Sunday, September 30

Countryside of England #keele #england #travel

Saturday, September 29

Last Saturday of September!

My second weekend in England was actually full of sunshine which was an absolute pleasure. I’ve made a “British Bucket List” which are stereotypical British things I want to do before I leave England, and one of them is to join “british” societies that we don’t offer at UNCW. So Saturday morning I went to try out my hand at archery again; mind you I haven’t picked up a bow since Keystone days (which goes back to sophomore year of high school so you do the math). It was actually quite a success! I ended up hitting a bulls-eye or 10 point shot and several 9-points and not to mention they have pretty awesome shirts with the Keele crest on them. 
Then one of the things I have been most looking forward to- ballroom/latin and salsa dancing. For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past two decades, I really love dancing and basically all types: belly dancing, ballet, hip-hop, salsa, zumba, line dancing- but I’ve never had the chance to do ballroom dancing. The room was packed full of people tasting out the society which was fantastic. They taught a basic waltz and the cha-cha before we switched over to salsa. I definitely plan to continue back in the States when I return. The taster session was great, so I’m definitely going to the join society next week.
After the taster sessions a few of the girls I had met earlier from the team were talking about some salsa party that night. Completely unlike me, and completely out of my comfort zone, I decided to head out with them to Coventry which was about 1 1/2 hours away. Let’s just say I’m really stoked that I went, it was one of the most fun nights ever, and I got to learn several new Salsa moves and some Stylin. Thank goodness I had done salsa before for a semester at Appalachian, because I was able to kind of follow along with the guys who were leading. I can’t wait to learn more :)

Friday, September 28

Friday I had a lovely day planned to go to Trentham Gardens and Monkey Forest in Stoke. Trentham Gardens is a beautiful estate with grand gardens situated on a picturesque lake complete with white swans floating on the still water. Keele had organized the trip, and so there was a charter bus of us who were going!
I met the group at Darwin Car park (or parking lot for the Americans) around 12:30 and the sun came out and the rain clouds dissipated! It was a short 15-minute bus ride to Monkey Forest where we unloaded out of the bus and entered the forest. It was super quiet, as most kids are still in school at that time. We only had an hour to explore Monkey Forest before the bus would drive us the short 5-minute journey to Trentham Estate and Gardens. The Forest was absolutely magical! It was like a small tropical forest randomly in the middle of England. You had to walk through this doorway and suddenly there are monkeys everywhere! They were Barbary Macaques and looked like fluffy teddy bears :) They were walking on the path, on the railings, in the trees, on the ground- like literally everywhere! I met up with four other girls from the States and we kind of became friends and stuck together.
After about an hour of walking through Monkey Forest we went back to the entrance of Monkey Forest and took the bus over to Trentham Gardens and Estates. It was a cute little shopping town full of shops, small cafes and restaurants. Hannah, Malika, Bella and myself went into the gardens and it was absolutely stunning. The lake was huge and there were so many swans and ducks floating on the calm water. The sun had appeared and it felt so nice, and it even got warm! We walked all around the gardens and up to the old estate. The estate was in complete disarray, like a complete ruin, which I was surprised but it looked like they were in the process of restoring the place. Even in ruins, it was absolutely stunning and gorgeous (I wouldn’t have minded living there myself). The gardens were Italian style with many terraces complete with fountains, topiearies, and all sorts of different flowers. It was so warm and sunny, which I was so thankful for. I had been praying for days that it would be nice weather for us :)
Finally, after spending a few hours in the gardens the four of us walked into town and shopped around and then stopped at Pieminister, where we had tea and pies as a little afternoon snack. I had a cup of tea and a carmel shortbread which was quite yummy!
Bella and I ended up living right next door to each other, or right across the way, and didn’t even know and we totally hit it off!! That evening she came over to my block and I introduced her to everyone and then we went to her flat and watched the first three episodes of Pride & Prejudice from the 1993 BBC Miniseries with Colin Firth while we had tea and cookies :) It was such a lovely day!!

Thursday, September 27

A Spot of Tea

So here’s the gym I’ve been talking about for the past few days. It’s tiny compared to American standards, but it gets the job done. My favorite part is that they have wifi, so I’ve been hitting up the bike like nobody’s business and getting back to one of my loves: PINTEREST!! I can’t get Pinterest to come up on my laptop over here for some reason; anyways…I digress; I still need to figure out the conversion of my weight from pounds to kilograms or whatever they use here, because every machine needs my weight and I am totally guessing what the conversion is! I need to google that. 
Thursday I woke up to a rare occurrence here in Northern England, sunshine! I walked to the bus stop to head to the gym without a jacket or my umbrella because the sun was shinning and it wasn’t raining. I love walking to the bus stop early in the morning, between 8 and 8:30 because in Keele Village we live next to an elementary school, so I love seeing all the parents walk their kids in their precious uniforms every morning. Rain or shine, parents take the bus and walk all the way to school in their cute red and black uniforms. The girls wear red tights with a black jumper dress, and the boys wear black pants with a red shirt, a tie, and a blazer. It’s just so English. This morning all the kids were out laughing and playing in the “gardens” before school started; it was so nice to just close my eyes, hear the laughter and the warmth of the sunshine on my cheeks.
I caught the bus back to Hawthorns and changed into a town-appropriate outfit (my tennis shoes and Nike stuff just wasn’t going to cut it), heated up the other ‘sausage roll’ I bought from town yesterday, and headed out towards Stoke-on-Trent.
I go off the bus at the Stoke Train Station which is this absolutely stunning old building with some gorgeous architecture. I’ve been on a mission to find Mom & Kelly a hotel to stay in while they visit me so I marched into the train station to inquire about a hotel, but it turns out the ONLY hotel in Stoke-on-Trent is the “hotel-from-hell” as the people on TripAdvisor have dubbed it. So that was an epic fail. It looks like Mom & Kelly will be staying in Newcastle in a quaint cottage or B&B while they’re here :)
Although Stoke-on-Trent didn’t look like much of a town, and it was starting to drizzle (I’ve become smart and carry an umbrella in my Longchamp bag at all times), I decided to discover the town anyways. Staffordshire College is in Stoke-on-Trent which is where English students go from the ages of 16-18 or the “gap years” as they call them, which are the years between high school and when they go to university. It’s an optional two years of schooling, but it’s basically like a glorified high school, or so it appears.
So because of that, with the average age of residents of Stoke on Trent being 17, you can imagine the town was a bit…sketchy. However, I kept on walking because I saw a sign that said Hanley Park was up ahead. I drugged on through the cobblestone pathways and came across Hanley Park which had a beautiful and tranquil lake. It was a quiet little park, full of ducks and geese, an occasional older couple walking hand-in-hand and a few people feeding the pigeons. I walked all around the lake in the light drizzle enjoying the older couple ahead of me sharing an umbrella and occasionally stopping to stare off into the lake where the ducks quacked playfully. 
After finding my way out of Hanley Park, I caught the bus into Hanley City Center which was actually a large town. The town was bustling with people and pigeons! There was a town market again full of fresh fruits and vegetables and street vendors selling potato jackets (baked potatoes) and fish & chips! I wandered into some of the more metropolitan stores such as The Potteries, Gap, and TK Maxx! It wasn’t as cute and quaint as Newcastle but it was nice to experience the city-vibe in Northern England for a change of pace.
Oh, and on the way back to Newcastle I jumped off the bus at this old church I’d seen just to see what it was. It was St. Peter’s Church. The grave yard was mysterious and eerie but quite peaceful at the same time; and the church itself was a beautiful beacon on top of a hill, with grand gothic architecture elements. Very beautiful!
Now I’m sitting in the Chancellor’s Building coffee shop with a spot of Earl Gray tea and a chocolate muffin listening to the Pride & Prejudice soundtrack on my Mac. It’s been a full day of exploring towns, and now I’m quite ready for the bangers & mash my flatmates are going to prepare me tonight!!

Baby It's Cold Outside

Today is so cold, my nose might fall off! They’re completely numb currently :) I got an e-mail from the I.T. Office last night telling me to come into the office, and I had been so nervous they were going to tell me that my laptop had exploded or something and was completely unfixable!
[Side-note: for those of you who don’t know, my laptop had stopped playing sound on Saturday so I brought it to the IT Desk to see if they could help me figure it out, and they broke it instead! Well sort of, anyways. They were doing a system update and didn’t plug it in when they did it, so it died half way through and my computer wouldn’t start afterwards!! They had no idea what was wrong with it, so they had to keep it and they said they didn’t know how long it would take to fix!! So I’ve been using a loaner laptop they laoned me] 
Anyways, I went to the I.T. Office this morning on pins and needles. Luckily, my laptop was alive!! Yay. They weren’t ready for me to take it, but they wanted me to come in and see the updates they’d done. They still haven’t fixed the sound, which is why I went into them in the first place so they said it may take a few more days before I could actually have it back. However, at least its up and running again.
Then I went to the gym for about an hour where I found a wifi spot, so I was able to check e-mails, Facebook and Pinterest; it was awesome. I love it when I actually recieve wifi on my phone :) Afterwards, I caught the bus back to my block where my roommate was still sleeping at 11:35, so I made myself a pita-peanut-butter-sandwhich and headed to ‘X’ block which is one of the common areas in Hawthorns where they have free wifi, and I talked to mom for a while and am now watching ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ all bundled up in my jacket and Hunter’s because I’m so stinking cold!!
Tonight I think I’m going out with the people in my flat to ‘Quiz Night’ which is a fresher’s week activity :) you answer random questions, like a quiz I guess, and can win prizes. Here’s hoping my toes and nose don’t fall off before then!!

Wednesday, September 26

Gone to Market

Today is Wednesday, and it’s been over a week since I’ve left home. Wednesday is “sports” day here at Keele so most people don’t have classes or only have them in the morning because in the afternoon is sports practice and games, so mostly everyone was in the block this afternoon. I got up around 8 a.m. and went to the gym, where it was super quiet. I got in a quick work out and then headed to the Chancellor’s Building and picked up my ticket for Trentham Gardens and Monkey Forest for Friday! It actually WASN’T raining this morning when I went to the bus stop, which was a nice change of pace.
Afterwards, I ran back to Hawthorns and changed to go into town with Beth and Ellen. Beth and I were going to meet Ellen in the Chancellor’s Building after she met with her tutor, but while we were sitting there James and Jess joined us and decided to go to town as well. Ellen wasn’t able to come after all, so the four of us headed out into Newcastle. We just bummed around town while the girls shopped for their fancy dress costumes and around the markets around town. Jess and James ate lunch at McDonald’s, which looked quite different, and Beth and I decided to go get sandwiches from somewhere, but we ended up at the Pound Bakery and ate sausage rolls! Quite yummy.
Then we met up with some of the other boys, Joe, Liam and “Wooly” and went grocery shopping at Iceland! I loved seeing all the same foods but how different they were called or packaged! I got “penguins” which are like small pieces of chocolate cake and a huge 5L water jug. We returned to Hawthorns we just hung around the block until we had a meeting with our Residential Manager or “RA” as we call them in the States. Then myself and Maroulla ordered Dominos pizza for dinner (they thought I’d want an American meal for a change, ha).

Now the gang is out in campus for fancy dress night and I’m just working on stuff in my room and watching Pride & Prejudice on Netflix and enjoying one of my penguin cakes! Heading to bed soon, as I barely got any sleep last night. Night night!

Adventures in Rainland

Yesterday I had a very fun adventure exploring the countryside and town of Newcastle. I wondered around town where I live and stumbled on the Keele Parish church, which was an old church from the 1700s or something like that. The church was super old and pretty, with stained glass and a steeple and timbres. I wandered around the grave yard, it was so quaint and old. I felt like Miss. Marple or something :) The whole reason I was wandering around town in the first place was to find The Old Schoolhouse which used to be the school house of Keele Parish but is now owned by a couple and they have some rooms to rent. I ended up in their backyard but didn’t know if I should just walk up to the back door and knock, so I just walked away. I found the front of the house, which was through this really cute old iron gate. When I rang the bell, she ushered me in out of the rain, and her husband popped into the room. He asked if I had been in the back yard, and I guiltily said yes- that I was at the church walking around and kind of happened to end up in the backyard. He asked why I was walking in the rain, and I said “Isn’t that what British people do?”, he laughed and walked away!!
Then I headed down ‘three miles road’ just to see where it went and not even about 2 minutes down there was a huge pasture full of sheep!! I was walking along the sidewalk and they all just stopped and starred at me!! It was so cute, so British! It looks like the pasture went on for miles and miles, and I assume based on the name of the road, it goes on for three miles.
I finally made it into Newcastle-under-Lyme for the first time on my own. I wandered around the market, which apparently is a medieval market from the 1100’s. Some of the store fronts were still old with thatched roofs and exposed Tudor beams. They had some American type stores like McDonalnds (pronounced MacDonalnds), Laura Ashley, and Subway but the town basically had a lot of stores I didn’t recognize. I found the poundbakery and got some meat pies for dinner- one meat and potato and the other chicken, for a pound (which was a great deal). However, all I could think about when I was looking at the pies was Sweeny Todd and it kind of turned me off to them at first; however I had the chicken one last night and it was actually quite tasty! (Pictures to come) I just wandered around town until I got lost, and I found St. George’s Chapel and walked around the gorunds of the church for a while, it was even older than Keele Parish. It was quite beautiful.
I spent the night in the kitchen with my other flat mates cooking dinner while they got ready for the concert. Then Maroulla made me my first ‘cupper’ or cup of tea for England! They all laughed because I needed sugar for my tea, because apparently they only use cream!! It was actually really yummy.
The graveyard at St George #travel #studyabroad #england 

Tuesday, September 25

Newcastle under Lyme #travel #studyabroad #england #rain #lost

Monday, September 24

Monday Showers (Pouring more like it)

This morning I woke up to it being quite cold and rainy, I know typical English weather. But it wasn’t just raining or drizzling, it was pouring; there were a few times I thought my umbrella would fly away while I was waiting for the bus!!
I went and checked out the campus gym today, and we’re definitely spoiled in America. The gym was so small, it was kind of hard to believe. There are 3 rowing machines, 5 bikes, 5 treadmills, 3 ellipticals, 1 skating machine, 1 stepper, a room of free weights and a room of machine weights! It was nice and quiet though today because all the other students has classes today; whereas international students don’t start for a whole week (I don’t know why we had to get here so early if we don’t start classes until October 1st).
Afterwards I went to the “involvement carnival” where all the clubs and socities had tables and such to promote themselves. I think I’m going to join the archery society, the ballroom dancing club, and the fencing society while I’m here (when in Rome right?) so I’m excited about that. I also joined a ‘come dine with me’ society which is apparently based off a telvision show. Basically we’re all split up into small groups and weekly we rotate on who will cook a meal for the others; so I thought it’d be a great way to 1) get a ‘free’ meal and 2) meet a bunch of other people who like to cook! I’m really excited to start ballroom dancing as many of you know I love to dance, so I’ll be doing ballroom and latin and possibly salsa on the side. I’ve taken many archery courses already back in the States but fencing will be completely new experience.
Although it’s pouring buckets right now, I think I’m going to head into Newcastle and just explore for a while; because I really don’t have much else to do at the moment. I put on my Hunters for the first time in England, put on a scarf and am venturing out to catch the bus!

Sunday, September 23

Sunday Showers

Sunday morning myself and a few other girls in the block went and got free breakfast the university was offering at Hawthorns Restaurant. It was a ‘continental’ breakfast, which I thought would be like eggs, bacon, toast, and so forth but it was croissants and muffins! The whole room was decorated with Union Jacks and balloons which was cute!
Then a bunch of us went into campus to the sports fair and ‘freshers’ welcome fair where they had inflatables, live music, dancing, and a bunch of clubs and societies set up that you could talk to. I’m thinking about joining one called “Come Dine with Me” in which you rotate turns cooking a meal for your group. At the end of the term, there’s a winner who cooked the best (I think myself and another girl in my hall, Katie could possibly win).
After the girls ate lunch and we walked around for a bit, we decided to catch the bus into Newcastle to go shopping for groceries and stuff. Katie is from Newcastle so she kind of showed us around a bit. We stopped at a store called Morrison’s which is kind of like a grocery store with some random houseware items. One of the girls on my floor who’s actually a bit older than me, helped me around the grocery store along with her friend Nikki, teaching me the differences between all the foods (i.e. the difference between a biscuit, a cookie, a scone, a muffin, a cake, a cupcake) because believe it or not they actually are different than in the States! So I got some ‘ready’ meals such as bangers & mash, and shephard’s pie! Yum.
We walked around town for a bit before catching a taxi back to campus, and the town was so cute even though it started raining while we were there and most of it was closed because it was Sunday!
Tonight I went to Sneyd Arms Pub for dinner and had a tuna baguette with chips, at it was really good. The pub itself was really cozy and quaint and although I wasn’t up for it tonight, the desserts looked awesome! I’ll definitely be going back soon!! Well it’s raining and cold and almost midnight, so I’m off to bed :) Cheers!

Saturday, September 22

First Day at Keele

My first full day in England was Friday, and of course it rained all day!! 
This is one of my walks to the bus stop every morning, note the gray-British weather :)

Friday, September 21

England Countryside on the way to Stoke-on-Trent

Travel Adventures in England

It’s been almost five days since I left North Carolina to head to England and I haven’t made it very far, let’s put it that way. After the fiascos of flights in the United States, Carmen and I made it to London Airport and made it through customs and immigration without any issues. Since we missed our original day, no one was at the airport to pick us up. With absolutely no help from the university on how to arrive at Keele, I took to Facebook and bombarded anyone who I thought would help me! Some friends made it sound so simple, take a bus or the underground to the train station, take the train, and afterwards there was a bus to take us directly to campus; or so it seemed. 
We collected our luggage and made our way to the Underground Railway. We bought our tickets for the tube and off we went. What the lady at the ticket counter declined to tell us was that we’d have to change tubes and there would be massive amounts of stairs. Yes, stairs. Stairs with my two suitcases and two carry-ons jammed full of stuff (easily 50-70lbs each bag). Let’s just say that majorly sucked. We made it through the underground and surfaced at Euston Station in London where we bought a train ticket to Stoke-on-Trent. After pulling our luggage to the 17th Terminal (the very end of the platform) we collapsed on the train, thankful to be sitting again and not pulling our luggage. However, because we had so much luggage we took over an entire cubicle of cars (the conducted wasn’t too pleased).
After a 2hr 45min journey through some actually pretty countryside we emerged in Stoke-on-Trent!! A kind man had pity on us and helped us carry our luggage off the train and directed us to the bus stop, in which we could take the bus to Keele University.

The driver dumped us out at Keele University and we probably looked like lost animals, just searching around for the Chancellor’s Building. One thing I have to say, is that the people at Keele have been really friendly. A girl saw us struggling up the many hills of campus and offered to pull one of my suitcases for me, which was a kind relief for my now blistered-hands. We got to the Chancellor’s Building and collected all our forms, paperwork and room keys and then made our way to our accommodation, mine which happens to be .06 miles away from campus! There was no way I was going to be able to carry my luggage any further, so they were kind enough to drop me off at my “block”. To my surprise however, room ‘24’ is not on the second floor, but it’s on the third floor. Three flights of stairs later, a good cry, and trying to figure out how to open my door…I finally made it to Keele University.

Thursday, September 20

England Countryside #England #Countryside #StokeonTrent #Train #Travel

Tuesday, September 18

The Move to England

I left home over twenty-four hours ago and I’ve made it a couple hundred miles and made it to Philadelphia, where I have been sitting for quite a long while now. Leaving home with tearful goodbyes to the family, I made it through security without any beeps (which inevitably happens to me because I always forget my headbands are made of metal) or bumps and continued to sit and wait, and wait, and wait at my gate for my plane to Philadelphia and then onto Manchester. Due to weather delays on the East Coast, our plane was delayed to the point I had to change my flight from Manchester to Heathrow airport. No big deal, right, I could hop on a bus in London and take a nice nap all the way to school. Wrong. We were delayed again on the plane so by the time we landed in Philadelphia, we had 15 minutes to high tale-it from Terminal F to Terminal A; of course the only way to get to Terminal A is through a bus/tram ride which had the slowest driver in the entire airport I’m sure. We ran to our gate (which was at the very very very end of Terminal A) just to see our plane sitting there but with the walk-way so we were out of luck. After they pull that away, the plane might as well be thousands of miles away because you’re not getting on. After the five stages of travel- disbelief, anger, devastation, frustration, and then a “I-don’t-give-a-boot” attitude, we walked to the rebooking counter to wait in line for about an hour. 
They were able to book me on the only flight out the following day, at 10:00 p.m. That was stage “I-don’t-give-a-boot”; so I took it and then took on the task of trying to find a place for the night. Luckily my incredible dad had ran with me through the terminals, willingly missed his flight, and helped me get my senses about me and booked a hotel for us for the night.
I’ve now spent a pleasant day at the Philadelphia airport in the U.S. Airways Club Lounge  reading, watching the last episode of Covert Affairs, and eating my $50 worth of cheese & crackers and Milano Cookies. (I have resisted the urge to shove my pockets and cheeks full of Milano cookies and walk straight to my plane). It’s been a long and emotional 27+ hour day(s) of traveling and I definitely have mixed emotions about getting on this plane to London. 
So here’s to the joys of traveling and hopefully getting to my final destination!