I’ve been home for almost two weeks now and still haven’t quite come to terms with that fact completely. I’ve been putting off writing a farewell post, not because I don’t want to write all about my semester, but because I’m still not quite sure if I’m ready to say goodbye entirely. Writing this last post will mean that it’s all truly over and all that’s left to do is reflect on the time spent and memories made. It’s hard to sum it all up or pinpoint specific experiences that made this semester everything that it was. How do I even begin to describe my European excursions in a few words when someone asks me “So how was your trip?” This semester was full of traveling, friends, nights out, learning experiences, studying, exploring and a whole lot of being grateful for every second spent across the pond. Saying how much Harlaxton meant to me in a quick conversation wouldn’t do it justice. In this post I’m including some of my favorite things about this semester, some advice for others who may study abroad and of course my favorite pictures from Harlaxton!
- Favorite places: Barcelona, Venice, Edinburg, and Paris
- Favorite new food: Gelato
- Favorite refectory food: Banana bread
- Favorite places in Grantham: Costa coffee shop, Alwyn’s Hair Design & Internacionale Fashion Shop
- Favorite extracurricular: Harlaxton Lions Volleyball & Meet-a-Family
- Favorite day at Harlaxton: After our second British Studies Exam when the baby lambs came to play!
- Favorite night at Harlaxton: The Valedictory Dinner and final evening in the Bistro
- Favorite class: Sociology- because we had class outside all the time. (And I learned a great deal too!)
- Favorite study spot: In the conservatory, weather permitting.
- Favorite form of travel: Trains over planes!
- Favorite Lake District activity: Ghyll Scrambling
My Harlaxton Do’s & Don’ts:
- DO be brave. Do things that scare you. Try something you wouldn’t do everyday at home. Never get too comfortable to where you stop having exciting new experiences. You’ll regret the things you didn’t do or were too nervous to try. I can’t count how many times we said “you’re only in England once!”
- DO be friendly. If you’re nice to people, generally, they’ll be nice in return. Make good friends and build genuine friendships that have potential of lasting longer than the semester. Invest in meaningful new relationships and you won’t regret it.
- DO be smart. It’s still school, people! This may come as a surprise after the first week of making new friends, exploring and traveling about London; but the rude realization that it’s not just all fun & games soon becomes a reality. Don’t lose sight of the big picture and remember that GPA!
- DO be independent. Figure things out for yourself and do things that YOU want to do. Don’t miss out on something because a group of people aren’t on board with you. Be yourself and do things that make you happy, even if that means going solo sometimes & making new friends along the way.
- DO be a person people want to be friends with. Harlaxton Manor is just a building; the people inside give it the personality and character that make it a home. The trips you take and memories you make while traveling are very dependent upon the people that surround you. Be a person people want to travel with. Be a person who makes Harlaxton the lovely place it is!
- DO apply for a family. The Meet-a-Family program is an awesome experience and is beneficial in many aspects of your Harlaxton experience. Not only is your family a way to experience British culture, but they can also serve as a nice escape for school and travel. (And maybe even cook you some exceptionally yummy food if you’re lucky!)
- DON’T be snobby. Americans already have a semi-unfortunate reputation of thinking everything we do is the “right” way; so don’t further prove that idea. We all love the USA and are proud Americans, but there’s no need to exclaim it or rub people the wrong way. Respect the different people you meet and don’t assume you are better than they are because you’re American.
- DON’T be close-minded. Other countries don’t necessarily do things in a better or worse way than America; it’s just a different way. Be open and willing to try new things and participate in other cultures. Don’t be naïve. Experience and observe the ways of life in the different countries you visit and accept the difference and embrace what you’ve learned.
- DON’T complain. You’re so, so lucky! Be so grateful for every minute of everyday, especially when it’s in the English countryside or anywhere else in the world for that matter! Why waste time whining about the food, homework or missing home when you so clearly have it made.
- DON’T over pack. Take it from the girl who tried to bring her whole wardrobe, naturally. YOU DON’T NEED IT ALL! Be smart, pack light & buy fun, new things when get tired of the same ole’ stuff. But honestly, you may not get to wear everything you pack if you’re like me. I would encourage you to pack a pair of slippers though; you’ll thank me later!
- DON’T make plans. I can almost bet that every time something interesting happened on a trip or we ended up at a fun place, it was somewhere that was just happened upon. Never feel like you have to make an itinerary and stick to it. Yes, it’s nice to have an idea of what you want to see so you’re not wasting time wandering aimlessly, but don’t be so uptight that you miss out on fun opportunities because they’re not on your schedule for the day.
- DON’T wish it away. You only have 16 precious weeks. Make the most of all your time in your new home. Yes, you may be homesick at times, but that is no reason to forget what a PERFECT place you are in and how so many people would give anything to trade places with you for a day. It all flies by faster than you can imagine, so cherish it all and take in every bit you can!
- Something that was so cool to me in Rome was the “Roman Aqueduct.” These magical fountains of ice cold, clean water not only saved our throats in the 80-degree sun, but also saved us from buying drinks the entire trip. It was nice not having to always ask the embarrassing study abroad question, “Do you think it’s safe to drink the water here?”
- One of my favorite activities throughout this semester has been to watch non-American tourists take pictures. Generally, Americans usually smile when posing for pictures, but that is not always the norm for people from Europe or Asia. Rome has tons of touristy places for watching people pose with their oh-so-serious faces. (Ex: Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Vatican, ect.)
- After a semester of traveling around and visiting countless churches and cathedrals, the shock and awe factor begins to wear off and they all start to look a lot alike. Because of this, I’m glad the last cathedral I visited was St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. I can’t even begin to describe the overwhelming and amazing place that is St. Peter’s, the shock & awe totally came back after setting foot inside!
- Another remarkable and unexpected place that Sarah introduced me to was the Mamertine Prison. This was where Peter was imprisoned & wrote his letters for the New Testament. Paul also came to visit him frequently in his cell and there was the hole in the ground where water would mysteriously appear and he was able to baptize 47 prisoners during his time being held.
- One of the best parts about our time in Florence was that the two Italy trips met here for two short days and everyone got to be together again! It was nice to get to have one last hoo-rah with all your friends in the same city.
- A fellow WKU honors student, Sarah Nikolai, is studying abroad in Florence this semester, so when we met up she took us to a true Mom & Pop style Italian restaurant and the best gelato place in town! It was nice to have someone show you around that already knew the local secrets and tips.
- It’s really easy to take a day trip to Pisa from Florence, so on our last day in town we took a train for about an hour and then followed the crowds to the leaning tower! The most entertaining part about being at the Leaning Tower of Pisa was definitely watching people pose to take pictures with the tower. Admittedly, we were all guilty of participating, but it was so much fun to watch people hold uncomfortable poses and inch around until they were the perfect distance from the tower.
Venice was, by far, my favorite city I visited during our end-of-the-semester trip to Italy. It’s completely unlike any other place I’ve traveled to during my semester abroad. Venice is a group of 118 separate islands that are separated by canals, which are all linked together by bridges. The city floods almost every night around 10-11 p.m. but somehow everything still stays afloat and is dry by the next morning. Since the town is made of all water and bridges, there are no cars to be found anywhere. It was so nice not to have to look before crossing the street or worrying about traffic or public transportation. I feel that this contributes to the more relaxed lifestyle and slower pace of life that seems to dominate the town. No automobiles also made for a quieter and cleaner town where every street and canal was picturesque. Out of the four cities in Italy I’ve traveled to, Venice would be my first choice if I had the opportunity to return and explore again.
Some of my favorite pictures from my trip this summer are sort of unexpected. They all are important to me for different reasons and hold many memories!
Here are some of the ones that come to mind:
- One picture is of the sunset through a window at the front of the manor, looking out at the gates of Harlaxton.
- One picture is of the stained glass windows and arches at a cathedral in York.
- One picture is of Noelle working on our nightly essay in the window seat of our perfect room. (While watching the sunset and letting the nice summer breeze blow into our room!)
- One picture is of a puppy I met and got to pet at the market in Grantham.
- One picture is of a sweet note in a flower arrangement on top of a newly placed grave in the church cemetery in Harlaxton Village. (Read the note, it’s loveliest thing ever.)
- One picture is of Ashton & Brenna looking at old books in a bookstore in Stamford before going to see Pride & Prejudice.
- One picture is of a really neat pattern of the metal top of the train station in York.
I loved England so much and can’t even begin to narrow down all of my favorite pictures from the trip. We saw so many beautiful places and made so many great memories. (Less than a month until I’m back!)
To continue with the concert theme, it only seems fair to pay tribute to miss Taylor Swift too. (Don’t judge me.)
On October 29th, I was just as excited to see Taylor in concert for the fifth time as I was for the first. She’s one of my favorite people ever. (How could you not love her?)
I was lucky enough to meet Taylor on June 13th, 2010 and it was one of the happiest days of my life. (Honestly…she’s one of the sweetest people ever.) Brenna & I were drawn in lottery for passes to her 13-hour meet & greet in Nashville. (This was all while we were at the CMA Fest the summer before we started college.)
My love and respect for Taylor began during my sophomore year of high school and hasn’t stopped since. She’s one of the most down-to-earth celebrities alive and a great role model for her audience.
Taylor is so sweet to her fans. Out of all of the concerts I’ve gone to, she’s the only person who walks to back of the arena during the show and greets everyone along the way. She may not be the very best at singing live, but she definitely pulls out all the stops when it comes to putting on a great show.
Since we can post anything that makes us happy or means something to us… I wanted to post concert pictures!
I love concerts more than anything; they are my absolute favorite. I have been to more concerts than I can count on my hands and toes. Personally, I think it’s one of the best ways to spend your hard-earned money. (The pictures and memories from the shows will last you a lifetime!)
On August 19th, right before the start of fall semester, Brenna & I took a little road-trip down to Nashville to see Katy Perry! Some of our lovely friends in Nashville let us crash at their apartment after the show. It was a great little trip! We had such a fun time at the show and getting to catch up with our friends was lovely too.
This was the first time we had ever seen Katy in concert and we held great expectations for her. She definitely put on a great concert full of numerous quick changes, fireworks/ foam, dancing and some great singing. She has such a powerful voice and a fun personality!
I loved taking pictures at this concert because the lights were really cool and everything was so colorful! I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing Katy again in the future, she put on an awesome show!