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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Key Differences

Life is going good! Classes started on Monday (26 September), and so far I love half of them. Introducing Sport Science to Coaches and Physical Activity for Health are quite boring, but I'm hoping they'll prove to be better. I got to talk to my amazing Beth yesterday, and it felt really good catching up a bit! I'm hesitant to do too much catching up just because then it'll be like I'd never left (half the fun of leaving for a year is the insane amount of talking to follow!), but it was fantastic!

Anyway, onto the main topic for the day. It's funny. Taking modules here is so different than in the United States, but at the same time it's hard to spot those differences. They're quite subtle, but they make an incredible difference.
I'm going to try and just note differences that have stuck out.

First of all, lecture time. At UT, if I were to take a 3 hour course, I would see the professor 3 hours during the week. On top of that, there is usually some sort of discussion (or lab), reading, and then studying. It's really quite different here. I suppose it stems down to how credits are actually accounted for. Instead of claiming hours, you claim Bangor credits (ECTS credits are also used, but I don't know how they work). A 3-hour course at UT would stand for about 10 Bangor credits. 50-60 Bangor credits = a full-time student. I think 25 ECTS = full-time student. Well, 3 of my classes are 10 Bangor credits each, and then my fourth class is 20 Bangor credits. To show the immense difference in lecture-time, let me post my Spring 2011 UT schedule and then my Fall 2011 Bangor Schedule:
Spring 2011
University of Texas-Austin
  • 9:00am-10:00am Anat & Phys
  • 12:00pm-1:00pm History of Rock and Roll
  • 11:00am-12:30pm Nutrition
  • 2:00pm-3:30pm Tennis
  • 6:00pm-7:00pm History of Rock and Roll
  • 9:00am-10:00am Anat & Phys
  • 10:00am-12:00pm Sport Management
  • 12:00pm-1:00pm History of Rock and Roll
  • 11:00am-12:30pm Nutrition
  • 2:00pm-3:30pm Tennis
  • 6:30pm-9:30pm Anat & Phys
  • 9:00am-10:00am Anat & Phys (review, optional)
  • 12:00pm-1:00pm History of Rock and Roll
  • 1:00pm-2:00pm Sport Management
On top of this schedule I took two Institute classes (a Book of Mormon class for 1 hour on Monday and 1 hour on Wednesday and a Family History class for 1.5 hours on Thursday afternoons) as well as having a 6am internship on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Fall 2011
Bangor University
  • 9:00-11:00 Introducing Sport Science to Coaches
  • 11:00-13:00 Physical Activity for Health
  • 15:00-17:00 Exercise and Sport Physiology
  • 9:00-11:00 Sport Psychology
  • 13:00-15:00 Exercise and Sport Physiology (only in weeks 3, 4, 5, 9, and 10)
  • 9:00-10:00 Exercise and Sport Physiology (shadow lecture, optional)
Believe it or not, that's it. Now, Institute is about an hour away from Bangor (in Chester), so there are only classes on Tuesday nights for a couple of hours. Other than that, I've just got reading and studying to do.

Another big difference is the amount of independence in the classes. At UT, reading was often optional. I've gotten A's in plenty of courses without cracking open a book. Apparently it's the complete opposite here. Reading is a must, and often we are required to read journal articles (certainly haven't been required to do that back at UT). It is entirely up to the student to get the learning and reading done as opposed to having it spoon-fed via lecture. 

This independence, in a way, leads to the next point. University is treated like a 9am-5pm job here. After 5pm you will not see a single student studying or reading class-related material (for the most part). The library closes at 9pm or 10pm and it does not open until 9am the following morning. At UT the library was pretty much accessible almost all hours of the day. Serious students take it upon their selves to actually take the free time not spent in lectures to do studying and reading, rather than leaving it until that evening or until the weekend. 

One difference that irks me is that the gym is only open 9am-10pm. Gahh! I like getting up super early to go to the gym, but that is not possible here. On a similar note, most businesses are closed by 10pm, often 9pm or earlier. Morrison's, the main grocery store near campus, closes at 9pm. I actually quite like this mentality, as it asserts the belief in working to live, not living to work. However, it's quite a bummer when you're dying for a drink or snack!

Oh my, that reminds me of yet another difference. Meal plans do not exist here. Each dorm is equipped with a community kitchen on each floor. Students here actually cook real food. I feel like such a fool because I'm doing the American thing by living off of cereal, oatmeal, apples, and sandwiches whereas my delightful flatmates cook fish and chips, roasts, pasta, etc. I need to start doing more cooking!

Pfftt... ah, oh yes. One of the most important differences! American sweets are complete rubbish. Even the most basic/common sweet here is 10x more delicious than American sweets. 

Ugh, one difference I could live without: drinking and the social life. The drinking age here is age 16 as opposed to the American drinking age of 21 years. It wouldn't be so bad, but everyone drinks. I've joined BUMS (Bangor University Mountaineering Society) and BUSSC (Bangor University Snow Sports Club), but I have yet been to a social because they've all been pub crawls. Next week is the first ski/boarding trip for BUSSC, so I do get to attend that, thankfully!

A small difference that most people probably wouldn't notice is that there is a serious lack of rubbish bins along the streets here. You must do serious hunting to come across a public bin as opposed to them lining the streets everywhere in Austin. 

Diet drinks are not nearly as popular here. For example, I can find Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, and some English brand cokes pretty much anywhere. I have yet to find a Diet Dr. Pepper or Diet Mountain Dew. I can find Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Diet Pepsi, and Pepsi Max usually without any problem, though they still aren't as common as the regular cokes. Calorie-free Powerades are also quite difficult to find, though they can be found! I'd also like to note that cokes here taste a bit different than they do in America. I also cannot find Root Beer anywhere, including diet.

A favorite drink that I've found here, but have never seen before in my life, is Black Currant Juice. It's delicious! I've also found watermelon juice, and let me assure you, it is the best juice I have ever had in my life. It is even better than cranberry, orange, apple, or grape juice. I didn't think anything could ever defeat grape juice.

Now that I've started actually jotting down all of these differences, they come much more easily and readily. Haha, I guess they aren't so subtle after all!

Since you've survived the text-intense part of my blog, here are some pictures to tickle the senses:

Last Saturday (24 September) I went mountain climbing/walking with my awesome Mormons. It drizzled pretty much the whole time, so we went home soaked, but it was well worth it!
There were sheep all over the mountain side. Dan kept trying to catch one. For privacy reasons, I will not point out who is who.

This was a lake we stumbled across when ascending the mountain. 

Here's a rainbow we saw! It was much more vivid in person... I apologize for my lack of photography skills.

Here's a waterfall we came across.

This picture was actually taken in London. Apparently this is a Greek Salad. No lettuce!

Ok, here's our hidden lack from the highest point we reached. Although the picture doesn't do it justice (again, I apologize) it was gorgeous... and very high up!

Again, a picture from London. Millennium Bridge! From Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince!

This is my much-adored watermelon juice. Brilliant.

Ok, my heart is won. Apparently there's a musical going on in London titled "We Will Rock You", based on, you guessed it, Queen! That's Freddie Mercury up on top. I want to see this so bad!

Platform 9 3/4! Just like in Harry Potter! 

Well, I suppose that is all I have for today. Oh! Before I forget, there's no such thing as 3-hole punch binders. They're all 2-hole! It took me forever to find a binder, thinking that I was just in the wrong section of the store. Blimey.
I'd also like to thank Dan for introducing me to The Prodigy and Biffy Clyro. Especially Biffy Clyro.

Nos da!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Oh Serendipity.

Alrighty! Not much to update, but I did want to tell the world a few things:

  • I've joined the Bangor University Ski Club. 
    • For those of you who know me, you know that I've never skied, much less done really anything in the snow before in my life. This is going to be awesome!
  • I've joined BUMS, Bangor University Mountaineering Society.
  • My fellow Bangor Mormons rock. I love them!
  • Registration went smoothly. Everything is in place and I'm officially an enrolled student now with courses set out and everything. I should be taking Psychology of Sport Performance, Sport and Exercise Physiology, Intro to Sport Science for Coaches, and Physical Activity and Health. Can't wait!
I think that's all I had to say, but I do want to throw in some pictures:

This is Bangor Cathedral. A man named Deiniol was given land by Maelgwn, King of Gwynedd (the area that Bangor is in), and he settled there. He then proceeded to build upon it in 525 AD. The term for the type of fence he built around his land is "bangor", hence where the name of the city/town comes from. Deiniol was consecrated Bishop and the church became a cathedral in 546 AD. It was robbed and burnt by Vikings in 1073, but was then rebuilt in 1130. It's gorgeous on the inside, and it's still in use. I hope to go listen to the choir on a Sunday afternoon one day, just to say I have.

There is a place in Bangor, right down from Hogwarts, called Roman Camp, that's high up on a hill. You have to do a bit of a hike to get there, but the view is stunning. Roman camp was believed to have been built at the beginning of the 12th century. Supposedly there are ruins that actually suggest it is a Norman founded site rather than Roman, but either way, I haven't yet found the ruins that are claimed to be here. I must do more exploring!

This is a view of the beach from Roman Camp.

This is another view from Roman Camp, and it's my favorite picture that I've taken thus far. The castle-like structure is, I'm assuming, Penrhyn Castle. I was going to walk there today but ended up going to Tescos (big shop, kind of like a mix between Target and Costco). I'm planning on walking to Penrhyn Castle tomorrow.

This is a view of the pier from Roman Camp.

Hogwarts!! Just kidding; this is a view of the main building of Bangor University from the city centre. We call it Hogwarts.

After Roman Camp, I descended to the pier (see above picture). It 50p entrance fee, which isn't bad at all. On the pier they have a few cute shops and at the end is The Tea Room (or something like that). It's quite a nice pier! I enjoyed walking along it despite the chill wind. Anyway, this is a view towards Menai Strait, with a few boats.

This is the other side of the pier, a view of the ocean. Quite beautiful, I think!

Here's just a view of a street in Bangor. I love the homes; they're so cute!

Here's another view, there's a little church sticking up.

Well, I'm off to wander into the middle of nowhere with some Bangorites! 

Nos da!

By the way, Serendipity is the gathering of all the societies/clubs at Bangor... hence the title...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hwyl Cymru!

Alrighty, I suppose it's time for an update!

So, London. I hate London.
I mean, it's cool all the attractions it has, but it's just so congested and crowded. Not my cup of tea (haha). By the way, EVERYONE drinks tea and coffee. It incredible. Oh, they also all drink. Haha.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand, London is gross, but I just realized I totally skipped over Liverpool. Let me brief you on that and then we shall continue!

I got into Ormskirk (the station that my friend lives nearest too) around 4pm (I think) on the 11th. I was so exhausted, having only slept about 2 hours. My lovely friend, Sara-anne, came with her boyfriend and picked me up from the Ormskirk station and we headed back to her place. It was so cute! You wouldn't think it, but in America everything is just so much, well, bigger. The hallways, the rooms, the houses, bigger. Oh, the roads and cars, too! It's lovely, though. Anyway, got to Sara-anne's place and dropped my luggage off in the guest room they'd let me stay in, and then we had some dinner. I can't remember what I had, maybe prawn curry (oh yeah, very English, just kidding), then attempted to watch Inception, but I kept nodding off, so I went to bed around 6 pm. Slept until 8:30 or 9am the next morning! It felt great. Haha. That day Sara-anne and I didn't do much, just walked to the shopping centre which was maybe 1/10 of a mile away from her home. It was so weird being surrounded by all the accents and pounds though! Oh, by the way, here most people have chips on their credit/debit cards and without those chips your card will not work. Bring cash when going to the United Kingdom. Luckily I had plenty of cash with me! So I bought a hairdryer and some sheets, and was good to go! The next day we took the bus to the rail station and then took the train into Liverpool. I love Liverpool!! It's magnificent. Albert Dock is just lovely, all the ships and the ocean. I love the ocean.
While in Liverpool we went to The Beatles Story (the museum). Bit of info: I LOVE THE BEATLES!! They are my all-time favorite band! Oh gosh, it was like being a kid in a candy shop! We went through that museum and then headed to the pier where there was a little museum with a 4D ride and a gift shop. The ride wasn't really about The Beatles, but it used their songs, and afterwards I bought this brilliant Beatles bag for carrying things around in London, and well, everywhere. Haha.
Isn't it beautiful?! I love it.

Oh! And here's a view of Albert Dock from the pier Beatles Museum:
I love the clashing of old and new buildings they have going on. By the way, don't be fooled by the sun; it's quite chilly and windy out!

After the museums, Sara-anne and I just walked around a bit, checked out The Cavern Club, had lunch at Nando's (a fantastic chicken place), and then met up with a couple of her uni friends to head to the Liverpool Museum that had just opened. It was great.

Now here comes the wretched London:
Wednesday (the 14th of September), I had to catch an early train back to London for the Arcadia University orientation. This is where all of the students going to London universities and Wales universities met and got briefed on everything. It was a complete mess. We were supposed to check into our rooms at The Thistle City Barbican hotel at 3pm, but none of the rooms were ready. There were 100-200 of us, mind you. So we're all lulling about the lobby area until they slowly got us all settled. It took about 1 1/2 hours. 4 of us weren't even in the computers and didn't get rooms, including yours truly. Luckily they fixed that mistake so I did have a place to sleep! I got a single room, and it was quite nice.
While in London we did a bit of orientation, like culture differences, healthcare, academic differences, transportation, those types of things. We got loads of free time to kill, though. I went to Westminster Abbey, the Eye of London, Buckingham Palace, The British Museum, The Natural History Museum, St. Paul's Cathedral, Millennium Bridge, the Globe Theatre, Platform 9 3/4 (YES!), all over the tube (London's underground metro system), and just a bunch of random walking around the city. If you're interested in free, both of the museums we visited were free and fantastic. Two of the best museums I've ever been to, especially the British Museum!
I think I would enjoy London more if it wasn't so much of a city. Haha.

Anyway, after spending time in London we (me and the other 2 Bangor students) headed to Bangor yesterday, the 18th of September. Arcadia, being their intelligent selves, told us we needed to catch a train that went straight to Bangor from Paddington Station, no transfers. They also told us a member of staff would take us there. Ha, we had to book our own cabs, make it to Euston Station (what our tickets they'd bought us said), then catch the train to Crewe (where we transfered), and then caught the train to Bangor. Everything went grand after we figured it all out.
Thanks Arcadia.
Anyway, when we got to Bangor there were minibuses to take us to the dorm sites. Apparently this campus is spread all throughout Bangor, which I absolutely love. Bangor is this gorgeous small town, population approximately 20,000 when school is in session, 10,000 during holidays. Everything is green, it's right on the coast, and it's very hilly/mountainous (depending on who you ask).
Here's a picture from the road I take to my school buildings:
Gorgeous, right?!

More pictures will come eventually, I assure you. This is just a shot of the Menai Strait.
It's impossible to describe Bangor; it's just too incredible. However, I can say this: it's September, and their weather feels like winter weather in Austin! Chilly, cloudy, and drizzling. I love it, though. I do need to buy winter clothes before winter hits, though.

So once I got to Bangor and unpacked, I headed to the grocery store, Morrison's, to pick up a pillow and a towel because, lo and behold, I had neither. I get to Morrison's at 4:10pm, it had closed at 4. Keep in mind, ladies and gentleman, that Sunday is indeed a day of rest here in the United Kingdom. People take off early and some shops may not even be open.
After showering, I had to air dry. That was not fun. At least I have my own room and shower! Check it out:
This is a view of my dorm room, and the little handle on the right hand side leads to my teeny tiny bathroom.
That little curtain next to the toilet is my shower. It's this small pyramidal shower where the curtain actually touches me while I'm showering. I love it though!

So, on my floor, they divide it into two halves, and you must have your key to get into your building, your floor half, and then your room. Each half of the floor has about 8 people, give or take a couple. I've met, I believe, all of my flatmates. They're amazing. I love them all! Haha, today, after I came back from an international student dinner at the campus pub, a few of them were sitting out in the hallway just chatting, so I joined them. Here we're not allowed wireless internet (they shut you down), but one of the guys, James, is brilliant with computers and set up a wireless connection without a router. We all connected and were sharing videos on that we loved. Unfortunately, about an hour later, the guys who keep a look out for wireless connections spotted us and shut us down. It was fun while it lasted!
Anyway, each floor half has one hallway with about 8 rooms, and at the end of the hallway is the communal kitchen/common area. We all have our own cupboard (though somehow I ended up sharing half of mine...) to store food, or whatever you may please. It's quite different from the dorms at UT-Austin, and I think in a much better way.

Let's see... oh, so my school, the School of Sports, Health, and Exercise Science, is located at the Normal Site, which is about a 20 minute walk from my dorms. At least it's got a breathtaking view (see above picture)!

This whole week is Welcome Week, so classes don't start until Monday (the 26th). I'm really excited for tomorrow because I sign up for my classes. I'm really hoping I get the ones I want (and desperately need): Psychology of Sport Performance, Sport and Exercise Physiology, Intro to Sport Science for Coaches, Physical Activity & Health, and Expedition. Cheers!

Wednesday and Thursday are Serendipity, which is when all of the clubs at the university put up tables in the sports centre to campaign for your membership. I can't wait! I'm hoping to join BUMS, the rock climbing club. I also get to meet my fellow Bangor Mormons tomorrow, which I'm very excited about!

So far I suppose that's all I've got for now. However, a quick note before I end this entry:
Culture Shock.
It does happen in the U.K., ladies and gentlemen! I figured it wouldn't be so bad since the U.S. can be quite similar to the U.K., but I did have quite a bit of it getting on that train to Ormskirk. First of all, the accents. It's like a whole new language at first, and it can totally throw you off. Beware of the accents. Second, the money. 1 pound does not come as a bill, it comes as a coin. They do not have bills until you get to 5 pounds, then you've got a 5, 10, 20, 50, etc. They also have a coin for 2 pounds, although most people tend to just give me two 1 pounds. Third, slang. Pants = underwear and trousers = American pants. Do not mix that up. Fourth, driving. They do indeed drive on the left hand side of the road, so don't want to the right hand side of a car expecting to climb into the passenger's seat. It won't work. Fifth, the chocolate is amazing. Sixth, Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi do taste different.
I could seriously go on for ages, but I mainly just wanted to get this point across:
Do not underestimate culture shock. It will most likely happen to you.

For anyone planning to live or study abroad, just keep that in mind.

I think I'll go ahead and end my post there.
Bangor is amazing and I can't wait to see what else it has in store for me!

Nos da!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Made it to London!

Well, I'm finally in England! Boy was it a long journey.

I first flew from SLC Airport to Detroit on the 10th. In Detroit I only had a layover of 2 hours, and then it was on to Heathrow! The flight was long, but not terrible. The only thing that sucked was I took some of my dad's ridiculously powerful medicine to put me to sleep on the flight. It's 4x stronger than Benadryl, but did it put me to sleep? Of course not. I fell asleep at one point, but it was only for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half.

So I land in Heathrow and turn on my phone (decided to go global) to text my family and a friend, but alas, my phone doesn't work! This wouldn't have been any big deal, but I was supposed to call my friend I'm staying with outside of Liverpool so she'd know when to pick me up at the train station. I figured I'd just deal with it later and proceeded to the UK border to be okayed along with the rest of my flight. The line was so freaking long! No joke. I think I was in line for about an hour. So I was standing in line with this other girl who is going to study abroad in London, and we saw this sign that said "students". We weren't sure if we were supposed to go to that line, though, because earlier we'd seen this girl get out of line and try to go forward by telling the flight security person she was a student. The security lady told her to go to the back of the line. We refused to give up our space. As we get closer to the front of the line, we notice the "student" line actually did have a few students. We were supposed to be there. Thankfully the line was super short, so it wasn't like we had to start all over again in this ridiculously long line.

I get through and get my luggage. I only had one bag, and it had wheels, so I consider myself quite lucky! Next I knew that I needed to get to Liverpool, so I asked this guy who was trying to sell train tickets how to get to Liverpool. Next thing I know, this guy is blabbering away about trains, changing trains, and Liverpool Street in this incomprehensible accent. I said no thanks and walked away. I needed Liverpool, dang it! Not Liverpool Street!
So I go to the travel desk and ask that lady for help. She was great and gave me this pamphlet with all of the London Underground info. Apparently I had to take a train from Heathrow to this other station and change lines, then get on another train to Euston. I couldn't remember what to do when I got to Euston, so I just figured I'd figure it out when I get there.
I get to Euston about 2 hours later and know that this is where I change trains. I'm wandering around asking people what to do. I asked the info desk and he said "Do you want Liverpool Street or Liverpool Lime Street?" Dang it. I told him "I don't know... I need Liverpool. Like, Liverpool, England. The Beatles Liverpool!" He looked at me weird and said, "Um, ok then, you'll want Liverpool Lime Street." I was pretty sure this guy didn't know what I meant.
"Oh ok, can I get there with this ticket or do I need to buy a different ticket?" Earlier I'd bought a day pass for the trains. When I showed it to him he laughed. Apparently the ticket was JUST for London trains.
So he pointed me in the direction of where I could buy tickets.
I get to the desk and ask the lady if they sold tickets to Liverpool. She asked me again whether I wanted Liverpool Street or Liverpool Lime Street. I told her I wanted Liverpool, England. She said, "Oh ok, you'll want Liverpool Lime Street." Now, I wanted to make sure I wasn't sure she completely understood me, so I asked, "And that's in Liverpool?" Apparently it's the main train hub in Liverpool.
Stupid American.

Anyway, I buy the freaking ticket, but I've got time to kill, so I go join the other folks who are standing around and staring at a screen that tells them what platform their train takes off from. When my platform was posted I headed to my train and took a seat. Unfortunately, everyone seemed to know exactly which seat they wanted, leaving me confused. (Did it really matter as long as you have a seat?) So I asked this lady if it mattered where I sat. She looked at me funny and said "Oh, well, did you reserve your ticket?"
"Uh.. well... I bought one, if that's what you mean..." and showed her my ticket.
"You can sit anywhere, then. If you want a specific seat you have to reserve it. If it's reserved the someone will just let you know and then you'll have to move."
Well dang, that's no big deal! Luckily I sat in an unreserved seat.

The ride to Liverpool was 2 hours and 40ish minutes, so I tried reading but fell asleep for about 30 minutes at one point. When I got to Liverpool I think had to switch to the Northern Line to get to Ormskirk, where my friend lives at.

It was a long long day, but I eventually made it!

Oh, and calling my mom on a payphone was such a ridiculously hard task. I had a bit of change from buying a train ticket, so I inserted a pound and called my mom. Luckily I connected (this was at one of the stations in London before Euston), and I was able to let her know that my SIM card in my phone wasn't working. Haha, I didn't realize how short a pound was, so I actually lost contact with her and had to call a second time, but I talked real fast the second time!

Once I got to Liverpool I had to give my friend a call. Unfortunately, I only had her number after the international codes had been attached. I swear, the guy at the travel desk probably thought I was the dumbest girl alive. I went in and this is basically how the conversation went:
"Ok, I've got a really dumb question. I need to call me friend who lives just a little bit away from here, but I don't know her real number separated from the international codes so I can call her from the payphone. Can you help me out?"
He looked at me with a lot of pity and said, "Yes, no problem." I showed him my phone and he wrote it down for me. I thanked him profusely then went out to use the payphone. Success!

Yes, I'm going to give Americans a bad name at first, but you just wait, I'll adapt!

Oh, and I do love it here, but I already miss the warmth... I'm in a jacket! It's windy! Apparently a hurricane that hit the U.S. is currently given England and Ireland its left overs. How kind.

I do believe that's all I have to say so far... so until next time!

Bore da!