feeling as well. If I can abandon my favorite pair of red Converse, so can you.

3) What if I did something wrong on the paperwork? The process to Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) has been a little rocky. It's difficult to communicate with people on a different continent with a time difference. It's especially difficult trying to get information through several different people, when regulations are changing and it's the first time a program is being offered. The entire thing is a learning process for everyone. Therefore, I question how prepared I am, whether I have covered all of my bases and done everything necessary for my visa. I think everyone feels unprepared when they are about to embark on such a trip, it is just very unsettling when there is so little time to double-check everything.

4) Wow. It's really happening. Time is ticking and I will soon be 4,355 miles away. It's both stunningly terrifying and invigorating.

I realize nerves and fears about how smoothly the transition will be or if every piece of paper are perfectly normal. To be scared of moving away from family, even temporarily, is a very common experience. I'm excited to get to England and experience a new twist of college life!

Cheerio! -- Jara
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