Day One

1/5/10

What a long, exhausting day. We arrived at Heathrow airport at around 10:00 a.m., GMT. After a brief tour of London by bus, with our really rough-and-tumble bus driver, Owen, we arrived at Baker’s Row, our lovely London flat. After unpacking, we went for a jaunty walk to exchange currencies and see the town. London is beautiful in every sense of the word; its old-world feel, winding roads, and extremely courteous citizens enamor me already. We walked over to the British Museum to check out our “classroom” building, and had dinner at the Museum Tavern. Andrea has appointed me “student leader” for day one; meaning that I have the honor of rousing the troops and making sure we all arrive at the classroom early. I’m a little nervous, because I know some fellow students will be late risers. Still, I will uphold my duty to the best of my ability. Well, it’s 1:15 and we have to be up and out by 8:30. Goodnight, London.

Jet Lag

1/5/10 -12:55 a.m. (Eastern Time)

Jet lag. I can already feel its drowsy tendrils enveloping my still-waking body. It is hardly a “late night” for any college student, yet it is approximately 5:55 a.m. in wintry London. I am excited about every single thing London has to offer, and I can almost guarantee my first day will be spent on my feet, trolling the streets of London proper, and not softly dozing in bed. Two weeks hardly seems like enough time, yet hopefully all that there is to be seen will be. Well, I am off to take a brief nap before our cheery British flight attendants wake us for our morning tea. Til then, I will be following the second star straight on til morning.

Packing

Let us begin the beguine! As with all beginnings, introductions are in order. My name is Patrick Kiernan, and I am a theatre arts major at SUNY New Paltz. As such, I love theatre and performance in every form that it could possibly come in. I am a sophomore, member of the New Paltz Players, Paper Rain Laboratory Theatre, and most recently Alphi Psi Omega, the national theatre honor society. That seems to be quite enough introductions, so now to the marvelous and fantastic trip to London, which I am eagerly awaiting. As of now my suitcase stands half-opened in my room, things tossed semi-carelessly inside. Even as I write this, I am dreading zero hour: “Packing Time”. It is probably the lazy person in me speaking, but I’m confident I’ll drag myself into getting it done. Speaking of dragging myself to getting it done, I should probably do that now. Til next time. Here goes nothing!

untitled post.

Greetings! For those of you who have been following my adventures thus far on my other blog, welcome back! For those of you just tuning in, who’ve missed out on my first few posts, you can catch up here.

So hello everyone! As you read last time, this past Friday was the Riverboat Disco on the River Thames. It was great!! I didn’t get outside to see the sights as much, a) because it was freezing outside, and b) I was having too much fun inside! But here’s a shot of the bridge I was able to get when I got on the boat:

Tower Bridge at night

The night was chock full of a lot of dancing, and a LOT of singing – no, screaming. And so by the end of the night I was losing my voice, but Saturday morning I woke up with absolutely NO VOICE. I haven’t had that happen in so long! I guess with all the screaming-singing and the fact that I already had a little cough going on, my voice box just gave up for a while. I still only have a partial voice, but it’s better than complete silence. Saturday morning (afternoon, really), I woke up and treated myself to a full English breakfast at Cafe Roma next to the Oakwood tube station. To anyone reading this studying in Middlesex: DO THIS. It was amazing!!!! Egg, bacon, sausage, beans, toast, and tea. All for £4. (Okay, so I obviously can’t have it every day because I don’t really feel like having a heart attack, but it was certainly worth it at least that one time.) The woman working there is so nice; she realized (since it was quite obvious) that I lost my voice, so she gave me tea and told me how to get my voice back (gargle warm water with salt; already knew about that but it was nice that she offered). While I was waiting for/eating my breakfast, I decided to be worldly and pick up a London newspaper. Just from reading that one newspaper for 20 minutes, I could tell you two words you do NOT say to anyone from the UK: Tony. Blaire. Wow, so people really hate him here. I also read an article that said Osama bin Laden made a statement saying he thinks we should do away with the US dollar because it’s basically evil. Not sure how he plans to erase an entire currency, but suuuuure. Oh, sama……..

SO ANYWAY. After that, I was pretty much a bum on Saturday. Yesterday, I went to Camden Market with Claire. It. Was. Amazing. It was basically a ginormous street fair, tons of little tents and such with all sorts of different things, depending on where you were. I guess we mostly stayed in Camden Lock, which was a lot of clothes and also just about every single kind of food imaginable. Claire and I had falafel, which was amazing. Then we walked over to this stand of giant brownies for only £2. Claire got a chocolate brownie and I got this banana spice fudge thing. There was no fudge. But it was still delicious, just very messy.

Some of the shops along Camden

Beautiful view of Camden and all its tents!

Motorcycle seats!

More tents!

View from the (impossibletofind) bridge

Camden Market on Sunday = CROWDED!

After Camden, we were supposed to meet up with people to go to the National Gallery, but it had gotten to be about 2 and we hadn’t heard from them, so we were going to go back. It was cold and we were slightly tired. But Claire made the point that we both purchased £7.50 all-day passes; we might as well make use of them. So we hopped on the Tube headed for Covent Garden. (The picture at the start of this entry is a shot of Covent Garden.) And I bought this really cute change purse with London-related things on them (well, really it just has a pendant of the British flag and it says ‘LONDON’ on it. And it’s red and blue and white). Anywho, I needed a change purse, so it was a good investment.

Human statue in Covent Garden

Another one!

Anyway, after an hour or so in Covent Garden – and after we kept missing our friends by minutes – Claire and I headed back. Found out later that Joey, Josh, and Melissa (the ones we were trying to meet up with) accidentally stumbled onto the UK premiere of Invictus and got to see Matt Damon, Clint Eastwood, and Morgan Freeman IN THE FLESH!! Very, very jealous.

Today has been really productive actually. I got up early, did laundry and went food shopping with Laura. Spent over my normal budget for food shopping, but I honestly know I won’t need to go shopping for a WHILE. I feel like I’m getting used to making all my meals every day, that I can actually start making real food instead of microwavable things. Funny story: I spent about 5 minutes in the cheese department looking for American cheese until I realized they probably won’t have it. Or, as my mom pointed out earlier, it might be called something else. Oh, Liz….

So I guess I should go make myself some dinner, what with all of this newly purchased food! I’ll keep everyone posted!

xx

Why Wales? Entry #1

(Sidenote: This blog is dedicated to my good friend Liz Conti who studied abroad in London last year, thus opening my eyes to the many possibilities yet to come)

Why Wales?

From the point that I decided to study abroad in Wales, to after arrival in my host country… everyone has been asking me, “Why Wales?”.
The first time I was asked this, I was sitting in the New Paltz sub, having lunch with some friends. We were discussing the usual; fun things to do, memories, and big events to come in the future. It was then that we started discussing how excited I was to be studying abroad in Cardiff, Wales.

It was then that a friend of a friend asked me the dreaded question…”Why Wales?”

Quickly, I sought out an answer to her question. The only response I could think of was “Why not Wales?”
She accepted that response, and the conversation went on.

It was then that I realized that I have no answer to either of those questions… and that’s okay.
That is what I was (and am) most excited about. Wales is an area I barely heard of before the study abroad team at New Paltz suggested it to me.

Throughout this blog, I will be figuring out ‘why wales?’ and also ‘why not wales?’.

As opposed to places like London and Paris, traveling to Wales is a mystery. I can expect some things from the research I have done, but my mind is not filled with any preconceptions about Wales and the Welsh culture. Each day will be a learning experience, and I should end my journey knowing of a place people often think is an animal, with a language people often mistake as Wale-ish.

Let the journey begin!!

 

Adew Dundee

I find myself at home among my family and friends; sitting in a room that had been left relatively unchanged since I closed the door back in September. My wall space is covered with high school plaques for outstanding achievement in foreign languages and math (which still baffles me) as well as an acceptance award for Phi Alpha Theta that takes pride and center among all others. But I lack a plaque (or a piece of parchment) for the greatest award of all. This trip changed me in more ways than one and have returned a changed person. Whereas traveling internationally was a (excuse my pun) foreign concept before; it has now become commonplace and not only do I now have the confidence required to get to the next level in life, but also new issues and problems to test me. If this trip was a course;  the true final exam was my flight home. Physically, mentally and emotionally, it tested the skills I acquired throughout the semester and from start to finish was a memorable experience on its own.

The morning of the 20th proved to be a typical gray December day. I awoke from a long night of packing on the Dundee Law for what would be the final time. My room was as barren as when I had first walked in during Fresher’s Week which seemed almost like an eternity. Like traveling through space; time becomes relative when you’re living abroad. What occured between our moving in to our final days all blended in together in a giant mesh of a great “happening”. We not only went to class, we went to other countries; we made friends from towns and  countries we had heard of and many more from places less familiar. We went to The Union Monday through Sunday and made sure to have the best times of our lives every time and to centuries old castles and museums that stored the cultural identity of a people we had lived with and among. But all of that was at an end and; slowly but surely, we filed off like rugby players who had just played the last game of the season. Our Scottish flatmate Lauren was the first to leave. It was hard saying goodbye to the person who had turned from a name on an envelope to our closest friend and the one we went to to explain all the peculiarities of another culture we barely understood. It was hard to see her leave, to all of us (especially Julie and I), we knew we would’nt see her next semester and she us. “Keep me updated on EVERYTHING!” she said giving both of us a good-bye hug. You couldn’t tell at that time but we were all fighting back tears; “You better visit us” we yelled before she walked out the front door to which she replied “Don’t worry I will”; I’m still holding her to that promise.  Two days before I had dropped Julie off at the train station in Edinburgh where she would take the bus to the airport and her flight home. I refused to watch the bus pull away and pretended to trick myself into thinking it was just like any other day; but it wasn’t the same; I knew she wasn’t coming back to the flat. “This isn’t a ‘good-bye’, it’s an ‘until we meet again.’ ” she said to me before getting on the bus; I’d like to keep that as my final memory of our time together over there. When I got back later that day, Andy and Ashley wanted to go into town one last time to do some Christmas shopping; which was when it started to snow. “Unbelievable!” Ashley exclaimed as the three of us walked through the blanket of white slushy snow that covered every inch of ground. It was a strange feeling seeing snow in “The Sunniest City in Scotland”, especially after hearing of it snowing at home as early as October. It was on our walk back that Andy parted ways with us as he had a 930 pm flight out of Glasgow that evening. Out of the entire group of study abroad misfits I had befriended, Andy was the one whom I had known the longest. We first met him in the terminal at JFK back in September and his upbeat attitude and offbeat sense of humor helped me overcome my pre-flight jitters he was always a welcome part of all of our trips and parties. Now he was saying good-bye to us on a cold snowy day. It was a brief farewell but I think when you already have accepted the inevitable and know you will come across each other in the same country once more; a handshake and well wishes for a safe return is as good of a farewell as any. Ashley and Jon left the next morning; hoping to catch their early morning flights before the snow got worse. The night before, we bid them and emotional farewell. We were all upset but Sydney was more so. By spring she would be the loan Study Abroad student out of the group left and my heart broke when she and Katie parted ways. For the entire trip the two of them had been as close as Irn-Bru and HP sauce even though they had never met before. Their friendship best exemplified the study abroad experience to me; here were two people (one from Canada the other from North Carolina) who became fast friends and by the end of our 4 month sojourn would have appeared to have known each other for a lifetime to the casual observer. That was how we were and for our flaws and faults we will always remain close for the rest of our lives; even though geography keeps us apart.

It was almost 10 in the morning when Sydney walked into the kitchen to say farewell. I knew this was it but it was dreamlike, surreal. After this I would be the last person in the flat, the last one to close the door, the custodian of the final key to our adventure. We hugged one last time and all I could think of was when we first met at the Welcome booth at Edinburgh airport our first day. She was shy and somewhat tired from a summer of travelling around the UK with her family. We were both excited when it was discovered we’d be flatmates. By now the shy girl I had met at the airport had become the person that would always look out for everyone’s interests and I had become the complete opposite of the person that pensively waited for our bus to Dundee that chilly September day. After giving her boyfriend a hearty handshake and a fatherly “Take good care of her”, they walked out the door and I was left alone. Five minutes after they left; I became acquainted with a new sound, silence. At first it was not so bad; after all I was used to having an early morning breakfast before my classes and would spend nights of seclusion in my room working feverishly on an essay or studying for an exam; but this was different. Then I had the security to know that there was always someone in the room next door, now there was no one else but me and my inner thoughts. After finishing my lukewarm omelet and getting dressed, I did some last minute house cleaning. It was then I looked out to the southern view of the Law and Dundee and I did something that I held back the entire week; I cried. This had become more than a trip, it had become a second home. I loved the people here, they were friendly and helpful. The friends I made understood me and my odd music tastes; and today I was leaving that all behind, it was official; the adventure was over.

Two large rolling suitcases, one backpack and one laptop bag equated to almost four months of my life. Feverishly I checked and re-checked every corner of my room for things I might have left behind, subconsciously prolonging my stay for a few more minutes. By the 15th time I was ready to be on my way. Unlike everyone else, I had to carry all my bags without assistance, and it turned a 15 minute walk to the train-station into a super-human effort. The elevator was my final farwell “Ground Floor, Doors Opening” said the pre-recorded voice as I made an awkward exit into the courtyard of Belmont Flats. The snow didn’t make things easier, the cold was biting and went straight through 3 layers of clothing like a knife through butter. There wasnt much ceremony when I dropped off my keys; although I remembered to keep the Tesco member’s fob as a cheap momento. Twenty-five long minutes later I was at the train-station waiting for the 4:30 to Edinburgh after walking through the slippery and gray streets of Dundee. The train ride proved uneventful and it was unfortunate that it was too dark to see; I would have loved to see the countryside one last time.  An hour later I was back in Edinburgh and saw that the winter festival was in full swing. Lights flickered in the dark as silohuettes of couples kissed in the dark and the cheerful screams of children echoed as they rode the whirligig and the two story slide; it was beautiful but my mind was on getting to the airbus on time. Next thing I knew I was at the airport getting on the shuttle bus that took me to the hotel.

“Are ya moovin house then?” the driver asked to which I retorted “No, I’m escaping”.  It certainly felt like it. The weather had taken a turn for the worse and my luggage wasn’t making things any easier. Thankfully the hotel (The Quality Inn at Edinburgh Airport) was a short 10 minute drive from the main entrance. My flight was leaving at 9am the next day which prompted me to book a hotel for the previous night. for $100.00 I had a king size bed, a hot shower and a complimentary shuttle to and from the airport; I highly recommend booking this place if anyone plans to study overseas; its worth the money. When I shuffled into my room I had enough time to collect myself and give the ‘rents a call home “Hi it’s me, I’m at the hotel, yeah, yeah, no I should be good for tomorrow, the snow is coming down hard now but will be passing soon, see you in a few hours.” That was surreal; “I’ll see you in a few hours”, last time I saw my parents was walking through the checkpoint at JFK and we had been seperated by an ocean and several timezones; yet in 24 hours we would be re-united. Maybe adjusting to home life will be harder than I first thought. I took in my last episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks; fixed myself a cup of tea and tried to rest myself for a full day of traveling.

“Airports are finding it hard to keep with the weather as more and more flights are delayed and canceled.” was my morning alarm as the TV blared at 5:30 am. To my horror news was spreading of delays at airports around the UK, Europe and the US. The snow that had been blanketing Europe for the past week left many stranded in airports at Charles de Gaulle and Heathrow. The other day news of  the Eurostar disaster was making headlines around the world. In order to get home I would require a flight from Edinburgh to Paris where I would switch flights for JFK. I prayed for the weather to hold off and made my way to the airport. It being four days to Christmas, holiday music was piping in through the PA system in the main airport lounge. everywhere were students and travelers awaiting their flight numbers to be called with an anticipation similar to that of people watching the “Mega-Millions” drawing. “What if it’s cancelled?”, “Where do I go?”, “Will I get home in time?” were all things running through my head as I hoped my flight would arrive on time. While waiting I struck up a conversation with an archaeology student at Edinburgh waiting for the same flight as me, but her accent was strange, “You shouldn’t worry too much, sounds like you don’t live far” I said; “Well I’m from Southampton (England) but live in Rhode Island” she responded. Not that I’m close minded or anything but I had always clearly defined an “American” based on accents and language, but by now that barrier had been smashed and I by this time had slowly seen myself as a British citizen despite my background and language. The magic sign then gave up its secrets “Gate 9” and I was off to the next stage.

After checking in my bags I wandered over to customer service to pay the excess baggage fee. There I met more students from the US and Canada flying with KLM. Unlike me they were going through Amsterdam to the US but they had the unfortunate luck of having all of their flights canceled on account of the weather. “What are we supposed to do?”, “Keep calling” was customer service’s only response. I felt sorry for them and at the same time fortunate that I was good to go with my flight. I had gotten texts the day before from Ashley saying her flight was delayed 8 hours and Jon’s was canceled; both flying out of Edinburgh, so you could consider the 20 min delay of my flight a blessing.

While I was waiting for my flight; I talked to a scottish woman who was sitting next to me in the gate. She had just gotten engaged to her boyfriend who was living in New Jersey and was on her way to see him. I asked if she planned on moving to the U.S. eventually and she responded with a similar enthusiasm I had when I thought about similar prospects in the UK. She loved New York City, and found America exciting and new. It was as if I was looking at myself from 4 months ago; excited about living in a new country and ready to be emersed in another culture.

As the plane taxied off the runway I tried to get a parting shot of Scotland; much to the discomfort of the old people who had the middle and window seats. They had no clue at all what I’ve been through, where I’ve been, what I’ve seen. Several seconds later we were taking off and I saw faces, cars and buildings become smaller until they were unrecognizable forms. 

We arrived in Paris a half hour off schedule; but I made the most of it by sneaking a peak at the Eiffel Tower from my window. Charles De Gaulle is one of the most confusing airports I had ever been in and is on par with JFK for being the most difficult to get around. Because we were late; our plane landed just outside the main terminal and a bus needed to come to pick us up. After that I had to find out where my gate was. the ticket said 72; but I was left walking around in circles; do the French enjoy confusing other people? Eventually I figured out that you have to take a monorail (yes a monorail) to the gate! Security didnt help make things easier either “parle’ vous Anglais?” was met with a stern “Non!” and the woman was asking me for something in French I had no clue what the word was. I pulled out my boarding pass in a fit of frustration and apparently that was what she needed. So much for 4 years of high school French!

The last leg of my journey went off without a hitch, although I have to say it was filled with its own peculiarities. Behind me sat a Brit with his two children on their way to visit family in New York and the habit of the Air France attendant giving the same speach in French, English and Spanish really hit home how big the world really is and how diverse the human race is.

My journey culminated with viewing the shining lights of New York City; the same ones I saw as we took off for Europe all those months ago. When we landed I was eager to jump off the plane and finally see my parents. Although I considered my time in the UK the best of my life; it felt good to walk through the US Citizen passport check at security and look at all the international arrivals across the hall “Where are you from?” said the security guard “Here, I mean New York” I said awkwardly; coming out of jetlag and travelling for a full 24 hours hadn’t helped my logic none “Where’ve you come from?”, “Dundee, Scotland”, “Study Abroad?”, “You bet”, “Welcome Back”. I waited expectantly for my bags and slowly got used to hearing american accents again. 15 minutes later I was good to go and walked through the meet and greet gate. At first I noticed the sea of people waiting to be reunited with their friends and family and then saw my mom race across the aisle and give me one of the tightest hugs I had ever recieved with my dad in hot pursuit. “Welcome home son” he said to me, “It’s good to be home pa, but you don’t know where I’ve been”.

Epilogue:

Our other friend Katie finally left for the US the day after me; and as far as I’m aware is safe with her family in North Carolina. Jen’s family came to visit her around the time I left and they celebrated a memorable Christmas in Scotland and Ireland. Laura was the last of us to leave; her Ukranian flatmate invited her to spend Christmas with her family and she finally came home around January 9 or 10. Julie, Andy, Ashley and Jon all arrived home in one piece; delayed or not. Sydney was still in London’s Heathrow for several days before she finally made it back to Vancouver. We all plan to reunite either over the summer or within the year.

Souvenirs and Memories

As my departure date increasingly looms over me, I finally realized the weight of what’s happened in my life since September. Coming to a foreign country for three months isn’t exactly something that many people do at one stage of their life, and my own reasons for coming here were more than to learn the customs of another culture. My friends have noticed a change in me lately, that I’m not as talkative or energetic in going out than I used to, when you’re trying to wrestle the joys of coming home to your friends and family but at the same time leaving behind those who supported you in a new environment for a semester; you can’t help but be a little introverted.

Each passing day we share our experiences of our first night in Dundee and those few harsh days in September slowly come back to life. As we do this we take stock of what we’ve learned, who we met and all the good times we shared. We were set to re-enact our first days of kindergarten when we arrived in Scotland; the excitement of going someplace new, not knowing where your class is, taking those first few awkward steps onto a strange bus. As time progressed we grew into our lives here more; going grocery shopping at Tesco, visiting the Union for drinks with friends, and planning trips to discover what the UK is all about. By this point I’ve become too engrained in Scottish culture and society. I shop for music at HMV with my membership card, know where some of the best pub food is, can estimate our time of arrival in Edinburgh by bus or train and use slang several times a day (chips and all). Although my heritage is not Scottish, I’ve learned enough to make my way here without anything getting to me. When life gets to you, you accept that there are flaws, but instead of wallowing in them, you persevere. I think that’s the Scottish attitude to life because if you can imagine the weather right now; it isn’t what you would consider “tropic”, yet I see people walking around in t-shirts when it’s 0 Celsius and are perfectly content. But understanding the mindset isn’t the only thing I’ve learned here.

The other day I was cleaning out my room in preparation for my departure home. On the desk buried underneath my graded assignments and matriculation information were several American dollar bills that I had brought over as emergency cash when I first arrived. It had been a while since I saw George Washington’s face on a crisp bill; as I was more used to Adam Smith and Robert the Bruce when handling money. I picked it up and held it for a while. It felt strange, coarse and stiff; not like the paper thin Pound Sterling I had been using all this time. I was feeling things I had never felt before; a strange disconnect from the United States and for some reason sensing that when I return, I will be a stranger in my own home.

My friends from back home talk to me with an increasing urgency, wishing me a safe flight back to the United States and inviting me to a night out in New Paltz or Albany. In my communication with them I sometimes slip into British colloquialisms like “flat”, “Chips”, “Taking the Piss”, etc. I don’t do this to flaunt my worldliness; it’s just something that’s happened as a result of interacting with people from the UK every single day. Just as easily as I’ve forgotten what my national currency looks like, so too have I adopted the words of another culture.

When I said I was bringing home “Souvenirs” I did not expect to bring home the Scottish mentality to life, but here I am with a few days to go feeling more attached to Scotland and its people more and more. I don’t really know what the future has in store for me when I return, but what I do know is that my experience here has shaped me into a new person. I’ve become someone who has seen the world from a different perspective and force to look at his own culture through another and as a result has become slightly distant from his nationality; save the New York accent. I’m going to miss my friends here and the nights we’ve spent going to pubs and visiting castles. I’m especially going to miss my UK and European friends who’ve welcomed me into their lives with open arms and were willing to show me how to live life day by day. As for now I’m off to do some house cleaning and throw out the clutter of a semester abroad, but I am making sure that my final days here are lived to their fullest.

Entry 13: Take Me Back Home

The past two weeks have been introverted and pensive at most. As strange as it sounds, the more acclimated I’ve become, the more ready I am of returning home. Not to say travelling abroad and living in the UK is boring (far from it), but eventually when the once “new and exciting” has turned into the routine and everyday, it’s time to move on to pastures new (or in this case old). I was reading theentryof another New Paltz abroad blogger in China last week who said he was missing home, and am finding myself in a similar situation. This was the first time my family celebrated Thanksgiving without me; and come the 16th of December I wont be around for my own birthday. I miss my friends as well and any opportunity I get of chatting with them on Skype or Facebook has become the highlight of my day.

On the topic of friends, it’s funny to see how the flat dynamic has changed since all of us have first met. In the beginning, we left most of our personality flaws at the door in lieu of trying to be as pleasant and un-offending to one another as possible. However, after living here for almost 3 months; the “new car smell” of new friends wears off after a while and you slowly revert into the comfort zone you’ve enjoyed back home. Although this shows  you’re secure in your surroundings, it comes at the price of shocking your flatmates and Scottish friends. Case in point, although I’m normally quiet and have been labeled “nice”, I do have a crude and cynical sense of humor which made everyone take a second look at me. Another habit of mine is eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (I know its disgusting but it can’t be helped, I dare you to try), which I’ve been accused of doing in front of people who are visiting, but I could care less. The most notable “change” in my personality has been my introversion. Since scoring badly on my last paper, solitary confinement with my work and books has become my new life; where before I would never pass up on an opportunity to go out or travel. My door that was once open for people to converse with me is now closed to distraction and like a virus it spread to the other people I’m rooming with. Then again with finals just around the corner, it’s a fairly common practice.

What tires me most is the work; or lack of it. The hurry up and wait attitude of deadlines and anticipating grades. Our classes are finished for the semester and we only have our finals left. I have two timed exams next week consisting of two essay questions for each that will count towards 50% of my total grade; needless to say I wont be leaving my room anytime soon. Just as my friends have found reason to question my eating habits and social skills, I’ve eventually started to question the education system in the UK.  On the one hand, Dundee is a great school with an excellent History curriculum whose instructors are very dedicated and show a true passion for the subject. However on the other, I’ve had a pretty rotten experience with one professor and the system of lectures and tutorials to me is redundant. At least in New Paltz, we have lectures that include time for taking questions and going over assignments; whereas in Dundee, it is clear you sit in silence throughout lectures and then wait for tutorial for questions to be raised and answered. Since many of the classes are taught by more than 1 professor, it is frustrating to get a straight answer (many of them argue amongst themselves in class) so I’m often left wondering what I should write and did they answer my question. There is certainly a distance here between instructor and student and if you need help but this is more of a personal flaw on the part of the instructor as opposed to the whole system. Depending on your instructor, they will either be very open to talk with you after class, and others will just bolt out the door after lecture or tutorial and ignore you completely. Recently a friend of mine from Scotland asked me about how the university system in the UK compared to the United States and if I preferred one over the other. My response was that in the U.S. you get alot of papers, homework assignments and pop quizzes, but the teachers are willing to give feedback and work with you to personally to improve your skills, and the constant work keeps you busy and motivated whereas in the UK, you’re left on your own to do most of the work yourself which does help in you developing thoughts and ideals independent of the professor. Personally I prefer the US method because of the above reasons; which is not to say I’m not opposed to the UK design, its just not the right one for me.

Hiking Lake Minnewaska near New Paltz

Hiking Lake Minnewaska near New Paltz

Living the glamorous life; doing laundry and not caring how bad I look!

Living the glamorous life; doing laundry and not caring how bad I look!

Entry 12: Loch Ness and The Isle of Skye

A trip into the heart of the highlands with the International Cafe’. A weekend of visiting historic castles, long hikes and whiskey in one of the most picturesque areas in Scotland

The Five Sisters mountain range as seen from Loch Duich

The Five Sisters mountain range as seen from Loch Duich

Cori and Fergus, the youth hostel dogs

Cori and Fergus, the youth hostel dogs

Eilean Donan Castle near the Isle of Skye. Known as "The most photographed castle in Scotland" it was made famouse in the "Highlander" television series where the opening sequences were shot

Eilean Donan Castle near the Isle of Skye. Known as "The most photographed castle in Scotland" it was made famouse in the "Highlander" television series where the opening sequences were shot

The Isle of Skye is known for its unique geographic features. It was almost like being on another planet

The Isle of Skye is known for its unique geographic features. It was almost like being on another planet

Colorful buildings near the water's edge; Portree, The Isle of Skye

Colorful buildings near the water's edge; Portree, The Isle of Skye

View of the harbor; Portree, Isle of Skye

View of the harbor; Portree, Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye is well known for its whisky; due to the clean natural spring waters. Talisker Whisky is probably the best known and is locally brewed; albeit expensive.

The Isle of Skye is well known for its whisky; due to the clean natural spring waters. Talisker Whisky is probably the best known and is locally brewed; albeit expensive.

Urqhart Castle on Loch Ness

Urqhart Castle on Loch Ness

Inverness, on the northernmost fringe of Loch Ness

Inverness, on the northernmost fringe of Loch Ness

A parade marches across the bridge at Inverness to commemorate fallen soldiers

A parade marches across the bridge at Inverness to commemorate fallen soldiers

Inverness Town Hall

Inverness Town Hall

Because of its isolated location, the Isle of Skye is one of the few places where the traditional Gaelic language is still spoken

Because of its isolated location, the Isle of Skye is one of the few places where the traditional Gaelic language is still spoken