Dear Former/Current Students Who Found My Blog Because They Creeped on the EIU Study Abroad Website:

20 Jan

First, congratulations on successfully finding my blog.  Lol, I had no idea you were all so interested in studying abroad.  Why else would you go through all the trouble, lol?

I hope you realize from reading all these entries that I was just as boring as a student as I now am as a teacher.  I actually had to keep a blog and have at least four entries in order to get a scholarship, which I used to study at Harlaxton College in the summer of 2011.

Setting that aside, I really would encourage all of you to consider studying abroad, if/when you go on to college.  It really is an eye-opening experience and it changed my life (that is not hyperbole).

I have been getting a lot of messages from students I taught saying that they miss me and had a positive experience having me as a teacher.  You cannot imagine how great that is to hear, especially if I taught you as a student teacher.  Also, I miss you all very much too (yes, all of you).

In case you are wondering what I am doing now: I got my first teaching job, so I am really excited to meet a whole new group of students to teach and learn from.

I hope all of you are doing well ;-)

Go Rams! Go Green Wave! Go J-Hawks!

-Ms. R

Trip To Italy Part I

23 Jun

Okay. So our trip to Italy was a long journey to say the least! This morning, we woke up at about 9 AM [Okay, maybe only I woke up at 9, but Kasey got up soon after] to start getting ready for our trip. At about eleven thirty, the cab picked us up from Harlaxton to drive us to the train station. From there, we took THREE different trains, just to get to the airport. One of these trains was the famous underground tube, which everyone thought neither Kasey nor I had the street smart savvy to handle, but we did! We made it to the airport in record time, despite never having used the public transportation here, being totally discouraged by our study abroad cohorts, and having a harrowing 3 and a half hour journey to navigate. Two points go to Kasey and I for not messing anything up today lol.

Once we actually landed in Rome, it was a bit of a struggle finding our accomodations, but we managed it very nicely. We took a shuttle to the center of Rome and walked our way to the hotel, although we did stop for directions [we might be confident, but we are not arrogant lol].

Since it was about ten thirty when we got to the hotel, we decided to just clean up a bit and get something to eat. Lo and Behold! There is a really inexpensive and super delicious Italian Restaurant literally right next to out hotel…we are awesome at finding things today.

Now we will talk about some of the MINOR things we did wrong, in hopes that you will not do the same thing.
1. Converters!! We talked to everyone…they said these were the right converters, but they are not working. We are debating whether we can just buy 1 [or even go without buying any] and just power down my cell phone to save the battery until we get back to London [where we can even plug it in on the train] and survive off of the fact that we can plug our IPods into the computers here with our USB ports…But anyway, plan to buy converters while you are here.

2. Book train tickets for your transportation from the airport to Rome online to save money. We ended up taking the shuttle anyway, but it will save you considerably if you plan on using the train.

3. McDonalds giftcards issued in the US only work in the US…that was kind of a letdown

4. This was not a mistake…this is actually to our credit because we are never afraid to do it, but ASK QUESTIONS! People are SOOO willing to help you if you are polite and positive with them.

Thats all for now…tomorrow we are off to the Sisteen Chapel, The Spanish Steps, and The Trevi Fountain. Can anyone take a guess at what I might wish for?

Sorry, no pictures today, but we will post some when we get back to Harlaxton.

Dealing with homesickness while abroad

17 Jun

I struggled a lot in the beginning. On day three, I was really thinking that I had made a big mistake coming on this trip, but it passed and only reoccurred once in a while. Something extremely helpful to me was actually admitting that I was homesick. I confided my feelings in a professor on the trip who assured me this would pass; she was totally right. Almost immediately, I started feeling better. Also, make sure you are following Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Before you can truly enjoy yourself on a mental level, you have to take care of your basic needs of eating and sleeping.

Call home…but not every day. Sometimes it helps to hear the voices of those you miss, but other times it can impede on your ability to adjust to your new environment.

Significant others- Okay, this is a big one. Set ground rules WAY BEFORE you leave the country. For example, my boyfriend and I agreed that I would ATTEMPT to make contact with him each day. Sometimes this was in the form of a text message, sometimes a phone call, and sometimes just a quick Facebook comment. Basically, it boils down to your relationship, your personality, and your choices. Do what makes you comfortable, but unless you have a cell phone that gives you an excellent deal on international texting and calls, you will pretty much have to rely on Skype or some other internet-based communication…which requires an internet connection and unfortunately some of our hotels did not have WiFi available all the time.

Bottom Line: Come to an agreement about staying connected and try to stick with it, on both sides. If you are the one travelling: TRAVEL! Worry about making contact with whomever later. If you are the one at home: Remember that this is only temporary, so let them make the most of this time. To both sides: You will talk to them more often than you think and see them sooner than you think.

Above all, DO NOT GO HOME EARLY due to homesickness. I am POSITIVE I would have hated myself if I had done so. I am restless to get home, now, but mostly because I feel that I have done all I can do here…but that’s all you can really do anywhere, isn’t it? Go into a situation, rock it, and know when its time to move on; I plan to live my life this way.

Stratford-Upon-Avon, Bath, and Oxford

11 Jun

This was a VERY hectic week!  On Wednesday, we set out on our Three-Day Trip to Bath, but first we stopped off in Stratford-Upon-Avon, the alleged birthplace of William Shakespeare.

As you can see from these pictures, we were able to get into the church where Shakespeare, his wife Anne Hathaway, and other members of his family are buried.  I know it sounds a little morbid, but it was really exciting to pay respects to the man who (by most accounts) revolutionized the archetype for every story that has ever been told since.  We also got to see the alleged place of his birth, but we decided not to go inside because it was actually pretty expensive.  If you want to see a short video of us looking for Shakespeare’s house, visit my facebook.

In Bath, we had a chance to go out to dinner at a restaurant owned by Jamie Oliver.  I was REALLY excited when I found that out.  Jamie is committed to only the freshest ingredients and healthy food, on top of it, the food was PHENOMENAL!

We also got a chance to go out and experience the nightlife….It went pretty well, but as a woman, I really could not help but be disgusted at the ways in which the local men reacted to a great deal of us, simply because we were American women…I probably said some things I should not have…I should probably be more understanding and tolerant of the ignorance of a great deal of people…I’m not, but I probably should be.

Bath is also home to the Jane Austen Centre.  This was a FABULOUS museum with a great deal of information and well-informed tour guides who gave me a lot of perspective on novels I have read many times, but someone seeing the ACTUAL places that Austen was referring to in her book and walking the same path that she did makes the story somewhat different.

Okay, I am REALLY not into souvenirs…of any kind.  I am even more not a fan of souvenirs this early into a trip.  My family already knows not to expect anything other than postcards from me lol.  However, I found the MOTHER of all souvenirs.  I found a VERY rare , 1st edition copy of one of Jane Austen’s novels.  I am COMPLETELY thrilled!  It was a little expensive, but it is something exceedingly rare that I might never have come across ever again.  I am TOTALLY okay with this as my one and only souvenir from the entire trip.

Finally, today we got to Oxford.  We got a really complete tour of the University and learned a lot of history about the school.  There is a TON of English history wrapped up in the history of the college and it was very interesting.  The library alone holds over 11 million books, and thousands more arrive every day!  That’s even more than the library of Congress!  Among these books, they also have journals from Shakespeare himself and the bible of Anne Boleyn, the former Queen of England who was beheaded by her husband, Henry VIII.  This is the bible with which she convinced the King to break ties with the Catholic Church, thereby establishing The Church of England which would forever change the course of history.  Talk about an important book!

To recap, we have already completed 6 of the 12 cities we have set out to visit.  That means we’ve completed half of our goal and we are not even half of the way done yet ;-)  Also, I have tried 9 of the 32 dishes I have set out to eat.  I am pretty pleased with that!

Grantham & Stamford

6 Jun

Okay…busy couple of days so, sorry I haven’t updated.

For food, I am having trouble trying something new every day because the options repeat themselves and sometimes are just limited, so that kinda sucks, but in order to keep my promise, I just have to come back to the United States having tried 32 new dishes.  According to my count, here is where I am right now:

1. Duchess Potatoes

2. New Potatoes

3. Quiche Lorraine

4. Boiled Potatoes

5. Custard Fruit Crumble

6. Coffee Creame Pastry

7. Salmon Terrines

However, I have had some awesome luck with food this week.  On Saturday, Kasey and I took a trip into Grantham for a little lunch and shopping.  We found an AWESOME pub to have lunch at where the entrees were buy one get one free.  So we had lasagna and a cheeseburger.  We were almost in tears at how great they tasted!  Also, we learned that Lemonade here is not what we would call lemonade.  Here, the lemonade is more like Sprite.  So that’s weird.

Also, while shopping, we learned that we are unsure why Europe is the fashion capital of the world…We found a lot of interesting textile print combinations, some of which looked like they came out of someone’s grandmother’s attic.  Also, what is with the unitard?  Unless you are Superman, that is a look better left un-sewn altogether.

Today, we visited Stamford (Yes, I am spelling it correctly).  Stamford is the town in which the famous Burghley House resides, which, like Harlaxton and Chatsworth (which we visited last Friday) is a Manor House which once belonged to members of the aristocracy, but which has now been turned into a museum.  Burghley House is also one of the places used in the most recent movie adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice.”

This week, we will be traveling to Bath, Oxford, and Stratford.  I am EXTREMELY excited about all of these places, but especially the last one!  I cannot wait to see the (alleged) birth place of William Shakespeare!

 

Learning to Live Low Maintenance…Weird Bacon…Potatoes EVERYWHERE!

2 Jun

Okay. So something I failed to mention yesterday (as a consequence of my total lack of energy) is the fact that neither Kasey nor I are able to use our hairdryers, straightening irons, or curling irons because they are not the right voltage for UK adapters. We plugged in my straightening iron, but it started smoking, so we decided not to use it. So, for the first time in 5 or 10 years, I let my hair air dry and actually still went out in public. Needless to say, I really had to go get a hairdryer and straightening iron.

Kasey and I were able to go to into the Town Square in Grantham today and get both of those things, as well as extra towels, shampoo, and conditioner. We were also able to put minutes on my disposable cell phone. I have been using SKYPE on my IPod and Computer, but that only works when I have WiFi, so now if I am ever anywhere without WiFi, I can still call and receive calls. I HIGHLY recommend this service to all those who study abroad in the future.

Food today – Breakfast- I had what the British call bacon, but it was really more of a ham steak, in my opinion. It wasn’t bad…it was, for lack of a better description, just meat flavored lol. I do not count that as my “one food item authentically indigenous to the location I am in” because, technically it is bacon…just bad bacon.

Lunch- Okay, Brits are OBSESSED with their potatoes! Lol, we eat potatoes with everything. However, their toppings could use a little coaching. For lunch, our menu was baked potato with your choice of chili, beef stroganoff, or chicken in white sauce. Where were the melted cheddar and bacon bits, you may ask? Wondered the same thing myself. Lol, I really thought about just getting the potato plain and putting some butter on it, but I remembered my commitment to trying new things so I ordered the chicken in white sauce potato. Overall, not bad, once again, just required a bit of salt and pepper.

Dinner- A spicy breaded chicken breast and potatoes were our dinner selections tonight. The chicken was fine. I feel like that’s a theme here in Britain…the food is just fine, but not anything special. I also tried the Salmon Thing Pictured Above, but it really did gag me, though I am not a seafood eater to begin with.  Overall, once again, potatoes and salad are the staples of my diet right now lol, but I am trying everything. I’m sure I’ll find something I love soon ;-) We also went on a tour of the manor today! It is enormous! We were touring for almost two hours and we still did not get to see everything. I took pictures, but I cannot upload them right now. Stay tuned tho ;-) I will get them up as soon as I can.

Tomorrow we are going on a day trip to Derbyshire. Derbyshire was the fictional home of Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I heard that the gardens are awesome. I hope to be able to take some pictures and have them uploaded by tomorrow night.

Finally here!

1 Jun

On May 31, 2011, my mom dropped me off to the bus station and I made my war to Chicago O’Hare International Airport.  While I was one of the first students to sign up for the trip, I was the LAST one to actually get there.  We had to be at the airport 3 hours early, which kind of sucked, but it went by fast.  What did not go by very fast was the plane ride!  Lots of screaming kids, but other than that, British Airways is AWESOME!  The dinner was good; I had lasagna.  The staff was super friendly and helpful too.  And, thanks to my “EarPlane” ear plugs, I did not have any trouble at all with my ears popping.

Finally, after a year and a half of waiting, nine months figuring out how to finance it (I am still open to suggestions, actually), three bags of luggage, 1 8-hour flight, and a 2 hour bus ride, we are here!

Harlaxton Manor is even more breathtaking than I hoped it would be!

The time change (Six hours ahead of Illinois) has my body pretty messed up, but hopefully a good night sleep will fix that ;-)  It also makes talking on the phone difficult, especially because Mike and I usually talk when he gets home from work at like 9 Colorado time, which would be like 4:00 AM here, but we are managing.

For food…uh…its been a challenge.  They don’t have pop except for in a vending machine downstairs and its Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, or 7 Up.  No sprite.  No Diet Coke.  No Mountain Dew.  Darn!

Tomorrow is my first day of actual classes here at Harlaxton College, so I am pretty excited to talk about Jane Austen ;-) We will also be going into Grantham to get a few things and then on a tour of the campus!  I’m so glad to be here!

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