"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do...So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

First and second week came and went!

So technically my weekend starts on Thursday morning at 10:50, meaning my educational week is over. Bitchin!

Last week, I went to my classes and they were alright. I enjoyed the lectures a lot more than at VT, however there isn't really any work other than reading. I like to read, but this is just getting tedious. I have to start the second and third novel on the reading list already, and this is just the second week of classes. Other than that, my schedule is pretty relaxed. I only attend 8 classes, including lecture and seminars (which are recitations, basically).

Don't worry, folks. I have plenty of time to play. I may or may not be a British social butterfly. Ten times cooler than an American one.

On Friday, I got two freaking adorable dresses to wear when I go out and I am extremely happy with my purchases. Reasonable value was a plus! That night, wearing my new dress and confidence, I went to a club called "Space." I had a blast! I basically raged all night with the girls. This was the first time we've actually gotten to dance in a while.. needless to say, we were itchin' to get our groove on.

I do slightly regret going out though, because I planned a trip to Cambridge in the morning. To ensure that I actually woke up on time, the girls had a sleep over in Arielle's room. I took a coach bus at 8 AM and arrived in Cambridge around 10:45ish. The bus driver was pretty much a lunatic behind the wheel.

The first order of business was to get food. I hadn't eaten anything but a granola bar so I was starvin' like marvin. We went to a restaurant called "Fitzbillies." A bit pricy, but it was the best meal I've had ever. I ordered eggs benedict and I can't even begin to describe how wonderful it was. My mouth is watering thinking about it. Basically, it was a revelation on a plate. My new friend, Marion, ordered chocolate cake for breakfast.. I admire her audacity.

After breakfast, I toured around Cambridge and found some postcards and souvenirs for my family, which you all should be receiving soon. ish. Our group hadnt really planned anything in particular but we came across a punting tour. Now keep in mind, on this day I experience all seasons. One minute it was raining, the next it was snowing, and then it was all bright and cheery out. Luckily, when it came to be our time to start our punting tour, it stopped precipitating.

The first thing I saw when I got into the boat was a pair of swans. It was like being in a movie. I was just waiting for a knight to ride up on a horse, and with his gallantry and chivalry, sweep me off my feet. A girl can dream right?

I learned some pretty interesting things on this hour long tour. For example, scaling buildings is apparently a fad in Cambridge. The guide told us a story about two students who climbed to the top of the cathedral and placed a Santa Claus hat on each tower. They actually have clubs that teach people the easiest ways to climb the building, without being seen by others. Crazy!

If you want to know more about that tour, ask, because there is just too much to report back on.

After this trip, my pants were a tad wet so we ventured into the city and found a McDonald's. VICTORY. Why you might ask? Because there are automatic hand dryers. Oh yes, I dried my pants with hand driers. And no, I did not take them off.

I went into the Fitzwilliam Museum but couldn't even get through one section before we had to leave. Walking around aimlessly took up some time, in addition to the punting trip. However, we did make time to stop at a local patisserie and I ordered a scrum-diddly-umptious rum truffle. Ugh, so good.

That night we were supposed to go to the university's traffic light party. For those who don't know what that is, people who are single wear green, complicated relationships wear yellow, and taken individuals wear red. But after a night of raging, not enough food, and walking all day in multiple weathers, I was just too pooped to think of going out. So a few of us ordered in Chinese and watched Year One. CLASSIC, yet slightly disturbing.

On Valentine's Day, which is not really a big deal here, I handed out my CareBear cards to some international students. They were pretty cheesy, but isn't that what Vday is all about? Besides, we celebrated the Chinese New Year and had Chinese food for dinner (after a grueling morning of doing laundry in a dirty closet. Brits give away jobs for anything, but they cant keep a maintenance staff on hand.).

I felt weird because I wore leggings and my Phi Sigma Pi sweatshirt. That's the closest to nothing I ever want to be wearing while in public on laundry day.. Terrible news.

Last night, I went to Babylon: 90's bar. Holy crow! The Macarina, Barbie Girl, Green day, beautiful music! All night. This night was by far my most favorite outing so far. Good music, good people, good drinks.. Ah, the drinks. I accidentally missed my classes today. I turned the light on and realized wow, that light makes me want to throw up. So I thought it was a wise choice to stay in and let my body rejuvenate itself.

This weekend, I'm planning a trip to hike the Peak District, also I'll be going to the Sheffield vs Sheffield Halam (rival) hockey game on Saturday. On Sunday, I want to go to a Viking Festival in South Yorkshire. Should be fun!

Strange facts that just came to mind: the birds only sing at night here. And it snows when it's sunny out. I've been getting addicted to European music. It's all I ever what to listen to. I'm obsessed with finding new bands. Listen to this song: "Fire" by Kasabian. My first European cold is almost gone. Really all it is now is a raw nose. Bloody awful, though! I did get a little homesick last week. I really miss talking to my siblings. The band Journey's song don't stop believing is huge here now. I'm not exaggerating. It's on the top 40 UK song list.

Love to you all.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Adventures in Sheffield!

The second day of orientation came and went as smoothly as the first. I'm registered for my classes: the Romantic Period, Renaissance Literature, and Decoding the Bible: the New Testament. I meet with my classes a couple times a week and have Fridays off, which is pretty nice if I ever decide I want to travel for a long weekend.

Since orientation meals arent really included, I've been trying different restaurants and pubs around the uni and the city, and I have yet to find one that I dont like.

That night, a group of girls got tickets to see S Club 7 live at the Octagon Centre. Holy crow! There are as good as they ever were! Our group was crammed up against the staged most of the performance until a mosh pit started to form. Girls Can't Catch performed and another band from the X factor sang. Apparently there was a famous dj spinning there, but I have no idea what her name is. She was freaking awesome!

A trend I saw a lot was that most guys are willing to dance in groups before the girls. Also, guys wear plaid shirts only and girls wear lingerie. A new definition has been created. I could wear a bathing suit and throw lace over it and fit right in. It's cold here and they wear nothing!! Unbelievable.

On Saturday, I went to Meadowhall, the biggest mall in the UK. It is like 10 tysons put together. I think I only went into 4 stores within 4 hours. They were huge! From the previous night's dancing and walking on foot everywhere, I think I'll be ripped when I get back to the states. Holla!

I did purchase a pair of brown boots that repel water, but are ridiculously cute. There was a sale for buy one, get the next for a dollar, so I split the cost with another girl and got a real bargain.

I wore them when we all went out last night to Bar One and from all of the hills, my feet are a little blistered. On a happier note, they stayed dry! :)

I moved out of orientation housing and now live in a giant mansion called Stephenson, about a mile or two from campus. I have blue and yellow walls and tons of room to do whatever I want. It really is too much space though for just me. It almost makes me homesick. Sabrina, come to England!

I haven't really had time to be homesick anyway. I've been on the go since last Monday when I left for England. I'm sure after classes kick in and I have more time to be by myself, it will set in a little bit.

I do love it here though. I find myself slipping in and out of accents with others. I'm constantly hearing British and Australian accents so it's easy to pick it up. It feels natural too. The natives are so friendly and helpful. Yesterday, I talked to a woman on the tram for half an hour. Whoever said Brits were standoffish lied. Fo sho.

Today, I actually slept in. Til 12. It was a beautiful moment in history. I'm settling into my new room still so I spent some of the afternoon doing that. But the majority of the day was a failure.
My friend, Claudia, and I walked around Sheffield trying to figure out where our classes were, but all of the buildings were locked up. Then we needed to get some stuff from the grocery store and dept store. Instead of spending money for transportation, we walked like 3 miles to Primark, a killer dept store with great prices, only to find that it was closed. So we walked back and decided to take a tram to the grocery store since we didn't know the other side of the city very well. We got off at the stop the Brit told us to, which happened to be the wrong stop and ended up near a ski mountain. Sheffield is a city. So we were very far from the city. We took some more wrong turns and spent an hour trying to find this magical grocery store called Tesco. It was said to be open 24 hours. We found it eventually but it was closed. Excellent chain of events, right? Then we had to find a tram and wait for 15 minutes before it came. BTW we were in a sketch area of Shef. Sucky!! We had to walk a mile to a poorly stocked grocery store, where I only got sugar. All of the uni restaurants close early on Sunday usually for Sunday Roast so we had to run to a Subway and then walk back to our buildings. It was a disastrous day but at least Marin and Arielle were thoughtful to buy tacs for my room. Now I have pictures up and it's a little less empty.

I am missing the Super Bowl for the first time ever tonight. I am so tired and because of the time difference, kick off isnt until 1130. I dont have cable and I dont want to walk 2 miles to the bar where it's being played.

Classes start tomorrow and I've got some more adventures ahead. I'm thinking of a day trip to Liverpool to see the Cavern where the Beatles played in their earlier days and also the Beatles museum. Only Lord knows what's in store for me this week.

Love all. I'm trying to upload pictures but it's so hard with internet connection. Thanks for being patient!


Wednesday, February 3, 2010


So I left for England on Monday at 6:45 pm. My flight was rather long but it wasn't too bad. There were delicious meals.. Just.. Oh, so good. And I had over 100 movies to pick from. I settled with Harry Potter 6 and The Time Traveler's Wife. Warning: the latter was not good at all. The worst part about this flight was that the man in front of me decided to swing his chair back and practically lay in my lap. So my long legs were squished and stabbing the chair for about 6 hours.. Kind of uncomfortable. Needless to say, I didn't sleep a wink on the plane.

After I landed in Amsterdam at around 8:30 am (2:30 am US time). This airport was like a mall--multiple levels and shopping stores left and right. I had to walk about 15 minutes to the other side of the airport to catch my second flight. After I had gone through security and reached my gate, I waited for an hour since boarding began at 9:55. Just as this plane began to board, I looked up at the computer scheduling screen and noticed my gate had been changed without an announcement. So I had to run to the other side of the airport with all of my luggage and go through security all over again. I barely made my flight, but it sure was an adventure.

On the second flight and was fortunate enough to have the window seat. How cool is it to be on a plane when it lifts off?! I don't think there is anything comparable to it. I did end up getting an hour of sleep, which was definitely needed-I was dead on my feet in Amsterdam. I woke up right as we were landing and I can't tell you how big my smile was. This is the first time being out of the country and it felt so good to finally be on foreign soil.

A family friend, Neville, picked me up and drove me to his house in Derby, about an hour away from Birmingham Airport. At first driving on the wrong side of the road was a little terrifying, but after driving around a million round-abouts, I got used to it. Note: round-abouts are convenient, but not in traffic.

When we got to his house it was like a musuem. It has tons of Derby artifacts and cat memorabilia. Cats are like children to Neville. I've never seen someone get so excited about them before! Their names were maxi and mini, after the cars he owned.

He then showed me around Derbyshire and the city of Derby, which became a city in 1971(as I recall). We went to the Rolls Royce and Train museum, which was actually interesting. Charles Rolls and Henry Royce created their first airplane engine in 1914.

We went to the Dolphin Inn, which is the oldest pubs in Derby. I was going to try the corn beef hash but they were all out by the time we arrived. Since it was windy and raining, I settled with a spicy bowl of chili and tortilla chips. Not very British, I know.

However, for dinner, Neville made his famous Yorkshire pudding with lamb, carrots, beans, and potatoes. Not too bad. The texture of the food is a little different and while it tastes just fine, my stomach still questioned it!

I went to another pub for drinks with Neville and his friends and had my first legal drink. That was cool! And his friends gave me one of the local trashy newspapers to entertain myself with. Warning: page 3 on the Sun Times is a men's only page. Yikes.

For breakfast, I had British bacon (which comes in slabs rather than thin strips), black pudding, biscuits, some kind of tomato that was a little too cooked for me, and some seasoned mushrooms. Again, not too bad, but still unusual textures.

For a surprise, Neville made an appointment for me to meet the mayor of Derby, Sean Marshall. There he told me about all of the traditions of local government. It's a very ceremonial culture. He actually had me get down and dub me a Dame of Derby with the sword the Queen Elizabeth dubbed the previous mayor a sir. Nothing scarier than having a sword held close enough to nick your ear. I got to wear his chain and sit in his chair too! In his office, he has the very same chair the Queen Victoria sat in. Talk about history!

After that and a trip to see the Royal Crown Derby, I left for Sheffield. We drove up through Peak District. It's so unbelievably amazing! Everything was covered in frost and snow. I want to take another trip back up when it gets a little greener.

We arrived at Sheffield University, after being a little lost within the city itself, and I met up with Arielle, Marin, and her dad. We went into the city centre and had lunch at a pub, then bought our mobile phones as well as some things for our room. The prices here are very reasonable even with the exchange rate, surprisingly!

Today was the first day of orientation and it was pretty awesome! After the tour guide abandoned a small group of us, we had to fend for ourselves on navigating through the city. Nature vs Nurture, I guess. I met some people from New York, Australia, Finland, Holland and France. There are over 136 countries represented at Sheffield though so I have a lot more people to meet! There is great diversity here. The Australians said things like "far out" which I thought was pretty cool. The Brits say "wicked" a lot. I got a chance to speak a little French today and was pretty impressed by what I remembered. It was poorly pronounced but the guy I was talking to was very patient with me. His English was poor so he was thrilled to understand something!

Everyone I've met here seems to have something different to offer. I've really enjoyed getting to know the other international students.

SIDE NOTE: Okay, ladies. Come to England. Cute boys everywhere. I certainly appreciate the sights, if you know what I mean.

I tried Fish and Chips for lunch today and thought it was okay. I'm trying to get over being a picky eater and I've also never been a big fish fan so this was a great feat for me.

My group went on a tour of Sheffield city as well as Sheffield's Student Union. This place is out of control amazing!! There are tons of pubs, clubs, theaters, concert halls, activity centers, and coffee shops. Our group of Aussies, Frenchmen, and Americans went there and had mochas and cappuccinos. Sorry, America.. the Brits put your coffee to shame.

On my way back from orientation, Marin, Arielle, and I took a wrong turn and almost walked out of the city limits. This city is the fourth largest in England so.... we walked for awhile without realizing where we actually were. A great deal of the buildings look similar so it's hard to differentiate on the second day of the city life.

I have a dinner tonight with the orientation students and I fancy getting a drink afterward in the uni pub. :)

There is so much to do here! So I will report back within the next few days. It's hard to make myself sit down and write EVERYTHING I did. One, it's boring for you to read every detail and two, it's boring for me to write everything.

Friday, January 22, 2010

So the time continues to wind down as I ready myself for my British adventure.

Today I simultaneously experienced panic and excitement about leaving. I have never been this far away from home, nor have I been away from home this long. Don't get me wrong, I love college and being independent; but I still love being able to talk to my family and friends at my own leisure.

With the help of email, Skype, and payphones I will be contacting home but it really puts things in perspective. I've taken easy-accessed-communication-to-my-family for granted.

One of my brothers, Daniel, will be going to Phoenix, Arizona this Monday. I'm to drive him to my brother, Chris's house. This may make leaving home a little easier. It's one less person to hug goodbye on one day. Stay out of trouble, and those are my only orders. :)

I've asked my family (mom, stepdad, little sister & Grannie) to not go to the airport with me because I don't want to be a teary mess. I'll be going to my brother's house on Sunday afternoon and leaving on the following day. This way I'll have had a day to dry my eyes. I can't help it, I'm a cry baby! Whether this is a mistake or not, I am not sure. Should they come with me or not?

Charlotte (my BFF, of course) has made things a lot easier for me. She started a group on facebook called, "I'll miss Cara a lot when she's off with the Brits." It made me feel really good that people care about me and will miss me as much as I miss them. The Dynamic Duo-est. 2001. Miss you, already!

I've resorted to reading a lot to kill time. Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Love Story, and two versions of Mr. Darcy's version. Mr. Darcy's Diary and An Affair Such As This. After a great deal of threat from the human race, I decided to read Harry Potter. For those who just peed their pants, let me explain. When I was younger and the books just came out, I tried to read them. I guess try isn't a good word. I got to the word "muggle" and put the book down. At the time, I was not into this kind of style. Picky, as usual. But I've just recently finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I couldn't put it down. Numerous times my brother found me passed out with the book on my face, with the lights still on.

Number of days before departure: 9


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It has been several months since I've last posted anything. Now that I'm getting ready to leave the country for a full 5 months, I feel like this blog could be the key to sanity.

I leave for Sheffield, England to study English Literature at Sheffield University on February 1. With a 6:45 pm flight and a transfer to Amsterdam into Birmingham, my ETA is approximately 10:15 am on February 2. At this point, a very kind friend of the family, Neville, will pick me up and drive me to Derby. We are supposedly taking the scenic route so I can see some of the English countryside.

Above is a picture of the Peace Gardens at Sheffield.

A lot of people have been asking me, "Why England?" Well, firstly I am a sucker for a British accent. Besides a fine jaw line, that is the most attractive thing. Secondly, the history. Helloo?? Ancestors?? England has a lot to offer, people! Manchester United? Scotland's Loch Ness isn't that far either. Bonus, British theater is rumored to be the best of the best (ie Les Miserables).

Below a picture of a "fine jaw line" and the most important reason to go to England.

I've been planning on going on this trip for over a year. I can't believe I'll be in England in two weeks. All of the stress from deadlines and money, it's all a thing in the past. Please let it be.

I am going to miss my family, friends (Charlotte, Serge, & Sabrina), and my Phi Sigma Pi brothers (I LOVE YOU, ALPHA RHO) so much but I can't wait to meet new people. Oh, and burgers being a normal thing.. I will miss that. Hello, fish and chips!

I won't be completely alone though. Two VT friends of mine will also be going, Marin and Arielle.

So far, I've planned to attend at least one of the Six Nations Rugby Championship games and perhaps a Manchester United game. Wayne Rooney. 'Nough said. Loch Ness will be a place I visit for sure. Old Nessy better be ready to make an appearance. Stonehenge--how did they do that?

There are thousands of castles in Europe so Marin and I are planning a castle hunt. Prague Castle, the biggest in the world, is my favorite.

Number of days before departure: 13.
Number of times I've packed and unpacked: 4.
Number of times I've had a crisis prior to leaving: 6