Back Home!

I have been home for a week and it has been alright. It was nice to see some friends and family that I haven’t seen in a while. I have learned many things and have grown while abroad. There are definitely things that I take for grateful at home, but lived without while abroad. One thing was having a phone that had data to use and unlimited texts or calling. It wasn’t a big deal for me since there was a good amount of Wi-Fi throughout Europe which I used while abroad and I had some pre-paid value on my phone to text or call people when needed. While I was abroad I didn’t lose anything except for maybe a winter hat which is pretty good for me since my track record is not the best. Though yesterday I lost my iPhone which had like all of my photos on it. I thought all of them were backed up on my mother’s I Cloud account, on her I Pad, but there are only photos from after October 29th of this past year. Some from before October 15th are saved somewhere online. As you can tell, I am not the best with technology. Though I did try to update photos to my computer a couple of days ago on my computer but there was a problem with uploading them. Sorry for delay but once I get technology and my photos sorted out I will post some on my blog.
On the bright side, some of my friends say I talk in a British accent now. This usually happens when I go to a new place for a while. A couple of years ago I spent two weeks in Colorado and I came back talking like people I met from for the rock mountain and west coast areas. Though with my British accent I find it interesting because compared to other British people they knew I was American right away from my accent. Also, after coming home I have to be honest that some things with the American system bother me. For example, in England and other places in Europe tipping the waiter or waitress in a restaurant is optional. One reason for this is because they actually pay people working in restaurants minimum wage or more. In America, tipping is expected and I kind of wish we had a system like in Europe. Another example is that in England many of the banks and ATMS had free cash withdrawal so it wouldn’t be necessary to go to your own bank and take out money. I know that in America this is a way for banks to make money but if we decide to have free ATMS, like there were in England, it will be convenient for more people. Overall, there are pros and cons to every country’s system which I must accept. I like America but I would definitely want to go back to England and other countries in Europe one day!

Art Overload in the Most Positive Way

The past 2 days have been incredible. We have done so much on this trip so far that it has become so easy to forget and confuse what we did yesterday, and the day before that, and so on. Every day brings so many new adventures.

In the last 48 hours I have walked thousands of steps, seen priceless art, ate delicious new foods, heard so many languages, but above all I have learned so much and enjoyed every minute of it.

Some things we did and highlights include: The Museum of London- Sherlock Holmes Exhibit, the 2012 Olympic Torches/ Tate Modern- Dali, Polke, Ernst, Picasso, Conflict Time Photography, Louise Bourgeois, Nam June Paik, Richard Tuttle, Man Ray, Annette Messager/ Burrough Market- Fried quail eggs (YUMMY!)10922825_942751052403482_2963661573454456159_n(Photo courtesy of my roommate), Walk across the Millenium Bridge- the sun finally came out/London Street Art and Graffiti Tour- Banksy, Pure Evil, Swoon, Space Invader, Citizen Kane, ROA, Paul Don Smith, and so many more….

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There is so much to see and each morning I wake up even more excited than the last.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night

I was spellbound. I walked out of the theatre tonight still walking as though I were on a grid. On graph paper. As though every step took me into a little boy’s mind, deeper and deeper until I was thinking like him. Speaking like him. I was stuck because I was so caught up in the character and the beautiful work of this play.

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The play is about a boy named Christopher who finds his neighbor’s dog, Wellington, dead, stabbed to death with a gardening fork. So he decides he must go on a detective mission to find out who murdered his friend, Wellington. He doesn’t really understand humans, just animals. When Christopher finds out that his father is the one who killed Wellington, his entire life changes and he must go on an adventure to London to find his mother.

This story is about an autistic boy named Christopher who takes on the world by himself and empowers himself. But it’s also a story of how difficult it is to live in this world when one has autism… For me (who has worked a lot with autistic students and friends) I felt this play really portrayed Autism beautifully. It was never brought up much or referenced hard handedly. It was rather beautifully and subtly brought to light without anyone saying he had any form of autism.

[WARNING!!! From this point on, there will be a lot of spoilers. So take this as your SPOILER ALERT!]

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These are a few images of the stage the actors worked on. The stage lit up in small circles, numbers, blasts of strobe lights in every color, and the walls opened up to reveal doors and windows, secret cubbies that hid some of Christopher’s prized possessions.

The marriage of people as props/set and technology as props/set left me awestruck and amazed. The incredibly deep stage gave the actors so much room to create smaller scenes in various places: bedroom, kitchen, London, flat, down the street, in the park, classroom, neighbor’s houses, the tube, a train station. And the floor pattern that they used often: the repetition of a grid. They walked along specific lines at 90 degree angles, like robots. It helped bring something to life for someone with autism. How life should be logical, straightforward, and simple.

Even though there was this amazing technology (as seen in the pictures above), the glory of the story was that the physicality of the actors created the set as well. They became Christopher’s house, doors. Door matts. Coat closets. Pet rats. They moved perfectly in time to create neighbor’s houses in just the nick of time or to help Christopher “become an astronaut.” The best part of the play for me was when Christopher was describing his desire to become an astronaut and so they illustrated what it would be like for him to be in a space craft. He jumped into the air and was caught by the other actors, moving as though he were in a zero gravity space craft. They moved beneath him, holding him in the air, flipping him, helping him careen off the sides of the craft. It was magical to watch.

I nearly cried when the model trains came to life. When the train began to move and the London Eye rose from the stage, the houses sparkled and the trees shimmered with fairy lights. I couldn’t help it. My eyes teared up and it was one of the most magical moments of the show.

A spellbinding show that will keep you on the edge of your seat, make you cry, give you anxiety, make you life, make you feel, make you feel more human than you have in a very long time. If you have the time, the money, and the emotional energy, I highly suggest getting yourself to Broadway (or the West End!) and seeing the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

 

One word: Awesome.

Hello again!

So we arrived safely in London. The flight was fantastic! Thank you Virgin Atlantic for my first souvenirs (an eye mask for sleeping, pillow and blanket, a pair of Virgin Atlantic socks – with wings :)-, ear plugs, a pen). Thank you also for not only dinner, but breakfast too. I sat next to some wonderful people (Row 60, you know who you are) who I had so much fun chatting and laughing with. I slept not only once but twice with the help of my new eye mask. I arrived so rested and excited. After we left the airport we took a really beautiful bus to our flats, but couldn’t check in yet so we dropped off our luggage. A new friend and I headed over to the British Museum, which is so conveniently located a block away from our flats! Talk about prime location.

So literally there we were, fresh off the plane, not even 3 hours in London, viewing Cleopatra’s mummy, and completely immersed in a sea of priceless objects, knowledge, and wonder that is the British Museum. Awesome.

The rest of the day we bought phones, went to a Fuller’s pub for some delicious soup and warm atmosphere, and settled into our flats. There are 8 girls in our flat, 2 triples and 1 double. My roommates are wonderful people. Our flat consists of 2 art students and 6 theatre students, and everyone is so friendly.

And our flat is SPECTACULAR! It’s like a mansion! 2 floors, an outside patio all to ourselves, a stocked kitchen, a large dining room, a huge common room with pretty purple couches and tv, 3 bathrooms, hardwood floors, high ceilings… the works. Again, awesome.

Yesterday was quite a busy day… We went to the London Eye, walked over Westminster Bridge, passed Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, down to Tate Britain. We had tickets for Late Turner and the Turner Prize. The Late Turner exhibit was fantastic. However, the Turner Prize was a bit disappointing. I enjoyed a couple artists especially Ciara Philips ( a printmaker like me) who had a huge installation of large screen prints in bright, beautiful colors that were pasted on all of the walls in the room. It was really beautiful. What was disappointing about the Turner Prize was the overload of video and slide projector installations.

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It literally put me to sleep. I had to leave the last exhibition because I was seriously asleep. Oops. I woke up in time and left before someone caught me napping. Not a good look for me.

Today we had a scavenger hunt in the British Museum. SO MUCH FUN! I paired up with my roommate and we rocked it. It was so exciting and it was a great way to see a little bit of everything while also getting your exercise in. We walked all over that museum and saw so many things such as:

The Rosetta Stone—whatt!? that’s right. It’s definitely there…. Parthenon frieze sculptors, Aztec turquoise mosaic ritual masks, Assyrian winged bulls and lionfights, an Easter Island statue, samurai armour, more mummies!!! Goya’s “Ya Tienen Asiento,” other famous prints, antique clocks and old inventions, money from all over the world and all decades, an incredible amount of jewelry, pots, tools… I could go on…..

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This trip so far has been incredible, inspiring, educational, exciting, thrilling…. just so awesome.

“This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.”

Wow. I arrived in London two days ago and it is amazing. It’s big and bustling, but definitely not the same kind of bustling as NYC. No, this is not nearly as efficient or orderly. But has its own intricate ways of functioning and moving around the countless tourists. I started my journey by trying to find Regent’s Park: I wanted a quiet place to sit and write in my journal. Coincidentally, I found Baker Street, too! 221b Baker Street, home of the illustrious and intelligent Sherlock Holmes. It was a bit like a fantasy, walking down the street and imagining him in his adventures throughout London.

After that, I finally managed to have my relaxing morning in Regent’s Park, writing in my journal and enjoying the beautiful view. Afterwards, I just decided to make a sandwich for lunch and walk around the city. Familiarize myself with the landscape. Acclimate and enjoy the new country I had landed in.

I ended up discovering how close the British Museum was to me. And how big it was! So many interesting artifacts to find, so many stories that I didn’t know existed, so much time in such a small building (in retrospect), so many universes available to explore!

It was definitely an eye-opening experience that completely exhausted me. I was there from the time it opened until it closed. So after a quick jaunt back to my room, I promptly wrote in my journal about my adventures in the Museum and settled in for the night.

Already, from this small amount of space I have traversed in London, I am thrilled and excited to begin my adventure here. The accents are wide and varying. The people are warm and genuine. The languages and speech patterns are new and tantalizing.

What more can I find out there? How many kilometers can I traverse in my short two weeks? How many galaxies will I encounter?

Here are some pictures from my travels.

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PS. I am the biggest lover of William Shakespeare (the greatest writer to ever live). As these blog posts come about, you may notice my love for him seep through the cracks. For example…

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3 Days to Go!

Hello everyone!

3 days to go before departure to London for the 2 week London Art Seminar! Now this post might sound a bit unfortunate in the beginning, but trust me it’ll get more lighthearted and positive.

I’d be lying if I said I already started packing. Yesterday, I planned on devoting the whole day to packing and preparing. However, I woke up very sick, so I scheduled an appointment with the doctor right after I mustered the strength to get out of bed. I spent the majority of the day resting and ‘souping it up’ before my appointment. But waking up sick wasn’t the only unfortunate thing that happened yesterday. I accidentally slipped on a floor rug at the bottom of the stairs, and instantly there was excrutiating pain. I couldn’t help but think– this would happen just 4 days before a huge trip.

My doctor appointment for a terrible “cold” turned into much more. My mother had to drive me to the medical building and find me a wheelchair to roll me around. I glamourosly was wearing my pj’s and my mom’s spunky leopard print slippers 2 sizes too small for me, while my mom struggled to navigate me from room to room. The little old man doctor, who I had never seen before, gave me some antiobiotics and a referral for an X-ray. Luckily DRA Imaging was located conveniently downstairs, and magically they had time to take me.

So there we are sitting in the waiting room, and I can’t help but worry and ask myself… “Is it broken, fractured, or sprained? If I go, will I be able to keep up? Will I have to cancel?” And then of course in my head I had to find answers to my questions, “No! Preposterous thought, Victoria. You are getting on that plane. Maybe with a cane… a cool cane… maybe it’ll be a gold cane. How bout a sweet zebra cane? I could rock a cane. ”

Well, got the X-ray results this morning- My foot is fine!!! No breaks, no fractures, nothing!!! I am so excited and relieved. No cane for this girl. That imaginary zebra cane will just have to wait.  A few days rest and taking it easy, and hopefully my foot will be good as new. As for my sickness, I’m already feeling better. I’ve recruited my lovely boyfriend to help me pack, and I’m starting to get things together and organized for the trip.

That all being confessed, I am so excited about the upcoming 2 weeks. I was in London when I was 14, but only for a couple days. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to spend an extended period of time there and be old enough to truly appreciate what I see. I don’t know anyone who is coming on the trip, so I am also very excited to get to know people. My professor is an awesome teacher. I had her as a professor in an undergrad design course back in the day, so I know she’s great.

Things I am looking forward to- Tate Modern!!!  Street Art/Graffiti Tour, seeing Othello, our museum scavenger hunt (whatever that entails, I don’t know, but I’m pumped), and possibly a day trip to Stonehenge (I think YES)!

More to come!!! Thanks for reading 🙂

Is this an “exchange?”

When I applied for this program, this was the first question that came to my mind. And of course, there were more that followed quickly after. “What makes an exchange? Am I being an exchange snob? How can I possibly prepare for this 2 week exchange?” To elaborate, in 2011-2012, I was a Rotary Exchange Student to Wroclaw, Poland. I lived with three different host families over the course of a year straight out of high school and went to a normal Polish school in the city.

So the question that became the most important to me was this: what makes an exchange? Is it the duration? The country? The people? Where I stay? Where I go? What I do? How much food I eat? How much weight I gain?

Can an exchange really be defined?

I’m working on living in the question right now, so I don’t think I have the right answer for these questions quite yet. But I think I will work on exploring and asking myself these questions as time goes on in England.

My travel agent was kind enough to make special accommodations for me. So before all of my fellow classmates from SUNY New Paltz have ventured across the great azure ocean, I have come almost a week early to visit my beloved host country and my beautiful host family. After 6 hours in a car to get to JFK and 15 hours by plane, I have arrived in Wroclaw, Poland to live with and visit my host family! I’ve already been here for two days and every moment has been wonderful. My host mamusza (mama) has made so many delicious foods and all of my favorites have been readily available to me in the sklep (shop).

Here I am literally an hour after I got off the plane with my host family (all of whom are sporting their new New Paltz Hawks shirts!):

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(From right to left): Tato (Arek), Wiki, me, Mamusza (Anna), Basia, and Krzysz.

My host sisters and I went shopping at one of the many malls in the city, which was not unusual. Wiki and Basia love to shop. After we came home for a traditional Polish dinner (soup followed by PIEROGIES!!). And then was the walk through the Rynek. Oh, how I love this place. It is so beautiful and old, with such history in every step. Rynek is Polish for Town Square. It is always a wonder to me that something as simple as town square can sound as elegant or exotic as RYNEK.

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My beloved host family has already given me a lot of tips and suggestions for being in London, which I am grateful for. I look forward to the adventures that lie ahead of me on my journey to England and hope with all my heart to grow and become a better person.

Only One Week More :(

I don’t really have a long yearning to go home, but it will be nice to see friends and family back at home. I write this on Boxing Day, otherwise as we know the day after Christmas, on my way to Paris with my family. We are taking the Eurostar which is a very fast train from London to Paris. We will stay in Paris until New Year’s Day and then head back to the United States.

Before Christmas I was in Amsterdam for a couple days and I had a very good time. The buildings and the canals are two of the most beautiful things in the city. I spent a lot of time walking around the city’s canal streets and in parks. They had these very good waffle cookies and a lot of cheese. I flew to Amsterdam but it took an overnight bus back to London since plane fare was too expensive. I spent part of the day with my family in London, who were staying at my uncle’s house and then head back up to Huddersfield that afternoon to get my stuff. A day later my friend from Vietnam and I went back down to London on the train. I spent Christmas with my family and was able to explore more of the city of London.

As many people have described, I am a traveler. I like going on new adventures and not staying put in the same place. I think it would be cool to work in another country. I would like to teach English in another country. I would be interested in working in Eastern Europe or somewhere in Asia. I enjoyed every place that I traveled to, though Krakow, Poland and Amsterdam were two of my favorites.

Overall I had a very good experience studying abroad and I am very grateful for it. Personally, I think the best perks of studying abroad in Huddersfield would be having the opportunity to travel within England and around Europe. One can do this pretty easily and for a reasonable price. Also I was able to meet many new people from around the world and hopefully I can visit them one day. To my fellow New Paltz students I would strongly suggest that you consider studying abroad. It is an unforgettable experience that you will definitely learn and grow from.

Only a little more than a month left :( but making the most of it!

I can’t believe that time has gone by so fast and my semester abroad is coming to an end in a little over a month. People were right when they say that time goes by even faster when you are abroad. This is why I believe that one should live in the moment and take advantage of what is around them. Personally, I love to explore new places and studying abroad in Europe has given me the chance to do this since it is not that far to travel to different places in Great Britain and other countries by train, plane or bus.
By the way Happy Thanksgiving to my mates back at New Paltz. Mates is the British way of saying friends. As many people in America enjoy their Turkey’s I will be traveling to Krakow, Poland. Why Poland? There are a couple reasons. One is that I know someone there who I will see on Saturday, it was reasonable to get their on ryan air, and the currency rate is good for the American dollar about 3.3 something pln to one American dollar.
Last Monday I registered for the classes I am going to take at SUNY New Paltz in the spring. For the first time I got all of the classes I wanted. I am graduating this spring and I wasn’t using the SUNY New Paltz mail server are probably the two reasons why.
About two weeks ago when I was in London something happened to my friend which was a wake up call for me. I met my friend at st pancreas train station in London since he arrived a day later than me. I met him and them we went to go wait online to take a picture with the Harry Potter 9 and 3/4 sign and carriage. Right after I realized he was frantically searching through his backpack. He was looking for his wallet which he said he left in the front pocket of his backpack. “He said why did I do that?” I always leave it in my front pants pocket. He couldn’t find it so we spent like an hour searching both stations which we had been to and all the lost and founds. It was not there so we had to get wifi so he could find the number to cancel his credit and debit cards. We went to McDonalds to get wifi and fortunately my phone had some international data to call the states. The only form of id that my friend had on him was his passport and thank god that was not stolen. I lent my friend money and he was still able to go to the Harry Potter exhibit he pre booked. If you haven’t assumed my friend is a big Harry Potter fan. I didn’t go with him to the exhibit because it was expensive and I’m spending my money on a lot of other traveling.
The lesson I learned from my friend ‘s experience of getting his wallet stolen was to be extremely careful with your valuables including my wallet, passport and electronics. Keep them in in front of you or in a pocket inside of your coat. Getting important things stolen is not good and is a big hassle.

life :)

Hello all! Greetings from the train ride down to Cambridge, England. I have to make 2 changes to get to Cambridge on the train, and right now I’m on the second train from Wakefield- Westgate to Stevenage. From Stevenage I will catch my final train to Cambridge. I am spending one night in Cambridge at a hostel there. My plans in Cambridge are to walk around the town and the university, go this meditative yoga talk and maybe rent a bike. Tomorrow afternoon I am taking a bus down to London to visit my family that lives there for the weekend. One of my flat mates is going to meet me there on Saturday.
Besides from traveling which I am doing a lot of I have done involved in /gone to exciting things in Huddersfield and in the nearby areas. I am part of the climbing and mountaineering society. We go climbing every Wednesday at the rock wall in the neighboring town called ROKT. I really like ROCKT it is a very big place with a lot of different rooms for bouldering (climbing not as high and not harnessed in) and really solos for top roping (where you are harnessed in). Next weekend we are going on a weekend trip to go climbing, walking and eat a lot of cheese (everybody brings cheese, grapes or bread and we have a big food fest). I have met a lot of nice people from the climbing and mountaineering society. Last Friday, I went over one of my friend from the society’s house, Varsha, who lives about 30 minutes from Huddersfield. She made me a traditional vegetarian dinner that a lot of people in Yorkshire usually have on Sunday. Also one of the guys from the club took me outdoor climbing in the Peak district.
One thing about Huddersfield, that I didn’t know before I came, is that my religion is a very big minority. I am Jewish and there is one other girl that I know who is also from SUNY New Paltz that is. We have a faith centre on campus, which I usually spend time at between classes because they have free tea/coffee and it’s a good place to do work. There is no Jewish organization on the Huddersfield campus. I have been to the Chabad at Leeds Univeristy which is a 20 minute train ride from Huddersfield and Manchester University which is about a 45 minute trip. My friend Varsha, from climbing society, is very interested in Jewish culture and last Friday night I took her to Shabbat dinner in Leeds. She really liked and wants to go there again.
In addition, I am involved with an organization called Active Travel. This is an organization in the UK that promotes physical fitness when traveling to school or work. They have free bike rentals and you just have to put down a deposit. I got a bike from this organization to use. Unfortunately right now I don’t have the bike because the Huddersfield representative, Chris, who gave it to me needs it. Almost every Tuesday in the early evening I meet Chris and we go on a ride to map out routes to the surrounding villages of the Huddersfield city Centre. Last Wednesday, I helped Chris with a program at the local college, for 16/17year old ESL students, where we took the students on a short ride along the canal and showed one girl how to ride a bike.