Friday, November 9, 2012

Cheers from the land of eternal rainfall, public transportation, and all my other favorite things

Well if I have found out anything this semester it is that I am not up to par on my blogging skills; which is definitely not because of my lack of interesting things to blog about. I have been so incredibly busy lately and am finally enjoying some downtime. In the last month I got to see Stonehenge, which was really cool because it is something that I have heard so much about in school but once you get there I realized it is just a big circle of rocks (no offense to any strong believers out there). I have stayed quite busy with cheer, especially with the Osprettes and getting to perform at a couple of Osprey's games which has been quite an experience, especially considered they were my first ever rugby games to watch. I must say I have become quite a fan and now understand when the Welsh tell you "it's a real man's sport." I wouldn't want to get near them considering one of their legs is probably about the size of my torso. Apart from Swansea I have done a bit of traveling; a couple of weeks ago a me and a few of my friends flew to Munich for a few days and had an absolute blast. I got my first taste of hostel living and was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. We flew into Munich and spent the first day just roaming around the city: we went to Viktualienmarkt which is the city's largest outdoor market and went to the city center, Marienplatz, where we mostly just did some sightseeing. Since we had travelled all night we headed back to our hostel pretty early. The next morning we woke up early and went to the Dachau memorial site. It was a sobering experience, but we were all so glad that we got to experience it. It was well preserved and offered a fantastic museum that really helped you to better understand the reality of the Holocaust. That evening we decided to embrace life in Munich, home of Oktoberfest, and went on a beer tour, which is what Munich is known for. We had a great time learning about all the different beer brewed in Munich and visiting all the places, including the beer garden. The next day we had planned to go on an all day tour of a couple of castles but we found out that Neuschwanstein castle, which is the beautiful castle used as inspiration for Sleeping Beauty, was under quite a bit of renovatation/restoration so we had a change of plans. Instead we headed to Salzburg, Austria! This is probably one of my favorite things I have done since I have been abroad. On the train ride there we got to see the Austrian Alps and the beautiful countryside, plus we got lucky in that our entire trip offered absolutely beautiful weather. Salzburg is the home of Mozart and where they filmed scenes from the Sound of Music. Although; it is a very touristy town it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Unfortunately that pretty much sums up my trip to Germany, although I would have loved to spend more time there. The way back we had some mishaps with our plane, where we ended up being delayed about 4 hours..but it all worked out in the end. I never realized just how exhausting travelling is and was beyond excited to see the lights of Swansea, after about 16 hours of travelling in one day. I have come to really love Swansea and all of the people I have met. Although, I am trying really hard to avoid a countdown to the end, I know that it is coming quickly. I realized that today I am exactly five weeks from heading back to London and forever leaving my home here in house 003. I am trying to take full advantage of my time left becuase I know when I return home it is back to the real world of work, upper level courses, and cheer season. Tonight, a few of us went to "Play Zone" which on Friday nights is open to adults. As lame as it may sound we had an absolute blast and plan on going back, maybe even next weekend! Since I know no one wants to read a novel about all the things I have been doing I will cut it short there and leave my trip to Amsterdam to a later post. Thanks to anyone who is keeping up with me, and I am making an oath to become a better blogger. So until next time..
Liberty Stadium, where the Osprey's play
Entrance to Dachau
Most beautiful cathedral, in Salzburg
Do-Re-Mi Fountain from Sound of Music

                                     Pictures do no justice, absolutely breathtaking..Salzburg

                                                           Munich Glockenspiel

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Real World: Swansea

This is a true story of 10 strangers picked to live together...okay just kidding but if any of you have seen the Real World thats kind of how I felt the first few days here. Since my last blog I moved out of the comforts of University housing, with the Americans, into Hendrefoelan Student Village. It is about 3 miles from campus and is full of like 200 creaky old houses/flats. I was put into a 10 bedroom 2 bathroom house with 9 people I didn't know, talk about out of my comfort zone! But so far it has been awesome; I couldn't ask for better housemates (besides the one I have never seen)..So apart from my living accomodations everything else has been just as crazy! I finished my precessional class over "British politics and culture since 1945," which was surprisingly really great thanks to our professor! I have gotten to see the historic city of Bath, which was absolutely beautiful and also visit St. Fagans and Big Pit. Big Pit is an old mine and we got to go like 300 feet below into the actual mine and take a tour! Apart from all the fun stuff I suppose I should add that classes started just this week. I am taking Greek Romance: Sea, Sun, and Sex and Classical Athens which is really weird for me, as a Biology major but lets just say class here is MUCH different than back home. I am in lecture a total of 6 hours a week and my only assignments are 1 essay, 1 online Exam, and 2 finals for the whole term. Signing up for classes was a complete disaster considering there is no such thing as a university timetable and I didn't even know the times/days of my classes until the week they started, so thank you RSU for making enrollment so easy! I have lecture Monday at noon, Tuesday at 9, 12, and 5 and Thursday at 11 and 3. I came to the conclusion that they choose lecture times by throwing darts or drawing out of a fishbowl because they are so random. Next exciting news is that I get to cheer while I am here! Since the University cheer sqaud doesn't compete until March I am just helping them out but instead I get to cheer for a professional rugby team here in Wales called the Ospreys, so cool! This week cheer has kept me super busy but I have met the most amazing girls..I am so excited to be a part of it all. I have also started to plan a few trips; tomorrow I am going to Stonehenge, in two weeks I am headed to Germany, and in a month I will be going to Amsterdam and a few more are in the works! Life here is like a dream; I thought that I would be so homesick but apart from missing my family and friends I wish I could slow time down. I can't believe I have already been here an entire month. For anyone who is keeping up with me I am sorry I haven't updated more, but between housemate movie nights, wind street shenanigans, and other fun stuff I haven't been in my room much. Since I have to be up early to catch my bus I guess I should be heading to bed so until next time....
xx, Kylie
Big Pit

Roman Bath

Pretty church

My house for the term, #3

Gil bought us all flowers in Bath!

I celebrated my 21st here and everyone made it so special!
(Thanks for the cake Liana!)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Here, There, and Everywhere!

Now that I have been in the UK almost an entire week now I guess it is time to fill everyone in on my travels! I would have done this earlier but getting wifi on my computer hasn't been the easiest task. I should probably start by introducing myself: my name is Kylie Dent and I am now a senior at Rogers State studying medical molecular biology. I am captain of the cheer squad,  member of the honors program, pre-health club, and a part time student worker in President Rice's office. My plans for after graduation are still up in the air, depending on where I get accepted, but I know that my future will lead me somewhere into the health field. I am so unbelievably blessed to be chosen to represent RSU  at Swansea University in Wales, as a Brad Henry Scholarship recipient. I left Tulsa Airport on Tuesday of last week. After saying goodbye to my parents at security I immediately burst into tears; I have never been away from home, for this amount of time, and knowing that I'm not just a short drive away hit me at once. I soon recovered from shock and tried to set my sights on the amazing oportunity that was handed to me. I met two other scholarship recipients in Chicago and we boarded our 8 hour flight to London. On the flight I met a wonderful woman, Sarah, who after telling all about her travels in Europe, assured me I would have the time of my life. So, far she has been absolutely right! We spent the first day in London; since we were absolutely exhausted, from an overnight flight and hauling 100 pounds of luggage around (which was quite a sight I'm sure), we decided to take a bus tour that would drive us around London to see the most popular attractions. Luckily, we couldn't have had a more perfect day with blue skies and sunshine. We retired early to our hotel, after being up for about 36 hours we were ready for some sleep! This hotel was much unlike the ones here in the States. My room barely fit me and my luggage, next to a twin size bed and the shower was so tiny I barely fit; but I was so exhausted I was just happy for a room!The next morning we returned to Paddington Station where we took a three hour train ride to Swansea. At the train station we actually met up with two more Americans and luckily a student here at Swansea, who took us right where we needed to go! We spent the evening unpacking and had dinner at a pub here on campus. The next morning we had orientation for class and took a fieldtrip to the Gower Peninsula, which was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been..not to mention the absolutely gorgeous weather!  We have spent the weekend getting to know everyone, which includes 27 Americans from coast to coast, a girl from France, the Netherlands, and a boy from Spain. We are currently living together in Langland Hall, here on campus, but will soon be transferred to the student village where we will be split up. I have met some wonderful people so far and can't wait til the campus is alive with students in a few weeks. I appreciate everyone who is taking their time to follow me on my semester here in Swansea! xx-Kylie
Westminster Abbey

Worlds tiniest hotel room (at a steep 54 Pounds)

Gower Peninsula.....beautiful!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Here at the End of All Things

So I’ve finished exams and am nearly done with my final essay for my semester here in Wales. The last week…it feels weird. Being so displaced from home was a bit frightening at first, you sort of go into survival mode and everything that’s different from normal life becomes like a flashing billboard that’s on 24/7. But after a while, my flat here became the new base of operations, my home away from home. When I had a chance to travel, like during Easter holiday, if I thought of “when I get back…” I would think of getting back to Swansea, not Oklahoma. I really do think I’m going to miss this place (for more than just the ocean view and distinct lack of homework). But yeah. Before I go sentimental old lady on this post, I’ll turn the focus to a wrap-up of what Wales has really been about for me. I’ve told you about the awesomeness of university alongside the beach, all the great outdoors fun stuff to do, castles to explore, house movie nights, and tea (and other liquids) that everyone loves to drink. I have yet to describe the wonderful amounts of vacation time that this side of the globe requires in the education system. Bank holidays and three week breaks are littered throughout the calendar, and it is splendid. Over Easter holiday, I went with a few friends to Spain and Italy. Memories are made as much by the people you’re with as the places you go. We saw some amazing sights, like the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo’s David, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, and numerous other old things that existed before our country. We planked on or in front of a lot of really old or cool stuff. I punched over the Leaning Tower of Pisa. True story. We ate tons of pizza and I nearly died as I found out I was allergic to Sangria (a Spanish drink; never trust a Spaniard, unless his name is Inigo Montoya, and he promises that you’ll reach the top of the cliff alive). The others I was traveling with, luckily, found the witch doctor Mad Max and… okay, enough of that, point is that I survived Spain. Spain was exciting and colorful, with dancing and nightlife and tasty tapas, and Italy was like paradise, architecture and art and beauty and sunshine (which the Welsh are continually deprived of). We eventually made it back to Swansea and I hit the ground running, because apparently, most students use Easter holiday to prepare for final exams and essays. Huh, who knew, right? I made it through my “this-three-hour-exam-is-your-entire-grade-for-the-class” Medieval Encounters exam without a hitch; actually, I’m pretty proud of that one, I wrote enough to fill an entire essay booklet and half of another (they’re sort of like blue books). And now I’m laboring away at my final Arthurian adaptations essay on Jane Yolen, and trying to avoid running to the beach or clicking the Netflix button on the toolbar. It’s been a struggle between the show Supernatural and academic productivity, but I know I’ll start getting antsy in a couple days and develop proper tunnel-vision for the essay. It always happens. Then I’ve got to pack it all up, the shuttle launches in 
T minus six days. I’ll be meeting up with some other Hillcats in Dublin, where we’ll start our two-week Ireland extravaganza, and then I’ve got a week in Egypt and a week in Israel. After the marathon traveling is done, I’ll finally be back home and stateside. I’m looking forward to the travel and to the eventual break I’ll get to take before classes start back this fall. It’s all rather, well, big. I don’t quite know what to do with myself. I do love it, though.
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Got 68 on the Essay? AWESOME!

 Hey there world, I know it’s been a while since my last entry. I’d like to give some excuse that sounds relatable, like overwhelming amounts of homework or a job, but I can’t. I’ve been busy, but it has been the good, fun sort of busy doing stuff like beach BBQs and movie nights with a bunch of my flatmates. Academic life here is very different from back in the states. Besides the grading scale being funky, homework is nearly unheard of. Don’t let it fool you though; it’s not as carefree as it might trick one into believing. I don’t have assigned readings, journals, or research anymore, but I do have to have a depth of knowledge and comprehension of material on the subject matter. My lecturers and seminar professors introduce a lot of material in class, and I have the choice of what material I want to go more in depth in during individual study. I’m in Medieval Encounters and Arthurian Adaptations, so I try to find material to study that is useful to both classes. One might ask, if no homework, why study at all? Quite simply, I’m scared to death of the finals, which count for nearly the entire grade of the classes. At that point, the professors will know which students studied and which one slacked off all semester. That and, of course, the fact that I am here to learn, despite the overwhelming feel of this being an extended vacation. It really is excellent, this whole Welsh experience. I highly recommend it. Let me build it up some more. So far, I’ve gone on a camping trip with people from around the world, been to numerous beach bonfires (that would be beaches along the ocean), gone hiking for seven miles in the middle of the night, done a different daytime hike every Wednesday, lost more pub quizzes than the Scotland rugby team has lost games, dressed up as Captain America for a Thursday night social (everyone else dressed up as something too, I’m not that weird), eaten delicious kebabs on the beach with intermittent Frisbee time with friends, marathoned the extended editions of  the Lord of the Rings trilogy with my flatmates, and am currently in London contemplating my upcoming travels through Barcelona, Madrid, Florence, Rome, Scotland, Ireland, and possibly Egypt. And no homework. Again, I love Wales. I do miss home, but not so much as to fail to appreciate the excellence of this semester abroad. There are so many different opportunities to take here, from reading tons of books for the pure joy of it, to joining a club that teaches one to fence or parasail. If not for the wretched public transit, this would be paradise (seriously, two hours just to go get a few groceries from Tesco? blegh). Those are my thoughts for the day. More to come after Easter holiday. Later!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Love Churchill, Hate Thatcher, and Know Who Johnny and the Moondogs Were

My fellow Hillcats, I am writing to you from the rainy land of rugby and communal bathrooms. I've just finished my pre-sessional class "British Culture and Politics since 1945" and am currently working on the paper that's due a week from now. Despite how dreadfully dull it sounds, the class was actually extremely interesting and the professor was great at making the traditionally dreary topics exciting. We studied British music and cinema that coincided with political and social strife of the times, and took a few day-long field trips to places like Bath, St. Fagans, and Worms Head at Gower (seriously, Google it, it's beautiful). These trips included exploring old coal mines, a castle, gorgeous coastlines, and gigantic and ancient Roman bath houses. The wet weather was killer at times, but the trips were great. The students in the class are all American, and we all reacted with the gaping, wide-eyed look of tourists to our surroundings. Fun times. Such exploits have made me reflect on what attitude a traveler should have. Ought I to take it all in stride, checking my enthusiasm until it's finally squashed? Or should I instead leave my joy and awe sketched upon my face, showing that I truly appreciate the newness of the experience? With considerations given to the fact that the second option marks me as an easy target for pick-pockets and people that would take advantage of a tourist, I've decided that a little more subtlety might be merited whilst traversing the globe. That said, I think I've finally gotten to the point where I can blend in with the locals (as long as I don't talk) and enjoy myself at the same time. Another handy - and fun - way I've been acclimating is by hanging out with my flatmates and new-found British friends. We've hit the best spots to eat on a college budget (the Swansea equivalents of Wings to Go and Little Caesar's), went shopping at the city market, and relaxed at a few local pubs. They've helped me with stuff I never would have thought I'd have trouble with, like how to work the oven in the kitchen (don't laugh, it's harder than it sounds) and the shower (again, surprisingly difficult). It's taken two weeks, but I think I've finally got the place mostly figured out. The spring term starts tomorrow, so I'm off to bed (it's six hours ahead of CST here). Cheers!