It's Blog-tastic

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Okay, I'll start today's entry with a quick apology:
Life has moved pretty fast since my last entry; hence I have unfortunately been neglecting my blog since February. As I said in my last entry, I'm playing the female lead in the musical The Wedding Singer, so between that and classes things have been pretty crazy. But more than that, I just wasn't sure what to say. I realized that my life here in England has become just that: my life. Worcester has become my home, and I don't think of a lot of the things I do everyday as being very extraordinary. But they are I suppose.
People sometimes still repeat what I say because they're fascinated by my accent. I still struggle to understand the humor in TV adverts. I have failed to learn how to eat with a utensil in each hand.
But I have made a life for myself here. I know my way around, which anyone who knows me knows that is quite an accomplishment. I'm learning so much about the world and myself everyday, but at the same time it doesn't feel like a different place anymore. That thought kind of got away from me a little bit. And it started off so well, too.
Anyway, with that out of the way I'll move on to the more exciting topic: my spring break adventures.
The first week of my spring break I spent a few days in Belgium and Holland with Michael visiting friends from high school (first his then mine). I had an absolute blast with Michael and his friend, Arnaud, in Belgium. We stayed in Gent, which is about half an hour from Brussels and one of the most fascinating cities I've been to. And yes, the waffles were delicious. As was the chocolate. And the beer.
After a couple of days in Gent we hopped on a train and met up with my friend, Sander, in Rotterdam. The thing that stood out to me the most is how modern that city is. Apparently a lot of it was destroyed in WWII so most of the city is new. We also checked out the beach in The Hague and spent a day in Amsterdam. It was a lot to pack in to five days, but a truly wonderful trip all the same.
This past week I hopped a plane to Ireland with Cassandra and Phil for a few days. Ireland is my favorite place I've visited; this trip was actually my second time this year. We flew in to Cork and stayed a night before exploring the city and Blarney Castle the next day. The trip got off to a rocky start Tuesday night when our flight was delayed FIVE HOURS, but after that it was smooth sailing. Wednesday we rambled around the gorgeous gardens at Blarney and climbed the many stairs to the top to kiss the Blarney stone. For some reason I was expecting it to be just a random rock, but what I discovered was that it's actually just a part of the castle wall. The fun part is the actual acrobatic ritual that goes into kissing the legendary rock. You have to lay on your back (on a narrow battlement, mind you) grab iron bars behind your head and slide yourself back until your head is nearly hitting the wall. Then you have to tilt your head backwards towards the wall and kiss it upside down. I'm still not sure why this is the way it's done, but it was fun anyway. I'm still waiting to see if kissing the stone gave me the legendary gift of eloquence; this blog entry is probably not the best example of the stone's powers. In the late afternoon Wednesday we took a bus from Cork to Galway. We arrived in Galway just in time to grab a bite to eat at Supermac's (a truly magical Irish conglomeration that includes a Quizno's and a Papa John's in the same building) before hitting a couple pubs to hear some live music. One of the many things I love about Ireland is the huge music scene, especially folk, bluegrass, and country music. There's live music happening all the time whether it's in pubs or on the street. Thursday we explored Galway and found our way to the beach at Galway Bay, where the rocky beach and the emerald green hills meet to form one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. We spent Thursday night and Friday in Dublin (after yet another bus ride Thursday afternoon). Today we woke up at 3:45 am to head to the airport for our obnoxiously early flight, and once again I was sad to say goodbye to Ireland. A place where the people are friendly, charming, and funny; where streets are filled with music at all hours of the day or night; and where the landscape looks as if you're in Eden...what's not to love? And on that note, being awake since the wee hours of this morning is starting to catch up with me. Also my thoughts are starting to get away from me more and more. So I'll just shut up and say goodnight :)

Deep Thoughts

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My blog entry today isn't about a specific adventure I've had or a big event. Today is more about things that I've learned since I've been studying abroad; or rather, one lesson that has stood out the most. I've learned that when you're in a place or a situation that's unfamiliar and you're feeling lost, the best thing you can do is find some tiny familiar thing to hold on to. One of the reasons I was glad to go home in January for two weeks was because it allowed me to get my feet back on the ground a bit. I could focus both on what I loved about America as well as what I love about living here in England. Along that same line, I'm also very very glad that I decided to randomly audition with Loco Show Co. here in Worcester. Getting to be in theater again has given me something to look forward to as well as allowed me to meet some truly amazing people. And more recently this group has given me the chance to do something I always wanted: play the lead in a show. That's right, I'll be playing Julia in Loco's production of The Wedding Singer. We just started rehearsals, and already I can hardly contain my excitement. When classes get hectic or I get a little homesick, Loco is what I hold on to. So I guess that's my advice to anyone who is thinking about studying abroad or moving to a new place or trying anything new really. You don't have to forget who you are or where you came from to have a fresh start. In fact, it's probably better if you don't. We can't just float around and not be attached to anything; something has to tie us to where we are, where we've been, and where we're going.

New Semester!

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After six weeks of a wonderful winter break, it's back to the ol' grind of class, rehearsal, friends, and shenanigans. But before I talk about what lies ahead, here's a recap of what I did on break:
After my trip to Dublin I spent a week back in the flats just relaxing and getting in the Christmas spirit.
Cassandra, Michael and I headed to Twycross on the 22nd to spend Christmas with our flatmate Gabriel's family. We got to visit the Twycross zoo, eat lots of wonderful food, and get to know his family. They really made us feel like we were part of the family, which was exactly what we needed being so far from our own families. It was funny learning all the little traditions that are different from what we do back home. We watched "The Snow Man", a popular silent cartoon, got sugar mice in our stockings, and wore paper crowns from our Christmas crackers all through Christmas dinner.
After Christmas we headed to Roisin's near Oxford for New Years. I think the thing that surprised me the most about it was when we turned on the television for the countdown it was a broadcast of the big New Year's celebration in London. All my life I've always watched the ball drop in New York on TV, I never really thought about what they did in other parts of the world. Michael, Roisin and I also stayed up until 6am so that we could celebrate Minnesota New Year.
The week after New Year's our friend Katlyn from UMD came to visit! Once she got over the horrific jet lag we showed her around our new home in Worcester. We checked out the cathedral and the High Street as well as our favorite pub.
January 9th I had to get up obnoxiously early to hop a train to the airport for my trip home. After a train ride, an 8 hour flight, a layover that included making friends with a pigeon, and a 3 hour flight, I was finally home :)
I know some people who have been in this program before have said that they're glad they didn't go home or that they regretted going home, but I was so glad that I did. I spent two weeks back in Minnesota relaxing and reconnecting with my friends and family, and I will never regret it. Believe it or not, being foreign is truly exhausting at times. Everywhere we go we're constantly being either teased or asked a LOT of questions. It's really fun and interesting, but it was nice to go home and not have the public stare at me as soon as I start talking. By the time I left to come back to Worcester, however, I had just begun to get bored and was ready to come back.
And this week we're back in class!

Dublin

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Merry Christmas everyone!
Well I made it through my first semester abroad, and when I say made I mean loved it! This past weekend I made my first trip outside of England and went to Dublin, Ireland. It was such an amazing trip, I already want to go back. There was live music everywhere, every night and so much to see in an amazing city. Forrest, Denise, and I visited the Guinness Storehouse (so much fun, and you get to pour your own pint!) the Dublin Castle, found Molly Malone, accidentally found St. Stephen's Green, and all sorts of other shenanigans in between. Our hostel was right on the River Liffey, which might be one of the most beautiful rivers I've ever seen. There are four or five footbridges that go across it, and they're each architecturally different. One was very intricate and "lacey", another was more spartan; they each had something special. I absolutely loved the atmosphere of Ireland; the people are funny and fun-loving, and Dublin was surprisingly easy to navigate for such a big city. We spent our last night in a pub where there was a live band followed by a riverdance performance. Possibly the best night of my life. I love bluegrass music and bluegrass has its roots in Ireland, so I was in heaven all weekend being surrounded by amazing Irish music. Today we're headed to Twycross, England to spend Christmas with our flatmate. I'm so grateful to Gabriel and his family for opening their home to us. That's all I have to say today, except Merry Christmas!!

Measure for Measure

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First of all, I need to express my excitement that tomorrow is my last day of the semester:
WAHOO!!!
Now that is out of the way and I can talk about more important things. Last night I went to Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's hometown, to see a production of Measure for Measure by the Royal Shakespeare Company! I'm not sure if I can pack any more cool things into one sentence. I was a little wary at first, to be honest. It was the last play we read in Paul's Shakespeare class this semester, and it's a little weird. Measure for Measure is one of Shakespeare's tragic comedies, which basically means he takes really dark, disturbing subject matter and somehow makes it funny. The whole play revolves around the fate of Claudio, who is arrested and sentenced to death in the first scene for getting his fiance pregnant. They way they interpreted the show was really interesting; it had kind of a futuristic, border-line S&M feel to it. The set was also really cool. Instead of curtains they had long black ropes hanging from the top of the set that remained there the whole play. Overall I really enjoyed it, the comedic characters were perfect and made a three hour play much more bearable. The only thing that really confused me was the curtain call. The entire cast came out and started doing a really strange sort of tango with each other. Not at all what I was expecting. But no matter what, it was definitely an experience I'll never forget, and one of the coolest things I've seen here. That's all for now, time to study for my Spanish exam :)

A Different Kind of Christmas

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Hello everyone!
Well to start, our performances of Alice in Wonderland were awesome last weekend!! Friday night started out a little rough, but a big thank you to Roisin, Gabriel, Coach, Cassandra, Michael, and all the other people from SIE who came to support us!
As we get closer and closer to Christmas, I can't help but think that this may be the strangest Christmas I've ever had. First of all, the grass is still green here. And I've been informed it always will be. If we get any snow here it will probably cause the whole country to come to a standstill, so maybe I won't be wishing for a white Christmas. Roisin, Cassandra and I decorated our kitchen for Christmas last week (procrastination at it's finest). We had a secret santa exchange at our SIE Christmas party on Thursday, which was also super fun. Our wonderful Denise put together a slideshow where everyone submitted pictures from our shenanigans first semester.
I'm so happy with how this first semester has gone; I feel like we've all really integrated ourselves into this university and met a lot of great people. I'll be missing my family this Christmas, but just a few days ago I booked tickets to go home for two weeks in January! It'll be fun to see my family and play in the snow :)
Being here for a few months has been a big eye-opener for me, in many ways. It's been amazing to live and go to school with people who grew up just a little bit differently than I did. I've learned so much; like the word "proper" being used as a word of emphasis for example. It's also inspired me to explore and travel my own country when I get back. There's so many places in the States that I haven't been, and I have a new found curiosity for my own country and culture as well as others.
As far as my Christmas break plans, I've pretty much got every week planned.
Next weekend I'll be in Dublin, Ireland...I can't even describe how excited I am for that.
Then I'll be back in Worcester for a couple days before Cassandra, Michael and I go to Twycross, England to spend Christmas with Gabriel. I'm so thankful for him and his family opening their home to us for the holiday.
Then the 28th we'll be going to Roisin's near Oxford and be there for New Year's.
Then January 9th I'm headed home!
That's all for now! Merry Christmas to all!!

Meanwhile...in Worcester

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Hello everyone!
Well life has been just as crazy this week as it was when I wrote my last entry. Our show for Loco Show Co. is this weekend!! I'm super excited. After a twelve, that's right twelve, hour rehearsal on Sunday we are ready to rock and roll in Alice in Wonderland. Thanksgiving dinner last week was lovely; thanks to our professors and administrative liason, Cath, it was everything a Thanksgiving dinner should be. I ate wonderful food, laughed until I cried, convinced the entire table I was crazy, and threw my napkin...multiple times. It also made me realize how thankful I am to have this opportunity this year. I miss my family immensely, but I know that they support me and are so proud of me for going on this adventure of a lifetime. I'm also really excited about the Worcester Christmas Fayre this weekend! I guess it's quite an event around here, there's all sorts of booths with wonderful food and people dressed in Victorian attire and lots of fun Christmas gifts. I will definitely be writing about it next week. That's all for now.
Cheers!

Thanksgiving...Or Lack Thereof

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This week has been kind of hard. Partly because I've got a lot of homework. But the thing I've been struggling with the most lately is Thanksgiving, or rather the lack of Thanksgiving. Right after Halloween all the shops in Worcester switched to Christmas decorations and some even play Christmas music occasionally. All I could think was "No! You can't play that until after Thanksgi...oh wait." The fact that they just skip right to Christmas completely boggles my mind. My flatmates have never had pumpkin pie; they have no idea what Thanksgiving even is other than the fact that it's an American holiday that partially revolves around food. But it's so much more than that.
We're having a dinner with all the SIE students next Thursday, but the closer it gets the more I think about what I'll be missing back home. I have never missed my family more than I do right now. Not only will I not be at home for Thanksgiving, but just the fact that the holiday doesn't even exist here is kind of giving me a complex. I've tried to explain it to my English friends, but they just don't seem to understand what it's all about. For me, it's about being grateful for all the wonderful things I have, like my family. Being away from home for Thanksgiving has made me realize how much I love my family, and also how precious my time with them is. I'm also grateful for the amazing opportunity I've been given through the Study in England Programme; being here has already changed my life in so many ways and made me more aware of my own culture as well as others. So while I won't be around to watch football with my brothers or help my mom make pies this year, they will be in my heart all weekend. I'll also have all my friends here, both old and new, to share this holiday with. And hopefully, I'll be able to convey what Thanksgiving is about: being thankful.

Magical Adventures in Wales

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Hello again!
Busy times lately, what with midterms and two weekend trips in a row! But I'm having a blast. This weekend we took our trip to Wales with the program, and I was blown away by how beautiful it is. Even though the border between Wales and England is very close to Worcester, they are very different. Wales is distinctly un-English. They still have obnoxiously cute old houses and lots of sheep (apparently there's more sheep in Wales than there are people, 12 million to 3 million!) but Wales has a mysterious and wild beauty that England doesn't have. Everywhere we went seemed like a fairy tale. We stayed in Conwy (pronounced Con-way) and out the window of the hostel I could see the castle that is right in the middle of the town. Yes, a castle. I was in heaven. It's also a walled city, and you can go up on the old walls anytime and get from one end of the city to the other and see everything. I was also fascinated by the Welsh language; attempting to read the Welsh words on all the street signs became a sort of game for us. We also visited the seaside city of Llandudno (google pictures, I couldn't even believe it was real). Here some of us hunted for seashells and relaxed by the water while others walked the promenade. Sunday we visited Snowdonia, the mountainous area of northern Wales. It was absolutely breathtaking. Granted, they're not the Rockies, but these giant hills are striking nonetheless. Some of them had huge piles of broken slate (slate mining was huge in this area in the early to mid 1900's). We also stopped at a slate mine that has now been converted into a historical center. Then our real adventure began.
Shortly after leaving Snowdonia, the alternator belt on our coach completely snapped, meaning we were not going to make it back to Worcester without it being repaired or getting another coach. We ended up back in Llandudno at about 5 pm and prepared for about an hour wait. Unfortunately, most of the city shuts down at about five on a Sunday, including all the restaurants. So finding supper was an adventure in itself. I walked in to about four places only to be told they were closing. After finally finding a random kebab shop I returned to the bus to see what was happening. We found out that it was going to be at least another two hours before we could leave! We all found was to pass the time, some played tag on the promenade, some attempted to do homework. I ended up on a park bench under a street lamp, wearing a furry bomber hat and purple rain boots and reading for my Shakespeare class. I probably looked like one of the most eccentric homeless people that tourist trap had ever seen. At about nine we finally got back on the road. Needless to say, for most of us this delay meant we had to burn the midnight oil to finish assignments for our lectures on Monday. But, overall it was a fantastic trip.

London!

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Alright, due to some kind of technical problem my entry about last weekend did not make it on here, so here it goes again:
(8/11/11)
This past week was reading week, which is basically a week off of classes for fall graduation. Cassandra, Michael and I took advantage of our time off by taking a weekend trip to London! We left Thursday night and took the train over. It was my first time on a train, so that in itself was pretty cool. The journey was easy, for the most part. We did get off at the wrong stop in Birmingham, but all we had to do was wait ten minutes for the next train to get to New Street. Not nearly as scary as I thought it would be. A couple of Cassandra's friends from high school are studying at American Regents College in London this semester so not only did we have a free place to stay but we also had people to show us around! This made our weekend so much easier than the trips other people in SIE have taken there since we got here. Friday morning they took us to Harrod's, the world's biggest and fanciest department store. That place is truly incredible, I spent most of the morning with my hands jammed in my pockets so I wouldn't break anything. Then we headed over to Camden Market, where you can find just about anything you'd ever want to buy as long as you don't care where it came from. I loved Camden; it was bustling with people but it wasn't the least bit scary. Friday night there were tons of fireworks for Guy Fawkes Day, and we hit a couple of pubs to celebrate. Saturday we checked out Trafalgar Square, or Snuffaluffagus Square as I like to call it, outside the National Gallery. It's such a cool place, there's a huge fountain and you can climb all over the giant lion statues. We also visited Big Ben (turns out it's real name is St. Steven's Tower, Big Ben is just the clock), and checked out the London Eye from across the Thames. Then we managed to get tickets to see Legally Blonde the musical for only ten pounds each! This was definitely the highlight of my weekend. The tickets were super cheap because we were in the very front row, which means you can see every drop of sweat on a performer's face but you can't see their feet. Still, I loved every minute of it. I could lean over the ledge in front of me and see the entire orchestra pit. I even talked to one of the musicians a bit during intermission. I hope I'll be able to go back to London at least one more time; there's a couple of other places I'd like to see like the Globe Theater and Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross! That's all for now, next weekend we're headed to Wales with the rest of the program.
Cheers!

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