Being Comfortable Across the Pond

I have now been in England for a little bit over a month and the more time that I spend in England the more I love it. Everyone is very accepting. On my campus there are people from all over: study abroad students (for one semester as well as the year), Englanders, and people who are studying here for the full three years to get their undergrad. The campus also has a club called Connect UK where they give free lunches every Tuesday and anyone who wants to talk to international students can come! I go every Tuesday to talk to other study abroad students as well as the free meal.

As I got more comfortable here, I started to plan more trips out of the country. I am seeing my friend in Germany who is also studying abroad as well as traveling to Italy with my family when they come visit me. I also have people visiting me whom I can show around and act like a real Londoner. I really do feel like I am from here. I go into London at least once a week, so once I take the twenty-minute train into Waterloo I know exactly where to go and how to travel around.

Not only am I getting more comfortable with the towns, I am also getting comfortable with the classes. The teachers are all very nice and I feel comfortable enough to go up and talk to them if I have an issue. Students’ attendance is very different from New Paltz though. Some students leave after they have signed in or leave during a break and have another student sign them in or just have someone else sign them in. I, personally, do not do this because I am paying for the class as well as the classes only meet once a week, so if I do not go to the class then I am not attending the class for the week.

Window to the World

This evening the sky is shades of orange, and of purple and blue. I can’t help but think about all the time I wish I spent with you. In my mind, collecting the things I want to say. Wait a lil while longer and you’ll hear on the 53rd Sunday.

Since coming to Milan, I’ve grown an attachment to windows and the sky, specifically to the colors the sky makes when the sun is rising and setting. This fixation on color and windows and the sky has followed me to wherever I go.

When I visited Prague, my accommodation had a beautiful window that I would sit next to at night and listen to the chatter out on the streets.

When I visited London, I visited a bakery which was strictly decorated in pastel colors: pinks and blues and greens and purples! It was visually stunning and gave me a sense of joy (not to mention the food was delicious.

 

When I’m in Milan, my favorite time of day is when the sun is setting; I am making myself dinner while the windows are spread open. I hear the sounds of garlic sautéing, families and children playing, or nothing at all. The sky turns into hues of orange and pink and purple and sometimes blue. That is when I’m happiest. That is when I am at peace.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During this time, I sit and reflect on a lot- the universe; my life; the people I hold dear to my heart; the world and how many people inhabit it, who have their own thoughts, dreams and aspirations; how there is so much this world has to offer. This is something that I will forever cherish and will use to ground me wherever I go. The feeling inside of me when I get to see such a sky, or such a vast amount of color, or an excellent unfurled window, is truly unexplainable. It makes my heart warm and sometimes like my heart is going to burst- that’s how intense it can get. Some people don’t understand why I feel this way, and some people do; the optimal thing I have realized from this is that not everyone needs to understand- if it makes me feel good and content, then I don’t need to prove it to anyone else.

Adventure part one: Seven Star Park & Starbucks

Sorry for the delayed blogs recently, I caught a head cold that killed me for a few days but I am back! Today I decided to explore more of Guilin’s natural beauty, which meant going to the seven star park and hiking up some mountains (my legs currently feel like noodles)

I started my journey today at 12pm with my friend Mollie who has been here for 2 years now. She is from France. She picked me up on her scooter and away we went. If you ever come to Guilin, China and plan to stay for a year or more, I highly recommend buying a scooter. Super convenient to explore Guilin and you don’t have to rely on others as much. Anyways, our first stop was the seven star park. The seven star park is a famous park to explore because it is the largest park in Guilin with beautiful scenery such as mountains and rivers and it’s free for students to get in (without a student ID it cost 70 RMB)

Of course, I happened to forgotten my ID, which meant I paid the 70 RMB (aka $12 USD). The park is beautiful! It reminded me of central park and bryant park mixed together. You had shops in some areas, food in other areas, and places to just sit and read if you wanted to. However be warned, there are wild monkeys that are very scary. If you get too close to them, they will hiss at you and show their fangs… I made sure to stay as far away as I could from them. We explored the inside of a cave with that was gorgeous with beautiful lights and sights ( perfect for tourists).

We hiked up a mountain that gave us an amazing 360 view of Guilin. (I learnt that I am beyond out of shape, I was dying the entire time, huffing and puffing!) It was so cool to see on one side farms while on the other side city buildings and the background was the famous Guilin mountains.

To finish our adventure, we stopped at a Starbucks (the perfect end to a perfect day) The starbucks even had a Western bathroom!! I was able to get a bagel with ham and cheese while my friend got a muffin and macaroon.


Cliffs, Water and Green all Around

During my first trip in Ireland, I went to many different places. I just had to sign up for it and it was on a first come first serve basis. We went to a beach that was in a cute little town. There was a surf club learning how to surf on the sand. It was big and quite beautiful. The houses in the town were small and pastel colored and I’ve always found those to be beautiful. We also went to the Barrens, which is a national park. There’s a bunch of cliffs overlooking the water. That’s a really fun place to just climb on rocks and take in the scenery. The big trip of the day was to the Cliffs of Moher. This is a very famous place to visit in Ireland, and it has the reputation of being beautiful. The cliffs are 702 feet at their highest point. While walking around, there’s some areas where you have to step over a jagged wall to get to the next part and while doing this, you’re between the wall and an electric fence. We went to the cliffs on a foggy day, so at first the fog essentially blanketed everything. But the fog did clear a bit, and the cliffs and water were in view and the scenery is breathtaking. There’s also flowers that grow by the cliffs and those make it even more pretty. There’s also a tower on the cliffs, and it’s foggy when you’re far away from it but as you walk closer to it the fog clears and that’s really cool to see. The cliffs overlook a bunch of different counties that you can see across from the cliffs. The cliffs are definitely worth going to, as they’re beautiful as well as very well-known. On the bus, we had a tour guide who was very informative and engaging. We drove past areas in the country where Gaelic is the primary language. This is really cool because people in Ireland now learn Gaelic in school, but it’s typically not spoken as a first language and many people in Ireland still don’t speak it very often or very well. These areas are in the deep country and the houses are surrounded by pastures as far as the eye can see. The houses are so isolated and it would seem you’d need a car to get everywhere because there is literally nothing but land surrounding you. That was a really fun day and definitely a great start to my Ireland adventures!

Traveling Anywhere and Everywhere

So far I have been in England a month and have gone to many places. I have been into Central London 7 times seeing a bunch of different tourist destinations and museums. I have been to Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, the National Gallery, took a tour of Buckingham Palace and took a tour of the famous Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I have seen the London Eye, Big Ben/Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Leister Square, and explored the South side of the River Thames. I have taken every chance I have to go into Central London. Central London is like New York City, but it is also completely different. Everyone is a tourist there so you don’t feel weird or feel like you are bothering anyone by stopping to take pictures. Everyone is very nice as well! I have had to asked directions or questions to the police or workers of the tube. If you ask nicely they will be nice to you. Also, travel where you want to go! It’s okay to go see things by yourself. I have seen many things by myself because my friends aren’t interested in seeing it or our schedules clash.
I have also gotten to go out of the UK once. This past weekend I went with a tour group to Ireland. It was a lot of fun! If there are tour groups that your school supports then I would highly suggest that you go! I saw so much more than I would have on my own. I saw small things that most people just pass by. I wish the trip was a little longer, but there is only so much you can do while classes are in session. I highly recommend traveling as much as possible because it is very cheap once you are in Europe to get to a different country.

The Mid Autumn Festival

Hello All! I hope you’re all having a nice and relaxing week because I know I am! This entire week was break because of the Mid Autumn Festival. Now, I could tell you in academic terms what that exactly is or I could cut to the chase and just describe it as a week where people go back to their villages and spend time with their loves ones while admiring the full moon and eating moon cakes.

This week has been a blur of food comas. I’m pretty confident that all the weight I lost (which was at least 10-15 pounds) has all been gained back (and then some haha). Seriously though, everyday, you’re supposed to enjoy your family and foreign friends by drinking and eating. My good friend Sean invited me and some other study abroad friends over to his house for a BBQ. It was very fun and we ate from sunrise to sunset (basically we ate A LOT). By the end of the night, we all had food babies, it was great! We got to meet his family (who couldn’t understand us), we saw his hometown (people starred at us left and right), and we even met his dog (we weren’t allow to touch it because it would bite us). However, what brought us all together was the beautiful scenery and the delicious food.

We also went downtown which was amazingly fun. Downtown guilin is also known as the city center ( I don’t know why it has two names but it does!) I have never seen an area so PACKED. It was very hard to move ( If I got lost, you’d probably never see me again. “Yes we’re looking for a Chinese girl with blonde tips, about 5’2, name is Beth… I can’t imagine getting lost there). Even getting onto the bus was a hassle. Warning: Do NOT underestimate old chinese women and men, they will push you to the ground and then walk on you like you were part of the ground.

This weekend, I was invited to two outting, one for tonight (Friday) and one for Saturday night. Can you guess what we’re going to do? If you said eat… then CONGRATS because you are correct! I am very excited, however, I don’t know if my stomach would agree. Oh well, I walk a lot in Guilin, it will be fine (digestion wise)

Classes Across the Pond

Classes here are different than SUNY New Paltz. The classes only meet once a week instead of twice like at New Paltz. The students also know each other since they are in the major that the class is a part of. The workload is also less assignment heavy. I only have one or two assignments for each class along with some readings. They do expect you to actually do the work, so you cannot just skate by without doing the readings. The readings are helpful to me since I need to keep my mind busy in order not to miss my family. I am excited to take the classes I am though. They seem very interested. I am only taking half of the class because they have classes that run the full year. It is nice since you do not need to feel so overwhelmed with the entire classes curriculum.

I was a bit overwhelming for me since it was something else I needed to get used to. It is slowly getting easier, but it was difficult at first. The teachers and students are very nice and friendly; it was just something else I needed to get used to. It is only week two of classes, but I am taking it week by week and slowly my time here will have gone by. Having schoolwork to do helps me not feel as homesick (as well as Netflix). Besides classes, I have been Skyping with my family as much as I can so they know what I have been up to with classes and traveling. It stinks that I have to experience all these cool things without my family, but I am making videos and sharing videos of my pictures with them.

Classes in Ireland

I am taking four classes for my psych major and one class just for fun. I am taking psych of personality, psych of work, psych and everyday life, empirical psych 1 and Irish Traditional Music. The classes are taught by lecturers, not professors/ The lecturers use powerpoints and put them online, so in that sense they are similar to professors at New Paltz. Some lectures also require tutorials once a week, and they are taught by TAs or matriculated students. Classes are also called modules. The classes are generally pretty similar to the classes at New Paltz. They’re basically typical college classes. However, one big difference  actually deals with the registration process. As an international student, I was allowed two weeks to try numerous classes. You don’t meet your advisor right off the bat. You make up your schedule on your own and you have to do it manually, unlike at New Paltz where it’s done online and your schedule is essentially generated for you. Another main difference is the classes seem to be less personal. I have only one class where the professor knows my name. The coolest class is Irish Traditional Music. That module has two lectures a week and then one hour of learning Irish dance. It’s really fun. It’s a very unique class and I’m glad I had the opportunity to take it. There is going to be a performance at the end of the semester. I am looking forward to it. I think it will be really fun. Irish dance is very unique and it’s an integral part of Irish culture and this was such a rare opportunity to take this kind of class and I’m really glad I decided to do it. That class and Empirical Psych are my most hands-on classes. In empirical psych, we do research by conducting experiments. In a lot of my classes, there are concepts discussed that I remember learning about in my classes at New Paltz.

Ciao Milano!

I landed in Milan bright and early on a September morning. It was chilly and sunny, which is the perfect weather for me. It had blown my mind that just 8 hours before, I was in NYC, in my home, with my parents and my pets, all of whom I hold close to my heart. I was excited, yet super nervous to start this journey, especially without my parents, siblings or even best friend to hold my hand through it all- literally.

When I stepped off the plane and into the airport, everything felt normal. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary or different; people in the airport spoke English, and there were other Americans in close proximity considering we had just gotten off of a plane that departed from JFK- my main concern was getting from the airport to my apartment which was an hour away. I made it to a train called the ‘Malpensa Express’ which connects you from the airport to the central train station in Milan. My 5 foot 3, 135 pound self trucked my 80 pounds worth of bags and luggage across towns, transferring from the airport, to the Malpensa Express, to the metro. What an experience! I was so determined and focused on getting from one point to the next that I couldn’t even think about anything else.

However, when I got to my apartment, that is when reality set in. I am here. IN MILAN. WHERE I WILL BE LIVING FOR 3 MONTHS. Is this real life? I couldn’t believe it. I felt so overwhelmed with emotion, I couldn’t help but cry. I knew that these next couple of months would bring intense change for my life, and although I knew that it was necessary for this change to occur at this point in my life, I wasn’t exactly ready to step out of my comfort zone and accept that it was going to occur starting now.

Adjusting: Culture Shock is Real

I definitely experienced culture shock when I first arrived in England. It was not a walking town like New Paltz. I was in a dorm in the middle of a neighborhood where it’s a 15-minute walk to a town. I was mainly overwhelmed with having to take buses everywhere I went and having to buy food for every meal. I slowly got used to it, but it was difficult at first. I was very open with the friends I had made since I arrived, so I didn’t feel so lonely with everything. They were experiencing the same things I was. That was a great thing to do because I felt so much better after. What made me feel better was knowing that other people were feeling the same way I was.

I also let my family know how I was feeling. With the help of my family, I took it day-by-day and focused on the next big adventure—normally a trip into central London. In order to make myself feel better, I made countdowns to everything: my Ireland tri, when my aunt and cousin are coming, when my family is coming to see me and when I am leaving. Another big thing that my sister told me to do was to keep my mind busy. I made sure to keep myself busy that way I didn’t get homesick as easily. I had to get UK Netflix in order to stay busy, but it gives me something to do at night. I also started hanging out with my flat mates more, which helped a lot.

I do not feel as overwhelmed or homesick anymore since I have been keeping myself busy, but I know I will always miss my family. I will see them soon enough, though. Plus, there is always Skype and FaceTime. I chose to study abroad because it was a dream I had since I was in high school. Now that I am finally here, I am going to make the most of it since I am only here for a short time. It makes me feel better knowing I am here for only a short time because it means I will see my family in a few short weeks. I just need to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone because I know I will love the experience after it is done.