Sunday, May 29, 2011

May and My Last Week in Swansea

At the beginning of May, we started going back to classes. These classes were mostly review for exams that are held at the end of May and the beginning of June. I finished up my essays that were due and turned them in. The last three weeks I have mostly been experiencing Swansea, which has been nice. I went out on my last trip to the Gower Peninsula last week, which was beautiful. Specifically, I went back to Rhossili, which is first place I visited outside of Swansea. You can see a picture of me there in January in one of my first posts on this blog.

On the 14th, I went to London to visit everyone who went on RSU's London at Large trip. It was really great to see some familiar faces. We went to Harrod's, which is a famous store, as well as watch the FA Cup final. The FA Cup is a soccer tournament in the UK. It was a full day for me, as I left Swansea at 7 and returned at 12:30.

Now, I am entering my final week here in the UK. This semester has gone by very quickly. I'm definitely glad I got the opportunity to study abroad! It is truly a life changing experience. This week, I will start gathering my things and making preparations to go. It will be difficult to fit everything in the suitcase I brought with me, but I am going to try my best. However, the toughest challenge this week will be studying for and taking my exam on Friday. I have so much I need to do before I leave! I leave June 6, which will be a long day. My train to London leaves Swansea at 7. After the three hour train ride, I then get on a plane for 9 hours to Atlanta, then 2 more hours till Tulsa. I think after the time traveling, plus layovers, my total time traveling will be 21 hours. It will be tiring, but I think I will be glad to reach home.

Some of the things I think will take some getting use to when I get home are:
1) Temperature- It has gotten into the 70's here some days, but that is it. Usually it is rainy and in the high 50's. I'm sure I will be baking when I get back to Oklahoma.

2) Sales Tax- They have VAT here, which is already figured into the price that is shown on a menu or on a label. At home, I will have to adjust prices for sales tax. This may seem like a 'duh' moment, but I think it will be hard to get use to that again.

3) Shorts- The locals here wear shorts sometimes, but rarely. Young people here wear jeans, almost exclusively.

4) Use of a Cell Phone- I have a prepaid phone I use here, but it is totally different from my phone back home.

5) Car- As a part of my scholarship here, I received a bus pass that lets me ride any bus in Swansea for free. This has been invaluable. It will definitely be weird getting behind the wheel of a car. Even when I have ridden in a car here, it has been on the left side of the road instead of right.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

My Last Trip: Milan

This week, I got back from my last trip out of the UK: Milan, Italy. We left Swansea Sunday the 24th of May for London Luton airport. Our flight was at 6:25 in the morning, so we stayed at the airport overnight, because there was no way to get to the airport early enough to catch our flight. We flew over the Alps on our way there, so that was really cool. Milan is situated in Northern Italy, and really isn't that far from Switzerland. We got to Milan about 9:30 their time (they are an hour ahead of the UK) so it was about a two hour flight.

The weather in Milan was excellent the entire time we were there. It wasn't too hot or too cold. Just perfect. The first thing we did after we got there was eat some Italian food. How could you not? The food was very good. I had all of the pizza, pasta, and bread I could handle. We explored around Milan's central station for awhile and then went to a local park and people watched for about an hour. This was really interesting because you can learn a lot about a culture from watching people's actions. A lot of the shops were closed down because it was a Monday and I guess that must be a day off for people or part of the weekend somehow. However, we were able to find a gelato stand in the park that was open, so that was great. Gelato is the best ice cream ever.

The 2nd day, we went to Milan's Duomo, which is a large cathedral. Also, Milan is a European hub for fashion designers, so there were Prada stores, Versace stores, and the like. We walked around more of the city and eventually came upon Sforza Castle. It was right in the middle of the city, so it was a very unique sight.

Overall, I had a great time in Italy. I really want to come back there someday. Now, I only have a month left of classes at Swansea University before I come back to the United States. My flight home is June 6. Classes start back next week, but I can tell I am dreadfully out of practice because we have had a full month of break.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My Third Trip: Paris

My third trip while I am here was to Paris. I left Thursday morning (24/3) from Swansea headed toward London. On our way to London, our train was delayed by about 30 minutes because there had been a fatality on the tracks ahead of us and all of the trains to London Paddington (a major train station in London) had been stopped. When we finally arrived in London Paddington, we had to hurry through the train station and hop on the Underground to St. Pancras International (the international rail station in London). They were announcing the last call for Paris as we were arriving at the gate. We were going to St. Pancras because we took the Eurostar train to Paris. It took a little over 2 hours to get there. Which is actually faster than Swansea to London, which takes about 3. The Eurostar was very cool and went super fast. I think it gets up to a top speed of about 186 mph. This is the train that goes underneath the English Channel and into France.
Our total journey took around 5 1/2 hours. We had to set our clocks forward because France is a hour ahead of the UK. The first night we were there we walked around the area by our hotel and ate. The next day was probably my favorite. We woke up in the morning and went to Versailles. This is a huge palace with lots of
grounds to go with it. It is very ornate. Because I like French revolutionary and imperial history, this was particularly wonderful for me. The palace is over the top with decorations, pa
intings, statues, pools, and gardens. You haven't seen a real palace until you have seen Versailles. We ate lunch on the steps leading out into the main grounds. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. Our next stop that day was the Eiffel Tower. We walked around the base taking pictures and eating our French desserts. After this, we went to the Musee de l'Armee and the Tomb of Napoleon. The tomb is very extravagant. It was great to be there. To end the day, we ate lunch at a French restaurant and sat by the Eiffel Tower at night to see if light up.

Saturday we went to the Louvre (pronounced 'Loov'). This was great! I saw the Mona Lisa, Liberty Leading the People, Hammurabi's Code and much more. This museum was huge. We got lost a couple of times in there. Someone could spend days in the museum. Of course, we got to see the glass pyramid on top of the Louvre! It reminded me of the Da Vinci Code. We got to
spend 3 and a half hours in here, which was not nearly enough, but we had other things to see that day. Next, we went to the Arc de Triomphe (pronounced 'tree-umph'). We got to go to the top of this. The view was absolutely great. Around it is the famous roundabout that you have seen in movies before. It is a colossal figure. After this we went on down to Notre Dame. The architecture of this cathedral was truly amazing. It was also very ornate. We ate dinner in the Latin Quarter that night. After dinner, a couple of us went to go find the Moulin Rouge. It wasn't terribly far from our hotel so it wasn't a bad walk. We also went to Sacre Coeur.
The last day we were there we went back the Eiffel Tower. But this time we actually went up into it. We took stairs (very exhausting) to the first level. The view from here was great. Many restaurants are on this level and there are signs that give a lot of info about how the tower was built and what it has inspired. From here we went to the second level. We took stairs this time too. You have the option to go to the top, but there was a huge line and there is only one elevator, so we started back down. We ate our last meal in Paris at a great French restaurant at which I had a chocolate mousse that was so delicious! We then hoped on the train back to London and got back into Swansea about 11 at night our time.

An interesting tidbit: the time change actually didn't occur over here when the US changed their clocks forward. It happened the weekend we were in Paris, so Sunday morning we had to move our clocks forward again and then move them back a hour when we got back into the UK.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Second Trip: London

Hello everyone!!! Last weekend I went on a trip to London. I've already been there before, but it was great to see some familiar sights. And who wouldn't want to go to London?!?! Since I had been there before, it was very easy to navigate. We used the London Underground or the "Tube". The first day we went to Westminster. Here we saw Big Ben and Parliament, as well as Westminster Abbey. We started off by riding the London Eye. This is a giant ferris wheel which gives people a great view of London. Next, we were able to go inside Parliament and into the House of Commons. This was particularly interesting to me because my major is Political Science. We also went through Westminster Abbey.

We then went to Trafalgar Square to eat lunch. Here, we saw the fountains there and the National Gallery. We also hiked on over to Buckingham Palace, which is always cool to see. It wasn't too busy, so we got a good view of the Palace and the grounds around it.

The next day, we woke up and went to Portobello Road Market. This is a huge market. It has nearly everything and stretches for some ways. We only spent about two hours here because we had to rush on over to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. This is where the Royal Guards switch and it is a very extravagant ordeal. Later on that day, we saw and went into the Tower of London. It isn't really a tower, but it is a castle. This is where a lot of famous prisoners were kept and executed like Anne Boleyn and Guy Fawkes. We also got to see St. Paul's and the Millennium Bridge, as well as Piccadilly Circus (that is like their 'Times Square').

On our last day there, we went to the Imperial War Museum, which I had not been to previously. It was very interesting. Here, they had many exhibits about World War I and World War II. World War II is still a big deal for the British because of the amount of involvement they had in the war, including the German blitz of London. My favorite exhibit was one on spies throughout British past and how MI5 and MI6 came into being. Next, we went to the British Museum, which is one of my favorite places in London. Here they have parts of the Parthenon from Greece and the Rosetta Stone, which allowed us to interpret Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Overall I had a blast in London. It's a great city and I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to travel somewhere. It has so much history and you can learn something new every time you go back.

Monday, February 21, 2011

My First Trip: Amsterdam

I went on my first major trip since I have been here. There is a student travel shop at the university that can help plan trips and they have pre-organized trips that they advertise at the beginning of the semester. When I first got here, one of the trips they were advertising was a weekend trip to Amsterdam and I was interested. The trip included a lot of Americans. There was about 40 or so students that went and at least half of them were from the United States.

We left at 5 on February 17. Since we are in Wales, we had to travel across the entire UK. We drove to Dover, UK, which is famous for its cliffs. However, we didn't get to see them because it was dark. Dover is a major port in the UK and it services cars and trucks across the English Channel to mainland Europe. It took about 4-5 hours to get there from Swansea. We drove onto the ferry, which was really huge. It took about 90 minutes to get to the next port, which was Calais, France. There was no border stop here, since the UK is in the EU, we drove straight off the ferry and into France. We didn't stay in France for long; it took us about an hour to get to Belgium. We drove through Belgium and into The Netherlands. We got to Amsterdam Friday morning, at 8:30.

The first day in Amsterdam was a long one. We were tired because it had been difficult to sleep on the bus. We jumped right in: we purchased tickets for the Canal Boats. Amsterdam is divided up by canals and you can use these to get around. The tickets lasted for 24 hours. Throughout the day, we used these as a 'tour.' We would take pictures from the boats because they went by a lot of cool things and areas. We also walked around the city. At first this was very difficult because Amsterdam has a ton of bike traffic. Nearly 1/2 of the city gets around on bikes. They have bicycle traffic lights and lanes. When you cross a street, you have to cross two lanes of bicycle traffic, two lanes of auto traffic and a tram lane. The trams would often go right down the middle of the street. We ate lunch at a Dutch restaurant that day. The portions are significantly smaller than in the US and even Wales but it was surprisingly filling. We walked around and saw Centraal Station, the main train station in Amsterdam, and we saw many other buildings. The varied architecture in Amsterdam was probably my favorite part. We also saw the Anne Frank Huis and went inside. That night we ate at an Italian restaurant. This may seem weird, but Italian restaurants were everywhere here and they are very popular.

The second day we started at the Rijksmuseum ( I don't know how to pronounce it either). This had mainly Dutch paintings and paintings that depicted Dutch culture. The main painting of the museum was 'The Night Watch.' The building itself is very striking. We then ate at another Dutch cafe, which was good. We walked around some more and saw the sights. Here we did souvenir shopping as well. We saw the palace area and the main square which is called the 'Dam.' That night we ate a Greek place, which was very good as well.

The way back seemed to take a lot longer, as we had nothing to look forward to, but they trip was fun all the same. We traced our route back to Swansea by going through Belgium and France and then up into the UK. However, we did get to stop at a chocolate shop in Belgium and I got some Belgium Chocolates. I haven't eaten them yet, but I think I am about to.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

More From Swansea

I have almost been here a month! I can't believe it. It only seems like yesterday that I got here on the train. The days go by so fast! I am finally getting used to the driving here. It seems normal to me now to drive on the left. Haha. Let's hope that doesn't come back with me when I get back to the United States.

We started the actual term last week. I have two modules or classes: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age and British Atlantic World. Both have been interesting so far and I have enjoyed them. War and Peace in the Nuclear Age is basically an overview of international relations since 1945. It is interesting to hear a different point of view on the Cold War and I have heard of concepts that I haven't heard before. British Atlantic World is an overview of early modern Britain and its relationship with its Atlantic colonies. It stops at the end of the Seven Years' War.

As far as travel goes, I went to Cardiff and Bath with my pre-sessional class. Those were really fun to go to. Bath was especially cool because of the Roman baths and ruins. It was terribly cold when we went there though. I am going to Amsterdam next week, February 17-20 with a school sponsored trip. This will be my first time to continental Europe! I'm really excited. Me and a couple friends here are planning a trip to Paris sometime towards the end of March. This is really exciting for me because I am a big history geek. Haha. I really want to go to Versailles.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Swansea so Far

I have been having fun in Swansea!!! I'm just about to used to everything now. Let's see.... I have been here for about 11 days so far. The introductory class that we have to take is almost over and I have to write a 2500 word essay for it that is due Feb 7. That isn't too bad. I am mostly worried about the format of the essay. I think I get it though. Last Sunday, a couple of us went to Mumbles, which is a coastal town about 3 miles away. We went rock climbing and hiking. It was really fun and was probably the best day I have had so far. Afterwards we were able to find the Bears/Packers football game. Most of the people there were Americans, as you could guess, but there were some British people there. It was funny because some of them didn't know about the game and we had to explain it to them. It was evening here when the game came on, like 8.

I think that I want to try hiking more. I enjoyed it a whole bunch and they have really beautiful places here to be outdoors. We might be going to Three Cliffs on Sunday, which is another place by the ocean.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I got here last Saturday. My travel was kind of hectic at first. My original flight was scheduled to fly out from Tulsa at 6:00 Friday night to Atlanta, where I would pick up another flught to London. Well, it didn't turn out that way. I was notified THREE hours before my flight that my flight was delayed and that they had stuck me on another. One that was leaving on FORTY MINUTES. I was rushing around, but then I thought "Wait. A person can't even check in forty minutes before an international flight." Turns out I was right but we were already on the way to the airport. Good thing too, because the flight desk person put me on a flight to Detorit. So I was happy. Until I learned that the Detroit was delayed too. And that I would miss my London flight. So I went BACK to the service desk and they just put me on a different airline that took me to Dallas and then over. I then took the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station (which was easy for me to figure out, thank goodness I had been through there last time I went to London in May), then on to Swansea. That was about a three hour train ride. When I got to Swansea, it was kind of dark and misty. Then on Sunday and Monday it rained quite a bit. I met the rest of the American students on Monday; orientation course on British culture together. I have made friends with all of my "flatmates" as well. I'm still getting used to the time change and the culture change. It is aggrevating when you can't find out how to do the simplest of things. And I get hungry at wierd times. And sleepy. But I guess that comes with the journey. We went to Rhossili on Monday, a point on the peninsula. I got to see the Atlantic ocean for the first time!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Busy, busy, busy...

Right now, I am preparing for my trip to Wales. I'll be gone for quite some time, so I have to pack for a changing climate. I've been really busy arranging everything and packing for my trip. I'm very glad that I have had time to see all of my friends before I left. Thank goodness for Skype and Facebook. Even though I am going to miss everyone, I am excited to go. I can't wait to experience the differences in culture and tradition. I am planning on traveling being an integral part of my study abroad experience. I want to travel as much as possible.

My flight leaves tomorrow at 6pm. I'm going to Atlanta and then over to London; I will be in Swansea by Saturday night. I will be writing this blog during the whole time I am there!