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Did I actually do that?

Time August 9th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Remember that time I went to England for 6 months?  Being home makes it feel like so far away – more like a dream than anything!  I found it strangely easy to get back into life in the States, but every day something or other reminds me of Canterbury.  The other day I went to the grocery store and handed them my cloth bags – only to have them put my items in a plastic bag without even asking…such a small thing was so crazy to me!

But now that I’m home, I’m incredibly happy to be reunited with the people I love and missed, but I’m not sure how starting school in a few weeks will feel – we shall see.  I think I’m in for a surprise!

Also, I’m constantly finding out things that happened while I was gone – I think it will take me a while to get caught up with Ohio.  Until then, I looked at the very first post I made as I was packing my suitcase for England.  Here it is again, only this time I’ve inserted how everything really panned out (my comments are in bold):


My first post:


1.  I have wayyy too much stuff – how am I ever going to fit it all?!  I fit it all, but those suitcases were HEAVY – about 70lbs each.  Coming home was pretty difficult too – definitely can still work on my “packing light” skills.  Hey, it’s hard fitting your whole life of six months into two suitcases!

2.  What did I get myself into? – I know I’m going to love it there, but how long will it take me to get adjusted?  I definitely did love it, but getting adjusted took much longer than I thought – about 3 months to be exact!  My biggest obstacle was getting to know my British friends – I definitely discovered that Americans are so much more likely to overshare than Brits are.


3.  I am so incredibly excited to travel and meet as many people as possible!  I definitely did travel and met so many great people – buying wine from an elderly French woman in Strasbourg, France, was definitely on the “coolest things to happen on my travels” list.



4.  The British education system is much different than that of the U.S.  Am I going to be able to put aside my procrastinator ways and keep up?  Did I still procrastinate?  Yes.  Being a student is pretty much the same anywhere you go.  Thankfully the Brits have a whole month to study for their exams – that was the craziest thing to me!

5.  How homesick am I going to get?  I didn’t get superrr homesick, but rather just had days when I missed people a lot or was sad that I couldn’t be at an important event in their lives. I am surprised that I never had the urge to just jump on a flight home – England had too much to keep me busy!



6.  I’m going to get so lost.  It’s just going to happen.  I’m already waiting for the day I take a train (aka the tube) for hours in the wrong direction.  BRING IT.  Of course I got lost, but thankfully, I was never in a situation where I was nervous or scared.  On a trip with friends, we ended up on a train headed for Freiburg, Germany instead of Friboug, Switzerland.  Whoops.  Thankfully, Swiss train ticket agents are incredibly nice.  Also, never underestimate the power of a map.



7.  I am so SCARED!  Of course I was scared.  Thankfully, no monsters were waiting for me at my final destination.

8.  What will my accent sound like to them?  I surprisingly became so accustomed to the British accent that hearing an American accent was so foreign to me!  How ironic.  Our speech seems much more choppy and we pronounce all the letters in our words fully.  For example, Americans say “WHAT?” with an emphasis on the ending “t”.  Brits say “WHAAAA?” 


9.  The U.K. is on military time.  I’m already late everywhere I go, so this should be interesting!  This took a while to get used to, and I triple checked my tickets and clocks every time I had to be somewhere because I was so paranoid I would make a mistake and think 21:00 meant 11:00pm (it actually means 9:00pm).  With that said, it soon became the new normal – I still have my phone on military time and am not quite ready to change it back yet.

10.  I’m going to miss everyone so much and have been so sad to leave, but now I can finally say that I cannot wait for this.  So, so, so, incredibly anxious – but in a good way!  Typical study abroad feeling.



1.  See at least one celebrity (British or American!) in the flesh.  Fail.  I did, however, stand outside of a restaurant where the Janoskians were eating (Idk they are famous on Youtube and are apparently a big deal).  And when I was in Paris, the President of Ghana was inside a limo that I was 2 feet away from!  Ooh and the university I attended (University of Kent) was where Elie Goulding went to school! Okay, I sucked at this one on the list…


2.  Try as much British food as possible (Fish and chips and biscuits with clotted cream, anyone?)  Fell in love with clotted cream, digestives, and jam.  Now I get cravings for tea all the time.

3.  Find out if Brits like peanut butter (random, but no Europeans that I met have liked it!)  You bet I asked everyone if they liked peanut butter – but really, I did.  Most people said it was just okay.  At which point I had a freakout and told them they were seriously missing out on life.  I was able to turn one of my British housemates onto it, though… I’ll call this one a success.


4.  Learn as much as I can about British culture, politics, and daily living.  Tried my best.  I’d say I did all right!  Number one lesson: talking on public transportation will definitely tag you as a foreigner.



5.  SHOP SHOP SHOP! (Hello, Herods!)  Well, for starters, I learned to spell HARRODS, and this luxury store was definitely a hot spot on my list!  I found it my 3rd day in London and it’s just as magical as I imagined.  The food halls made me feel like a 5-year-old in a candy store.  I’m sad I didn’t really spend enough time in there, though.  Every time I was there it was for a limited time.  Darn…guess I’ll have to go back to London…


6.  Have the most legitimate afternoon tea of all time (Why else would you go to England?).  Definitely did this many, many, many times.  Joined the Tea Society, too – BONUS.

7.  Not get too stressed about the little things.   I think I was surprisingly good at this!  Having a ton of time to do things helped – not having a job really frees up your schedule.

8.  Laugh...Laugh a lot.  Check, Check, and Check.

9.  Dance in the rain down a London street with an umbrella in hand like Mary Poppins and the Morton Salt girl.  Darnnn I knew I forgot something!  Although, in my defense, I’m not quite sure the English population is ready for that one just yet.  I did sing “Singing in the Rain” in the streets of Leicester Square every time I passed the Singing in the Rain theater, though!

10.  Become obsessed with a British band (other than One Direction <3).  BASTILLE BASTILLE BASTILLE.


11.  See platform 9 3/4 and everything else Harry Potter possible!  OH MY GOSH.  Cliffs of Moher, Shaftesbury Avenue, the cafe in Scotland where J.K Rowling first wrote the book – all on the list!  The actually Harry Potter studio tour was AMAZING.  So happy.

12.  Speak in a British accent and make a fool of myself (Ello, chap!).  GAH this happened on a daily basis.  Personal favorite moment of mine was betting my Brit friend that I could go the whole day speaking in a British accent.  Let me tell you, ordering at Subway and having an internal struggle as to how to say “tomatoes” in a British accent was one of the more difficult things I’ve had to do. 

13.  Pick up on British fashion…or at least fake it to my best ability!  I tried this one so hard – at least for the first few weeks.  I’d like to say my fashion sense has changed, but what I’m sure of is that I’ll be rocking elbow pads in the States proudly!

14.  Actually write post cards like I say I will (I’ll do my best, promise!)  This happened, but they were a few months late – sorry everyone!


15.  Have as many conversations with total strangers as possible.  This one.  This is something I thought I would do so much of.  Little did I know, Britain isn’t really the place you go to “have as many conversations with total strangers as possible.”  Rather, English people are incredibly nice once you get to know them, but their style of politeness often means keeping to themselves and letting you be.  


16.  Find out what real football is all about by attending as many matches as I can.  Football didn’t pan out to be a big priority – but I did discover rugby and was lucky enough to attend a Six Nations match in Edinburgh, Scotland!  Also, if you ask me my football team, I’m an Arsenal girl (just because I randomly picked a team to support).


17.  Pretend I’m characters from every British movie I love (The Holiday, Pride and Prejudice, What a Girl Wants)  Do impersonations count?  Also, I made it to Camden Market – which I’m pretty sure is where Oliver James (Ian) took Amanda Bynes (Daphne) in What a Girl Wants!  



18.  Be a tourist for a moment (you just have to take those double-decker buses!)  Oh you know I did plenty of that.  I’m now an expert at “Excuse me sir, do you mind taking a quick photo of us?”


19.  Become friends with a palace guard…but really.  Well that didn’t happen.  But my sisters and I did talk to one of them (not that he talked back).  But as soon as we were done talking he did a marching motion – which is secret guard code for “Let’s be best friends”, right?


20.  Come back with an accent (DUH).  I thought I’d come home with an accent, but definitely failed on this one.  I do say some words differently now, though, and have tried to carry my British slang home with me – “queue”, “have a Google”, and “give me a ring” are now in my vocab.


That’s all for my list, but I can say that I am so incredibly thankful that I had the opportunity to do something like this.  It was an experience I will never forget (so cliche), but I know I am a different person because of it.  It may sound weird, but I definitely feel older now.  I look at problems more systematically, and feel much more fully equipped to handle situations on my own.  I also started learning Spanish and feel the need to stay on top of international news and policies.  Is this what grownups do?

Overall, being abroad in a foreign country teaches you to survive on your own, but also to rely on the kindness of humankind to set you straight when you hop on a train hoping to go to Fribourg, Switzerland, and instead almost end up in Freiburg, Germany.


So if you ever have the chance to do something different, do it. Travel and keep your mind open – you’ll be surprised at how much your experiences shape the person you are.  Thank you so much for reading!


All the best,

xx Renae



My Travel Diary!

Time August 9th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

During my time abroad, I was so lucky to be able to see as many things as time (and money) would allow.  Here’s a list of my main destinations with a quick description of each.  Hope this helps any future travelers decide their route!
*  London – Being my favorite city, you’ve heard about this one already. London does so many things right.
*  York – This cute town is actually a decent size and is filled with rows and rows of shops; good for a day trip.
*  Chester – Chester, like York, is filled with shopping. It’s actually famous for it’s rows: shops that are one floor above ground.  In the olden days, the streets were filled with sewage – Chester residents, most of them quite wealthy, would shop at the rows so to avoid this mess. Ladies in particular frequented the rows to ensure that their long dresses of the time were kept clean!
*  Lake District – Scenery, scenery, scenery!  The Lake District is absolutely beautiful, I’d say its best suited for a visit by those who love hiking, boating, or anything that involves taking advantage of lots and lots of nature.
*  Bath- The former home of famous writer Jane Austen, Bath is quite beautiful – you can tell why it’s an expensive area to live!  The Roman baths here are definitely something to see. Its seriously so crazy to think that they have survived after all these years.  The same can’t be said about the water that remains in the baths, though – its green in color and definitely toxic!  Nevertheless, Bath is stunning.
*  Stonehenge – You’ve heard me talk about this is a previous post.  It’s one of those things that’s neat to see, but only put aside an hour of your day for seeing it.
*  Windsor – Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I’ve been there 4 times now, and I still love it. If you’re in England, this is a MUST!
*  Salisbury – A little town not far from Stonehenge, Salisbury is like Canterbury’s fraternal twin to me. Like Canterbury, it has beautiful bridges, rows of small shops, and a beautiful cathedral.   It’s a nice stop just for a leisurely break from sightseeing. I’d recommend seeing Bath, Stonehenge, and Salisbury on the same day.
*  Edinburgh – This city was the most pleasant surprise of my entire trip. Who would think Scotland has a little somethin’ somethin’?!  It’s historic, yet modern.  But what makes it special is that the people there are so welcoming.  In England, I must admit, I try to hide my American accent, but Scotland makes me feel so much at home.
*  St. Andrews: Famous for it’s golf course, St. Andrews is beautiful. It’s also the home of the univeristy of St. Andrews, where Prince William and Duchess Kate met and attended university.  Surprisingly, the inside of the university looks like any other one I’be seen. I guess a lecture hall is a lecture hall…even for a prince and princess – to- be!
*  Loch Ness- Famous for it’s monster, Loch (which just means “lake”) Ness has pretty views and is situated on Scotland’s highlands which are stunning to drive through. They reminded me of the Grand Canyon a bit.
*  Glasgow- Nice to look at, but that’s about it. There’s not really much to do there, so don’t be heartbroken if you skip it.
*  Snowdonia- Like the Lake District, this area is best suited for the outdoorsy types. Lots and lots and lots of beautiful landscape await hikers!
*  Cardiff – This is basically a very modern university town. If you’re in the area, Cardiff castle is something neat to see.
** Overall, Wales is often known for two things: sheep and rain; this is pretty accurate. But the people there so nice…even if it’s difficult to understand them sometimes…
Ireland (mainland) 
*  Dublin – Probably the most visited city in mainland Ireland, they say Dublin is actually the “least Irish” city of the country.  It’s true actually, because it’s quite built up. But it’s still full of history and of course, the Guinness storehouse. Dublin can be done in 2 days.  Stephen’s Green is a MUST, along with Temple Bar.  If you’re there on a Sunday, splurge and get a traditional Irish roast – there’s a restaurant called “The Bank” (it’s located on College Green) that is my favorite!  I liked seeing Dublin from a green Hop-on-Hop-off bus – it’s not too expensive (about $17) and you learn about what you’re seeing while keeping out of the rain.  Also, on that note, BRING AN UMBRELLA!
*  Ring of Kerry – Beautiful to see if you don’t mind spending most of the day on a bus just stopping here and there to take pictures.  Book a trip on a guided tour to get the most information about the area as you can.  Viator is a little expensive ($110 for a day) but you see a lot in the day!
*  Cliffs of Moher – This was one of my favorite sites in Ireland.  The cliffs had a cameo in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (during the part when Harry and Dumbledore venture to find the first horcrux) What’s more, the ride getting there is full of Ireland scenery just as you’d expect: rows and rows of green grass. Emerald Isle at it’s best for sure.  If you have to pick doing Cliffs of Moher or Ring of Kerry, I liked Cliffs of Moher better!*  Blarney Castle – This was neat, but not as cool as I thought.  I kissed the stone, but then found out that it wasn’t as clean as I thought…
* Paris –  You know you have to see this place if you haven’t been there before.  Personally, Paris isn’t my favorite place in the world, but it’s a must see.  French onion soup in a cafe is not to be missed.  Grab a crepe for dessert next to the Eiffel Tower, and you’re doing things right.
*  Strasbourg – Located right on the border of France and Switzerland, this is an adorable provencial town that legit looks like it’s right out of Beauty and the Beast.  It’s wine country, but in order to see any vineyards you have to take a train to a nearby town (which is possible – go to the tourist office and they’ll assist you – it was only about 11 Euro, too).  Although it’s cute, there isn’t really much to do in Strasbourg.  Fun for a few hours, but travel with fun people and you can just wander the city or eat tarte flambee in a cafe.
** Side note:  When going to France, be sure to learn at least a little French!  Almost everyone speaks English, yes, but this is a place in particular that the locals (understandably) prefer to speak French.The
*Amsterdam – A friend and I went to Amsterdam because it was a nice stopping point between England and Switzerland, and we figured it was worth a look.  I always expected Amsterdam to be scary and just smell like marijuana.  I WAS SO WRONG.  Amsterdam is BEAUTIFUL.  ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL.  Seeing parking garages full of bikes is just ridiculous and the canals are just gorgeous.  The city is clean and the people are incredibly friendly!  Their tram system is so easy to use and not too expensive.  Get a day pass and go to Anne Frank’s house, the flower market, take a boat cruise along the canals, and check out the Red Light District (it’s not as creepy during the day, but be sure to go with a friend).  If there’s time, head over to the Rijks museum to take a picture in front of the I AMSTERDAM sign.  Leave plenty of time to do this (1.5 hrs) because it’s a little distance away from the Central tram station.

** Also, if you can find them, GET A STROOP WAFFEL – a friend gave me hers, but she said you can buy them in grocery stores there.



Before I go any further, I just have to say that Switzerland is SO INSANELY GORGEOUS.  I am absolutely in love with  Switzerland.

*  Zurich – From the Zurich train station, you can buy tickets for a package that takes a train to nearby Mt. Pilatus.  Once you get to the town, you can take a cable car all the way up this HUGE mountain and have lunch at the top.  It was expensive ($180) but one of the best things I’ve done.  The day we went, the visibility from the top was basically zero, though, so ask before you buy the tickets if it’s a good day for it.

*  Fribourg – This is just a small town that we visited because a friend of ours was living there – it was a really cute Swiss town…covered bridges and all!  We spent just the morning here and then took a train ride about an hour to the Nestle factory!  It was SUPER busy so we couldn’t go on a tour, but their factory store is open to everyone so we DEFINITELY took advantage of it.  We’re talking about getting chocolate from the Nestle factory in Switzerland – doesn’t get much more legit than that.

** Overall, Switzerland is so beautiful, but it is EXPENSIVE.  Don’t go unless you are willing to splurge.  We spent just 2 days there and our wallets were hurting!  Nevertheless, if you have the time and money, get there!  Also, try to find Swiss cheese fondue – we didn’t have time for it, but I’ve heard it’s to die for!

That sums up most of my travels – hope this list helps!

xx Renae


One month left…

Time July 23rd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

15  April 2013

I write this entry as i’m sitting with my back against an oak tree, sitting on long green grass, looking over a field with a view of the Canterbury cathedral in the distance – FINALLY.  This is how I always imagined my days in England would be spent.  I wish I could say every day I’ve been here has been like this, but I’d be lying.  It’s been such a cold winter (this March was the coldest they’ve ever had on record, in fact) and so every minute outside has typically been spent wishing I was inside.   But today isn’t just any normal day…one month from today I’ll be boarding a plane.  It feels like a normal excursion, but this time it will be a one-way ticket.


I’m in a really weird place right now with my experience.  With exactly two months left as of today, I’m torn between emotions.  I just sent in my availability for my summer job and began working on things for my home university’s events for next year.  Things like this, combined with thoughts of warm weather and seeing people I miss from back home, gets me in a mood that is just SO excited to be back on my home ground again.  But as soon as I start thinking this, I have to snap myself back.  Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  I feel like I’ve become jaded being here for so long.  Going to London for the weekend is casual, hopping on a train to Paris is easy, and passing beautiful countryside and rows and rows of fields is just a typical part of my daily run.  But now, especially since spring has hit, I’m realizing how much I really do need to treasure every moment I have left here.  Realistically, I don’t know when the next time I’ll be back will be, if ever.  Of course you say, Oh yeah, I’ll be back soon!  But in reality, as soon as you return home, life kicks in and suddenly those things become so much easier said than done.

It’s kind of creepy, actually.  Because the entire time I’ve been here, all I’ve wanted to do is feel accustomed to Canterbury.  To feel like I know the ins and outs of the streets, to have a local pub I always go to, and to have a secret study spot in a field somewhere that is just mine.  I can’t say that I’ve found these things, but I’m starting to realize that every day I spend looking makes me a part of Canterbury, too. 

That’s the beauty of Canterbury.  It may seem like a small town, but no matter how many times you venture into the city center or go for a hike, you ALWAYS see something new.  I’m constantly saying “Wait, has that café been there this whole time?!”   Just yesterday I went for a walk and discovered two streets of shops that I had never seen before.  It’s crazy.

So for now, I can be excited to get home and start my life again, but I can only let myself think of it for a split second.  Because the time I spend here is so much more important.  And I don’t want to go home with any regrets.  I don’t want to go home and think:  “Wow, what do I really remember from Canterbury?”.  Living in a place for six months gets you comfortable to the point where you forget that you won’t be there forever.  So for now, I need to start taking TONS of pictures. focus on cherishing every moment, and soak it in while I can – who knows how much I’ll miss it when I’m gone.


Spring Break – UK Style

Time July 23rd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

April 5th-April 11, 2013


Most students in the US count down the days to getting to sunshine over Spring Break.  It’s the same in the UK, only instead of hitting up Florida, Brit students look to Spain or Moracco.  Casual, right?

Spain wasn’t on the agenda for me, but instead a friend of mine and I decided to check out England’s south coast.  On the list:  Eastbourne, Brighton, Bournemouth, Southampton, and Swanage.  We chose these places hoping to get away from tourists and really see some proper English countryside – and that we did!

He’s a briefing of what we did in each place:

Eastbourne – Biked 19 miles (I can’t believe we actually did it either) to to see Pevensey castle and then to the top of one of England’s most famous cliffs: Beachy Head.  They call it “the end of the world” because once you’re up there, it literally looks like the cliff falls into nothingness!

Brighton – In this cute carnival town, we visited the famous Brighton pier, which is set up like a mini amusement park with rides, an arcade, and carnival food.  Next it was a visit to Brighton’s famous shopping area, the Lanes, which are full of tiny cafes and shops.  Brighton reminded me of Santa Monica pier in California.

Bournemouth – A friend of mine told me to come here for it’s beautiful beach, and she was right!  It was nice, but I must admit England’s not known for its beaches.  They’re there, but don’t look appealing enough to swim in and many of the shores are made up of small pebbles instead of sand.  It depends where you go of course, but you have to remember that England’s weather doesn’t provide too many beach days, anyway!

Southampton – Here we spend the day exploring the town a bit and met up with a friend.  Southampton has shopping, but that’s about it – not too much to do.  * Fun fact: Southampton is where the Titanic left from!

Swanage – This was my favorite place we visited!  It’s a beachy area known for its huge collection of dinosaur fossils (it’s along what’s known as the Jurassic Coast).  There’s a famous natural bridge called Durdle door that we were dying to get to!  We walked for about 2 hours in the rain, only to find out that it was still a good 8 miles away.  So, sadly, we had to give up on that goal, but we met an incredibly nice British couple on our way back, which made the walk back in the rain a piece of cake.  Swanage, like most little English towns, has rows and rows of little shops, so we were lucky to warm up over some tea and a steaming bowl of leek and potato soup.



That’s all for our trip!  Here’s what I learned:

1.  England isn’t a great beach place, so don’t go there expecting to find one.  However, if you’re with the right people, you can have a great time along the south coast.  Just plan it so that you’re only in each town for a short amount of time – you have to dig a bit to find things to do!

2.  You can do a lot in England on a budget.  We took coach buses and stayed in hostels.  It’s not the most fabulous life, but it allows you to see a lot of places in the cheapest way possible!


xx Renae


Adventure Weekend in Wales: Bring it on!

Time May 8th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

March 9-11th

The big weekend had finally arrived – IFSA ADVENTURE WEEKEND! IFSA’s biggest trip invites all of the students studying throughout the UK to take (yet another) break from classes – the famous IFSA ADVENTURE WEEKEND!  Destination: Snowdonia, Wales.

So we packed our outdoor gear and headed to London to meet up with the group – this time there were almost 300 of us!  Being their awesome selves, our IFSA staff determined our bus assignments by sorting us into houses…that’s right: Gryfindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and the house I was so weary to be sorted into:  (you guessed it) Slytherin.  They then surprised us with brand new hoodies – I was like a little kid at Disney World. We loaded onto the bus for a long journey to Wales (about 8 hours).  After arriving at our hotel, we put our heads together in a pub quiz (my team was so close to winning but ended up tying for third – not too shabby).  Days like these make me realize how many random facts I don’t know about the world.

We woke up the next morning well rested for our adventures to begin.  Prior to our arrival, we were given the opportunity to pick 2 adventures to participate in. Mine were a high ropes course and a scenic hike through the mountains of Snowdonia.  It was a bit cold, but we had a blast nonetheless. Wales is typically known for two things: rain and sheep.  But there’s a bit more to it.  The landscape in Wales is gorgeous (check out my pictures if you don’t believe me).  We hiked next to a hill that was made entirely of slate – ridicululous!  After getting a taste of Wales’s outdoor glamour, we cleaned up and that night we had a good old fashioned dance party – IFSA style.

Check out this hilarious video of one of the parts of the ropes course – we did do actual ropes courses (you know, tightroping from what seemed like hundreds of feet in the air), but this part of the park was a bonus – it was a basically a HUGE swing…we knew how high it was, but couldn’t have guessed how FAST that thing went until it was too late…


It’s blurry, but I’m the one in the blue jacket in the middle who had the responsibility of pulling the lever to release the swing – not a good idea to give me that responsibility.

The next day, after a classic group photo of all of us in our spiffy new hoodies, we headed into a small coastal town nearby called Lladudno before packing back onto our buses and heading home.  It was cute, but to be honest it was so cold we were so excited to get back on the bus and head home!  It was so windy we couldn’t even take pictures!  So just picture a cute but modern town with rows of shops and a spot of ocean side.

* Fun Fact:  Welsh street names are ridiculous to prounounce.  We gave up even trying – they literally seem to have no vowels, and almost every city begins with Ll (pronouced CLAH like you are hocking up a loogie – sorry for the graphics).

But we legitimately had the BEST time and I love taking IFSA trips because I feel like a kindergardener on a field trip – they packed our lunches, had candy snacks on the bus, and made sure we had plenty of movies to watch for the ride  to and from home.  Also, this trip marked my very first experience of eating a MARS bar.  Result?  Pure love.

Checking Wales off the list and ready for more adventures to come!

xx Renae


London, Stonehenge, Salisbury, Oh my!

Time April 17th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

February 23, 2013

This weekend was a time for another IFSA adventure – this time to Stonehenge and Salisbury.  Stonehenge is pretty well known, but the gem of Salisbury is something I had never heard of…we’ll get to that in a bit, though!

Our IFSA excursion was on Saturday, but Friday was a no-class day, so my friend Tasha and I couldn’t resist heading into London to do some exploring.  We’d been dying to just do a walking tour of London, so we arrived early and started walking in the snowy weather.  Tasha had a great walking tour book that gave routes and everything – there’s so many of these books out there, so it’s worth grabbing one if you’re ever heading London’s way.  We started the day walking in Hyde Park, one of London’s famous greenspaces.  It has a pond, gardens, the usual, and even a cottage in the middle of it that looks like only Hagrid could live there.   Adjacent to Hyde Park is Kensington Park, which is my favorite of the two.  Here, there is a huge fountain area dedicated to Princess Diana, one of my favorite icons of all time.

We moved on and headed toward Oxford Street, one of London’s most famous shopping areas.  They have store in the UK called Primark that is my absolute favorite.  Picture the styles of Forever 21 and H&M with prices that are pretty much as low as you can get for fashion items.  Granted, the quality isn’t always the best, but when you spend $7 on shirt, wearing it just once gets your money’s worth.  Anyway Primark is the best, and Oxford street has TWO.  In other words, Oxford street is a very dangerous street to walk on…for the wallet, at least.

After stopping for lunch, we headed toward another must-see in London: Picadilly Circus.  With its big screen advertisements, stores, and restaurants of all kinds, it’s considered the Times Square of England.  It definitely has a lively feel, but I must admit it’s a much quieter, calmer version of New York.  Here, however, lives my favorite place of all of London: a store called Fortnum and Mason.  Official grocer to Her Majesty herself, Fortnum and Mason is the Tiffany & Co. of grocery/candy/coffee stores.  Walking immediately turns you into a 7-year-old in a candy shop.  Picture huge chandeliers, counters for bakery, coffee, and teas of pretty much every kind you can imagine.  They even have a shelf of chocolate bars that is arranged by shade of chocolate – I didn’t even know that many types of chocolate existed.  Downstairs from the ground floor is the grocery section, but here you’ll find exotic fruits only fit for a queen – and her budget – one fruit we found was selling at around $14 a pop!

As you walk upstairs from the ground floor, things switch gears and you’ll find a department for fine jewelry and accessories (think HUGE fancy hats), followed by houseware, a bakery, and a tea room that was dedicated to the Queen for her Jubillee last year.  I fell in love.  I want a tea set from there so badly, but they aren’t cheap – starting at $120 and up.

I made myself get out of there before dropping any pounds and we headed toward the center of Picadilly Circus.  The rest of the day was just spent exploring, and the more time I spend in London, the more I love it.  It’s perfect to just walk the streets and realize where things are in relation to each other.  For instance, it wasn’t until this trip that I realized Picadilly Circus is right behind the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.  That probably means nothing, but just know that there’s so many things you see in London and it usually takes at least two or three trips to realize that are only a street over from one another.  Once you get the basics down, London’s not too bad to navigate.

The day was over and it was time to head back to our hostel.  It was tricky finding it, but we survived the night and it wasn’t too bad (I’ll share more details on hostels later on).


The next day we met up with our IFSA crew and headed to Stonehenge (it’s about a 2-hour drive from London).  It’s neat to see, but it’s funny because it’s legit in the middle of a random field off the main road.  It’s one of those things you have to get out and stand next to, but once you do, you’re like…“Okay, back on the bus”.  I’d never heard of Salisbury, but when we arrived, I was definitely impressed.  The funny thing about it was that it reminded me so much of Canterbury.  Salisbury is just a quaint little town with a cathedral (sound familiar?) and cute rows of shops with an outdoor market.  Salisbury’s cathedral was definitely gorgeous, and I just loved the entire feel of the town.  If you go to Stonehenge, head to Salisbury for the rest of the day – half a day at each place is plenty, and they are both worth seeing in my opinion.

We headed back to London, said goodbye to our IFSA staff, and had dinner at a trendy restaurant called James Oliver.  They have these in New York and other locations, and it’s a really neat restaurant because they offer cooking lessons!  Dinner was great, but we lost track of time and had our first experience of spritining through the Tube station to make it to our bus.  This may or may not have involved me faceplanting on an esclator, but hey, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. 

We missed the bus, but things like this are huge learning experiences for me.  I’m usually able to run to where I need to go and get there right on time (okay, or a little late), but being here has really shown me the importance of punctuality.  Buses scheduled to leave at 7:00 leave at 7:00.  No exceptions.  No waiting for latecomers.  I’m still working on my timeliness, but it helps to always give yourself way more time than you think it will take to get you there.  With public transporation, there will be delays, you will have to wait, and it’s always better to be super early for your bus than to not make it at all.

Speaking of waiting, you’ll find you have to get used to it when you live in a place that relies on public transportation.  It’s not always the easiest, especially when you’re at a bus stop in the middle of winter and you can’t feel your feet.  But here’s some tips to get you through the waiting game…or at least help distract you from the from your cold, wet shoes:

1.  Music cures all.  Always have a pair of headphones with you – you have no idea how much being able to listen to music lightens the mood and makes waiting a bit more bearable.

2.  Carry a book with you at all times.  Even if it’s a little one, having some reading to pass the time is a huge help when you need a distraction.

3.  Chocolate doesn’t hurt.  Typically, if your bus or train is running late, you’re going to be stressed out and the cold makes you want to just curl up into a miserable ball.  Luckily, almost anywhere you find public transport, you’ll find a shop with candy nearby.  Hot drinks typically served at these vendors don’t hurt, either.

* Please note that these rules for making it through the waiting game have not been tested by research.  Please exercise caution and consult your doctor before playing the waiting game or any other non-physical activity.

Until next time,

xx Renae


What do you mean, I have to study?

Time April 16th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

February 16, 2013

When you study abroad, somehow the whole “study” part doesn’t occur to you.  At least for me it didn’t.  Sure, you register for classes, get your schedule, and you drag yourself to your lectures.  But until your professor tells you have an exam in a week do you realize, “Oh yeah, I’m actually in school”.

It’s so funny because every person I’ve talked to while I’ve been here has told me the same thing: school is not the highest priority during your time in England.  It would be wrong of me not to take this advice so many kindly offered, right?

But it really is true.  In all the years I’ve thought about moving to England, I’ve never really had the image of me sitting a library…until now.  As I’ve become adjusted to the British university system, I’ve noticed some key differences, but many things are quite similar.  Let’s break it down:


First: College (American) = University (English)

If you say college, many Brits think you’re referring to their equivalent of high school, so you may get a few confused looks.

Structure of Progression

In England, the school year runs from September to June.  They have three semesters:    autumn (September to December,  the month of December off, then spring term (January to April), the month of April off, and then and a summer term (May-June) that is dedicated strictly to doing revisions (aka studying) and taking exams without any scheduled classes.   Here’s a general comparison of school years between America and England:

English Education Years

American Education Years

1.  Early Years (ages 3-4)

2.  Primary School (ages 5-11)

3.  Secondary school (ages 12-16)

Student can then choose to enter the the job market or move on to higher education.  If they do, this is the typical route they follow:

4.  Sixth Form (ages 16-18) during this time, students study 4 subjects of interest and finish by taking exams known as A-levels.  Typically, the grades from these determine university placement.

5.  University (3 years)

6.  Graduate Degrees:

Master’s (1 year)

Doctorate (3 years)

1.  Pre School (ages 3-4)

2.  Kindergarten, grade school, middle school (ages 5-13)

3.  Junior High (ages 12-14)

4.  High School (ages 15-18)

Students can then choose to enter the job market or move onto higher education.  If they do, this is the typical route they follow:

5.  College (4 years)

6.  Graduate Degrees:

Masters (2 years)

Doctorate (4 years)


When you first look at it, it’s quite interesting to see how different our schooling systems are – I never knew that was the case!  I particularly ove getting asked about how American high school is – you know, football games, cheerleaders, groups sitting at specific tables.  It’s funny that this is usually how it’s portrayed in movies, but it’s not too far off from how it really is.

Style of Classes

Being at university in England has definitely been different than my studies at home.  Here, professors (more commonly lecturers) are typically looked at as “guides” to learning, rather than the main source of acquiring information.  For instance, at home, I typically learn the most from in-class lectures and am only tested on what is covered within that time.  However, here, you are expected to be fully reading the material covered in and out of the classroom.  Meaning you actually have to read the textbook and have an understanding of the information in it, rather than just getting by with memorizing powerpoint slides.  The main idea most of my professors have mentioned is that if this is your chosen program of study, you should be interested in knowing as much as you can about it.  I get the concept, but I’ve gotta work on it!  It’s scary to know that a question can show up on an exam covering material you have never talked about in class…I really need to start reading my textbooks.  SPEAKING OF TEXTBOOKS – It’s very abnormal to buy books – most are available from the library so students just use those – I definitely do not miss spending hundreds of dollars on books that just serve as paperweights and coasters on my desk  😉

Also, you’ll see from the table above that university here is finished in 3 years.  This is because what we called “gen eds” (general education requirements) are non-existent.  Students typically come in after sixth form and have narrowed their choice of study down to one field.  Double majors and minors don’t seem to be as common, at least among the students I have met.  It’s not better or worse, just different.


Each university year used to cost £3,000 (about $5,000), but just this year it was changed to £9,000 (about $14,000) a year – something that, as can be imagined, caused a HUGE uproar with students.  This may still seem super cheap compared to American schools, but scholarships for academics and athletics aren’t really common in England.  Also, you’ll notice that here, student discounts are EVERYWHERE!  The movies, shops, bus/train tickets, EVERYWHERE.  Definitely something I’ve gladly gotten used to.


As regards to grading goes, your mind will explode when the 70 you got on your paper is an A grade.  They call them marks, and everything 70 and above is considered a first mark.  This continues down the spectrum, and a passing grade is a 40.  If you were to get anything in the 90s on a paper, you would be considered an expert on the subject, most likely up to the level of someone with a Ph.D.  It’s quite confusing sometimes, but don’t worry too much.  Just know that a 70 is an A – works for me.

Exams aren’t as frequent as they are at my home university, either.  It’s pretty typical to just have 1 or 2 assignments throughout the year and then a final at the end that is worth 80% of your grade.  Which is why using the summer term strictly for revisions is extremely important…Did I mention that I have to get on that?

I can say, though, that being exposed to a new education system has broadened my way of learning.  I never was a textbook reader, but now I find myself more engaged in the subject matter and feel like I have a better overall understanding of it.  Additionally, I’ve been able to recall information I’ve learned weeks after I take the exam – something that doesn’t really happen when I simply cram for tests a few days before back at home.

School – It’s really all the same!

I will say, though, that despite the difference in school structure, students still dread going to class, they still pretend to look at powerpoint slides in class while they’re actually browsing Facebook albums, and we still complain about how much work we have to do without actually ever doing it.

Personally, I have noticed that British students seem to be much more concerned with getting good marks than American students.  According to the friends I’ve talked to, showing an employer poor marks in university is worse than having not have attended at all.  YIKES.  In the States, I feel like it’s quite the opposite, and the focus seems to be more on just earning a degree than achieving a high grade point average in it.

In all, school is school – and now I should probably get back to studying…






There’s WHAT in Haggis?!

Time March 29th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

February 8-10th:  To Edinburgh we go! 

          One of the things I was really interested in seeing here was the world of British sports.  I’d say the most popular is football (our soccer) but right up there with it is RUGBY.  I really wanted to watch it, so a friend of mine invited a few of us to a game and was nice enough to explain it to us (and answer all my dumb questions).  Think of it like American football.  Now subtract the pads, helmets, and pretty much every other kind of protective gear – there’s rugby.  Needless to say, I enjoy watching it but spend most of the time flinching.

What’s great about rugby, though, is that it’s pretty easy to follow once you’ve gotten the basics down.  Basically, the goal of each team is to pass the ball down the field past a specific line to score a try (close to what we’d think of as a touchdown).  Watching it can be a bit of a struggle because it can get a bit brutal.  Picture a small circle of young boys given a ball.  Tell them there is a prize for whoever gets it and watch them tackle, grab, and pull each other to the ground to get hold of it.  That’s a pretty close comparison to rugby…okay, well at least in my head.

It really is a great game though – especially since (unlike American football which stops every 30 seconds), it’s pretty fast and has limited time-outs. Meaning a 120 minute game is finished in 120 minutes.  And when you’re sitting outside in the freezing cold, this makes all the difference.

So, when our friend invited us to watch a game in Scotland, I was immediately in.  We hopped on a train Friday morning and headed north for Edinburgh – just about a 6-hour train ride from Canterbury.  This was my first train ride from Canterbury, and it was so nice.  I could be left on a train all day and be perfectly happy – it’s so nice to just relax and have someone else drive.  The view is the best part – lots of rolling hills, landscape, and sheep (of course).


DAY 1:     We arrived in Edinburgh at about 6pm on Friday, February 8th, and heard a bagpipe playing as soon as we walked out of the train station. Sure enough, a gentleman wearing a traditional Scottish outfit (you know, plaid kilt, white knee socks, the usual) was just playing it in the street.  Casual.  That was just too perfect – one of those instances where something is EXACTLY like how you pictured it.  When I first began looking into study abroad programs, several people recommended Scotland, but I never really considered it.  I realize now why so many people love it.  It’s a really unique place in that it has historical buildings to see (like the Edinburgh castle where the royal family used to live), but they are all pretty close together so you don’t have to waste time getting from place to place.  Right next to the monuments are city shops, pubs, the usual.  It’s a perfect balance because Edinburgh is big enough to have plenty to do, but doesn’t really have the hustly-bustly vibe of most big cities.  We did some touristy site seeing and picture taking per usual and then called it an early night.  We were lucky enough to stay with some friends and it was so nice to be in a house again!

DAY 2:     Our second day in Scotland was dedicated to the sport of the hour: can you waver a guess?

Every year, the UK/Europe host a huge rugby tournament called the Six Nations.  Basically, instead of getting “knocked out” like how our Super Bowl works, teams play a number of games and the one that wins the most by the end of it takes home the glory.

The game itself was really fun – basically like a sporting event in the States, but one thing that I especially loved was that multiple times during the game, the entire crowd broke out in Scotland’s national anthem.  It was just really neat – something you don’t see at sporting events in the States.  Also, random but there’s no such thing as vendors there – aka no one walking up and down in the stands selling cotton candy/popcorn/etc.  It’s a tiny thing but I thought that was funny.

I won’t get into any sports mumbo-jumbo (mostly because  I don’t know any haha), but after a really close game, Scotland ended up winning and everyone was FREAKING OUT with excitement – we found out later that Scotland hadn’t played that well in about 10 years (haha).  Instead of going home after the game, the crowd moved to pubs nearby, and we (when in Scotland…) had to follow.  Something that I’ve noticed is that they like to sing in pubs a lot in the UK – Scotland was no different.

After stopping at our hosts’ house to change and warm up a bit, we hit the city to continue the celebration with the Scots at a local pub/bar/dance extravaganza called The Three Broomsticks. It was so huge!  What really made Scotland so great was the people –  everyone we met there had a very friendly, easygoing demeanor.  It happened multiple times that a Scot would come up to us, have a dance, and it was like we were great friends. I loved it.

DAY 3:     The next day we headed home – but not before doing a little shopping.  My absolute favorite place in the UK is this store called Primark.  Basically, just picture the style and prices of Forever 21.  Add bright lights and four floors and you’ve got Primark.  Heaven.

That’s all for our trip to Scotland, but I can say that I would recommend it to anyone coming to the UK.  It’s a nice 2-3 day trip to take, and it’s really underrated.  I had such a good time there, but it was nice to come back to Canterbury – it’s weird to now refer to Canterbury as “home”.




*Fun Fact about Scotland: Burns’s Night on January 25th of every year is a day of celebration for the life of Scottish poet, Robert Burns.  To celebrate, a traditional Scottish meal of haggis is eaten.  It basically looks like ground beef, but instead is a mix of  sheep heart, lung, liver, with some onions and other things thrown in.  It’s wrapped up in an intestine so I’m not going to put a picture of it.  I wanted to try it, but didn’t have a chance to…darn.  But now you’ve lost your appetite, you can add that to the list of questions you’ll get right if you’re ever on Jeopardy.  You’re welcome.



Time March 4th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I have one of the worst concepts of geography – I need visuals.  So, naturally, I feel like an idiot for depriving you of a map of where I am!  Back up and pretend you saw this when I got here a month ago…You’re secret’s safe with me.

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Now that we know where I started, let’s talk about travel!  Almost everyone who travels outside the U.S. has the same goal: See as much as humanly possible in the time allotted.  It’s like: “If I’m going to make it through that annoyingly long plane ride, I’m going to do as much as I can while I’m here.”  Right?  Right.  Sleeping is overrated.

Having been in Canterbury for a month (ah already?!) I’m finally feeling settled in, but I NEED to start checking off things on my never-ending list of places to see!  Thankfully, coming with IFSA-Butler makes it easier because they pre-arrange field trips for us!  Once you get to London, everything is already paid for so I don’t have to make myself feel bad for spending money – talk about the perfect way to travel.  I’m quickly realizing how stressful trip planning is, so having a day already planned out for me is just my cup of tea (see what I did there?).  So, where to first?

Adventure #1 (Saturday, February 2nd):  Hampton Court Palace and Windsor Castle!  The day began early with a bus to London at the crack of dawn (5:40am, to be exact!) to arrive in London by 8:30am (London by train is only 50 minutes, but going by coach is about half the price (about $16 dollars for a return trip).  I don’t want to bore you with details, but I’ll give you an overview as best as I can before your eyelids start drooping.

→  Hampton Court Palace – This is the former residence of King Henry VIII…yeah, the guy who beheaded everyone.  I wish I could entertain you with fun history facts, but bear with me, I’m a biology major…What I can tell you is that this castle definitely suprised me.  Before going, I was excited, but didn’t think much of seeing “yet another castle”.  I was dumb.  You walk into a huge courtyard first and then as you continue on, you see the kitchen, dining room, and chapel that Henry and the royal family used.  This inside is nice, but the outdoor gardens are the real stars of the show.  Maybe it’s because I’m a nature freak, but seeing these fountains, trees, and endless rows of shrubs was so picture perfect – and the sun we had made it even better!  I would recommend this site if you travel to England, but only if it’s not more than an hour out of the way – it’s nice to see though!


→  Windsor Castle – Now THIS is the breadwinner.  Located about 40 minutes outside of London, this is where Her Majesty spends her weekends.  We went on a Saturday, so you can bet I was keeping my eyes peeled.  Apparently, she refers to Buckingham Palace in London city as the office, while Windsor Castle is Home.  She has her own separate entrance, of course, and you aren’t allowed near the wing of the castle she’s actually in (DARN), but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t freaking out that she was within a mile’s radius.  Winning.  But really, if you have a chance to visit England, this is a MUST see.  Some of the rooms are only open during certain seasons (since Her Majesty holds events in them), so be sure to check when’s best to go!  Getting into the castle itself is about a $26 ticket, but it’s worth every penny.  You are able to walk through drawing rooms, throne rooms, you name it.  So think about it:

Plane ticket to London: $1000.  Entrance into Windsor Castle: $26.  Standing where The Queen stands – Priceless.


Adventure #2: Dover Castle (Sunday, February 3rd)  This trip was provided by the University of Kent (my school in England) and was just about a 30 minute bus ride from campus!  Dover castle (most commonly known for the “White Cliffs of Dover”) is located on the Southeastern coast of England and served as a military base during WWII.  Here, you can walk into the castle and explore the hilly grounds, but the REAL adventure of this site is going underground for a tour of the war tunnels.  During an hour-long tour, you get to see short films light shows representing the action that took place during WWII in these underground information centers – it’s so crazy to learn about WWII from the perspective of another country – think about it!

Needless to say, this weekend was an insane (as in insanely awesome!) way to start my travelling – especially because as soon as we got back from Dover, we power-napped to watch the Super Bowl until 4am.  Remember what I said about sleep?

That concludes my start of adventuring – next stop: Scotland!  In the meantime, here’s a glimpse of how I felt walking in the gardens of Hampton Court Palace:





Getting to Know Canterbury

Time February 8th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

AH Please forgive me for my delay in posting!  Let’s just say I’ll do my best to post as much as possible – you’re the best for bearing with me :-)

These past few weeks I have had the opportunity to get to know the town of Canterbury a bit better.  I walked into town on a snowy Sunday and officially got lost in Canterbury for the first time (check!).  Thankfully, the Canterbury Cathedral served as a compass for me – you can see it from just about anywhere in town!  Once in the city, I visited the Beaney Museuem, an art museum and library that is situated right between the shops in the city centre.  It was just a small museum with typical Victorian portraits of people that I’m sure were important at some point (I need to start reading portrait captions better).  The real importance of this museum was the beauty of its architecture!  See for yourself:


Photo courtesy of Countryfile, 2013.

Photo courtesy of Countryfile,       2013.

Beaney Museum interor

Beaney Museum interor


I continued my exploring down the cobble streets to find little boutiques, English-looking buildings, and a beautiful church called St. Peter’s.  Here’s a look:

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After exploring, my friends and I made our very first trip to the place to the staple of the city – the famous Canterbury Cathedral!  We went for a chamber choir concert that was great, but we were freezing inside the stone walls (I have a new appreciation for central heating).  It was definitely gorgeous to look at, though…a nice distraction from the cold air.  I didn’t get a chance to look around at the famous tombs inside of it, but I’m willing to bet I’ll make it back there by the time my five months are up – if I can make that daunting 10-minute bus ride…

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Next to check off the list of “must-dos” in England was afternoon tea!  There’s a little place in town called Marks and Spencer – it’s ridiculous!  Basically, just picture a department store, Whole Foods, and adorable cafe in one.  It’s much cuter than it sounds!  It was here that we had our VERY FIRST of many afternoon teas to come.  In case you aren’t familiar, traditional afternoon teas are served with a fresh pot of the tea of your choice, finger sandwiches (to be eaten with your pinky up, of course!), and the famous scones with clotted cream and jam!   I’ve been dying to try clotted cream ever since I saw it on an episode of The Girls Next Door when Hugh Hefner went to England with his girlfriends (yup, it’s the truth).  I thought it would be gross, actually.  But it’s DELICIOUS!  Picture a spread with the look and taste of butter but the consistency and texture of cream cheese.  Top it with fresh jam on a scone and you have a wonderful way to clog your arteries.  Moderation is overrated, anyway.

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What better way, though, to work off those scones than to do some quality retail cardio? Every Wednesday through Saturday, the town shops are complemented with a market of vendors selling everything from fresh crepes to flowers to outerwear (the hat booth got me, of course!).  In addition to shopping, I’ve had a chance to visit some of the local pubs with friends and have found it’s just what you’d picture it to be – circles of friends gossiping over mulled cider (it’s like warm apple juice!), groups of guys rooting for their favorite rugby team on overhead televisions, and business gentlemen discussing work over a pint.  The English are known to be a reserved group – until they get into the pub, that is!  What’s funny, though, is that everything closes around 11:30pm – so even though the British go out for drinks much more often than we do, they’re used to it and aren’t out partying until 3 in the morning, so it’s pretty casual.  It is weird, though, to see a guy with a beard holding a pint who looks like he’s 25 – only to find out he’s 18.  MIND = BLOWN.  This is legal?

On another note…

The first three weeks I’ve been here have been incredibly cold!  It’s in the 30s in degrees Fahrenheit, but the air here seem much more moist, which makes the cold so much different than what I’m used to.  I swear it feels like -4 degrees, and standing outside for just a few minutes is absolutely miserable!  We had the “big” snowstorm of the year, (5 WHOLE  INCHES) and everyone went crazy!  Being an Ohioan, it’s easy to scoff at what, to us, is just a typical mild day.  When you think about it in terms of Canterbury, though, the amount of yearly snow they receive is too small to merit having snow plows, so you can imagine that when the roads become covered, everything pretty much shuts down.

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Thankfully, I’ve found that Canterbury weather is just as variable as Cleveland’s (though not nearly as extreme), and we have our green grass back with some sunshine and 50 degree weather.   I’ve officially hung pushed my tourist boots into my closet (for now, at least) and become a student again (Princess Procrastination has resumed the throne!).  The school system here is so much more independent than what I’m used to.  Basically, professors (called lecturers here) are only there as guides…they expect you to be read up on everything on the reading list and then some!  Apparently, the idea is that you should automatically be reading up on topics within your course (major) because you find them interesting.  Again, MIND = BLOWN.


Students spend most of their days in the library, but once the sun goes down, there’s things to do every night of the week – karaoke to comedy nights to society (what they call a club) meetings.  Never a dull moment – I don’t know how they do it.   Me?  I joined the Tea Society.  AH I love it – just my pace.  After three weeks here, I’m finally starting to feel like I fit in as a student (or at least that I don’t stand out too much!).  Now that I’m comfortable, I need to start travelling – I’ll keep you posted!

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In the meantime, if you’re interested in what frequently happens when Americans start going to pubs, watch this excerpt from Love Actually from 2:22-2:38 – it’s SCARY how accurate it is!





Welcome to Canterbrie!

Time January 22nd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Rolling hills, adorable little cottages, and sheep…lots and lots of sheep…welcome to Canterbury!  Immediately upon my arrival, I added to my British accent knowledge with a lesson from our taxi driver: in order to be a real Brit, you must pronounce Canterbury like a cheese – CanterBRIE (bree) that is!  As soon as you step foot here, this rule applies to any word that ends in bary, berry, bury (library = libree,  strawberry = strawbree, you get the picture!).  Now maybe I’ll blend in…



…Or not

At this point, I have to take a moment to really acknowledge the work of the entire IFSA-Butler staff.  From meeting us at the airport, entertaining us with orientation in London, to risking their chiropractic health dragging our piles of overweight luggage into taxis and across train stations (Thanks again, Charlotte and Oran!), they were nothing short of phenomenal.  They helped us check in, find our houses, and even made sure we were safe inside our rooms.  Thankfully, they’ll be back up to visit and are planning weekend trips that I can’t wait to take advantage of.  Having the entire IFSA-Butler team gives me the feeling that I’ve got a family in London – they even told us to update them on games or performances so they can come cheer us on (Be more adorable, would you?).   Meeting the other international students at my university and hearing their stories of travel struggles made me feel even better that I was so well taken care of.

Now back to Canterbury…

I’m currently living in a student house of 5 students with my own bedroom, a kitchen and two bathrooms – defnitely a happy camper.  We had a quick orientation around campus, and I was happy to hear that nearly 20% of the University of Kent students are international.  The undergraduate student population is about 15,000, so a nice chunk of us are without British accents!   Once the fact that I have to actually do schoolwork while I’m here kicks in, I’ll post about the structure of my classes and more on the British academic system!

My Wall!

My Wall!


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Canterbury itself is a quaint countryside town in the district of Kent, located southeast of London (just a 50-minute train ride!).  Known as the Garden of England, its miles of hillsides is balanced by a modern city centre (bear with me with my British spellings) which is only a 10-minute bus ride or 30-minute walk away from campus.  Here you’ll find rows of pubs and small boutiques intermingled with popular stores like Zara, H&M, and Topshop.  I was so surprised to see brands like this in Canterbury, but it’s a nice taste of home (and dangerous taste for my wallet).  The city itself is so much bigger than I imagined, with more that 70 of these modern shops nested inside streets of stone towers, museums, and beautiful churches (I’ll tell you about the famous Canterbury Cathedral soon)!  It’s easy to think you’re in America for a second…until you notice the cobble street you’re walking on or the English stone towers you’re walking through (many more pictures to come soon!)

Canterbury streets

Canterbury streets

River Stour

River Stour

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral  


City Centre shops

City Centre shops


This week’s been a mix of settling in, exploring, and getting lost on the way to class on a daily basis…you know, the usual.

I’ll keep you updated on what I find!  Until then, I learned that it’s common British practice to finish wall posts, text, and any other typed media with “xx.”  It’s just like our version of hugs and kisses (xoxo) and does literally stand for “kiss, kiss”.   It can be used for different degrees of affection (from flirting to “I love you”) but is most commonly used as a simple touch to add friendliness to a casual message!

So, when in Rome…er…England,





Week One – Winning London

Time January 16th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | 3 Comments by

Hi everyone,

Thank you so much again for following my travels via this blog.  Sorry about the delay in posting – where has the time gone?!  From now on, I’m going to try my best to post every Monday (I’ll try my hardest!).  That way, you’ll know when a new post is up and don’t have to check back constantly!  On to the good stuff…

Here’s a brief timeline to catch you up:

***Just a quick note:  Any time frames listed in this blog will be in U.K. time (5 hours ahead of my Ohio home!).

Jan. 4th:  Arrived in London exhausted, but safe and sound!  

After a smooth 6 hour flight from JFK to London Heathrow, we landed at 10am and were greeted by members of the IFSA-Butler team, who a had a coach ready to take us to our hotel.  Fortunately for us (but not so lucky for the bus, perhaps) all  of our luggage arrived safe and sound with us.  IMMEDIATE THOUGHT: This looks nothing and everything like I imagined it.  Sounds weird, but the landscape from the highway looked like I was just in Ohio!  As we came into the city of London, however, our guide pointed out posh neighborhoods where au’pairs are the norm – NOW THAT’S MORE LIKE IT!  Can’t lie that my head was screaming “WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE ROAD?”

We were all looking a bit rough, so thankfully the afternoon was free for us to rest or wander at our leisure before dinner.  I so desperately wanted a nap, but knew I had to power through the day to beat jet lag!  I walked just around the corner and found a familiar green logo – what a wonderful piece of home in the form of Starbucks!  The remainder of the day was spent walking up and down the streets of London. It reminded me of New York in terms of having streets lined with shop after shop, but was on a much smaller scale (no skyscrapers!).

*Interesting discovery:  The stores lined the streets arranged by category of merchandise – ie. the electronic stores were all next to each other, home and bedding stores next, you get the picture.  This was much different than having to drive back and forth in Ohio – no wonder they don’t need cars!

Jan 5th-8th:  IFSA-Butler orientation in London.

DAY 1: As I walked into orientation munching on some cereal, I began the first of many lessons on British culture – eating in any conference is not polite.  (Whoops!).  After a brief insight into British cultural norms, our orientation began with an introduction to the IFSA-Butler team members, followed by education sessions on the UK’s cultural differences and academic system.  I can’t wait for the day that I get a 70 on an exam and it’s an A!  After lunch, we heard all about England’s political system by Lord Taverne, a member of the House of Commons, the second branch in Parliament following the House of Lords (comparable to our Senate).  We then learned all about safety measures from a former policeman, and we all left feeling scared out of our minds (like after you watch a Law and Order marathon).  With that scaring, though, I felt very prepared and now have this officer’s lessons in the back of my head every day as I separate my money and make sure I’m aware of my surroundings.

Following our education sessions, we took a trip to the Fortune Theatre for a performance of The Woman in Black.  With the evening free to explore, a group of friends and I walked about the city to find the sites that I had been hearing about my whole life – It was great to see the city shops the prior day but in the back of my head, all I could think of was “Where’s BIG BEN?  The LONDON EYE?  BUCKINGHAM PALACE?”  Check, check and check!  We even tried to get into Buckingham Palace by climbing on the gates (in a kidding manner of course – don’t tell the Queen).  We ended the night with a stop to our very first pub, where I had a warm mulled apple cider that was perfect!  Complete with a toast to the adventures to come!

* Click on any picture (and then click on it one more time) to make it larger!

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DAY 2: Our education sessions today covered how to travel around the U.K. and Europe, and I will definitely make use of those lessons!  Paris is just a 2-hour train ride away and from there, who knows where I’ll end up!  After lunch, we had a walking tour of the city and it was great to see all the sites in daylight.  After that, a few friends and I walked to Westminister Abbey (the church where the Royal Wedding took place!!!!) and were able to attend a service there.  It was beautiful on the inside, and I definitely was the girl exclaiming Oh my gosh, Kate Middleton walked on this floor!” Definitely blending in…

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(Sorry, the one on the right is bit blurry, but it’s Westminster Abbey!)


Afterwards, we visited a local pub for dinner, where I had my very first Fish and Chips! YUMMMM!



DAY 3:  Most of the students in our orienation group are attending Oxford, so they departed and left us three girls from the University of Kent in the city to have the next two days at leisure.  Three girls.  In London.  With free time.  What to do?

SHOP, OF COURSE!  In London, there is a great little shopping center known as Covent Garden.

*Fun Fact:   It was formerly called Convent Garden, but a scribe left out a letter and the name as stayed ever since!


This area is composed of a shops in what’s called Apple Market and then streets of everything from little boutiques, bakeries, and coffee shops to familiar stores like Topshop and Urban Outfitters.  They even had American Apparel – gotta love representation!  A little ways away from this shopping center is another street for clothing, and we discovered a little piece heaven – four floors of beautiful clothes at really inexpensive prices called Primark!  It’s basically comparable to a Forever 21 but bigger and much more beautiful!  My favorite trend here is elbow patches – they are on everything from sweaters to winter jackets!  After doing a little damage, we took a trip to another theater to see Goodnight Mister Tom – definitely a tear jerker.



DAY 4:  Our last day in London began with a little enculturation with a visit to the British Museum.  It’s HUGE!  It’s collections are comparable to the exhibits I’ve seen in the States, but my favorite there was one completely dedicated to clocks…yes, clocks.  Watches, cuckoo clocks, grandfather clocks, I loved it!

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After leaving the museum, I knew that my last day of London had to be spent adventuring to the place I’d been dreaming about all my life – Harrods!  I knew it would be a bit of a hike, but it was easy with such beautiful scenery!


Passing St. James Park, and Buckingham Palace, I made my way to a beautiful area known as Hyde Park.  If you’ve ever seen the movie Secret Garden, you can imagine what I saw.  It was EXACTLY what I expected an English park to look like – cute little benches, delicate statues, and flowers blooming in yellow and purple.  I regained my focus on my destination, and in just a few short minutes I found it –  Hello Harrods, where have you been all my life?!


With that, I headed back and waved goodbye to London – for now!

Jan 6th:  Departed London.  Took 55 minute train to Canterbury and settled into my new home for the next six months.

Look out for my next post on my first week in Canterbury!



1.  The architecture of buildings is EXACTLY what it looks like in the movies!

2.  British accents are just as wonderful in person as they are on television.

3.  Diversity – London especially is such a city of European, Asian, and African influence.  Restaurants ranged from Indian, Italian, and even Turkish cuisine!

4.  Red Double Deckers – they are EVERYWHERE!



1.  Buckingham Palace is right in the middle of the city – I always assumed it would be far off behind a gate and a huge courtyard!

2.  So many American influences!  From Starbucks at every corner to American clothing stores, it was a surprise but also a nice taste of home!  I even turned on the television to find commercials for Disney Florida, Food Network, and American sitcoms!

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3.  Although I saw many red double decker buses, I always thought they were used for tourism purposes only and were open at the top.  So far, the ones I have seen (with a few exceptions) are all public transit buses and are closed-topped!

4.  Baked beans with breakfast?  Interesting…more food discoveries to come!


Sorry for the length – that was an action-packed first week!  Stay posted for more (hopefully shorter) posts on life in Canterbury!




Is it really here?!

Time January 2nd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | 6 Comments by

As I look at my half-packed suitcase, I cannot believe this day has finally come!  The past months have been so hectic with filling out forms, finalizing details, studying up on British life, and saying goodbyes – er, “I’ll see you later”s.  I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had the chance to even be excited.  But now that my departure is less than 48 hours away, I am beaming with excitement.  AM I REALLY DOING THIS?!

I’ve been dreaming of studying abroad in England for as long as I can remember, and now that it’s finally here, I cannot wait for the exciting adventures to come.  I’ve been blessed to have traveled to Japan, Australia, Italy, France, and Spain, but the UK is completely new territory for me.  I’ve lived on my own at college, but I was always just a short 40 minute drive from home when I became homesick or needed anything.  This is definitely going to be a change!  But I’m ready as I’ll ever be, and it’s time to take off.  With that said, get ready because YOU’RE COMING TOO!  Through this blog, I’ll be tracking my every move with stories, pictures, videos, you name it!  I’ll share my triumphs, my epic fails (be prepared, there will be many of them!), insights, and everything I learn with each new experience!   I’ll try my best to keep them short (we’ll see…) and interesting so I don’t bore you with details while sharing the most important things I see and learn!  Feel free to share any stories of your own or ask any questions – I’ll hunt down the answers while I’m here!  Your thoughts are my thoughts, so shoot them my way!  So sit back, relax, and enjoy the United Kingdom from the comfort of your own couch – I’ll do the walking!

And just a few things I have to note before I go:

1.  I have wayyy too much stuff – how am I ever going to fit it all?!
2.  What did I get myself into? – I know I’m going to love it there, but how long will it take me to get adjusted?
3.  I am so incredibly excited to travel and meet as many people as possible!

4.  The British education system is much different than that of the U.S.  Am I going to be able to put aside my procrastinator ways and keep up?
5.  How homesick am I going to get?
6.  I’m going to get so lost.  It’s just going to happen.  I’m already waiting for the day I take a train (aka the tube) for hours in the wrong direction.  BRING IT.

7.  I am so SCARED!
8.  What will my accent sound like to them?

9.  The U.K. is on military time.  I’m already late everywhere I go, so this should be interesting!
10.  I’m going to miss everyone so much and have been so sad to leave, but now I can finally say that I cannot wait for this.  So, so, so, incredibly anxious – but in a good way!

1.  See at least one celebrity (British or American!) in the flesh.

2.  Try as much British food as possible (Fish and chips and biscuits with clotted cream, anyone?)
3.  Find out if Brits like peanut butter (random, but no Europeans that I met have liked it!)
4.  Learn as much as I can about British culture, politics, and daily living.

5.  SHOP SHOP SHOP! (Hello, Herods!)

6.  Have the most legitimate afternoon tea of all time (Why else would you go to England?).
7.  Not get too stressed about the little things.
8.  Laugh...Laugh a lot.
9.  Dance in the rain down a London street with an umbrella in hand like Mary Poppins and the Morton Salt girl.
10.  Become obsessed with a British band (other than One Direction <3).

11.  See platform 9 3/4 and everything else Harry Potter possible!
12.  Speak in a British accent and make a fool of myself (Ello, chap!).
13.  Pick up on British fashion…or at least fake it to my best ability!
14.  Actually write post cards like I say I will (I’ll do my best, promise!)

15.  Have as many conversations with total strangers as possible.

16.  Find out what real football is all about by attending as many matches as I can.

17.  Pretend I’m characters from every British movie I love (The Holiday, Pride and Prejudice, What a Girl Wants)

18.  Be a tourist for a moment (you just have to take those double-decker buses!)
19.  Become friends with a palace guard…but really.

20.  Come back with an accent (DUH).

Until then, back to packing I go, but stay tuned!

…London calling!