Reunion

My friends and I are planning a reunion!

More details: Some of the super cool awesome friends I made at the University of Hertfordshire are trying to plan a get together this summer! I don’t know if it will happen yet, but here’s hoping. Basically this all started when one of my friends got accepted into a study abroad program in Traverse City, Michigan. That got everyone else thinking, that’s not to far. So now all of us who live in the western hemisphere are looking at our budgets and summer plans, trying to figure out if this can actually happen.

Honestly, at this point, your guess is as good as mine. But I don’t really think it matters. We’ve managed to keep is decent touch for almost a year without seeing each other, and I think that speaks volumes about the friendships you can make while studying abroad. It was one of the best times in my life and I will be forever grateful for both the experience and the amazing people I met.

I can’t wait to see those guys again. Traverse City, here I (hopefully) come!!!

The view from your window

I’ve been home for about two weeks now, and settling back in with my family and my old routines has been a very interesting experience. I find myself thinking back to the places I’ve been and looking at my pictures pretty constantly. I’ve missed England from the moment I left, and experience has shown me that that feeling isn’t going away any time soon. I miss England in the same way I miss Italy.

I’m always looking through my pictures, real or in my memory, because I’m amazed at how beautiful places can be. I have never thought of my hometown as beautiful, but every place I’ve traveled has been absolutely breathtaking. Even the view out of my flat’s window in Hertfordshire was spectacular at times.

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When people travel, they always talk about how much more beautiful the places they travel are than their homes. But I have realized that isn’t necessarily true. Since coming back from my study abroad I’ve notices how amazing my home town can be. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been gone for five months, but I’m appreciating my surroundings in a way I didn’t before.

I’ve realized that the view from my window in Oklahoma can be pretty great too. :)

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Glass half empty

Sometimes you can make the best of a situation. And sometimes, unfortunately, you can’t.

On Monday evening I said goodbye to some great friends. Except that, since I didn’t want to say goodbye or leave at all, I ended up pushing back my exit until 3:30 am (that was my second mistake. My first was not already being packed.) We said “see you soon” instead of goodbye. I hope that I will see them soon, because I started missing them the second I left.

So at three thirty in the morning I walk back to my flat, finish packing, and take a shower. This brings us to 6:30am, where I check out of my flat and walk to the bus stop. No I did not get any sleep. At 7:40 am I board my bus to the airport (which was 10 minutes late) and spend the next two and a half hours in very cramped conditions, worrying about the state of my souvenir shot glasses. I got to the airport, checked in and got myself lunch while I waited for my flight to board.

The flight boards and takes off half an hour late. I get to my layover and spend the next hour waiting at my gate, but that flight is also delayed an hour. We finally get in the air, heading toward Denver, but there is a lot of bad weather in the area and a ton of turbulence on the plane. We land (safely) in Denver an hour and a half later than we were supposed to. That, combined with customs and security, meant that I missed my connection to OKC. So I was put on the next flight out. At 11:20 am the next day. It was 8:30 pm at that point. The icing on the cake? Since the delay was weather related and not because of the airline, they didn’t put me up in a hotel.

On the bright side I now have the “Slept in an Airport Terminal” life achievement.

Fifteen hours later, I boarded my flight to OKC and an hour after that I finally made it home. In total, it was about 38 hours from the time I left my flat in Hatfield to when I got to my house in Oklahoma City.

Even with all my delays and lengthy layovers, the worst part was definitely saying goodbye to the friends I made at the University of Hertfordshire. Hopefully we will see each other soon, like we all said.

But I guess it just depends on your definition of “soon.”

Family

When I first decided to study abroad, I was ridiculously excited. I couldn’t wait to visit new places, experience new cultures, and meet new people. But I didn’t realize at the time how these new people, places, and cultures would all claim a part of me. I am going back to Oklahoma soon and I’m faced with the prospect of saying goodbye to Hatfield and all the friends I’ve made here.

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Some of these people I met in the airport the first day I landed. Others I’ve known for less time, maybe only a couple months. But I think it’s amazing that I could feel so attached to them, regardless of how long we’ve been friends. When I first got here, I tried to make as many friends as possible; we all did. It’s almost like making a safety net. You want friends in your flat, in your classes, to go grocery shopping with, to watch movies with. You feel out of place and you make fast friends with as many people as possible so you don’t feel alone. But then if you hold on to those people, you get to know them so much better and faster than you would normally, because you both are out of your element. The result? I’m going home soon, and I feel like I’m leaving part of myself with these wonderful people who have been with me for one of the most amazing parts of my life. Its sad, but knowing them is most definitely worth it.

Here’s to the nights that turned into mornings with the friends who turned into family. I’ll miss you guys.FRIENDS

Claddagh, Ireland

There once was a small town in Ireland called Claddagh (that has since become a part of Galway) that was famous for making a specific type of ring. These Claddagh Rings feature two hands holding a crowned heart. The hands are supposed to symbolize friendship; the heart, love; and, the crown, loyalty. They’re called Claddagh rings because they were (supposedly) made famous by a man from Claddagh, Richard Joyce, who learned intricate metal working when he was a captured by the Moors and sold as a slave to a goldsmith. When King William III was crowned, he demanded the return of all English prisoners, which included Joyce. He returned home to Claddagh and gave the Claddagh ring to the lady love who had waited for him while he was gone. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s a cool story. I’d heard about Claddagh Rings before I came to the UK but when I saw one, I knew I had to get it. After I got it, I was researching the history a bit when I found something else. Over time, the meaning of the rings have evolved. they still symbolize love, friendship, and loyalty, but now they also indicate the wearers romantic availability, depending on how it’s worn. If it’s on the right ring finger, pointing away from the palm, the wearer is not in a serious relation ship. On the right ring finger pointing toward the palm indicates that the person is in a committed relationship. If it is worn on the left ring finger, pointing away from the palm, the wearer is engaged. On the left ring finger, pointing toward the palm means that the person is married. After finding that out I had to fix how I was wearing it, but it’s interesting to know the history and traditions behind my ring!

Following Dublin

When I went to Dublin over Easter break I did something a little different. Instead of doing my own research and planning where I would go, I contacted a friend who spent her summer there and asked her what she thought I should see and do. She turned out to be a goldmine of information! Not only did she give me tons of suggestions on what sites to see and which restaurants to eat at, she even mailed me her Dublin bus pass all the was from the states so I could get around easier! (I’m returning the favor by bringing her her favorite Irish candy :) )

My friend sent me to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and park

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Marsh’s Library

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Dublin Castle and Dubh Linn Garden

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Trinity College

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and food places like Murray’s Bar

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Beshoff Bros

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and The Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Dublin.

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I did still see some things that my friends didn’t direct me to, like Ha’penny Bridge

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The National Wax Museum

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and the Famine Sculpture and the Three Fates Fountain in St. Steven’s Green,

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but for the most part it was nice to not have to make my own decisions. I got to see parts of the city that I might not have seen on my own, and I got to visit some of my friends favorite places in the world. We are both very excited to talk and compare notes when I get back, and she is super excited to get her candy!

 

 

Exploring Edinburgh

I spent the fIMG_4860first part of my Easter vacation in Edinburgh with my friends Tom and Aurora.  We spent most of our first day exploring Edinburgh castle. We were there for five whole hours and still didn’t see everything!

 

 

 

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We also got to see the Scott Monument

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the Scottish National Gallery

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the Prince’s Street Gardens and the Botanic Gardens

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the Greyfriars Bobbie Statue (yes, I rubbed its nose for luck)

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the Elephant Cafe (where JK Rowling wrote the first HP book!)

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a couple of Cathedrals

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and I went to Mimi’s bakehouse to try one of their famous cakes!

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But my favourite part was definitely the Water of Leith Walkway. It was very beautiful and apparently a popular dog walking area, because we saw some of the most adorable puppies!

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I completely adored Edinburgh. Since it’s so far north, it was pretty cold and constantly raining, but there isn’t really anything wrong with that. Its mix of history and now and jumbled together was amazing. You could be completely immersed in modern downtown Edinburgh and turn a corner to see the Castle looming above you. It was one of my favourite places I’ve been this semester!

Highs and Lows

Easter Break has started! Yay!!!! (Slightly more than) Two weeks of complete freedom! If you ignore the work I have due as soon as we get back. But I’ve already done most of it, and I’m ready for my next adventure. In two days I leave for my trip to Edinburgh, Scotland and Dublin, Ireland with some international friends I’ve met here at Hertfordshire. But I’ve already had a couple adventures over break! Last Friday I went to a place called Go Ape, a tree top forest adventure with “zip wires, Tarzan swings, rope ladders, and a variety of obstacles and crossings” and some great views. image If you’re ever in the UK I highly recommend it. Ignoring the fact that I am actually quite scared of heights, it was one of the best times I’ve had in a long time. I had one (small) panic attack and I only screamed once. I actually got to a point where I hit a roof on being scared; there was just no room left for me to be more frightened. It was amazing! I really want to go again! My favorite parts where the zip lines (once I got past the whole jumping-off-the-platform bit), but the worst was definitely the Tarzan swings. You had to free fall before the rope would catch you. (You can totally hear one of the employees yelling “Well done Margaret” after Brooke convinces me to jump)
  So I enjoyed that way more than I thought I would. And then, two days ago, I got to see Les Miserables live for the first time at the Queen’s Theater in London. I’d seen the movie several times, but the stage performance was a thousand times better. I cried at least five times during the show – which is a good thing for a show that’s literally called “wretched.” Getting to London and back was an adventure though. Somehow I got a ticked for Essex instead of Piccadilly Circus, and I’m still not quite sure how that happened. From swinging through trees to sobbing in darkened theaters, this has definitely been a “Spring” break to remember, in the best way!

Lost in Translation

I don’t know about other majors, but engineering majors are highly encouraged to pursue internships during their summers. It’s almost a requirement! So I’ve been working on getting my summer together. Unfortunately, I was only able to apply for one internship; applying from thousands of miles away is harder than you’d think! But it was one that I really wanted. Eight weeks working for the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation as part of their Fleming Scholars Program. Anyway, I fretted over my application until it was as perfect as I could make it, and I submitted it. And I waited. About a month later got the good news that I had been selected as one of 25 applicants who were invited for an interview! WHOO!!! But, since I happen to be in a different country, the interview would be conducted via Skype. It was one of the most nerve wracking things I’ve ever done. Some of it was like a normal interview. I picked out my most professional outfit (I didn’t have a ton to work with, so that was interesting), made sure I was up to date on the company, and I had plenty of questions. But I also had to make sure the Internet was working properly, make sure I wasn’t backlit so they could see my face, make sure my room was clean, make sure my flat mates would be quiet, etc. there’s definitely a lot more to consider when you sign up for a Skype interview. But, for better or for worse, the day of my interview finally came. Everything went fine (once we got past some technical difficulties on their end) except that it was kind of hard to hear them. I would advise using head phones with a built in mic for your interview. Unfortunately I couldn’t get my hands on any. I got an email from them yesterday notifying me that I was selected as an alternate(!!!) and I should know yea or nae for sure on March 25th. So the take away here is that skype interviews suck. I did learn a lot about how I interview from it, but I sincerely hope I never have to do it again.

The Road Less Travelled By

I know that, for the most part, I try to keep my blog as light-hearted and cheery as possible. But bear with me friends; this post is much more serious that I normally write. It’s about Solo Traveling. Solo Traveling. That phrase strikes fear into the heart of many. So many things could go wrong. You could get mugged, or lost, or taken advantage of. It’s perceived to be twice as dangerous for a woman to be traveling alone than for a man. Many people would never even consider to go solo traveling, because they would be afraid. When I decided to take my own solo trip, that’s what I heard. Everyone told me that they were scared for me, that they would be praying for me. They asked if I could take someone with me, or just not go at all. They made me promise over and over again to be safe and smart, to keep in contact so they knew I was okay, to give them an itinerary so they would know where to send the authorities if I went missing. Now, I’m not scared of much. I’m scared of heights, which is why I took up rock climbing, always insist on going to the highest possible point, and eventually want to go skydiving. I’m afraid of failure, but I attempt new things anyway. I believe it is important to challenge your fears, so that they can’t control you. I was afraid of solo traveling, which was a large part of the reason why I felt that I needed to take the trip. I had been thinking about taking this trip for about a month, but I didn’t really start planning or making reservations until two days before I left. I did everything myself, in an attempt to convince myself that I could do this. I passed around my information to make myself and my friends and family feel better. I packed up my things and I left, just like that. I got myself to the Hatfield train station and then the London Victoria Coach Station. I took a bus to Paris and explored the city without a map or a plan. I saw so much of the city, places that I have read and dreamed about for as longs as I can remember. I figured out how the public transportation worked, without speaking French, and I found my hostel. I repeated my adventure the next day and found my way to the Paris Maillot bus station, and my bus to Berlin. In Berlin I did the same thing: I wandered around the city, I figured out the metro, I went where I wanted, and I did it all by myself. From Berlin, I got myself safely back to Hatfield. At some point during the trip, my fear of solo traveling vanish, as if it had never been there in the first place. It’s an amazing thing to know that I can take care of myself. If I can make my way around a city that I’ve never been to before, where I don’t speak the language, then there are probably few things I can’t do. I think everyone who has the means should consider taking at least one solo trip in their college years. Most people at this age are in a weird transition place between their parents and their future, learning to stand on their own. I know I feel like I’m stuck in some kind of limbo, when I think about how I am an “adult” but there are very few things I’ve ever done on my own. But I feel much more confident in my own abilities now. As much as it pains my friends and family, I think there will be many more solo trips in my future. I’m not afraid of them anymore, and there is something wonderful about traveling and doing the things you want, without having to answer to anyone else. For anyone who is still on the fence about solo traveling because of safety, remember; your trip is as safe as you make it. As long as you’re smart it’s not very likely that anything bad will happen. You do have to consider where you are going to travel – I wouldn’t recommend going to a war torn country – but once you’re there, it isn’t much different from being home. Don’t tell strangers where you’re staying or that you’re alone. Keep an eye on your bags. Stay out of sketchy locations, especially at night. But most importantly, remember to enjoy yourself. Solo traveling is an amazing experience; I hope you give it a try. Bons voyages, and sichere renditen! (Good travels and safe returns!)