Wanderings and Ponderings

My Study Abroad Adventures in England & France

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Forgive me for posting a whole song, but I feel that the lyrics are appropriate and I couldn’t choose just one portion.

I saw the light fade from the sky
On the wind I heard a sigh
As the snowflakes cover
My fallen brothers
I will say this last goodbye

Night is now falling
So ends this day
The road is now calling
And I must away

Over hill and under tree
Through lands where never light has shone
By silver streams that run down to the sea

Under cloud, beneath the stars
Over snow and winter’s morn
I turn at last to paths that lead home

And though where the road then takes me,
I cannot tell
We came all this way
But now comes the day
To bid you farewell

Many places I have been
Many sorrows I have seen
But I don’t regret
Nor will I forget
All who took that road with me

Night is now falling
So ends this day
The road is now calling
And I must away

Over hill, and under tree
Through lands where never light has shone
By silver streams that run down to the sea

To these memories I will hold
With your blessing I will go
To turn at last to paths that lead home

And though where the road then takes me,
I cannot tell
We came all this way
But now comes the day
To bid you farewell

I bid you all a very fond farewell

~Billy Boyd, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies


I’m leaving. I’ve known the day would come, but it always seemed off in the future sometime. Or perhaps I was pretending like I would be here forever.

This has been the most incredible experience of my life. How do I sum it up? What do I say when people ask? “It was great!”? There’s no way to describe it. A person has to experience it for themselves to understand. Too many adventures, mishaps, funny moments, cultural experiences, and simple growth happened – that’s my daily life right now, and it will be difficult to go back.

I thank my friends, who made everything so special and unique and funny. I’m very lucky to have been a part of your lives, and I already can’t wait to see you again.

Canterbury was perfect, as was The University of Kent. I’ll miss overlooking the Cathedral as I walk around campus every day. Counting 30+ bunnies as I cross campus. Watching the seagulls dance. Discovering new types of flowers. Exploring in utterly random shops and cafés in town. My heart hurts with love.

I’m very much struggling to come to terms with the fact that I have to leave. This is by far the happiest I’ve been in my life. I’ve made fantastic friends and equally fantastic memories. The thought of leaving everyone, not to mention Kent campus and the city of Canterbury pains me to no end.

The stages of grief have definitely hit me as well. Depression, anger, etc. I think my tear ducts are about dried out.

On one hand I’ve almost come to terms with it, and on the other I think – “just one more full day left? yeah right, that can’t be true…”

I’ve done a lot while I’ve been here, but leaving has a way of making you realize everything you never did. The past few days I’ve been running around crossing things off my mental list. I keep telling myself I’ll visit next year while I’m in Nantes, and that makes me feel a bit better.

I will visit next year. Maybe I’ll move here someday. It’s funny, no matter how many places I traveled to, I always loved Canterbury the most. And whenever I got back, I felt a sense of relief. I felt home.

Au revoir, Canterbury <3 Bonjour, Nantes ;)



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Tick tock, goes the clock

…and all the years they fly.

As of today, I have exactly one month left in Canterbury. One month left to explore. One month left to be with my friends. One month until life returns to, shall I say, “normal.”

I truly can’t believe I’ve been here four months. Has it really been that long? It’s all gone by so quickly. In the moment, time seems magical and frozen. Yet looking back, the hours and days and weeks all mix together into some sort of blur.

As much as I don’t want to think about leaving, I feel that it’s important that I write this. Now, before I really do have to leave and can’t bear to do it.

When I visited my friend Kelsey in Antibes, she mentioned something her program director asked them – “When you are on the plane going home, what will you remember? And when you land? And when you get home, and are sitting in your room unpacking, reflecting on the semester, what will you remember then? What mattered most? What changed you?” It makes me tear up to think about this, but I’ll answer the question.

The most important thing to me here has been the friends I’ve made. My faux-family consisting of Lee, Rachel, Sieu, and Ian. The dinners we’ve had together will be forever in my memory. Lauren, one of the best friends I’ve ever had, not to mention an excellent travel buddy. My British flatmates – Beth, Treya, Gemma, Tiff, and Alice. Joining them for dinner and comparing cultures has been invaluable. Tea society with Brooke, David, Nina, Sona, Georgie, and Lena. Practicing French with Sonia and Marine. Coping with “Morphology Madness” with Helen, Lauren, Ruth, Emily, Amber, Tegan, and Eloise. Working on Foundations with Oli and Elena. Hanging out with Ralph, Jess, and Jasmine. Plus many other equally important people who I’m sure will come to mind later – I’ll add you gradually :) I’ll never forget any of you. Each of you contributed so much to my experience here, and I’d just like to say thank you for that. You’re all wonderful people.

My friends and I have discussed doing a mini book club when we get back, to help stay in touch, as well as Skyping a lot, but I hope that I’ll be able to take a road trip to see them in person before too long.

I’ll miss the spontaneity and the constant stream of adventures. Visiting new cities on a regular basis. Wandering for the sake of wandering, and getting lost for the sake of getting lost.

I’ll miss being immersed the British culture and hearing British accents first thing in the morning. The courteousness and patience of the British people in general. The novelty of something as simple as Poundland. I’ll definitely miss the bus system and riding/walking to town on a whim.

Living here has been a priceless experience. Luckily, I get to repeat the study abroad experience in Nantes, France next term. I can only hope that it will be as wonderful as this has been.

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UK Election 2015

As some of you know, the other day was Election Day in the UK. David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, was reelected as Prime Minister.

Obviously, things are done a bit differently here than they are in the States, so I thought I’d so some research into the differences between the two systems. Cultural differences, right? I’ll outline it a bit here :)

1) The elections are held every 5 years instead of 4. This is actually a recent piece of legislation. Prior to 2011, the dissolution of Parliament was exercised by the Monarch (usually at the request of the Prime Minister) and elections could be held any time.

2) The Prime Minister (PM) and Members of Parliament (MPs) are elected simultaneously. The heads-of-party (e.g. David Cameron=Conservative, Ed Miliband=Labour, Nigel Farage=UKIP, Nick Clegg=Liberal Democrat etc. etc.) compete for the position of Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister is decided based on who wins the most constituencies. You don’t vote directly for the Prime Minister, you vote for who you want to be the Member of Parliament for your constituency. Since Conservative (Tories) Members of Parliament won the most seats in this election, David Cameron won the position of Prime Minister, as he is the Conservative party leader.

UK 2015 Election map - Constituencies

UK 2015 Election map – Constituencies










UK 2015 Election results

UK 2015 Election results
















The Prime Minister is also a Member of Parliament (e.g. David Cameron is the MP of the constituency “Witney”).

3) While the U.S. has many parties, it really only has 2 main ones – Democratic and Republican. Here, multiple parties play key roles in politics. Here’s a photo of a debate I was watching on tv the other day. Notice all the parties – it’s a veritable rainbow.

UK Political Debate

UK Political Debate











4) Despite the similarity in some of the names, the party ideology is often quite different from that of parties in the states. For instance, the Conservative party here is really rather liberal in comparison to the U.S. Republicans. Notice what they support/don’t support:

Republican / UK Conservative / Democratic party policies

Republican / UK Conservative / Democratic party policies

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When in Britain…

Since arriving here, I’ve noticed that the British style is rather distinctive, and very different from the US style.

First of all, people look put-together. Even little toddlers look put together from head to toe. You will *never* in *any* age group see a person wearing t-shirts and running shorts…unless the person is headed for the gym or actually running. Tennis shoes are rare here too. On the rare occasion you do see them worn, they’re of a sleek style and basic color – nothing bright or neon. Instead, the girls wear trainers (usually Converse), Oxfords, or black ankle boots and the guys wear Converse or leather shoes.

Also, people know how to dress for the cold! They know what coats are and wear them instead of running around like idiots dressing like its summer in 25*F/-4*C degree weather. And “jumpers.” People actually wear sweaters here in the winter.

Skirts and dresses are even more popular here despite the warm weather, and are worn with tights to stay warm. Whereas I never would have worn a dress to class at UT, they now comprise a relatively large section of my wardrobe.

Overall, the style is a lot more bold. The girls wear much more dramatic makeup, especially eyeliner, all days of the week. Leather (especially leather jackets) is very popular. Even the most mild- mannered of people tend to have a slight aspect of edginess (at least compared to how I’m conditioned to view it) to their style.

Accessories are really important, be it jewellery, scarves, etc. Both girls and guys regularly wear scarves. Honestly you can wear solid black from head to toe and be fine as long as you have a colorful scarf or something. Black and dark colors are definitely the way to go. While people may be a bit more experimental with style in London, elsewhere bright colors will make you stand out. Even in London, wearing bright colors in a non-intentional, non-artistic way will peg you as a tourist.

Compared to the just-rolled-out-of-bed look widely sported at UT, people put quite a bit of time and effort into their appearance here. With the girls, nails are always painted (“varnished”), makeup is always on, and jewellery is always worn. Of course, I’m generalizing, but this is the case most of the time, from what I’ve noticed :)




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“Sweet” Doesn’t Mean “Good”

One of the first things I noticed since arriving here is the difference in food. Yes, the Brits have their own type and brands of food like Cadbury, but it goes deeper than just brand names.

Over the past few months, I’ve gotten into the habit of reading labels to see what exactly I consume. I quickly noticed a magic ingredient over here that doesn’t crop up often in the US: SUGAR.

That’s right. No ridiculous high-fructose corn syrup. It’s got to be better for you, and in my opinion it tastes a million times better.

What really surprised me, however, is seeing the same basic products with different ingredients. For instance, today I bought a bottle of Lipton Peach Ice Tea and it tasted COMPLETELY different than I’m used to…and yet much better.

For those who are interested, I thought I’d do a brief comparison of what’s stood out to me the most so far.

Here’s the nutrition facts labels for Lipton Peach Ice Tea – US vs. UK:

US Nutrition facts

US Nutrition facts (11 ingredients)

UK nutrition facts

UK nutrition facts (9 ingredients)

Also notice that while the US version has a vague “natural flavor” ingredient (which doesn’t really taste like true peach!), the UK version tells you that it includes Peach juice from concentrate. That really hit me. If something is supposed to be fruit flavoured, it will actually taste like peaches, or strawberries, or whatever it says on the label, because real fruit juice is in the ingredients. I think all my US friends will agree that that’s not the case in the States. I much prefer the “real” tasting items over here.

One of the few British foods the US did have, Hershey chose to screw up. The dairy bar’s 1st ingredient was originally milk…aka…dairy… Not in the US. Dump extra sugar in (and some sketchy ingredients at the end) and you’re good. Here’s Cadbury Dairy Bar, US vs. UK:

Cadbury Dairy Bar US (Hershey's)

Cadbury Dairy Bar US (Hershey’s); 8 ingredients

Cadbury Dairy Bar UK

Cadbury Dairy Bar UK; 7 ingredients


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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!