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Sunday, October 30, 2011

If I had a pet rock, I'd name him after you.

Alright, one week to go until I'm exploring Prague! Not going to lie, I'm quite nervous. I have a horrible sense of direction, and I will be going solo. Without a GPS. However, Columbus made it to the Americas alright, so I think I'll be fine. Granted, he didn't reach what he was aiming for... alright, you know what, I just popped a hole in my theory. Oh dear. Well, as long as I keep my wits I'll be fine!
If all else fails I'll just call someone.

So I've spent a few hours taking a look online at what there is to explore in Prague, and I've found quite a bit. I'm not going to post exactly what yet, just because knowing me plans may change, but never fear, I'll have an excellent post to make when I return! Until then, anyone have any tips or suggestions as to surviving Prague and/or what to do and see?

Now, I've got some exciting news. I'm the newest member of the Extremes Research group!! I'm majoring in Kinesiology-Exercise Science, and I've been dying to get into research ever since I've started working on my degree. I'm generally very very shy, though, and have always chickened out asking around back in Austin, so I've not yet wormed my way into it. Two weeks ago, though, I had the sudden inspiration to ask about it after one of my lectures. A PhD student lectures for my Physical Activity for Health module, so after lecture I went up and asked her how to get involved in research. She told me her boss/supervisor was actually over research, and that she'd see if there was a way for me to get involved. Unfortunately, I never heard back from Becki, but I still didn't give up. I really wanted this, so I asked the lecturer over my Sport & Exercise Physiology module this past week about getting involved. He told me to check out the School of Sport, Health, and Exercise Science website, click on the research tab, and email the supervisor over whichever research group held my interests. For those of you who don't know me well, I thrive on extreme. My highlights of this past summer were crashing my bike, grave hunting in New York, and exploding the bbq grill. Looking like Quasimoto was pretty sweet too, to be honest. At the Grand Canyon, I went as far out on cliffs (with complete drops on the sides and a 1 1/2 foot wide walkway) as I could. Mind you, the wind blows extremely strong out there as well. Anyway, so naturally, the extremes group grasped my attention unlike any other group. Dr. Neil Walsh is over the program, so I emailed him asking about it, and he told me to come chat with him on Wednesday morning. Wednesday morning I head to his office, we talk about the research going on, and he told me that he'd speak with the teams and see where my timetable would best fit.

I am now officially the newest member of the thermal extremes research! Granted, I just monitor the ergometer and gases, but I don't care. It's research! I've finally overcome my shyness (for that moment anyway) and got my way into research! Officially, the research experiment is titled "The influence of exercise induced muscle damage upon subsequent thermoregulation during exercise in the heat".
We sweat 'em out.

I really am so excited. 

This whole experience has got me thinking, though. I've really come a long way. In high school, the thought of going up to complete strangers and asking for a position in something like this would have terrified me. If you'd threatened my grades with it, I would have done it, but that is the only way you would have gotten me to approach someone asking for this. I mean, just the idea of calling tech support or whatever and having to speak to someone I didn't know killed me. I did whatever I could to never call those types of numbers. To be honest, I've only just gotten over that within the last few months. 
I know, it's ridiculous. I've improved, though!

I still have my moments of shyness, all the time, but studying abroad has helped me improve. For example, my first day in the U.K. with getting from London to Liverpool and then Ormskirk. All the strangers I had to approach to ask for help! It was intense. I probably sounded like a little girl when I was talking to them! Haha. This whole experience has been such a personality and courage builder. I'm still learning how to be myself around people, but I'm getting there. I still struggle in larger groups, and even in small social settings, but I'm getting there. I know my family's probably thinking this is all made up, but I swear it's true! Mom, how long did it take me to call financial aid and sort out my loans summer 2010? Exactly, it took weeks. I kept convincing myself that all was peachy and it was taking forever for the loans to be processed because of all the students applying for loans (nope, there was a missing document). Ugh, I hated calling up the Office of Student Financial Aid Services.

Anyway, a million thanks goes out to study abroad. If you're struggling with shyness, you should study abroad. It won't cure it, but it'll help fight it.

Hmm... so let's see... what else did I want to mention today? To be honest, I haven't gotten up to much this past week. It's all been focused on school work and research. However, I would like to comment on Halloween.
The first thing I noticed about Halloween here? How small the pumpkins are! A lot of folks do decorate and carve pumpkins here, but the pumpkins are miniscule compared to Jack O'Lanterns you see back in the states. Not going to lie, it's a bit disappointing. I was hoping that Halloween was big here, but it really isn't. People dress up, have parties, but it's just not as festive as it is in the United States (or at least from what I've seen). It's alright, though. At least there is some celebrating!

I swear I had more to mention, but I can't think of it. I guess that's all I have for today! 

Nos da, and Happy Halloween!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Adventure!

Alrighty, time for an update methinks!

Life in the ever-gorgeous Bangor, Wales is, as usual, magnificent. I love it here. Seriously, if you ever get the chance you've got to come here. Just a day will do the trick.

Pfftt... let's see. Oh, right, trip to Cardiff! It was pretty cool. Cardiff reminded me of a smaller version of Liverpool, to be honest, and I think we all know how I feel about Liverpool. Right? Haha, well, in case not, I freaking love Liverpool.
Anyway, the train ride was scenic, but it was really long. I think I spent a total of 8 hours traveling that day. It gave me plenty of time to study, though! That was a bonus. In Cardiff I saw the castle, the Natural History Museum, the pier-type area (the correct phrase I'm fishing [haha] for is currently escaping me), the main shopping area, and this area with a bowling area/arcade-type area. Unfortunately, I'm failing at recalling the name of this place, just like I failed to recall the fact that I had a camera. You guessed it, I completely forgot to take pictures. It had to happen at some point! I apologize, my beloved readers. I promise extra eye candy for my next post.
Oh, right! I saw Millennium Stadium as well! It was really cool. To be honest, it's not nearly as big as some stadiums in the United States, but it compared well to the Texas Memorial Stadium.
Yep! This is Millennium Stadium! I stood beside it to the right. Exciting, I know.

This is inside of Millennium Stadium. No, these pictures are not mine. To avoid random lawsuits, the Millennium Stadium photos belong to http://www.stadiumguide.com/millenium.htm

This would be the inside view of Texas Memorial Stadium. I couldn't find an outside picture... but to be honest, it's not that impressive from the outside.

Now for some random facts since the pictures don't provide a good basis for comparing. Millennium Stadium holds 74,500 seats and it took about $207,468,879.67. I'd just like to note that the exchange rate between pounds and U.S. dollars has gotten better since the conversion I've given, so it'd actually cost a bit less than that. Alright, now Texas Memorial Stadium holds 100,119 seats, but it actually held 101,624 spectators on September 3, 2011, breaking the record (fun fact!). It costs $3.53 million according to the 2011 dollar value, and that is more than Millennium Stadium. Poor Welsh, their pride and joy doesn't even beat Texas Memorial Stadium... just imagine it compared to the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium (or as I like to call it, Jerry World)!

However, I must give the Welsh credit. Rugby is the best sport ever. Oh crap, it's intense! I started watching it a couple of weeks ago, and I am hooked. It's a lot like American football, but it's 80 minutes for a match, and the only stopping the athletes do is at half-time. Half-time, ladies and gents! And this sport isn't some pansy curling sport! Noooo, it's intense running, tackling, and battling. Holy heck it's insane. Here's a clip!

This isn't from the match I watched the first bit of last week, but it's just as good. Unfortunately, Wales lost to France, so they are no longer in the running for the World Cup. That made me a sad panda...
Along with the fact that Texas has started a losing streak. What. The. Fetch.

So yes, Cardiff = great. Rugby = best sport ever. Glad that has been established? I thought so.

Alright, what else to add... ah, so I'm going to Prague during my reading week! I'm so excited! Unfortunately, I'm going solo, but hey, it should be fun. November 4th I'm going to Alton Towers (supposed to be an amazing theme park) with a group of great folks from church, November 5th I'm going to a Flogging Molly concert (flip yeah!), and November 6th I fly out for Prague! Then I'll be in Prague until November 12th. I'd just like to say thank goodness for RyanAir (super cheap flights) and thank goodness for youth hostels. Hotels are too expensive! Unfortunately, I did accidentally book my flight for November 4th originally (don't book things at midnight; your brain won't be functioning, I assure you), so I had to change my departing flight. That added a 59.99 pound charge. Ouch! Be aware when you book flights. That was my lesson learned. Everything else is just peachy, though. Oh, and I will remember my camera this time. Rest assured, my lovely dears!

I think the only thing I have left to add is....
I BOUGHT A BARITONE UKULELE!!!

Say hello to Charles! I call him Charlie. He's my pride and joy! I absolutely love playing him. So far I've learned "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol, and I'm working on "Here Comes the Sun" by The Beatles (of course).

Well, that's my life so far! It's been great. I honestly couldn't ask for more in my life, I've been so blessed.

I hope y'all are doing great, wherever in the world you may be!

Nos da!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

...Random Thinking...

So, I've been thinking quite a bit today about the whole study abroad mentality cycle. Apparently when students go abroad, they tend to have this period a bit after they've arrived in their country of choice when they hate everything related to that country. They hit a period where they want to turn around and head back home because nothing is working out.

Luckily, I have yet to hit that mark in my time here in Wales *knock on wood*. To be honest, I absolutely love it here. I don't want to go back to the States. Don't get me wrong; I love the United States and I will always be a Texan at heart, but I have never felt so at home or so alive as I do here. Yes, there have been a few snags (it's taking me about 3 weeks to get a bank account set up with money in it... I've had to bum so much quid off of folks so I can survive... it's been a royal nightmare!), but I love it here. I feel as though I've always been here, and I feel as though I should always be here. I get so depressed when I think about next year!

What does that lead me to? I believe that once I get my undergrad degree I will move back out here for my masters. I seriously never want to go back.

Well, that's just been a short entry on my thinkings! I'll update more when it's not 2:13 AM... I am quite tired!

Noswaith dda!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere.

Too true it is.

Anyway, this week has been interesting in the world of traveling. To be honest, I haven't gone far this week, other than the weekly trip to Chester on Tuesday nights, but I've done a lot of planning!
So, I randomly got it in my head that, hey, I'm going to Denmark this semester, dang it. I've got the perfect schedule for traveling. Thanks to my lovely cousin, Greg, I found tickets to Aarhus (I'm pretty sure there's a special character in the name, but I'm too lazy to figure that out at the moment) for like, 40 quid tops. Pretty darn cheap, I do declare! So I plan on just roaming around for a day or two in November. It's gonna be class!

Then I've got a friend who lives in Germany, and has kindly allowed me a place to stay if I were to visit (thanks, Evelyn! You're amazing!). Umm... that would be in December sometime.

Incidentally, Evelyn got me in touch with a guy in south Wales named Alex who is actually moving to Germany in the near future, so we determined if I was going to Cardiff I needed to go this week. Alas, I'm going to Cardiff on Thursday! 4 hours there and then 4 hours back to Bangor, but I'm sure it will be well worth it. I mean, hey, it's exploring! I can't wait.

Let's see... oh, and I've got quite a few friends in Northern Ireland, so I'm thinking of catching a ferry to Belfast for Portfolio Week in November, but we shall see. My mom's coming out during my Easter holidays and we will be doing quite a bit of traveling then. We are going to Ballymoney and Belgium for sure. From there we hope to also see Switzerland and France (I think...). Heck, as long as we're going places, I'm happy!

Then my friend, Susie, and I will be going on our own adventure trip to Scotland. We haven't decided the date yet, but it will most likely be in November. Holy crap, my November is going to be exciting!

Hmm... that's all the travel plans I have thus far. My bishop in my ward (church) told me about amazing discounts you can get through Ryan Air, so I've signed up for their notifications. While I'm here in Bangor, I'm doing everything I can to see this part of the world. I've been looking forward to this year of my life since I was in 8th grade (about 13 years old); I'm making the most of it.

On a completely different note, I've started going through that phase where I miss the most obscure things from home. Randomly enough, the thing I've missed most is normal sized staircases. It's so weird being surrounded by small and narrow staircases. Everything really is bigger in Texas! Especially with roads and cars. The roads are super narrow here. Oh! I forgot to mention in my last blog, most cars here are stick-shift. No one drives automatics! I would be dead driving here. Fortunately, my flatmate, James, said that he'll bring his car down one weekend and teach me to drive. I'm so excited!

Ugh, I also am suffering from American football withdrawals; unfortunately, Texas lost to Oklahoma yesterday. It was a crushing defeat, even across the pond.

To be honest, I haven't got much else to say! I'll go ahead and end it here.

I hope y'all have a fantastic day today!
Bore da!