Wanderings and Ponderings

My Study Abroad Adventures in England & France


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Tour of Uni Kent

The University of Kent (or “Uni” as they refer to university over here) is a beautiful place. Surrounded by greenery and all types of wildlife, it truly is a peaceful place to be. Today I took advantage of one of our rare sunny days (the English rain is for real) to go take some photos of the campus.

This is outside my flat. The bedrooms/shower/toilet are all grouped together over to the right in communities of 5, then 2 flats (10 people) share a kitchen. My flatmates/kitchenmates are all really lovely people. There’s 9 of us, but the ones I see most often are Beth, Gemma, Tiff, and Treya, plus Alice who lives in Parkwood. They all enjoy cooking/eating (seriously, I’m impressed at how often they cook!) breakfast and dinner together.

Darwin College Staircases

Darwin College Staircases

The field where the rabbits usually hang out <3 and the  Templeman library in the background

Lawn w/ library in background

Here’s the main walkway on campus – students pass through here all the time, hence the students getting ready to hand out flyers. Essentials is the campus market/grocery store.

Main campus walkway

Main campus walkway

Just a bit further down the main walkway, you find the Kent Union building there on the left, and The Venue (the campus club) straight ahead. Popular even on weekdays, especially on Wednesday / “Vensday.”

Kent Union & The Venue

Kent Union & The Venue

I took this photo of the Canterbury Cathedral from the Keynes bus stop this morning (some of the British pronounce it “kayns” while others pronounce it “keens” – I suppose it’s just a matter of dialect).

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral

Here’s a shot of the cathedral I took yesterday from a different location:

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral

 

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Canterbury Exploration

Approximately 1/10 of my time here is over now (I’m leaving in June) – it’s impossible to believe, though perhaps that’s because I simply refuse to do so.

Even though I’ve really just arrived, I’ve grown incredibly attached to this city – the campus, the city centre, the various places to explore, and of course the people! Even though I’m still at the beginning of my experience here, it pains me to think of leaving in a few months.

Here’s a few photos of what I’ve done so far:

My friends and I took a leisurely walk near the city centre and stumbled upon some gardens

Gardens near City Centre

Gardens near City Centre

Gardens near City Centre

Gardens near City Centre

Me with the Cathedral

Me with the Cathedral

Panorama with the Cathedral

Panorama with the Cathedral

That evening we went down to the city centre to buy coach cards for a discounted price on our bus ride to London. I’d never been there at night, and it was simply beautiful.

Weaver's by night.

Weaver’s by night.

Weaver's / the river by night

Weaver’s / the river by night

 

City Centre by night

City Centre by night

City Centre by night

City Centre by night

The other night, Rachel and Lee and I went down to a local pub called “The Unicorn.” We met Lee’s flatmate Jess along the way and got her to come along too :) The pub was even better than I expected. There was a lovely, traditional pub atmosphere, which was only improved by the prints of the famous unicorn tapestry series (which, in case you don’t know, were used as the tapestries in the Gryffindor Common Room in the HP movies). I can’t wait to try new pubs, but I will definitely visit this one again!

Unicorn tapestry print

Unicorn tapestry print @ The Unicorn

The bar @ The Unicorn

The bar @ The Unicorn

Our table @ The Unicorn

Our table @ The Unicorn

Me @ The Unicorn

Me @ The Unicorn

 

There are more photos in the gallery, if you’re interested! :)

 


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Adventures Gone Awry

While study abroad has been an amazing experience so far, I won’t sugarcoat reality by saying it’s perfect. Despite it being a dream come true, things still go wrong. This is the story of one of those times:

Katie and Alice and I returned to Katie’s flat after dinner, and discovered a note on the door from Katie’s flatmate Max inviting us to a “pub” in the city centre (the quotes around pub are significant, as you’ll find out in a moment). I Google the pub, and luckily find out it’s got a formal dress code before we go down to it (none of us were aware of this requirement). We each go change into nicer clothes and meet back at the bus stop (bus instead of walking because it is freezing outside. Literally.).

Upon reaching The Cuban (the name of the pub), we discover that not only is it not a pub – it’s much more of a club, but there’s also a line stretching a couple lines down the sidewalk to get in. However, we figure as long as we’ve come this far, we might as well give it a shot and see what it’s like. After all, studying abroad is all about trying new things, right?

Standing in line took an incredibly long time, and once we got in the guys we were meeting, Max and Marcus, decided they were ready to go. We explored for a minute, but given that it was so crowded and different from what we were expecting, we didn’t really argue. So, we set off into the night.

After a few persistent questions, I finally gathered that the guys were leading us to the bus stop. We waited around for the bus for about 30 minutes I’d guess…they’re supposed to come every 8. No one seemed very concerned though, but I was frozen to the bone, so I called a taxi. The man warned us in advance that they could only send a 4 seater, but we agreed that that was fine; some of the others didn’t mind waiting for the bus. The taxi comes and Marcus tries to convince him to let 5 people ride. The driver wasn’t arguing, so he simply drove off, leaving us taxi-less. Still freezing, I called another taxi. Just as they answered, another taxi drove up and I climbed in. No one else did though, so the driver drove off.

A few seconds later, he mentions that I’m lucky I called a taxi, because the bus that’s supposed to come has broken down. We turn around to tell the others, however still none of them joined me. Oh well. They got a different taxi, apparently.

While it was definitely not a pleasant night, it was definitely an adventure, and we all made it back safely.

The line outside the Cuban. My friends are even further to the left.

The line outside The Cuban. (Despite the clothes, I promise it’s winter here)


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On Differences – Linguistic, Cultural, Etc.

It’s fascinating to me to listen to the different dialects. There’s such a wide variation, even of UK students, due to the student population who have come here from areas such as Wales or Birmingham. I always try to guess where someone’s from before I ask them – hopefully I’ll get to the point where I can figure out where people are from simply based on their accents.

International accents are common as well. Uni Kent is an incredibly diverse school with students from all over the world, so you can’t go from one building to the next without hearing at least one other language. Heaven. ^_^

There’s also the subject of my name, Raleigh, pronounced “ray-lee” here instead of “rah-lee” So, I’ve decided to go by my middle name “Anne” instead, which is also simpler to pronounce in other languages. It’s taken a while, but I’m finally getting used to it.

On a different note, I spent a good number of days trying to figure out if there was any sort of pattern to whether the British stick to the right or the left while walking, but was unsuccessful. One of my British friends recently confirmed that there is no rhyme or reason that he’s aware of and it’s like a constant game of “chicken.”

The people here (including students) are almost always well-dressed. For instance, you won’t find any girls wearing leggings and oversized t-shirts/sweaters. Everything from their hats to their boots are planned to look sophisticated.

It’s extremely common to end texts with a couple x’s. It’s frequently used even in platonic relationships/friendships as well a sort of “sign off.”

The age for purchasing alcohol here is 18, so it’s fairly common and is viewed as a cultural norm. It’s sold in the on campus market/grocery store, and there’s an on campus club as well. Quite the difference from U.S. campuses.

There are WAY fewer contact hours per class – for instance, my Foundations of Language class has a 1 hour lecture on Tuesdays, and a 2 hour seminar (small group discussion) on Fridays. There’s a good bit of reading though for each class, and students are expected to do that before lecture.

Also, the sun starts to set here at around 3:30 p.m., and it is very dark at 4:00 p.m. due to the difference in latitude.

These are just a few of the most interesting differences I’ve noticed over the course of my first week!


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On the Steps of the Palace!

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to get to go to Dover Castle with the International Students. Despite the weather (I’m beginning to get a sense of the English rain! My hair was pretty wet by the end of the trip) the trip was really very lovely. The fact that parts of it were used in the filming of the Into the Woods movie made the trip that much more exciting.

Upon approaching the castle we saw some friendly mountain goats (it’s so fluffy! :D).

Goats @ Dover

Goats @ Dover

The castle itself was really very cool. Literally. It must have been refrigerated! In all seriousness though, I loved seeing the castle. Old structures – centuries old – like Dover Castle are relatively common in Europe, but that’s not the case in the States. It’s amazing to have the chance to get to see them in person.

Dover Castle - view from the rooftop

Dover Castle – view from the rooftop

 

Outside Dover Castle

Outside Dover Castle

Dover Castle - view from the rooftop

Dover Castle – view from the rooftop

View from Dover Castle

View from Dover Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got to explore tunnels that were used in WWII. I’ve heard about these all my life, but it was surreal to learn about them where they actually happened. During WWII they served as air raid shelters and as a military command centre. Dover Castle is referred to as the “Key to England” due to its defensive importance.

Tunnel at Dover Castle

Tunnel at Dover Castle

Dover Castle

Dover Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Near the end of the trip we caught a teeny glimpse of the White Cliffs of Dover beside us.

White Cliffs

White Cliffs

P.S. I will generally include several pictures throughout my posts, but I include a gallery with extras to avoid flooding the page :)

 


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Getting to Know Canterbury

Ah, jetlag. No matter what you do, it always seems to happen.

On Thursday, the International students were supposed to go as a group to a local super market called Asda (similar to Walmart). I set my alarm the night before and turned up the volume more than usual…however, I completely slept through it! And I’m the kind of person who will wake up at the drop of a pin.

It turned out better than I expected. While the group was at Asda, I walked to the accommodation (housing) office to get my room officially switched to the one they had temporarily moved me to. Not to mention I got 2 extra hours of sleep!

After the group returned, I met up with my friends (Katie, Alice, Rachel, Sieu, and Lee) to have lunch at an on-campus restaurant called Gulbenkian Café. We just had to try the fish & chips – although I ate the fish with the tartar sauce it was served with, the chips were extremely good with “Brown Sauce” (a bit like barbeque sauce).

While we ate, we set up a Groupme chat to communicate. Not everyone has fb, not everyone has UK phone #s, so setting up a consistent form of communication was important. We called it the “Happy Wanderers” after our scavenger hunt team name the previous day :P

Fish & Chips

Fish & Chips

The wildlife here is so interesting. There’s (giant!) seagulls everywhere during the day. We have yet to figure out what they’re doing when they furiously stamp their feet, but it makes for a funny dance to watch. Rabbits appear in groups by night, instead of squirrels. Quite an interesting combination!

Seagulls, just chillin'

Seagulls, just chillin’

If you’re familiar with The Canterbury Tales, you might find this photo interesting, as I’m fairly confident that is the story the painting is portraying. I am not entirely sure about the 2nd painting.

Painting interpretation of The Canterbury Tales

Painting interpretation of The Canterbury Tales

Painting @ Uni Kent

Painting @ Uni Kent

The next day was full of exploring. In the morning, Katie and I returned to Canterbury City Centre to buy some groceries and look around some interesting British stores including Next and Emma’s.

Canterbury City Centre

Canterbury City Centre

Canterbury City Centre

Canterbury City Centre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We grabbed lunch at a place called “EAT” (If you’re searching for food, what better place to go, right?) and had a wonderful, protein-filled breakfast. Parched, I grabbed a bottle of water as well and took a sip. I think I accidentally scared my friend with my expression of surprise upon discovering that it was sparkling!

We then went to Tesco’s (a wonderful grocery store). While wandering around we stumbled upon the American section! So, if you’ve ever wondered how the States is viewed abroad, the answer is Pop-Tarts, peanut butter, and Oreos ;) Of course, Tesco’s is also home to a variety of traditional British fare. I picked up the toffee-flavored yogurt, a favorite of my mom’s, while I was there.

Tesco: U.S. Section

Tesco: U.S. Section

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tesco's toffee yogurt

Tesco’s toffee yogurt

Tesco: U.S. Section

Tesco: U.S. Section

Later in the day, the rest of our group joined us and we all finally got to go visit the Canterbury Cathedral. It was absolutely gorgeous inside, especially the stained glass. Next time, I would go earlier in the day, perhaps around 2:00, to get better lighting on my outdoor pictures.

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral

 

 

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral

 

 

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral

After we finished exploring the Cathedral, we started looking for a place to eat dinner. The traditional pasties and hot chocolate we eventually found was a welcome break from the freezing wind outside.

Steak & Stilton pasty; hot chocolate

Steak & Stilton pasty; hot chocolate

I’ve only been here – what – 5 days now? and I’m already growing extremely attached to Canterbury.

The Beginning

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The flight to London-Heathrow was an adventure of its own. 7 solid hours hurtling through the skies in a piece of metal can make a person tired…especially if said person doesn’t sleep on the way over there (I tried!). We finally landed at around 10:30 in the morning London time, but didn’t leave the airport till 3:30 as the shuttle bus to the University of Kent was running late.

However, despite the inconvenience of the bus’s lateness, the extra time did allow those of us who were awake to get to know each other a bit.

Adorable, Harry Potter-esque houses <3

Adorable, Harry Potter-esque houses <3

Almost there!

Almost there!

Flying over Cardiff

Flying over Cardiff

I see the Seine!

I see the Thames!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That night I was so tired I virtually collapsed into my bed. Advice for future study abroad students: no matter how tired you are, check to make sure everything is working before you unpack! The radiator for the room I was assigned to was

 

broken. The first night was rather cold and unpleasant, but on the bright side I now have a working radiator in my new room with a lovely view of the Darwin College Rose Garden:

Darwin College

Darwin College

Darwin College

Darwin College

Darwin College Stairs/Lobby

Darwin College Stairs/Lobby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View from room

View from room

The next day was scheduled with several events for the International Students. We had a campus tour/scavenger hunt, ate lunch at the on campus market (Essentials), had an information session, and then had a formal welcome dinner in Rutherford College. I met 2 people from France, one from Denmark, and too many others to list. The team I was with was entirely American (save one German girl who left the group).

 

Inside Essentials

Inside Essentials

 

Terry's chocolate orange bar

Terry’s chocolate orange bar

 

Inside Essentials

Inside Essentials

In Essentials, I bought a Terry’s chocolate orange bar – delicious! and the bar even looks like orange slices ^_^

That afternoon, during a break, my friend Katie and I went into Canterbury City Center. You can’t bring hairdryers abroad, or they risk frying, so we thought we’d get that and a few other things.

Canterbury City Centre

Canterbury City Centre

Riding to Canterbury City Centre

Riding to Canterbury City Centre

Riding to Canterbury City Centre

Riding to Canterbury City Centre

So far, my trip is off to a wonderful start and I already have a great group of friends. I’m excited to see what’s next!

 

 

This gallery contains 31 photos