Monday, October 08, 2012

Rachel M. - Lancaster, England - Fall 2012

So you’ve decided to go abroad and now you have to read my blog. Well, let me tell you, it has been tough to get time to write this, so I certainly hope you appreciate it. Let me be one to tell you that going abroad is so much work and it is really tiring. Don’t be fooled to think it will be super awesome all the time. However, once you are at your destination and surrounded by everything different, it will be worth it. Your experience won’t be like mine and mine has certainly not been like anyone’s that I have talked to. But don’t think I can’t tell you something helpful, or at least amuse you with my tales of my British experience! So alas, let’s move on.
I spent a couple days in London before going to my school, and that was really different. My program that brought me abroad was IFSA- Butler, and they had an orientation for all the students studying in England. So they put us all up in a hotel and we had a couple meetings, then they set us loose in the middle of London. It was fun, but I really just wanted to get to my university. But I did go out drinking with the other Americans, bought my UK phone (far too many choices if you ask me), and slept. That was great. The jet lag was over and done with once I slept for like 13 hours.  I got to see some of the famous sites in London, but I will probably go back on my own at some point during the semester and really explore it for myself.
Finally I got to my university. This was really odd for me. They had the international students come for freshman orientation or “Fresher’s Week” as they call it. It was great for the first few nights, but I began to notice how out of place I was. Not because I was an American, but because I’m a senior. I was older than a majority of the orientation leaders. They are all just starting out their college experience and I am going to be leaving it. Now, we still all had fun and went out drinking practically every night, but I found it easier to talk with the 3rd years when they moved in during the week. The good thing about being with the freshers though is that I got to experience a freshman week another time. And in comparison, I have to say they do theirs better than American Universities. And that is mainly because of the drinking. Because it is legal for them all to drink here at 18, it is incorporated into the week. Everyone is taken care of and the orientation leaders have the job of making sure even the drunkest fresher is put in a taxi and taken home. There are no groups sneaking alcohol in the dorms and binge drinking with no one around to help if bad choices are made. It’s just a better system, because it would be ridiculous for anyone in America to believe that the freshmen in college don’t drink. So here, people just seem to be smarter about it. But that’s my opinion and observation here at my school. Others may be different. But seriously, there is alcohol everywhere. You don’t have to drink it. No one will make you feel weird about not drinking, but my campus has 9 bars. One for each college. (Explanation: the dorms are grouped together and called colleges. So I live in Cartmel College on the Lancaster university campus.) So clubs and organizations will meet at a bar for a social and just hang out. It’s pretty cool if you think about it. I have made friends with a lovely Chinese girl who lives in the room next to me. An American boy from Colorado and some British freshmen. I haven’t gotten to meet a lot of people my age because I have seriously been hanging out with the freshers all week. But I’m sure it will be happening this week as classes begin and I can join the clubs.
Moving away from the topic of alcohol, I have to tell you, as Americans we have been lied to. We are under the assumption that every other country hates us. In reality they think our government is ridiculous but they love America and Americans. There are so many people who have told me how much they want to go to America and they want me to talk about what it is like there. It was really weird because I have so many problems with America and to hear them all want to go live there makes me want to tell them not to! But my opinion of our country aside, I do tell them all about it; I encourage them to take a semester or a year over there and see for themselves, because everyone can form their own opinion. They do love to talk about our politics though. They hate Romney, by the way, so if you support him, it’s best to avoid the topic all together. I have had offers of help when I tell them if Romney wins the election I won’t be going back to the states.
Ah, but classes, because I am attending school and all. I just started my first class today. I don’t know how everything will go, but I can tell you that they system I had to go through to sign up for classes drove me insane. So if you are going to come to Lancaster University, you can ask me more about that. I don’t have a lot to say about all that right now because classes just started. School started really late here.
Another thing you should be aware of though: it rains, all the time. We all know that British weather is rainy and cold and blah, blah, blah. But honestly, I didn’t even think it could rain this much in one place. It has rained every day for a week. There are only two days that have been clear and lovely. I wouldn’t mind the rain, except it rains sideways. It’s just not normal. It drives me insane because I don’t have the proper shoes to walk around in the rain.
So I really don’t have much else to say. Sorry if it’s all hard to follow, I am writing this off the top of my head in the middle of the learning center because my computer is lost in the mail. My life has been so sad without my computer. Please don’t forget it when you leave. (Mine was being fixed, I didn’t forget it.) So yes, I have not been able to check email as often as I’d like, but my computer should arrive sometime soon, and I do check my email once a day. So if you have any questions I can let you know anything that I know. I know it is a weird time to be so unsure of what to buy here and what to bring or what to expect with travelling. I’m going to Scotland this weekend. You know how awesome it is to say that? I’m just going to go visit Scotland for the weekend, no big deal. Ha Ha!
Anyway, email me! I’ve found I love talking to people more than I used to. Mainly because, I don’t know anyone!! So I really do talk to the most random people here.
I need to stop or I will write you a novel. Also, I just used the spell check, and it told me a bunch of my American spelling was wrong! It’s so odd to see the different spelling. And some of the symbols on the keyboard are in different places. Just some small things to get used to I suppose.


Blogger Grace Benvenuti said...

Great post! I'm planning to study in London next semester.
It's interesting to see that drinking is actually incorporated into the orientation. Also, I had heard the same thing about people from the UK disliking Americans and was concerned, so it's good to know that that isn't really the way it is.

10:26 PM  
Anonymous Rachel M said...

Yeah, They have their sterotypes about us, but I've found they phrase them as a question, like, "is it true all Americans love guns?" or something like that.

8:49 AM  
Blogger Grace Benvenuti said...

Guns, hahaha. That's funny. Do you have any advice regarding choosing classes? Are the classes over there more difficult/rigorous?

8:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The classes are quite different. There really are no weekly assignment things, your grade is really based on the exam and an essay or two. No participation score or things like that. There is much more independence. There is a lot of reading on your own and then you are expected to have read something in preparation for your seminar. There is a lecture, and then there are seminars for each class, which is basically a small group of students and a professor and you really do have to prepare for that more.
I would say when picking classes, don't take higher level classes. You will be busy traveling and getting to know people and the last thing you need is to take an intensive course in a new format. In my situation I don't need anymore classes for my major, so I am just taking some fun things that I'm interested in, but if you need a certain course, make sure it will count back in Elmhurst for the same class you need.

5:20 AM  
Blogger Mary Zizzo said...

Rachel, it sounds like you are having a good time so far. Have you had any culture shock yet? It sounds like people are very accepting of Americans and that you have noticed some changes but have you felt any of the other stages affect you yet?

1:21 PM  
Anonymous Catie A said...

Awesome post, I really like that you compared American and British classes, the differences seem very interesting, and it was very refreshing to hear what people had to say about the US. Have you been shocked by any other differences, besides the flowing amounts of drinking, between US and British culture? And because of not having your computer, how much more difficult are your classes/preparing for them without it?

6:41 PM  
Anonymous Rachel M said...

I haven't really had any culture shock. I really do love it here and I like it a lot better than living in America. I did just get my computer and preparing for my classes is so much easier. A lot of the readings are online and so I would have to sit in the library or learning zone and do everything there. And sometimes I would have to check my emails multiple times a day for emails about classes. So now that I have my computer, classes, and life in general, is a lot easier. The reading by the way, most students find everything in the library. You don't actually have to buy the textbook. I only bought my Italian workbooks.
The main thing I really noticed is that the British students don't really want to travel. I just went to Scotland for the weekend and I went with a group of Americans because the British students weren't interested. They've lived around these places their whole lives, so they don't really care.
The other main thing I always notice is how they say things. The pronunciation is so different for some words and it never ceases to amaze me that we are all speaking the same language but it's so different. (I can do a perfect British accent by the way. It's pretty sweet.)
I think that if I do end up experiencing some culture shock it will be in like a month or so because I am still seeing so many new things and it is so wonderful for me. I actually think I will get reverse culture shock when I get home more than I will here.

11:14 AM  

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