Friday, March 27, 2015

A Lovely Language

If I’m being honest here, I must admit that my number one reason for studying abroad in England is not education or location; it’s the accents. Since I was a young girl, I have been obsessed with English accents and I adored any movie that featured the intriguing inflections. So, needless to say that when I arrived in the UK, I was in heaven. I fell even more in love with the (many many many) English accents around me.

That being said, I have both enjoyed and been confused by some of the things people say / don’t say in this country. There are so many different words that have different meanings and they have a lot of slang terms we are unfamiliar with, and I thought it would be helpful for future travelers-to-England to learn some of what I have picked up. (Disclaimer: you may already know some, and others may seem trivial, but as I said I’m obsessed with this country’s language so I made diligent notes).

  1. When in a restaurant, do not ask for the “check.” They will have no idea what you mean. Ask for the bill. (Side note about restaurants: the service here is nothing like in the States. They make a certain wage and don’t rely on tips, so the service is slower. You will have to ask for the bill because they won’t bring it to you otherwise. Also, expect to be given a single bill no matter what company you are in, as it is unheard of for places to split it. We have received many a stink eye for requesting to pay separately, so always be prepared. Many places will accommodate individuals paying their own part, just be aware of the cultural difference and don’t make a big deal out of being given one bill).
  2. Queue: they don’t say “wait in line.” You queue (which is quite fun to say once you get used to it).
  3. Cash Machine / Cash Point: very few people will know what you mean by “ATM” so be sure to say cash machine if you are looking for one.
  4. Quid: just another way of saying pounds (their currency). So if someone says they spent 50 quid on something, they spent 50 pounds. Easy peasy. Also, they call their bills “notes” or “bank notes” but I haven’t encountered that as much.
  5. You alright? This has to be one of the hardest phrases to adjust to for me. When you see someone, they will usually greet you with “you alright?” It’s just their way of saying hello and asking how it’s going. Every time I hear it I still think they are asking me what’s wrong or something, but it’s merely their version of “hey, what’s up?”
  6. Food can be confusing. Fries = chips / chips = crisps / cookies = biscuits / dessert = pudding (though desserts is a common term).
  7. Zed: the last letter of the alphabet in England is pronounced “zed” instead of the US’s version of simply “z”/”zee”. It can be really confusing hearing this for the first time. (And can you imagine calling Jay-Z “Jay-Zed”? It’s just not the same…)
  8. Keen: this is possibly one of my favorite English phrases. When one asks if someone would like to do something and the other is up for it, instead of saying, “Yes, I’d love to do that,” they might say “keen!” Like they are keen / excited to do it.
  9. Toilets: it’s a general rule not to ask where the bathrooms / restrooms are. They call them the toilets. (Honestly, I’ve only heard the term “loo” a couple of times, so I wouldn’t recommend saying that unless you heard otherwise in that instance).
  10. Fancy: fancy is a very common term to say one “likes” something or someone. It’s not a measurement of style or posh-ness.
  11. Academia is riddled with a ton of different words that I cannot even fully explain. “Professors” are considered the top tier of teaching in a university, so not all of the faculty are professors. Most are called lecturers or your academic tutors. Just note what your module handbook (syllabus) states about the title of the teacher.  
  12. Higher education is called uni or university. They have primary school, then high school goes up to the age of around 16, and college is from 16-18. It’s their pre-uni schooling, so do not equate college with uni. Also, what they call public schools is what we call private schools, and vice versa. "Public schools" here generally mean exclusive and expensive. Very confusing.  
  13. Yes, they do say mate when talking to / about a friend.
  14. Finally, cheers. People use this as a parting term or a way to say goodbye. It took a long while for me to get used to hearing this one, but it is a very fun phrase once you adjust to it. 
I will say that one must be selective in the phrases they adopt. I mean that it is easy for people to come across as "phonies" for lack of a better word when they automatically assume the language of a new area. Use the words you have to in order to get by, but don't go around calling everyone mates and saying "cheers!" That's not what is expected of you. People will know you are not from the area and expect you to speak differently. I've encountered some American exchange students who started spelling things the British way and using all of the English terms, trying to make it seem like she had always been a part of the community, and it could seem like a bit of a mockery orotherwise just fake. So be authentic and aware in how you communicate.

There are many more terms / phrases / pronunciations that any American will find confusing at first, even if the words are simple (such as aluminum or salon). Past the confusion, though, it is very fun to learn the language of a new country. One expects that because England is English-speaking just as America that there will be little discrepancies; however, every culture has its own style of language. It’s all part of the experience to try and learn as much of it as possible. And I have certainly enjoyed observing the many different dialects in Canterbury.



Monday, March 23, 2015


Last Wednesday I turned in my last 3 assignments of the term. My summer started on March 18th and I have absolutely no problem with that at all.

I have spent the last week saying my goodbyes to everyone, and now that it's been pretty quiet in Canterbury I have been relaxing with Netflix in bed, and camping out in coffee shops. Once again, I am not complaining.

The remainder of the week is going to be pretty relaxed: on Wednesday I will ship a majority of my stuff back home to save my sanity in the next three weeks by not having to lug 2 suitcases around Belgium and Italy; on Thursday the Queen is coming to Canterbury to unveil a statue at the cathedral (!!!!!!!!!!); and on Friday I head to London for the weekend. Once I leave England early next week I am gone for good to travel with my best friend, Sarah, studying abroad in Belgium.

During my senior year of high school, I became really close with two AFS students, Martina and Alex, from Italy and Belgium. After I graduated, I had the opportunity to go to Lecco, Italy with my brother and visit my friend Martina. In less than two weeks I will be back in Lecco (by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen), after I spend a weekend staying with my friend Alex in Belgium. (It is really convenient having great friends who live in really cool places). When Sarah and I return from Italy we will then meet her parents and spend a week with them in Belgium. My last couple of days with them will be in Brussels and from there I will fly home on April 17th.

I know that when I get on the plane in Brussels in a few weeks, I will be very anxious to get home and see my friends and family. Recently my mom told me that all good things must come to an end eventually, and the time has definitely come for me to start making some money instead of constantly spending. I am also excited to spend time in Kansas City (which, perhaps, still remains my favorite city) with new eyes and perspective.

Now that most of my friends in England are home for Easter break, and the number of Americans left are slowly dwindling down, I have come to terms with leaving. I am at peace with the experience I have had in the past couple of months. If my AFS friends from high school are an example of long distance friendships, I know I should not be worried about the new friendships I have made. I believe that the world is only as big as you make it, and you never know what opportunities will come around in the future. Three years ago, when I was visiting Marty in Italy, I never imagined I could be back in Lecco so soon. And I cannot think or talk about opportunities I've had without automatically thinking about my parents. As my time in Europe is coming to an end, I often think about how amazingly blessed I am for having loving parents who support me and my study abroad experience. I can only hope that one day they will also make it to these beautiful places.

"Fill your life with experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show."

Monday, March 2, 2015

One month left in England

(Apologizing in advance for the somber post)
Exactly one month from today I am packing up all of my stuff in England and heading to Antwerp, Belgium. Just writing this blog makes me feel sad because my time in England has been entirely too short, and, although it's not over, this experience has made me understand just how quickly time passes. There is no way I can squeeze in everything I want to do still in England into one month.
Canterbury, with all of its rain and cobblestone streets that I have tripped on MANY times, has become a home. It's funny how quickly you can adapt and become comfortable in a new environment. 

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to Paris, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen during Christ Church University's "self-directed study week." I can assure whoever may be reading this that I was not studying. I was seeing some amazing things...

like this:
(Frederiksborg Palace, Denmark)

and this: 

(Amsterdam, Holland)

oh, and this:

This trip was 10 days long and for 3 fairly inexperienced travelers in 3 different countries, things went extremely smoothly. I was waiting, and prepared, for something bad to happen! When my bus from London made it into Canterbury, though, I was so happy to be back. 

I missed these familiar streets:

Something I think about a lot is that it really doesn't matter where you are, it matters who you are with. You could go to what you imagine to be paradise, but if you are not surrounded by people who make you happy, the experience won't reach its full potential. In Canterbury, I was lucky enough to meet some of the most genuine and fun people I know. The people are what have made my study abroad experience so great.

I'm not entirely sure how accurate this statistic is, but supposedly less than 1% of US college students study abroad for a semester or longer. I am lucky enough to be in the very small percentage, and I'm only hoping my last month passes by slowly. 

I'm closing this blog post with a picture of the Eiffel Tower because it's perfect.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

European Escape: Reading Week Edition

The halfway point for my term in Canterbury has come and gone, which is quite upsetting at the thought of all the things and places I have yet to see and do here. However, last week gave me an opportunity to see so much of the things I have long desired to visit. At Christ Church University--and I presume other universities in the UK--they give students a reading week, or "self-directed study week" in the middle of the term. As much as I would love to be a good student and say I got a lot of studying done during those ten days, I used the opportunity as a chance to see parts of Europe about which I had always dreamed.

On February 12th, two of my flatmates and I began our long-anticipated journey at 4:30 a.m. We took a train to Ashford, which is not far from Canterbury, and then caught the Eurostar train to one of the most glamorized cities in the world: Paris! It was crazy to think that it took almost the same amount of time to get from Canterbury to Paris as it does for me to get from college to home back in the States. The size of these countries--which are comparable to the size of some U.S. states--still astounds me. 

We arrived at Paris Nord around 9 in the morning, and our adventure began! Due to the confusing streets (Paris is not on a grid AT ALL), it took us a little over an hour to find our hostel. Though it was a hike from the station, we were staying right next to the Louvre! The location was also right between the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, so we could pick a way to walk and go see whatever we desired. We spent four days in Paris, which was the perfect amount of time to spend in such a city. We took in the main sights, the tucked away cafes, amazing food, and relaxed vibe of Paris.

To be honest, I was braced to be disappointed by Paris. Every time I talked to someone about Paris, they complained about the smell, the people, the traffic, the everything. They all told me that French people would be rather rude because I'm American. While I'm sure people have experienced such things in Paris, I was really lucky. Everyone my friends and I interacted with, from waiters to locals on the street, were incredibly friendly and helpful. There were three instances where we could not find where we were going and a local Parisian approached us to offer help. It was comforting to know that people wouldn't just scowl at us tourists, but instead lend a helping hand. My advice to future travelers is to always go to a city with an open mind; don't put your expectations too high or too low. Just go in willing to embrace the city and culture, and let it show you what it's all about. And the best way to do that is follow the locals, and find out what you really should see. Don't rush yourself; just enjoy the opportunity.
Donnie and I at the Eiffel Tower!

Notre Dame!

Up close and personal with Mona Lisa!

A beautiful sight at night.
On the 16th of February, we woke bright  and early to make our way to Adventure #2: Amsterdam! Amsterdam is the most culturally-intriguing city I have ever visited, and also one of the most beautiful. The canals everywhere were picture-perfect, and the amount of bikes was INSANE. It was really neat to see a place where cars were the underdogs of transportation, and it was also kind of scary trying not to get hit by the millions of bikers that flew down the cobble-stone and brick streets. We went on a canal tour, which showed us so much of the city. It was crazy to see just how many canals there were. We also went to the Anne Frank House, which was one of the most humbling experiences one can have. The profound words of a young girl going through such a painful time were really powerful, and I was so grateful we got the chance to see the house and hear/read stories about the Frank family and others going through the same hardships. Trying to gain the whole Amsterdam experience, my friends and I rented bikes and took a ferry just north of the city to a place I cannot pronounce. We rode around the quiet streets and bike trails along the canals before getting dinner overlooking the water as the sun set. It was an amazing trip.
City of canals (and bikes)

Anne Frank House!

Bikes: the best way to see Amsterdam.

The famous I Amsterdam sign in front of Rijksmuseum.
Three days later, we made our way to Schiphol Airport for our last stop: Copenhagen, Denmark! While there had been a lot of fear in the media surrounding Copenhagen after some attacks, we were still stoked to see the city. On our first day, we walked around and saw some the picturesque sites Copenhagen is known for, such as colorful buildings lining the canals at Nyhavn. It was simply a gorgeous city. We also took the train to Frederiksborg Slot, the largest Renaissance castle in Scandinavia and home to the National History Museum. It was so incredible and gorgeous that we didn't mind the snow and rain coming down on us as we walked up to it. The castle was huge and had some of the most amazing rooms in it. While the weather did not permit us to ride bikes like we had hoped, we still managed to see what we wanted to see. We went to the Royal Library, which was incredible. It's called the Black Diamond because the entire exterior is black-tinted glass and it's one of the most beautiful libraries I've seen, with green-lamped reading rooms and windows overlooking the water. Copenhagen was also home to The Little Mermaid author, Hans Christian Andersen, so we visited the famous statue of Ariel on Copenhagen Harbor that was placed there in 1913.

Frederiksborg Castle and National History Museum!

The amazing, colorful, rainy city of Copenhagen!
After a few glorious but rainy days in Denmark, we flew back to London and caught a coach back home to Canterbury. It's funny how, though I've only lived in Canterbury for just shy of two months, I really missed it while I was away. However, the 10-day journey through Europe was amazing, and I am so happy we were given the chance to travel--and study, of course. :)

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