Actually in London and pretending like I’m not as awkward as I was at the beginning of high school

Sitting on a plane bound for Reykjavik, I am trying to focus on this blog post while also listening to some podcasts my sister recommended for me. How this will turn out will be interesting.  In any case after much distress and frantic emails, my course schedule is finally nailed down.  I’ll just say I’m taking some social science and humanities courses because I don’t think writing about my future classwork is particularly interesting, for you or for me. I’ll be sure to relay anything particularly interesting or vaguely entertaining here if and when it comes up.  Moving on!

–              –              –              –              –              –              –              –             –

Alright with a more articulate, less confused, and non-jetlagged head on my shoulders, I’m continuing this post about six days after those flights. We’ve already done a lot, mainly touristy things so far, like a London bus tour, London Eye ride, and a trip out to Hampton Court. And that has only lent more evidence to this blatantly obvious but crucially important fact: London is MASSIVE. Like big. Really big. I’ve been to New York City a few times, LA two times, and other ‘big’ cities but this is a whole different level of huge.  At the top of the London Eye I couldn’t see the end of the city in any direction, there is at least 4 stories of buildings on every block, and every street is packed with people-whether that be on the sidewalk, on the road, in the tube or on the bus. London is BIG. However the real news of the last few days: we’re all awkward freshman. Remember that time at the beginning of a new school when you didn’t know anybody around you and you also knew that nobody else knew anyone else either? And I don’t mean freshman year I mean those first two weeks of school of freshmen year. That’s essentially what’s happening all over again here which is both fantastic, hilarious, and obnoxious (just like those high school freshman days right? Good ole’ days). Fantastic because it forces people to open up, hilarious because we’re all painfully aware how much like high school this is, and obnoxious because…I mean, do any of you want to relive those first two weeks of freshman year of high school? If your answer to that is a “yes” please comment below so we all can figure out your secret to navigating such awkwardness for the future. This is also an interesting happening because for me this is the third time in as many years that I’m starting school in a new place with a new group of students. First it was to the University of Portland, then to Seattle U, and now here with IES in London. So that’s been some interesting food for thought…Well! because of all of this, and all of this orientation stuff (yeah, like freshman year…seeing a pattern?) time has been very sparse; we’ll see about how much time I can carve out for blogging so sorry for the sporadic posts!

In any case our classes are actually starting tomorrow which will be a weird back-to-the-real-world check. We’ve been on summer break for a while and now being in London this almost feels like a continuation of that vacation-that’s a fantasy that needs to be broken quickly in the next few days honestly. There’s still much to do in the meantime (like planning more adventures!) so I’ll have to leave this for now. And with the sun setting over the horizon and the spires of St. Pancras taking center stage in the picture frame that is my window, Ian is getting back to it all!

Until next time

Cheers

-Ian

Food for Thought

*Ba-da-dish*
(That was kind of meant to be punny).
Within three weeks or so of traveling through Europe I have tried four items I would probably never have eaten in the United States. Those being: wild boar, liver, salmon (I am the worst Northwesterner), and duck. Before I came to Europe I was a VERY picky eater, although I prefer the term selective. While some may not give escargot or horse meat a second thought, each of these meals was a big step for me. 
I have never really been the go with the flow, spontaneous type but I wanted my study abroad experience to reflect a conscious effort to break out of my worrisome nature. So I am pretty proud of the fact that I actually tried new things. It has truly been an adventure!
PS, wild boar was even chewier than an overcooked steak. And do not even get me started on the liver. 

Olivia

Greetings from Uppsala!

Hello everyone,

I have been in the lovely town of Uppsala, Sweden for almost a week now. My time has been filled with sightseeing, cycling, Swedish cuisine, people watching, lots of walking, and most recently, academic seminar.
dana
My first few days were spent exploring Uppsala solo, which was an amazing time. I was able to visit Uppsala Castle, the botanical gardens, the Carl Linnaeus museum, one of the oldest cathedrals in Scandinavia, and try dagens lunch al fresco. (Dagens lunch means “lunch of the day” and it is one of Sweden’s better food traditions – it is essentially a fixed price meal that comes with salad, bread, a traditional main course such as chicken with roasted potatoes with cream sauce – everything here comes with cream sauce – and a beverage. It serves as a great source of energy!)
dinner
Since this time, my classmates have arrived and we have continued to explore, visiting the beautiful Uppsala University rich in history and home to several Nobel Prize laureates (including Celsius himself!) the university’s student nation system, which is most closely similar to our Greek system, happened upon many fun pubs and restaurants, and attended lectures on the educational system and student entrepreneurship, which was most interesting to me.

Highlights: everyone bikes everywhere in Uppsala; the town’s urban design is extremely conducive to activity and spending time outdoors, between many parks, River Fyris which cuts the city down the middle, and bike paths that run alongside all roads. I’ve been lucky to rent a “cykel” a few times in order to explore old town (the original site of Uppsala) and neighborhoods surrounding the city. Also, as Uppsala is a college town, there are tons of young people that fill the city. They are beginning to filter back into town to begin their school year and are extremely bright, friendly, and accommodating. We feel very welcome here and look forward to continuing the adventure.
city water
(Fashion tidbit: EVERYONE here wears converse sneakers – the original Chuck Taylors. Mostly white and plenty of high tops).

Tomorrow we day trip to Stockholm to visit the Vasa museum and also the education authority. Stockholm is actually 14 connected islands and home to much to see, eat, and learn, so I look forward to reporting back before the end of the week!
city building
church

Cheers,

Dana

Galway

Hello bloggers!

I’m back from Ireland now, home safe and whatnot. Since my last post we traveled to Galway, took an overnight trip to the Aran islands, visited Coole Park, and saw some Dragons. It was an eventful week.

Galway was lovely. Although it was rather hot, there was usually a breeze coming in off the bay, and the city was easy to navigate and fun to be in. We happened to be in town during the Galways Art’s Festival, and so we got to see some pretty cool stuff – acrobats and dragons in the streets. (There’s a final video attached with some clips.)
We took a trip out to Inis Mor as well, which was a refreshing break from busy towns and crowds of tourists. Possibly even a little too refreshing, as that night our entire room was in bed well before it was dark. Our hostel was directly over a pub though, so we had the experience of being lulled to sleep by groups of people singing in Irish. That was actually pretty cool. In the morning we hiked up to Dun Aengus, a fort on a cliff that has been around since before the pyramids. It was a pleasant trip.
When we got back to Galway we were given a free day, which I spent visiting the aquarium, and following days were spent on excursions to Coole Park and hanging out in Galway. We saw swans made famous by Yeats, and the tower he had lived in, and we wrote poems and had class by the river and I ate a lot of ice cream.
On our final evening of class we watched a play entirely in Irish – there were subtitles on a screen to the side – which seemed like a fitting way to conclude out trip. After that we all went our separate ways.

Altogether it was a really great trip, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot. I came home with considerably more books than I left with, a notebook nearly full with notes and thoughts and poems, a camera full of pictures, and memories to last a lifetime.
It had only been a couple weeks of the trip in total, but it felt like so much longer. Still, it didn’t seem long enough. I would go back in a heartbeat.
Thanks for reading, hope your summers have been great as well. I’ve got a final video here for you from Galway. I have more footage, but that will have to find another purpose.
Best wishes,
Alex

The Catacombs and Tour de France

Saturday was probably the strangest day culturally that I’ve had so far here. It’s about 90 degrees, and there were no plans for the morning, so what do my friends and I decide to do? Go see dead people. Yeah, it’s probably not the most traditional “French-y” experience, but the Catacombs were probably one of the coolest things I’ve seen here yet. I picked up one of those fancy audio guides, and learned a ton of really neat things about French history that were…. less than traditional. Also, when my friend and I were down there looking at all of the skeletons, this random French guy pulled me aside to make sure that I was doing okay with “l’air de mort” or the air of death. I reassured him that I was fine, and then he told me a really wickedly creepy, but totally awesome, story about how people used to hold candle light concerts in the Catacombs and other things that happened. It was kind of strange, but I got to hear something new, plus I had the whole conversation in French! Hooray! After the Catacombs I went and saw the movie called Pour une Femme (all in French) with another friend, and we actually understood most of it! We also ate sushi… Which was delicious, though probably not too French. I figure that I’m here for long enough to eat non-French food too 😀
IMG_4258
Today was the Tour de France (that huge bike race that goes on every year, for those of you who don’t know). I had a rather lazy day, then headed down to the Champs-Élysées to watch the bikers come into Paris for the final stretch of the race. Everyone was so excited and happy, and it was a really neat experience.
IMG_4302
Tomorrow class begins again, which is good, although I am quite tired. Unfortunately, at the end of this week, several people from my program are leaving. Only about half of us stay for the full 7 weeks, and others only get to stay for 5. I’ll miss them terribly, but we’ve all decided to keep in touch, which is good. Anyway, I’m just rambling now so I shall leave this post at that, and simply say bonne nuit!

Kendra

Dragon Attack on Shop Street!

I will never forget what happened last night for as long as I live. Seriously.

A few people and I went to the first official event of the Galway Arts Festival- a street parade featuring Sarruga’s Incredible Dragons. When we got to Shop Street, we waited for about 20-ish minutes for the dragons to reach us. While we were waiting and eating gelato, we watched a street performer giving a show to a big crowd of people. Although, I guess I should say “tried to watch”, since none of us could actually see over the crowd. I noticed a pole about 4 feet tall close to me, so I grabbed two of my friends’ shoulders and hoisted myself up on the pole so that I could see what the street performer was doing. After a few minutes of me watching and telling everyone what was happening, he finished his act and the crowd applauded and then dispersed. I stayed on the pole, mostly because I didn’t know how to get off without seriously injuring myself. Suddenly, we heard the roars of the dragons, getting ever closer to us. Once we saw them, I honestly was a little frightened. They were really well designed and actually quite lifelike. They were also pretty big—maybe two cars width. I stayed balancing on the pole so that I could take pictures and videos of the dragons, since they would come really close to me. One of my friends warned me that they might try to touch me, since I was twice as high as everyone else and I would be so close to them, but I honestly didn’t think they would bother. Well, I WAS WRONG. The first dragon came by without incident. After it passed, I turned around and saw the second one roaring in the face of a little girl. I should have realized this was a bad sign, but of course I stayed balancing on the pole, thinking I was so macho for having the best view on all of Shop Street. I was taking a video of the second one making its way towards us and I got a great shot of its head going right by me. Thinking it had already passed, I looked away for just a second… and then BOOM. THE DRAGON STARTED EATING ME. I mean, not like poking me, or like, hitting me, but seriously chomping up and down around my body. Needless to say I was caught completely off guard, but I’m proud to report that I stayed balanced on the pole for the entire attack. He ate my head and my arm, but I stayed steady on the pole, half laughing and half yelling over the roars coming from the speakers in the beast’s throat. All I could see were the glowing yellow eyes, big teeth (I have scratches on my right shoulder), a long red tongue, and flashes of bright lights coming from people’s cameras. Finally the monster seemed to decide he had had enough of me, so he moved on, leaving everyone who had seen what happened practically crying from laughing so hard. I jumped off the pole and tried to get my composure back, but boy, was that difficult. A mechanical dragon had just attacked me! I mean, how ridiculous is that?! I managed to keep the video shooting during the whole attack, so right when the dragon took its first bite, the video seemed like it could actually be from some horror movie, since you can hear me screaming, the dragon roaring and growling, and people laughing. Okay, I guess the laughing part wouldn’t be in a horror movie…

A couple of other people got videos too (well, who knows exactly how many people got videos of it?), so there is legitimate evidence of the attack, in case you’re thinking I made this up. But I swear—it happened! I just hope that feisty green dragon doesn’t try to eat any more innocent study abroad students…

Alex

Alex

The City is Made to be Walked

Today marks my fourth day here in Dublin, and I’ve noticed a lot of things.
I’m not just saying that, either. We have been given class assignments centered around observation of the world around us and meticulous note taking. In order to get these notes, – which are sometimes vague, and sometimes more specific – it is encouraged that we not only actively pay attention during the activities of the day, but that we wander around for a bit on our own as well. So I’ve been doing a lot of walking.

Dublin is an amazingly walkable city.

Every museum, restaurant, theater, grocery store, or otherwise other attraction we have needed to visit has been within walking distance of Trinity college, where we are staying. I love being able to set out the gates of the school and be able to get anywhere I need to be by foot.

I love walking, it’s one of my favorite past times, I walk whenever I get the chance. But no matter how much I walk around back home, there is something infinity more intriguing about walking somewhere unfamiliar. There are new streets to learn, new shops to notice, new windows to browse, new people to watch, new shortcuts to find, and it’s fascinating how quickly I’ve become accustom to this new arena of sights, sounds and streets.

This morning I walked alone to a grocery store to pick up some things, and I realized that I knew exactly were I was going. I never once felt as if I might get lost. Walking there and back seemed like the most natural thing, in this city I’ve never seen before in my life. I think this is because when you walk a city, you get a feel for it you can’t get any other way. You encounter it first hand. You become a part of it.

During a lunch period yesterday spent wandering quiet side streets, we stumbled upon some faded words painted onto the walkway. The phrase that stood out to me most, and that stayed with me even after we had wandered on, was this:

“Walkers are practitioners of the city, for the city is made to be walked.”

And so with that in mind, I leave you with this video. A compilation of footage acquired while traveling to, and walking around Dublin. A first volume, I’m sure, of several videos to come.

Alex