An Unexpected Goodbye

Dearest MissAdventure Readers,

At the end of 2016 I found myself facing some pretty tough decisions.

As you know, I was scheduled to spend Christmas Recess in Germany. I did get to Stuttgart for a week and had a lovely time. However, less than halfway into my time there I ended up traveling home to the US unexpectedly. Now it looks like I will be staying here in The States indefinitely.

Yes, that means I am dropping out of university. And yes, in a sense it means that my adventure in Wales is over for good.

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I loved everything about living and studying in Wales. I am going to miss my British friends and professors dearly. I learned much from studying in another country, and even more from just living there.

I am extremely thankful for the opportunity I had to live abroad for a year and a half. I consider my time in Wales to be one of the most glorious chapters in my life thus far. It ended sooner than I expected, but that does not in any way detract from what it was while it lasted.

I am still unclear where life will take me in the coming months. I know this much:

I may be helping my brother’s family move across the country (road trip anyone?).

I will be spending lots of time with my younger siblings, homeschooling them and making up for the time lost while abroad.

I have a few serious writing projects to pursue.

I’ve got an epic reading list to devour.

I may attend the local community college and/or take online MOOC classes.

I will probably pursue my life-long dream of becoming a real-estate broker.

So you can see, there are a whole lot of uncertainties. Thus, this blog will have to evolve quite a bit. I understand that if you started following me because you were curious about studying abroad, our journey together may be coming to an end. That’s fine! Thanks for joining me!

However, if you’ve enjoyed following the mishaps and stupid mistakes that make up my life, I welcome you to stay on for the ride.

I don’t know where I am going. I cannot promise international travel; in fact, I don’t expect any. Still, I’ve got a feeling that there are a lot more exciting turns of a new kind on the horizon. I am ready to embrace them as they come. And I am sure that the adventure is only beginning.

Sincerely,

Susanna

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Up from the Abyss… When Studying Abroad Ain’t Perfect (and an announcement!)

 

Dearest blogging buddies and friends,

I’m hoping you didn’t notice that life updates, blogposts, emails… have all fallen into an abyss this term. Last summer my bestest friend (and incredible blogger over at Crafted Fragments) taught me that it is okay to not be okay. So I guess I am here to admit that

*drum roll please*

*actually just kidding, it really not that dramatic*

I haven’t been okay.

Second year has been much more challenging, academically, spiritually, and emotionally than first year.

It would be unfair for me, as a blogger and public promotor of studying abroad, to pretend that studying abroad is all roses and sunshine. I still think that studying abroad is a worthwhile experience, but I am learning more and more how challenging it can be.

 

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Dramatic photo of nature to make sure you realise how serious this post is.

 

I like to blog about the embarrassing and hilarious mishaps, and yet I’ve been in such a stinky mood lately that I haven’t been able to turn misadventures into blogposts.

*Can someone interrupt here and say “THAT IS OKAY!”… Nope? Nooone. Kay, I’m just gonna pretend someone did and keep on…*

Despite a fair amount of stress, confusion and general moohoomooness, I’m surrounded by incredible people who make my life worth waking up to live each morning. And I’ve got the support of my incredible family and friends back at home.

Despite the challenges, I’m still having the adventure of a life time.

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Dramatic photo of me on swing to make sure you get the point.

 

So, as I get back onto my feet after a rough term, expect to see more blogposts (amazing guest post coming up this week!), more adventures, and more positivity.

I’ve realised that figuring things out all on my lonsesome is no way to live. So, for better or worse, this blog is going to continue to be my channel to turn those embarassing face-palm moments into (hopefully) entertaining and/or inspiring (don’t wanna get too ambitious) blogposts.

In other words my grumpiness, moohoomoo, emmbarassing moments, and other emotional garbage is making a comeback. So brace yourselves.

AND

One other teeny tiny thing.

Remember how last year I spent my Easter Holiday in Germany and fell head over heels in love with the country? Well, I’m going back to visit friends in Germany. I’ll be there for three weeks over Christmas.

Good things are coming.

Feel free to scream excitedly in the comments because this is a very. big. happy. deal.

Also, what are your plans for Christmas Recess (Winter break for da Americans)?

All my love,

Susanna

How to Schedule Your Time While Studying Abroad

In the first week or so of your time abroad, it may seem as though the world has opened unlimited opportunities. However, once you fall into a semi-normal routine and fall in love with your new home, your time will undoubtedly begin marching into an invisible black hole, never to return (true story, not joking).

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I know, I know, you are having the adventure of your life! You need to stay flexible to last-minute invitations and off-the-cuff adventures. Still, if you don’t schedule your time, you’ll be on the plane home before you blink twice, wondering how you got through the entire study abroad without ever visiting the castle five minutes from your house or trying that weird food you saw in every shop?

If you were just traveling, you’d have a little more wiggle room to be flexible all the time. However, the glory of studying abroad is that you get to LIVE in a new place. If you don’t ever have a semi-normal routine, it will never feel like a home. If you just let life come at you, you will very soon find yourself swimming unsatisfied in school projects and half-baked friendships.

Convinced yet?

Okay, let’s just say you are. Now, how do you go about scheduling the ‘adventure-of-a-lifetime’?

For me, it came down to creating a list of priorities and making sure I balanced my time according to my most important priorities.

Time to Study 

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  • School assignments
  • Relationship with professors and academics

This seems stupidly obvious, but guys, it is easier than you think to get overwhelmed with life itself and all the changes and kinda-sorta forget that you are here to learn something and earn some college credit. Don’t let your school assignments fall by the wayside til the last minute. Do you know what that leads to? That leads to stressing and cramming on assignments at the end of the year when you finally actually have friends that you could be doing cool stuff with.

Time to Explore 

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  • Exploring your city
  • Exploring local attractions
  • Hiking
  • Weekend trips

Don’t just live in a new place, explore every inch of it. It helps a lot if you research before you go. Make a bucket list of the coolest attractions in your city and the best day trips nearby.  Use your bucket list to schedule out your weekend and school holidays.

Time to Make Friends 

  • Social events
  • Building relationships

Don’t forget, building lasting relationships take time. What does that look like? It might mean offering to cook one of your favorite American dishes. Seriously folks, who could turn down a chance to try pumpkin pie, root beer floats, or some other famous speciality from your home region? Also, politely ask for help in assimilating to your friend’s culture. Be open to discussing things with coursemates and acquaintances. Meet up before or after class to share a coffee and a language lesson. Give yourself time to hang out with friends, focusing on building a few deep relationships rather than trying to meet every single person in your course.

Time to Stay Connected 

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  • Social media
  • Letter writing/pen pals
  • Staying connected to friends and family

You don’t need to totally abandon your friends and family back at home, but schedule your time on FaceTime and social media so that it doesn’t get out of hand. You are here to have new experiences and meet new people. While your family will really appreciate you staying connected to them, don’t bring your whole life with you across the ocean… trust me, trying to balance two lives at once is gonna leave you depressed, lonely, and exhausted.

Time to Stay Healthy 

  • Exercise routine
  • Cooking
  • Adequate sleep

A lot of people gain a ton of weight while studying abroad. It is shockingly easy to let your health habits slide when you are busy taking in a new place. It will take time, effort, and planning, to stay on track.

Time to Reflect 

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  • Reflecting
  • Journalling
  • Blogging
  • Drawing/Creative hobby

Be conscious about your experiences, don’t let life just slip by you. Journaling helped me to consider the changed that were going on around me and in me. Taking time to articulate the kind of cultural confusion and pains and joys I experienced helped me to gain more out of it all in the end.

To summarise, keep track of your goals (including schoolwork, friendships, and bucket list of attractions), relax, and spend time to reflect on what is going on.

Five Surprising Cultural Differences I Wasn’t Expecting when I moved to the United Kingdom

Good morning lovelies! It is almost time for me to head back across the pond! As I get ready for my flight, it has been fun to reflect upon some of my favorite lil misadventures of last year. This post was originally written for CampusSociety, a new social media platform that connects uni students according to their interests, universities, courses, etc. Seriously folks, it’s my new favorite website. I spend a lot of time on there : )

 I decided to write about the cultural differences I wasn’t expecting… told in the form of embarrassing stories because seriously folks, would you expect anything better from me? Without further ado: 

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Living in the UK has been an incredible adventure for me. I’ve loved almost every minute, but there were quite a few surprising cultural differences that I’ve found challenging to deal with. Of course, YouTube and google searches had me prepared to deal with word-choice differences, the obsession with tea and biscuits (which I quickly adopted), and other well-known cultural bits and bobs. However, there were a few surprising (and frankly hilarious) encounters that I never could have expected.

Allow me to embarrass myself:

  1. The Volume Factor

I am used to talking above the crowd in public spaces. It seems  natural to me, that if at a restaurant or public event everyone is talking around you, you have to talk above the din for your friends to hear you, right? Wrong.

My first social event in the UK was a real shock. Instead of talking above the humdrum of the room, each group of students talked beneath it. Did they expect me to know how to read lips? Because I physically could not hear/understand most of what they were saying!

The first few months of school consisted of a whole lot of smiling and ‘uhuhing’ without really having any idea what people were talking about. You know the funny thing though? I’ve gotten used to it! I can hear people now (or maybe I have subconsciously learned to read lips, which would be even cooler). And when I go back to America to visit, the noise levels in restaurants and other public spaces really annoy me.

  1. Normalised Levels of Enthusiasm

I love, absolutely love, cooking. However, for the first few months of my study abroad in the United Kingdom, I was convinced that everyone else hated my food. I’d make a meal or a dessert and my friends would thank me with a simple: ‘that was nice’.

I’m used to my family exclaiming at almost everything I make: ‘‘This Broccoli is cooked PERFECTLY!’ and ‘This is probably the best pasta I have EVER HAD in my ENTIRE LIFE!’.

A few months into study abroad I met a new friend who told me that she had heard that I was a good cook. I couldn’t believe it! I genuinely thought that the lack of over-the-top enthusiasm meant that everyone hated my cooking!

Eventually I learned  ‘that was nice’ actually means ‘that was nice’. It is a true compliment, not a polite way of saying that you want to vomit.

  1. Pens > Pencils

Right before a lecture one day my friend turned to me and asked:

‘Susanna… why do you always use a pencil? It is kinda awkward.’

I was shocked. How was a pencil in anyway superior to a pen? My friend went on to explain that in primary school, only little children work with pencils. Eventually, when students handwriting is good enough, they are awarded their first pen.

The girl on the other side of me piped into the conversation: ‘Yeah, it is kinda a big deal. We don’t use pencils after that.’

One glance around the room and I quickly realized that I was the only student in the entire lecture hall using a pencil for my notes. But…but… I love my mechanical pencils!  

  1. Where is the Obsession with the Royal Family?

You know what is funny? When I arrived in Cardiff I figured out pretty quickly that Americans ( teenage American girls) may be significantly more obsessed with the royal family and the Union Jack than the average Brit. In fact, I think that I saw more Union Jack t-shirts, backpacks, iPhone cases, baseball caps, and wall posters in the U.S. than I have seen in the UK. And I must admit I’ve had to work to temper my enthusiastic squeals over every tidbit of William & Kate news.

Now, I am sure there must be Royal Family fans around in the UK. Maybe they are just harder to find… taking into account both of the things I’ve already talked about (normalised levels of enthusiasm and quieter voices in public), I could see how that would be.

  1. Fashion And Style

One of the most obvious outward things I noticed upon arriving in Wales was the sense of fashion was so different than what I was used to. I loved the thick scarves and chunky heels that girls wore. I loved the fact that even when it was raining, everyone still managed to look super stylish. It wasn’t long before I was feeling supremely underdressed and unstylish.

Why? Well, for one thing, the average British guy is way more fashionable than I am, and it makes me uncomfortable. In the US, I normally don’t feel that I have to compete with guys for fashion points. Don’t get me wrong, the US has plenty of fashion conscious men. However, it often seems as if the average guy walking around campus pulled on the first t-shirt he found in his drawer that morning, plus his lucky basketball shorts. In the UK, guys seem to dress more intentionally.

Secondly, students dress up for class! I always looked forward to university as the time of life when it is generally acceptable to go to school in your pajamas. I was surprised to find that in the UK students look put-together, just for attending lectures! Even wearing shorts or activewear is uncommon (unless you are on an team). I’m trying to get used to it and I do genuinely appreciate the effort takes in looking nice before going out in public, but I have to admit I miss the dream of wearing my comfiest of comfy clothes in public.

So there you have it, a few of the things that surprised me when I arrived in the UK. Of course, those points have led to more than a few embarrassing moments. However, I like to dream that by the time I graduate I’ll be an elegantly dressed, softly speaking, pen wielding student with grace and class. Here’s to hoping!  

Why You Need to Write A Journal While Abroad

Life abroad can feel like a whirlwind of new adventures. That is wonderful! However, all the exciting, difficult, and downright annoying new experiences can become overwhelming, even exhausting, if you don’t spend adequate time to rest and reflect.

Last week I wrote about why I love journaling and will be using this blog to showcase my (hopeful) progress in growing as a journaler and overall more creative person this year. This week, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned about journaling over the past 10+ years (I started journaling regularly when I was 9! Woah!).

Three reasons why you really should be journaling:

  1. Journaling is a simple way to cope with changing life and unknown futures.
  2. Forces you to reflect on experiences and ultimately get more out of them. A
  3. And lastly, it makes for the best possible souvenir you can give yourself when the journey is over: a record of not only the things you did but the feelings you felt and the lessons you learned in the midst of it all.

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A Few More Benefits of Journaling: 

  • Helps you to relax
  • Helps you keep track of your life
  • Helps you to remember sweet and funny details, stories, or emotions you would otherwise have forgotten
  • Helps you to cope with hard situations and turn them into lessons learned or stories to laugh at
  • Forces you to spend time reflecting and thus can help you to gain more out of your overall travel/study abroad experience
  • Helps you to keep track of your long-term and short-term goals and readjust your schedule to continue to work towards those goals

 

 

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via Tumblr

 

Last week, I was sifting through my first travel journal. Reading about my struggles and thoughts on my first trip outside of the USA was absolutely hilarious. Not only that, but some of my thoughts about wanting so desperately to go back to Europe, but thinking that it would be absolutely out-of-the-question impossible, helped me to put my current situation in perspective and make me ever so much more thankful and amazed by how my life has turned out.

Helpful tips to start your journaling journey:

 

  1. Set a regular time

 

 

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via tumblr

 

Journaling is fun and doesn’t take a lot of time, even so, if you don’t set a specific time it still won’t happen. For me, I like to set my journal time in the evening before I go to bed. It helps me wind down and enjoy whatever the day brought. The good times are savored. The bad times become lessons learned. The embarrassing times are turned into funny stories for my friends at home (and this blog).

  1. Don’t be confined

 

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via Olay Schmidt 

Aside from setting a regular time, there should be no rules for your journal! Feel free to express yourself in whatever way makes sense for you. Don’t feel bad or get flustered if you miss something or your journal gets out of chronological order.

  1. Try Different Types of Content

 

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via sketchbookproject.com

 

Sometimes I like to write long descriptive accounts of the goings on in my life. However, don’t feel confined by that more traditional style journal entry. Most of my entires are very different from that: experiments with cartoons and doodles, a to-do list of things I need/want to accomplish, or even just a list of five things you I am thankful for or five new experiences I  wasn’t expecting. Looking back at my journals is more fun when I give it a broad range of content. 

Use your journal for creative expression. Don’t be afraid to use colours, photos, stickers, stamps, even small souvenirs you collect along the way.

4. Avoid bare descriptions and/or statistics

 

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via thestubbornidealist.com 

 

If you feel the need to write the bare facts of what went down, do so in a condensed bullet point format on the side of an entry. Long entries about ‘we went to the Thai food restaurant at 10am and then spend 15 dollars on groceries at Tesco’… get boring really fast. Focus on funny stories and personal realizations. Record your surroundings and your inner feelings. That is the stuff you are going to want to remember later.

5. Use Dialog 

 

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via notonthehighstreet.com

 

Your friend made that really hilarious comment or you and a study budy had an interesting conversation… record it! There is no way you will remember the exact words otherwise. I’ve found that going back to read old conversations in my journal makes me laugh harder than just about anything else.

And there you have it! What I have learned about journaling over the years. Stay tuned for more updates (and photos) from my personal journey growing my artistic skills through attempts at improved journaling. Also, if you have any thoughts or suggestions, PLEASE ENLIGHTEN ME in the comments below : )

A Confession and My Pursuit of Creativity…

Can I start this out with a confession? I love adventure, I love turning embarrassing moments into funny stories, I love reading big books and eating watermelon. I love Russian literature, piano solos and guacamole. What do I NOT like? Being artsy. 

I am not an artsy person. 

It is one of my biggest insecurities. Arts and crafts have been my nemesis since grade school. And yet… I want to cartoon, I want to draw, I want to create. Words are powerful but being able to format them nicely and add appropriate illustrations give them a needed extra sparkle and poomf.

For the past few years, I’ve been on a determined journey to improve my artistic abilities.

Even from the stick-figure days, I’ve always drawn people with their hands behind their backs because I never had the confidence to try drawing hands:

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A few years ago I upgraded. No, I didn’t learn to draw hands. Instead, I learned how to draw cartoon ducks! I’ve been at it ever since:

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Okay, so obviously my artsy skills need work. I am on a journey to improve them this year and I want you to come along! My biggest artistic project will be my travel journal. I’ve been keeping regular journals since I was nine years old. So naturally, I thought I knew something about journaling. Then I saw Pinterest worthy photos of travel journals that made my jaw drop:

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via The Berry
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Via BwrnPaperBag
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via Tumblr
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via Tumblr

The journal from my first year abroad consist of scattered emotional rants about how happy my life was and/or how desperately I missed my family. I’m glad I have them, but, being completely honest, they’re a bit drab.

So even after over ten years of journaling I’ve got a lot to learn. But I’m not discouraged.  I’ve got a brain and (even better!) a Pinterest board full of ideas. I am making time in my schedule for cartooning practice, sketching, and journaling. And I really want you to come along for this journey!

Over the next few months, I will share photos and (hopefully) progress of my creative pursuits on this blog. 

Also, check back later this week for my blog post on the lessons I have learned about journaling over the years and why I think journaling is an essential part of any study abroad or long-term travel experience.

For now, please leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below. Any tips, ideas, or thoughts you have on journaling and sketching would be much appreciated.

How do you pursue creativity? What are your creative goals for this year? 

Reverse culture shock and other snapshots from America

Oh yeah, so I went to America. Not HOME to North Carolina, but to SoCal for my big brother’s wedding. I told a British friend that and she gave me “the look”. I threw my hands up… “I’m not complaining, I’m not complaing… just sayin.”

Anyhow, the trip whizzed by so fast and things were so hectic that I woke up in Wales a couple days ago and was pretty sure it was all a dream. I had to check my phone for photo evidence. Here is what I’ve got:

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Sweet California sunshine. Seriously guys, I used to hate Southern California. Mostly because I moved from Orange County to North Carolina when I was a wee one. I thought that my overwhelming love for the North Carolina mountains meant that I was duty bound to dis my old home whenever possible and that wasn’t difficult. I thought of it in terms of pavement, concrete, and smog. I see old friends that still live there as prisoners in pollution and victims of the cruel lie that there is nowhere nicer on earth. But they have seriously cleaned up their act. Planting palm trees everywhere and restricting emissions on cars has made a huge difference. It was sunny and CLEAR every day, waaaay less polluted than I remembered it.

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Sweet lil bro trying digestive biscuits. I hadn’t been out of the UK for a full 24 hours before I started craving a hot cuppa and a digestive.  And one of my favorite parts of the trip was watching my family enjoy all my new favorite treats.

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Costco did not disappoint. Is it just me or is Costco the happiest place on earth? Seriously, good food, cheap prices, and the FEED YOU while you shop. Tell me that isn’t the greatest store on earth. Just look me in the eyes and tell me that.

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I made sure to overindulge in all the riches of America. Check out my lil bro’s macaroni and cheese grilled cheese with bacon. God bless America. God bless our arteries.

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Reverse culture shock was fun. For one thing, I was strangely aware of all the American accents. The whole trip I found myself wondering, why does everyone sound SO American… like in the movies you know? I forgot how strong our accents are. My British accent still needs work, but I was able to put it on enough to feel a bit fancier when we snuck into Nordstrom to use the bathroom. For another thing, I forgot about bulk shopping. I am pretty sure those kinds of amounts of mayonnaise should be illegal though. BLAH.

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Sisters. Oh how much I need them. They tell you when your hair looks awful and when you really are too much of a mess to be seen in public. The girls hounded me for my creepy picture face and attempted to teach me how to “smile natural” for photos. The result was a series of awful selfies that I will treasure forever.

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So there it is. California dreaming, and now I’m awake but I’m still in Wales so it is okay.

Coming HOME to Wales for the First Time

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My family moved quite a few times when I was a kido. I distinctly remember that every time we moved I immediately began to look forward to our next vacation or extended time out of the house. Why? Because I knew that the true test of a new house becoming a home was the homecoming. Time and time again I would hate a house, feeling out of place and uncomfortable inside it. And then after a long trip or unexpected vacation we would return to our new place, usually late at night, wearied from the journey, ready to hop into bed. As our car pulled into the driveway a thrilling relief would flood over me: I was home.

So it is, homecomings are the test of homes. I had a lovely time in America. Of course, it whizzed by faster than imaginable. By the end of it I was tired of all the busy and ready to get back to ‘normal life’ in Cardiff (Did you see that? NORMAL LIFE and Cardiff in the same sentence!).

As my coach approached the city I shivered with a surge of excitement. My fingers shook. Would Cardiff pass the test? Would it feel like home when I returned?

The bus dropped me off in a part of town I’d never been to before, but after asking someone where the Royal Music College was, I knew exactly where I was. I took a short cut through my favourite park and soon found myself (and my big purple suitcase) on the streets surrounding my university. It felt pretty special, walking home all on my own, knowing exactly where I was going. I mean guys listen, I didn’t just know the way, I knew three ways back to my house and had to mentally calculate which one was the most direct with the least amount of pulling my ginormous purple suitcase up and down stairs and/or over train tracks.

As I took a shortcut through the alleyway around the bioscience building, I remembered all the sweet bible studies I enjoyed in that building last semester. As I passed the Costa Coffee I remembered tea and coffee dates with friends.

Across the train tracks I found myself in the student accommodation district. Despite the fact that my hands were raw and blistering from pushing my overweight suitcase over the uneven sidewalks,  I couldn’t stop grinning. I was back on my daily route to school and it felt so natural. I’m back in Cardiff a few weeks before school starts, so the houses were abandoned. The strange silence on the streets made the perfect backdrop for my memories to dance about.

My road is not primarily student housing, so as I turned onto it the street reawakens. Cars, busses, pedestrians, cyclists… all the usual subjects rushed past. And then there was me and my big purple suitcase, standing in the middle of it all, drinking it in.

As I approached my own home, I noted warm lights glowing in every window except my room at the very tipity top. I am not disappointed. I am home.

So my advice to you is this: if you ever move to a new place, unpack your bags, organise your life, and then (as soon as possible) take a journey. Go far away. Have adventures. And then when you find that you are utterly exhausted, return to your new dwelling. That, in my experience, is the surest way of realising that your new house is a home.

Is it Okay to Stereotype A Majority?

“Alright class, to start our first exercise today I want you to imagine that you are explaining Germany to someone who knows nothing, I mean absolutely nothing, about Germany. Choose five facts you would tell someone from an untouched tribe in the heart of Africa, or the Andes in Peru, or from America…”

“That was an American commercial. I HOPE it was ironic. Well we all know Americans don’t understand irony.” 

“If it was an American policeman he would have just pulled out his shot gun and killed him probably.”

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I love living in the UK. I love the accents, the food, the parks and walkability. In most ways, the transition has been really smooth for me. However, there are a few things that I’ve had some trouble with. For one thing, I’m a bit tired of American stereotypes. I know I know, I should probably just shake it off. They are just kidding right? Can’t I get the joke?

It was funny the first few weeks, but now it is just annoying.

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To clarify, this is not a British problem. But it has come up a lot the past few days since so at least two of my professors have mentioned Americans in a very condescending way. One of my seminar tutors likes to crack jokes at America’s expense at every opportunity. And another seminar tutor has recently begun to do the same. I’m pretty sure they don’t realize that there is an American in the room when they make those kinds of comments, but does that really matter?

It isn’t like I feel personally offended by jokes against Americans. It is the principle of the thing that bugs me: professors can talk about tolerance and being careful with our words and actions towards other cultures on one side of their mouth while stereotyping certain groups on the other.

My communication teacher talks about humour and the importance of being careful with it. She teaches about how even seemingly harmless ethnic jokes can have big negative impacts. And yet, she still manages to throw in a few jokes against Americans whenever the chance comes up.

Why is it that it is okay to make sweeping generalizations about some nationalities/ethnicities and not others?

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Is it okay to stereotype majorities but not minorities? Is it okay to stereotype rich people but not poor people? Is it okay to stereotype some ethnicities but not others?

At the risk of sounding overly sensitive and “lacking in humour”, I always believed that tolerance means treating everyone equally irregardless of what color skin they have, where they were born, or how they worship. It is not okay to stereotype muslims and it is not okay to stereotype christians. It is not okay to stereotype Native Americans and it is not okay to stereotype caucasian Americans.

Stereotypes are harmful because they create inaccurate assumptions and prejudices about people you don’t know. As long as we are grouping people and classifying them by race, ethnicity, nationality etc… how will we ever learn to treat one another as individuals without all the inaccurate baggage?

So you know, I’m just learning to pick my battles. I like to think that by contributing to seminars in an intelligent way and doing my very best in school I can at least help dispel the stereotypes about American ignorance to a few of the people around me. On my first day in Cardiff, I met a boy who said that his opinion about Americans went up quite a bit since I knew about the Lake District. Doing my part guys : ) 

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I may have fallen in love during my layover

I fell in love during my layover

with Iceland.

I booked an airplane flight on a budget airline called Iceland air. Which meant I had a nine hour layover in Iceland. When I first got off my plane I was tired and a bit nervous. I’ve felt rather insecure since the beginning of this trip when I realized that I’d moved across the ocean while forgetting my wallet at home, but that is a story for another time.

Eventually though, I decided to just march right past my fears and take the opportunity to see a bit of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. I’m so glad I did:

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It was not quite as cold as you might expect because warm water flowing from the Gulf of Mexico flows to the edge of Iceland. While I was there it was just about sweater weather, my favorite temperature!

Iceland is called the land of fire and ice for a good reason. Glaciers and ice caps cover 11% of the country. On the other hand, there are over 100 volcanoes on the island.

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And let’s face it. You know it must be a photogenic country because even I took nice pictures of it.

Hello, my name is the world’s worst travel photographer. Hey, nice to meet you. 
Because Iceland is located on a fault line between two tectonic plates, Iceland has lots of geothermal activity. Geothermal energy is so cheap that even some sidewalks are heated in the winter time!

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Being a thick 6 ft tall with blonde hair and blue eyes, It was pretty easy for me to blend in with the locals. Most of the people here look about the same as me. That is because Iceland was settled by Vikings in 800 AD and not too many people have moved here since. Some say it is the most isolated gene pool on earth. That is why scientists come to Iceland to study genetic diseases and other health issues.

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Despite the fact I fit in quite nicely (people often tried to start conversations with me in Icelandic), the lack of diversity made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I am from America, which is quite a melting pot. EVERYBODY LOOKED SO SIMILAR IN ICELAND. I kept walking down different streets thinking I was seeing the same old man walking behind me. Eventually I realized that at the turn of each corner, the same old man was wearing different clothes. He really wasn’t the same old man at all.

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Iceland is the world’s oldest remaining democracy. In 930 they established a parliament that is still running today. Iceland was taken over and ruled by Denmark for 500 years, but in the 1940s they regained their independence. The country is run by a president who is elected every four years just like ours. However, their elections aren’t quite as competitive. In the last election there was only one guy running for president (the guy who was already president), so he automatically won.

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I spent the day exploring their gorgeous capital on foot. I didn’t do much. Mostly just walked around, got lost on purpose, stopped in cafes and coffee shops, walked by the harbor, and made sure to eat one of their world famous hot dogs.

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It was the most relaxing day out I could have possible imagined. Iceland is a sanctuary.

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Here are some more fun facts from my Iceland adventures so far:

  • There are more sheep than people on Iceland! 300,000 people and over 400,000 sheep!
  • The flag of Iceland is red, white, and blue to represent the three main elements of their country, volcano lava, ice, and the surrounding ocean.
  • Iceland’s favorite game is handball, which is kind of like soccer except that you can use your hands.
  • Another favorite Icelandic hobby is knitting. Boys and girls are taught to knit in school.
  • 99% of Icelanders can read. They also have more authors/writers per a capita than any other place on earth. 10% of Icelanders will publish a book in their lifetime.
  • According to the global peace index, Iceland is the most peaceful country on earth.

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