Assimilation and deamericanization

 

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Culture Shock.

Now that is a phrase I was not expecting to be using during my time studying abroad in London. I had a preconcieved notion that I was not heading into a different area that would provide me insight to a different culture. Was I ever wrong. I feel like every minute I have been yelled at for using a wrong phrase. I think one of the sentances I used most was “yeah, I don’t know what that means.” or “So… what is this?” Trying new foods, celebrating new holiday traditions, it has all been a bit overwhelming.

Having forced myself to befriend real British people in order to submerge myself into a bigger cultural awareness I feel as if I have become a professional at translating this skewed language, whilst ( key term there) laughing at myself for being such an idiot.
So if you are planning on studying, visiting, or living across the pond here are a few things you should probably know.

Phrases:

Proper: not very, just proper. ie: this is a proper blog post, not procrastination at its finest.

cheeky: I don’t even know what it means I just use it. ie: This might be a bit cheeky of me but can I steal your chips?

I guess it kinda sassy/snarky. Actually that is probably a lie. I still don’t really understand what this word means. But I really like it.

A top up: you can top up a drink, a cell phone pay as you go, a travel card. Anything and everything gets topped up.

Right, so I decided to research this a bit… because I am not even sure of all them. There are to many times I messed up I think I just got ignored after awhile. So Here are some of my favorites ( favourites) from http://www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/british-american.htm

A Flat is an apartment.. well that is pretty obvious isn’t it?

Autumn is fall… well we definitely use them interchangeably over here.

biscuit is a cookie…. Let me just tell you. If you EVER want KFC. Don’t even think about going. You will not get biscuits as we know it. You will get fries, maybe. A cookie, is a biscuit. Still annoyed about this.

Bonnet of a car, hood of a car… that just makes no sense.

High street… main street… I mean, that is obvious. Clearly there aren’t streets in every neighborhood where people get high. Although Camden High Street that might be true.

They had some others on there.. I guess if you really want the culture shock of learning a new language you will have to go visit for yourself!

 

Food:

Surprisingly enough, it is not that bad. Actually I think I am eating too much :/.  I guess the stereotypes lie. The most upsetting part of the food, is the globalized fast-food chains that have altered what they serve over the pond. For example: KFC. I was pretty excited to go to KFC get some popcorn chicken and a biscuit. (Yum) See, I wrote about this twice. I was really angry.

When I had the awful realization about this terrorizing fault of British Kentucky Fried Chicken, I decided to share the gift of biscuits. Ok.. I wanted to attempt to share them. In reality I learned that they aren’t the easiest food to make. So I ended up making Thanksgiving dinner for a few of the friends that I made. This was my first time properly ( see proper in context) cooking the meal. We had a  spinach and artichoke dip ( not traditional just very american) turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes ( I did not make this.) gravy, and of course both pumpkin and pecan pies.  And we cannot forget my sad attempt at making biscuits. Sadly there was no football to watch on the tv, or macy’s thanksgiving day parades. We tried to find live feeds of them! But there was a day of cooking, being merry with friends and skying with family back home.

 

Walking:

Thank goodness for the signs that told me which way to look, because I am pretty sure I would be dead by now if I didn’t. Haha! It hasn’t been that bad and caught on pretty quickly. :)

Over all assimilation:

Well, I may have assimilated on some levels, but it has come the time to focus on forgetting all the silly words. Soon, in a little over a week I will be back at home and no one will understand me! Too much Brit in one American.

 

Stay tuned, I will be updating this over my break now that I am not spending all my time writing papers!

 

At a cultural event , Winter Wonderland

At a cultural event , Winter Wonderland

Goodness Gracious Great Balls of Fire

Southwark Park fireworks display!

The Fifth of November

    Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
Guy Fawkes and his companions
Did the scheme contrive,
To blow the King and Parliament
All up alive.
Threescore barrels, laid below,
To prove old England’s overthrow.
But, by God’s providence, him they catch,
With a dark lantern, lighting a match!
A stick and a stake
For King James’s sake!
If you won’t give me one,
I’ll take two,
The better for me,
And the worse for you.
A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
A penn’orth of cheese to choke him,
A pint of beer to wash it down,
And a jolly good fire to burn him.
Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!
Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King!
Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!

Katie and I at Blackheath Fireworks (friend from SOAS)

Fireworks night (times 2)

Layer up, grab some hot coc0 and mittens! Its time to go watch fireworks! I had the privilege of going to see the fireworks shows twice, the Saturday before Guy Fawkes day and on Guy Fawkes day. If you read the poem above is the night when Guy Fawkes planned on blowing up Parliament, so every year the people of Britain celebrate by showing fireworks, making bonfires and enjoying the cold air.

I went with some of my friends from my housing accommodation, Dinwiddy House ( all of which go to SOAS) on Saturday to see the Blackheath Fireworks. We had a bit of a travel to get out there, but when we did there was a massive field with loads of people. We sipped our hot coco, and found a good spot to watch the fireworks. London does fireworks well. This was an amazing sight.I have recently become very intrigued in how fireworks reflect off the black sky and bounce into color, especially in photographs when they are either out of focus or the shutter speed is slowed down.

example of slowed shutter speed fireworks photo

 

On Monday night, I accompanied my friend Miro from canoe polo to the Southwark Park fireworks, which took us quite a long time to get there although it really shouldn’t have. ( Whoops!) Southwark allowed us to use sparklers so we played with them quite a bit! We laughed, and we watched an amazing fireworks show accompanied by music. If you haven’t seen a firework go BOOM! to gangnam style, you haven’t lived.

Southwark Fireworks Show, sparklers!

 

 

Paddlington 2012- “I should have just stayed home”

If you have been keeping up with me, you will know that I upon arriving to SOAS, I attended a “Freshers Fayre” Freshman club fair basically… while I was there I was wondering around and these really exciting, funny men convinced me that joining a sport in kayaks while playing water polo was a good idea.

I then started showing up to some practices, which was really fun… and then they said “Hey we are going camping, at the end of October and playing polo, you should come”

Of course, I said yes. I love camping. This is probably the moment of my errors. I really should have just stayed home.

Paddlington 2012 was the weekend of ” I should have stayed home” Just like Arnold on the Magic School Bus field trips.

So on the weekend of October 26th, my adventures began as I prepared for my first canoe polo tournament. I think in order to really understand the weekend, we have to start at the Thursday before. My friend who has been playing for a year offered to take me a and a few other newbies out to go buy what we would need for the weekend. It seemed simple enough. The store was not too far away, just an easy tube ride.

Of course, we decided to take the over ground and therefore had to wait hours for the overground to arrive. Well not exactly hours but definitely at least 15-20 minutes for each train. By the time we got to the store it had probably taken an hour. We found what we needed, which was much cheaper than I was expecting. ( always a positive for a study abroad student.)

After that exciting little trip, my friend convinced me that I had to try out this chicken place called Nando’s.   It is basically a fancy fast food restaurant. It was delicious and awesome, at this point we had have a bit of a ridiculous shopping experience, lots of a food and maybe too much fun. Its now probably about 10 pm, but we had to go to Hackney to pick up her tent for the weekend.

This is a picture of a possible route we took to hackney. Just so you know, in London if you have to go thirty minutes on public transit. Its really quite far.

After we arrived in Hackney, there were lots of funny things going on, amusing posters, signs on the walls, and other interesting things. We were having a ball. Finally we got to the place where we went to go buy a pop up tent. Pop up tents aren’t really something we are accustomed to in the states, but we should be. It pops out of a bag and bam you have a tent. It was really cool, so naturally right away we wanted to make sure the tent worked and that it pops out of the tent. BAM! It did. The only problem was that now its about 11 pm, we are a ways away from home, and we just set up a tent. We couldn’t figure out how to put the tent down. It took, two phone calls, and an hour to finally understand how to put the tent down. Eventually it made sense, but that was after lots of tries. Of course if anyone asks, we were able to manage quite quickly with no issues. This story is not being told to the public at all. The most embarrassing part: a random man who sold the tent to us took a picture of our struggles… but didn’t offer to help.

After all of that, we ended up having to go home on the bus and it was a long bus ride. I feel as if this has appropriately set the stage for what my weekend would hold in all, lots of silly mistakes.

Life at Paddlington the tournament:
It was cold. It was wet. and the idea of warmth didn’t even work. But it was awesome. I believe the weather was about 40 degrees. So that was probably strike one of freezing, lets play in really cold windy water, when its really cold outside too. Sounds like a blast right? Well when there is never enough coffee and tea, you can hardly sleep and it is hailing outside everything is so much more fun. But actually, being able to play the sport for the first time was so exciting, and exhilarating that it wouldn’t have mattered how awful the conditions were, it would still be fun. It reminded me of my freshman year on Clark Women’s Rowing when we started rowing on the lake again in April only to break the ice knowing on the off chance that if we capsized I would have less than two minutes before hypothermia set in with the chance of death. Lovely, right?

I think the funniest part of Paddlington that I will always remember were the first year team names. We had two freshman teams ( in the picture below is during our final match we were playing each other) one team was named the Paddington Bears, obviously makes sense, and then my team was the Wombles. Which is only really funny because I can’t pronounce the word correctly, but they are these creepy little ant eater like things, I think our team was being made fun extremely for this.  Admittedly, they are pretty cute in this photo:

Creepy little guys

Here are some snaps from the tournament, I have more photos of me playing, but the lack of my knowledge on the pitch is too embarrassing to post on here, even knowing if was the first time I ever played. Thank you for reading my rant on my life in London, and when someone tells you its going be cold, always believe them. And like Arnold from Ms. Frizzles class remember that while you probably should have stayed home, we can’t stay home all of our lives- we must adventure.

The freshman I played with at the tournament

Everyone that attended Paddlington 2012.

Temple Church

Two Sunday’s ago… wow time does really pass quickly, I ended up searching to attend a service and visit Temple Church which is seen in the DaVinici Code. If you want to watch here is a  Video about temple church.  I probably should have watched this before my attempt to find it, because I ended up never arriving at Temple Church. I am getting ahead of myself though, lets go back to the start of my morning.
As all mornings commence, I left Dinwiddy House, found the bus I was supposed to take, hopped on and made my way towards Temple Church. The stop I was told to get off at, is quite close to St. Paul’s as well.

The route I was supposed to take.

Yet somehow, I did not follow these directions and they made no sense to me. I ended up getting off the bus around St. Paul’s, and then started walking hoping to find the Temple Church at this point I had about twenty minutes before the service started. I first started walking towards St. Paul’s and turned at this construction sight hoping that it was the right place to go, It wasn’t. I was actually walking away from the river which you can see I really was not supposed to be doing.

The 2nd route I should have taken

I ended up walking down Fleet Street, and ended up walking towards the river. At this point it was past 11:15 and I decided to take a photographic journey instead, enjoying some me time and taking a lovely walk. I didn’t end it with anything that I love, but I still was able to walk about and enjoy my time. So I walked down some creaky streets

a little pub in an alley way that was on an incline. I realized on this walk that I am really interested in store fronts and windows from around the world.

At this point I had not given up on trying to find Temple Church, I walked towards the embankment to continue my escapade. I was determined to get to this location.  I finally saw this:

I must have been close.

I know that I must have been quite close, so I tried to follow the signs towards Temple Church, walked down another little alley way, and this is what I ended up seeing:

Coming out of the Alley way

View from on top of the staircase looking out onto the river. I don’t think I walked past it ( although I must have)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I never did end up finding the Temple Church, I did find the Twinnings Factory, some lovely sights, have an amazing walk and actually ended up for the first time in Covent Garden, Seven Dials and a bit of Soho. I ended up in areas of Central London I hadn’t ever ventured out to, which is what these trips are for- to make myself get out of the Kings Cross area and try to learn about an area that I don’t know much about. The Sunday ended up at this lovely arts festival in Bloomsbury that was filled with cute food pop-ups, little art booths and actually there were activities going around all over the neighborhood, we just ran out of time to participate in them. Time goes by quickly.

Covent Garden

Have a beautiful Sunday, remember every single day is an adventure and to enjoy it.

London

My Courses at SOAS

Since this is the only the second time that Clark has sent students to SOAS as a specifically Clark study abroad program, and not having to go outside of study abroad to study here, I wanted to explain more about the courses and what is involved in Studying Abroad, if you are considerding studying abroad at SOAS please post a comment and I will get you my email address and we can talk more about the program!

SOAS Study Abroad is a unique study abroad program, because it is incredibly academic. Not to say that other study abroad courses aren’t, but you have to choose a program that you enjoy and there are no understanding the culture courses, required language courses or anything of that sort. All classes are taught in English unless it is one of the major language courses. For study abroad, we were allowed to choose courses from a special approved Study Abroad Course List. All classes are either a 1 or 2 hour lecture, and a 1 hour tutorial or discussion group. There is also a one week long reading week midway though the semester.

I am enrolled in four courses, which all happen to land on Tuesday and Wednesday, and this is really nice since for each course you have to write a 3,000 page paper but except for some presentations in tutorial groups these are really our only assignments.
On Tuesday I have 20th Century Society and Culture of Asia and Africa, this is a history course. This term we will be covering colonial societies, religion and belief and social and cultural change. I am doing my presentation this week on Work and Mobility, and my final paper will be on “To what extent did spirit possession reveal social tensions in African Societies.” I am planning on looking closely into to what extent did gender and spirits intertwine to affect African societies and their liberation from colonialism as well as other themes such as settler influence.. this is quite in the works but I really enjoying learning facts about African Spirits.

My second course on Tuesday is Nationalism, Ethnicity and State in Asia and Africa. I really enjoy this course. We have forty minutes of lecture followed by an hour or so of discussion. The discussions are always very enlightening and more like debates. We have been focusing on what does nationalism mean, what is identity and is it a made up concept or can it actually describe who you are. I just got my essay questions for this course and I think it will be quite enjoyable yet challenging. This course really makes me question everything I thought about before. What I always find interesting is how in the States, we often describe ourselves as a place where you come from but in most other places in the world you describe yourself based on where you identity yourself from.  This course will continue along these lines this term, I won’t ever be around to learn much about the ethnicity part of the course because that is in term 2.

On Wednesday, I have three hours or so of lecture, so two other courses of my four courses.

I start out my morning in what I think is my favorite class, State & Politics in Africa. We focus on sub-Saharan Africa starting with colonialism and nationalism continuing through the themes to understand more about the politics of Africa as a continent. The tutorial for this class is also quite engaging and mind rattling. Every week we have to bring in a piece of news, and that helps start off a good conversation. Then we discuss the readings and lectures and get into a debate. The lecturer is also very engaging. He doesn’t use any aides for his lectures but it is so easy to follow that he doesn’t need to. I think that makes for one of the best classroom environments, especially when this is really the first time I have ever had a large lecture class.

Finally, I am taking Politics of Development. I joined this class quite late because I was in EU Law beforehand. ( Law classes at SOAS and most uni’s in England, is like Law school, not pre-law classes. I was way over my head) Luckily this course is focusing on African development this term. I could not get enough Africa at SOAS. :) What I enjoy about this course is it is taking what I learn at Clark’s Urban Development and Social Change concentration, which is a series of 9 or so courses taken from a several different departments to make a well rounded understanding of what is needed in urban development. But this is about Politics of Development, so this course takes my love of politics, love of developing and mixing them up. Its also nice because I feel slightly ahead in the course when we are talking about how geography affects development etc. :) So thank you Clark.

So there we go a mildly boring, with no photos, but lots of words explanation of the courses I am taking at SOAS. If you are considering studying abroad at SOAS, really look into the courses because you will have the option to take the classes on what you want to specialize in and it will make you so happy to attend lectures :). Maybe you will be lucky like me and never have class too! Haha!

Westminster Abbey

Church Challenge, Part 2 Westminster Abbey
Sunday October 7th, I went to a service at Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey, front view

My morning started by taking the bus towards Westminster Abbey. Little did I know that there was a special race going on so I was not able to take the bus as far as I would like, but I had the pleasant surprise of running into the London Eye for the first time. It was really fun and exciting to make my way into central London.

London Eye, I was going to edit this more and probably should have but I’m impressed London ever has enough sunlight to produce that much light in an image.
:)

I strolled along the River Thames with leisure watching the movements along the river bank. I am a firm believer that a river makes a city ten times prettier, and in London’s case it provides a history and account of the city. As I marched along I could see Big Ben in the distance, and strolled towards it knowing that would be my ultimate destination.

(Side note: I did get a look at the bridge that Voldemort and the death eaters took out, surprisingly it is still standing, “The Other Minister” must have taken care of that quickly.)

Big Ben

Anyway, my walk took me towards a series of statues including Nelson Mandela and my heart did a little flipflop. We took a mental picture together. There are several other statues in the area I just can’t remember what of exactly.

Finally upon reaching Westminster Abbey, I was overwhelmed by the size of the place. It was huge. I have seen some big churches in my day but this is massive. I didn’t take many photos while I was there because I was so overwhelmed but I had an interesting service that I will never forget. First of all, I was sitting on top of a crypt, looking at another and surrounded by five more. Its like dead royal central. I understand its a very impressive piece of architecture and full of tradition, but it was really creepy. The sermon didn’t make me feel much better it was far too traditional mixed with new age than my taste could handle. What I did love was the music, the organ and choir was amazing. Easy to follow and sing along with and incredibly heart warming. The gift shop was pretty awesome too.

Last week I meant to go to St. Mary LeBow which is known for its famous bells, but they didn’t have a Sunday service and my days are pretty hectic for going during the week. Tomorrow I am going to Temple Church which was featured in the Da Vinici Code.

 

My Outdoor Education

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Life at SOAS is a fantastic whirlwind of engaging conversation, stimulating lectures and overall exciting atmosphere. I am constantly feeling challenged even if it is mostly about different aspects of imperialism at this point, I am sure our African discussions … Continue reading

First Week of Classes, New Friends and a New Groove

I have successfully compliment my first week in London, as well as my first day of classes! ( Well two days actually.)

Week One Tons of Fun

Here are some of the friends I made while at Freshers week. One of my friends is a study abroad student at Smith, another at Bard and two others at Vasser. Clark is slightly out numbered but per usual what we lack in numbers we gain in spirit. Welcome Week was full of exciting meetings as a way to get to know the department, student activities to make new friends, and an important time to find and learn about the city we are living in. My friend Chelsea and I spent most of the week exploring London. I feel confident in my abilities to use the bus and tube as well as walking around Central London! One week can really mean the world of a difference when it comes to getting settled in.

Classes!

Here at SOAS I am having amazing educational opportunities that I would not get to benefit from if I was still at Clark political science for all of my international politics class. Here I am able to take classes that are directly focused on my area of study- Africa. In fact there are so many exciting classes that I found myself at a loss for what to take- I wanted to take it all. I even toyed with the idea of taking lots of South Asia classes and a course in Hindi. Unfortunately, I am not focusing on any parts of Asia so it is irrelevant for my major to take those classes. Here I will be taking Nationalism, Ethnicity and State in Asia and Africa. ( I feel in love with this course which is what got my on Asia studies kick) I will also be taking The State and Politics in Africa, European Human Rights Law/ EU Law- I choose this because of my background with French, if I want to go into diplomacy I should really keep in mind the positive influence that understanding more about Europe and their politics could assist in the long run. Finally I am taking an African history course, called Society and Culture in 20th Century Africa. That class met this morning and I am very excited for the readings and even the lectures. The class is based on understanding how Africa is a complex continent. The professor seems very good as well

Social Life

I feel like I am always running around! There are areas of London to explore, grocery shopping to be done, friends to be made you name it! I am loving the life style, the get and go. I could use a little less rain though. Other than that, we have been going out at night and exploring some of London’s night life, getting coffees together and general wonderings. I am consider joining the University of London Canoe Polo team, which is essentially water polo in kayaks. Its mixing my two favorite sports in a way- rowing and water polo. I will check the team out tomorrow and see how that goes!

 

Other than that, I am just trying to do well in school and keep up the fun life! Stay tuned for my top ten London culture shocks soon!!!

Here I am with my new friends, that is me in green. The girl from Smith, Bard, two Vassar Boys, a girl from Wesley, a girl from Vassar and two of our own lovely British friends. ( excuse me English friends) This was an event at one of the local hang outs run by the University of London, we were headed to a Welcome Week Dance!

St. Pauls Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

The lovely cathedral built after the Great Fire of 1666 sending all of London’s churches to be rebuilt. Wren was commissioned to build 51 new buildings mostly including Churches, including this one.

My first visit was to see the incredibly beautiful Cathedral called S Paul’s. It is one of the biggest in its class along with St. Peter’s. Having been to several European Cathedrals such as Notre Dame and others I am ashamed to say I cannot remember the name of, I was looking forward to comparing.

Upon entry, I was baffled. The sites, sounds and images depicted on the Cathedral walls are astounding. They did not allow photography on the inside or else I would have made several images because it was such a photographically beautiful place. It took my breath away.

I did not do myself justice though because I did not look around the church and taken time to understand what I am amidst. Therefore I have to go back to St. Paul’s. I have seen purchased a book on the Cathedral.

“SOAS till I die”

SOAS Anthem

 

I don’t think I can recall a moment in my life where I felt like I was in the exact spot that I am supposed to be. After these past five days, I have already met people with a beautiful amount of ambition, drive and excitement for life. SOAS- the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies is the home base for  individuals who have made a commitment to have their life serve others. Many of the students speak a second if not third language. Many of these students have explored their life outside of education to understand that it is they are truly interested in.

This week started with get to know you events at local pubs, which has helped made meeting new people quite nice. This week is also what is known as “Freshers Week.” It is also known as Welcome Week or Orientation. Classes will not actually start until next week. So I have spent this week getting acclimated with London, the area of school and buying groceries, supplies for my room, supplies for school, phone, transport etc. It adds up!

Speaking of classes, that is the most exciting part I think. The classes here are truly designed towards what I love and am interested in. The international relations courses are very specific to the regions I am interested in, (Southeast Asia and Africa) as well as offering challenging new subject matters that I have never considered. I currently have 7 possible classes and I need to narrow it down to 4, but I will be taking a few international relations courses on the politics of south east asa and africa, a history course comparing Gandhi and Gandhism and its influences in London. Finally I am considering either taking a Hindi course or more IR classes. I am not positive at the moment. Either way I will be branching out have pushing what I already learned in the Political Science department at Clark, and improving my knowledge base.

My life at SOAS is going well, I have made a good friend who is a study abroad student from Smith. ( She is my flatmate) but I also have made several friends at and around campus. I would have to admit that the student accommodation is much less than desirable but it makes me happy just the same. Plus I really like the people in the building.  I think that Clark has spoiled me silly. Its all an adventure, and it is all quite fantastic.

 

Somehow I keep leaving with my camera.. I promise some photos soon, its been quite hectic.