If you' ve never spent time aboard, you may not get this post. If you have, I hope you tell me you relate to this post because I'm not sure if these feelings I'm having are normal.
I haven't blogged about or posted pictures from most of my trips I took while studying abroad. One reason is because I really want to write a good travel-article-type posts and am drafting those now. However, the main reason I haven't is because it makes me melancholy to think about those days in far off cities with people I don't see anymore.
Many people have asked me why I went, why I applied to leave home and all familiarity for nearly 4 months. I really struggle to answer that. I struggle to find a meaning to those 110 days. What was the purpose? What do I have to show from it?
Some nights, all I have to show for it is sitting alone in my apartment and wondering what my friends are doing, where they are, and if it all really happened. Those nights, I fight off the thought that I just fell asleep on September seventh and had a long dream. Those nights, I pour over my post cards and maps and travel log to remind myself it was real. I lay them out across my table and run my hands over the streets I walked, hold the post cards up to the window pretending it's my view, read over and over what I did in every city. Was it real? Did it happen? What was the point?
I'm honestly still working on that last question. I don't know that I'll ever have that answer.
For now, I operate under the thought that my crazy adventure made me grow up. It turned me into a more confident young woman. It's my point of reference for what I can do; if I can figure out how to get from Wales to Switzerland for less that $40.00 on my own, I can do anything. If I can survive a day in the Brussels train station with five euros to my name, I can do anything. If I can handle living with seven of the coolest but most extremely different people, I can do anything. If I can muster up the courage to wave goodbye to my parents at security, I can do anything. I can do anything. If I learned nothing else in 110 days, I learned that I can do anything.
My parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, friends, encouraging children's books, have always told me I can do anything. And I guess I always believed them in theory, but I never experienced it in practice. I suppose you have to do something to realize that you can do anything.
My deepest apologies for not posting in a while. To be honest, there just hasn't been much to post; life is just life, even when studying abroad.
Quite a bit back, my flat mate Sarah and I went on a day trip to Cardiff. Here is my travel journal from the day and some pictures.
09 October 2015
My flat mate Sarah and I planned a last minute trip to Cardiff last night. Although I feel like I don't appreciate a lot of the trouser attractions because I'm not a Dr. Who fan, I still had a really awesome time. Cardiff is beautiful city that is very proud of its Welsh heritage.
The train ride was pleasant and had no bumps. The first place we went was the Alexander Gardens, near the castle and the National Welsh Assembly.
In the middle of the gardens is the Welsh War Memorial, a monument erected to honor the died in the Great War. It was a solemn but beautiful monument, yet much more understated that war memorials in the States. After eating out picnic lunch, we strolled through Cardiff University. We didn't see much of it, but we did get to walk through the main hall, on of the oldest buildings on campus.
Right next to the University was the National Museum of Wales. There was a whole exhibit on William H. Smith's geological maps of England, Wales, and Scotland. MAPS, MAPS EVERYWHERE. Most of you know that I love a good map. Heck, I even like the bad ones! This exhibit immediately bumped its way to #2 on my favorite exhibits (#1 is the inaugural ball gowns at the Smithsonian of American History). I mean, this maps were amazing and to learn about how maps were packaged and sold in the 1800s was quite interesting as well.
The next big exhibit was Welsh Ceramics. I wanted to have a tea party in that room! There were so many beautiful pieces. There was also pottery from all over the world throughout the museum. After the ceramics, we walked through the Historical Art Exhibit, which was mostly paintings. There were paintings from all over the world categorized by country and time period. We were lucky enough to see quite a few of Monet's pieces.
The museum took a good chunk of time and walking, so we were ready for a little break. We went in search of a tea room I read about online called Barker's Tea Room. It's in the High Street Arcade; the arcades are the coolest. They are basically alley ways that have been covered and turned into streets themselves. You feel like you are discovering a little secret shops that only a very select few get to visit. Having tea was everything I wanted it to be. Barker's is two stories of mismatched furniture goodness and a must go if you are in Cardiff. It was also nice to spend time with Sarah outside of the flat and learn more about what she is studying, but more importantly her actual life. The first question every university student asks another university student is what they are studying; but for me, my studies are a small part of who I am and I've found that to be true of other students as well. Sarah is neat and I'm happy i get to live with her this term.
After tea, we walked through this neat little bookshop in the Castle Street Arcade. Three stories of £4 books and a fancy limited edition section. I bought three books because I'm me and it was a bookshop and that's what happens. It's inevitable.
It was really nice to get away and do something different if even just for a day. However, every adventure - even a day trip - I wish I had someone from back home to experience this with. To talk to in five years and say 'remember that time we did that? or when our train got delayed?' I think its just part of growing up to miss my family and to accept that I won't do everything with them. I am still so thankful for the opportunity to do this on my own and I think it's been a vital experience in growing my sense of self. Thank you, Mama and Papa Grigg. Thank you for letting me do this and instilling in me a sense of adventure. I can never repay you.
Check out the fun time I had with my friends at Winter Wonderland in Swansea! Christmas starts early here and I LOVE IT.
I found my destination wedding location and you are all invited in 20 years.
Last Thursday, two other Americans and I went hiking on the south coast of Wales just a few miles from Swansea. Although Swansea is bordered by a beautiful beach, we wanted to get away from the sounds of the city and enjoy the Welsh Coast line a little more. You are supposedly able to hike the entire coastline of Wales on the Wales Coast Path, which was established and built in 2007. It is eight section of hiking path right along the coast. If you are ever in Wales, I highly recommend you find the nearest section and hike a bit!
We started at Three Cliffs Bay which was beautiful, and at low tide there was so much beach. The short walk there from the bus stop was along cliffs and rock shores and I found the spot for my destination wedding in 20 years. We didn't actually hike down to the beach, but it was still spectacular. After looking down on the beauty for a few minutes, we decided to hop on a bus to the next bay. We had a few minutes to kill before the next bus (what else is new) we we thought we needed some cake from Three Cliffs Bay Coffee Shop. Readers, this coffee shop is reason enough to travel to Swansea. The ginger-honey-lemon cake was one of the best cakes I've ever had. And I've had a lot of cake.
We hopped on the bus to Pennard, played chicken with a tractor on a rural farm road, and finally made it to Pwlldu (Black Pool in Welsh). The beach was very secluded, and pretty difficult to access except by foot. The rocks and privacy reminded me of the opening scene of Grease with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. I restrained the urge to sing. I don't know much times I said "we're in Wales" as I let the cold water from the Bristol Channel wash over my bare feet. Some days, I still can't believe I'm here.
We decided to hike the actually coast pasta from Pwlldu to Caswell Bay, which took about 45 minutes, and wasn't necessarily a easy hike. There were even sheep guards on the trail! Caswell Bay was also amazingly beautiful. To think that these are beaches in the UK still baffles me. If you are looking for a reason to come to Wales, make it the Coast Path and the beautiful bays.
After relaxing on Caswell beach for a while, we caught a bus to Mumbles, a small community just outside of Swansea proper where we had dinner and then caught a bus back in to town. And the I slept for a very very long time. With all the hiking, plus my run that morning, I ended up with 8.4 miles walking + running according to my phone. My dogs were barking!
It was such fun to get away from the flat and the city for a day and we are so thankful for the 'Indian Summer' they are having here. Enjoy the pictures below! Also, there is a link to a little video on some shots from the day.
(the newest nick name from my Aussie friend, so say it with an accent - 'Mackah')
I am finally settling in here in Swansea, and people have even started asking me questions! I usually don't know the answer but at least I look like I do. The last week has been awesome. Also, click on the hyperlinks in this post to have a quick education of the the sites I've visited. Here is what's happened since we last hung out:
Last Saturday, our course included a field trip to Bath where we toured the Roman Baths, had a peak in the Bath Abbey, strolled around town and saw The Circus and the Royal Crescent, almost didn't notice Bath's War Memorial, and had a nice walk through the Royal Victoria Park (which Queen Victoria established when she was only 11 years old). Of course, there are also lots of Jane Austen attractions in Bath - including pedestrians in period dress just because -but we only had one day! There are quite a few smaller and more quirky museums that I plan to visit the next time I go to Bath, which is hopefully soon because it's just a day's journey.
While my classmates headed back from Bath on Saturday afternoon, I caught a train to Warminster to stay with some wonderful people - Peter and Catherine- that my dad became friends with while he was in the Army. If I could insert a tip for any fellow military brats thinking about traveling or studying abroad: get names from your parents. Chances are they know someone in the country your going which means not only free lodging and food, but getting to see your destination from a local's perspective.
The couple I stayed with were so gracious and kind and made me feel right at home. We had a barbecue on Saturday night and watched the BBC Proms. On Sunday morning, they thought I would like to see Stonehenge (and of course I said they were right), so Peter kindly drove me around the English country side where we also walked through a park and saw the house of The Lord of Longleat. After a delicious lunch and before heading to the train station, some friends of Catherine's came over to pick apples from their tree. This couple makes jam and chutneys to sell as a fundraiser for the hospice where Catherine works. We had some homemade scones and a variety of jams (with clotted cream of course) and tea. I feel I partook in a British Sunday afternoon in the most traditional way I could.
After only a couple train delays and one missed connection, I arrived back in Swansea on Sunday night. The next two days were just lecture days for my pre-session course - pretty boring stuff unless you love British history. On Wednesday, I got to move to my flat where I will be living for the rest of the term. Its a good size room for one person, and I share two bathrooms and a kitchen with seven other people. As of right now, there are two other American girls already there that are also in my class, and today the rest start moving in! I am excited to meet my flatmates!
Yesterday was another lecture day for class and today is the last lecture day, and arrivals weekends starts this morning. Next week begins Freshers week, which is rumored to be pretty crazy. Wish me luck!
Below are pictures from the last week, enjoy!
No, your computer isn't having a coding error, that is Welsh you see in the title of this post. A very difficult language, in my opinion. My English speaking mouth can't form the syllables and I certainly can't seem to understand how to read it; but I love to listen to people speak it. Each words seems to carry so much heritage and culture that is overlooked in the grand scheme of the British isles. All my expectations of this wonderful country have been met and exceeded. I may never come home (only joking, Mom).
My first week in Wales has been great. My travel day was smooth and I had no hiccups, but very little sleep. Luckily, I got a head start on jet lag and haven't really felt it. The view from my window as the sun was rising over the British Isles was one of the most beautiful sights I've experienced. What a creative Creator we have!
The first couple days were spent getting settled and meeting the other American students that will be here this semester and some throughout the whole school year (talk about green with envy). It was nice to be confused together; we had no idea what the next couple weeks would hold.
My pre-session course started on Monday with a brief orientation in the morning and a bus tour in the afternoon of Swansea and a neighboring community called Mumbles. Mumbles is named after two little island that are off the tip of the peninsula, literally little mumbles of land. I will include some pictures at the bottom of this post. The shores are beautiful and the small town has a lot of fun restaurants and pubs. It is only a short bus ride away so I will definitely be going back. fun!
The second day of class was just lectures all day, mostly about post-war politics and film in Britain. I think I would have enjoyed the day more had I been feeling better. I am am currently in the middle of a round of antibiotics (thank you, Dr. Coleman). I seem to be on the upside of it, but still a little stopped up. The third day of class (Wednesday) was very fun! Out morning consisted of a tour of The Big Pit, a mining museum in Blaenavon. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour, considering my fascination with Wales began with the novel How Green Was My Valley, a story of a Welsh mining family. The Welsh are very proud of their mining history and are always hoping for a revival of the local industry.
We then drove to Cardiff where we enjoyed lunch and a walk around of the Cardiff Castle. The castle was built of Normans on top of an old Roman fort. It was beautiful and right in the middle of the city centre. Again, I will add those pictures in the slide show.
I think it is finally setting in that I am here and won't be leaving for a few months. I still can't believe I am only a few minutes walk from the beach. It is simply beautiful here and you should all come visit right away!
I own a lot a books.
No, I mean a lot. Since space is limited in my humble abode, I keep my favorites and current interests on the windowsill beside my bed. A staple that will probably never leave my beside is Jane Austen, whatever copy or collection it may be. Another constant is some grouping of the Bronte sisters, whatever I happen to be reading (and thanks to Ms. Keller, Wuthering Heights is usually at the party). However, more recently I have become strangely attached my copy of Margaret Thatcher': The Autobiography.
Has anyone noticed a trend? I love British women, especially ones that are good with words. And you want to know why now, more than ever, I love having them at my bedside to inspire, awe, and entertain me?
Because in the very, very near future, I will get to walk the ground the walked, smell the ocean air they smelled, fell the sea breeze they felt.
I have been so graciously given the designation as a Brad Henry International Scholar by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and East Central University.
"Big whoop", you must be saying, "what does that academic mumbo mean?" Well let me tell you: it means that I will be spending the 2015 Fall semester in the United Kingdom at Swansea University in Swansea, Wales.
I am so grateful and honored that the Global Education Committee and President Hargrave have selected me for this amazing opportunity
So now the stressful days: when am I leaving? What classes am I taking? Where will I leave? Who will I leave with? Do they have my special shampoo there?
SO MANY QUESTIONS. But the anxiety of the next few month will be so worth the adventure of a lifetime. I am so excited. So excited.
Thank you for letting me share this amazing news with you. This is really the chance of a lifetime, and I am looking forward to keeping you all up to date with my adventure.
Ta Ta for now
If you feel so led, here is a link where you can donate to help offset travel costs and living expenses: gofundme.com/q3raaees