Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Culture Shock

Now that I'm back in Mt. Pleasant, I feel like there a lot of things I need to readjust too. At first, the shock was simple. I remember my first time going to Wendys I ordered a regular size drink and literally guffawed at the size of it. It was almost overwhelming holding on to a drink I couldn't even wrap my fist around. Also, the sight and feel of American money was strange, even exciting. Readjusting to life with my family was even easier than I anticipated; I thought going home to the full household and heavy work schedule would take some adjusting, but it was a completely smooth and natural transition. Adjusting to life at CMU has been nothing like adjusting to my life at home. I really missed the campus atmosphere; being on campus at CMU is much different than the campus at Kingston. At CMU, campus is much more open and lively. I love seeing my friends on campus and stopping to say hi to all of them. It feels strange because it was rare I would see anyone I knew at Kingston. Campus has been a nice transition, but classes have left me in near shock. I don't remember being THIS busy on only my second day of classes. At Kingston, I actually forgot about the workload at CMU and, even worse, the cost of textbooks. Despite some strangeness, I am definitely enjoying my time back on campus - it feels brand new and exciting. I hope that feeling lasts!

I think I've experienced more culture shock coming home from my study abroad than I did arriving in England. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Final Reflection

Well, I've been home from England for a week and a half. It seriously feels like I've been home for ages though. Its so easy to just slip back into routine, and my family has been so welcoming it feels like I never left home sometimes. But, I did leave home for three solid months and I often like to take the time to think about my time in England. First of all, I know that I've changed because of it. I should have never expected to study abroad and come home as the same exact person. The things I've seen and tried and learned will always be with me, and have affected how I see myself and my world. In England, I set goals for myself through the classes I took. In one course, "English Literature at Work," I became so much more aware of what I need to do to get what I want with my degree; this is something that has troubled me for ages. I developed a deeper understanding of the cultural differences of England to the US, but also a deeper cultural understanding in general, I believe. I developed a taste for travel; I want to see the world and meet people of even more different cultures. I developed an awareness of independence, critical reflection, and global outreach. I think I could say I got pretty much everything I hoped for with my study abroad experience. Of course there are a few things I still wish I had done or said, but I don't ever regret the choice to travel there. I sincerely hope that all the things I didn't accomplish but wanted to, are still in my future. I have a feeling I haven't said goodbye to England forever. 

Since I've been home, I've been enjoying my family's company, re-associating myself with Michigan weather, and slowly taking steps to making new goals and new dreams, just in time for the new year.  I am both scared and excited for the new year. I know CMU is going to seem a lot different after Kingston University, but all my old routines will easily engulf me if I let them. After choosing to study abroad in England not knowing anyone before I made the trip, it intrigued my sense of adventure and I definitely don't want to go back to routine. I have a small tip for anyone who is considering studying abroad -  Go. It is a wonderful experience. But, don't expect to be the same when you come home. Studying abroad is, at least it was for me, a growing experience. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Home is where the hand is... and the family

Meeting my sister at the airport
I arrived home in Michigan two days ago now. My flight home was actually very smooth. Besides the monotony and physical pains of sitting in an airplane for nine hours, I had no problems with my flight. 
When I arrived in the O'Hare Airport, I went through passport control and customs in a breeze, it took no time at all and I was in the lobby with my family. My brother Jason, my mom, and my twin sister Kristi had all driven the long drive from Grand Rapids to Chicago to be there for me. I was SO happy to see them all. I even shed a little tear.


My family was so thoughtful! They packed a cold Mountain Dew for me to drink once we got to the car and they took me to Jimmy Johns to get a sandwich. I'd been craving both for months!!! 
That night when I got home I was exhausted! I went to bed near to midnight at Michigan time, but it was almost 5 am England time. I woke up the next day around 7am and started feeling sleepy at 8pm that night too. Today was worse. This jetlag is really getting to me! Good thing I have a few days off before I go back to work. I would not want to be falling asleep in the concession stand! 

Yesterday, my first full day home, my family did our Secret Santa gifting. The entire family came over for a large meal and gifts. I got to hand out my souvenirs to everyone as well, which I was really excited about! It was so wonderful seeing my whole family again. My mom and dad, Jason, Jen, Paige, Jaydin, Raylan, Sarah, Kyle, Curtis, David, Jenni, and Kristi were all there! Going from having a house nearly to myself to my Michigan home was a lovely shock. There hasn't been a quiet moment since I arrived home, and I have to say I really missed that. 

Today, I got to babysit my two nephews for a while, and then my niece and two younger siblings came home from school. I loved spending the day with all of the kids. I really, really missed them. I was afraid my youngest nephew would have forgotten who I was since he was so young when I left, so I'm glad to have had nearly a full day with him and the rest of the munchkins. I just can't say how much I love being home! 

I loved coming home to my siblings' sign!
There's a lot that I miss from England, and I will never want to stop talking about my experience there. One of the first things people ask me is if I ever want to go back, and, without hesitations, I say YES!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Last Night Ponderings

So, tonight is my last night in London; it's pretty bittersweet actually - leaving one home for another. I feel like London has been like a second home to me. I'm going to miss walking to uni along Portsmouth Road and seeing the Thames River, especially in the early morning when the fog is over the river. I'm going to miss wandering around the Kingston shopping centre. I actually think I'm going to miss the rain too. I've decided I like the London weather better than Michigan anyway. It will be nice for all the cars to be on the correct side of the road though. That seriously still makes me dizzy. One thing that will be strange will be hearing everyone talk like me, pronouncing words like "tomato", "zebra", "status", "aluminium", "jaguar"... and I can say "pants" again without getting laughed at. 

I'll be leaving for the airport in less than twelve hours. While I'm not looking forward to the nine-hour flight, I can't wait to see my family (well, some of my family) at the airport and the rest when I get home (Kristi, you better be ready for me because I will probably tackle you with hugs.) 

Studying abroad has been the most wonderful experience. I would do it again in an instant! I wonder where I'll travel to next....

Monday, December 10, 2012

Things I Miss

Yesterday, I Facetimed my family while they celebrated Christmas with my grandparents, who will be leaving for Alabama soon. 

I was afraid I would miss their call so I took my bowl of cereal to my room to have dinner while I waited for their call. When I first answered, it was so good to see everyone. All of the kids snuck their faces in front of the camera and I got to say Hi to some family members I haven't seen in a while. 

The connection failed a couple of times, so I made multiple 'phone' calls to different family members. Even though my family was a bit blurry and at one point sounded like garbled machines, I kept being passed around so I could watch everyone open gifts and getting along. It was a great Christmas party, a really special one this year, and I'm glad I got to take part in it in some way. My littlest nephew was eating wrapping paper, my little siblings and cousins can Facetime me now, and my grandparents got their first new bicycles! I was sad that I couldn't be there in person, but I'll be able to see them all in one week. I feel so lucky that I get to go home just in time for Christmas! I love it when the whole family gets together for an evening or day. I've got a a pretty big family, which makes my family the most important thing to me. While I'm incredibly happy with my study abroad experience, I do miss my family a lot and am ready to see them next Monday! 

One of the reasons I'm so excited to go home is to finally be in a family environment again. England has been fantastic and I don't really want to leave it, but I need to see my family again and be in my own house. It's been a bit difficult living in a strangers house for three months. I miss Sunday morning eggs before church, I miss my niece and nephews being over all the time, I miss walking all around the house and asking what everyone's doing, I miss playing Scene It or Cranium with my family, and I miss having home-cooked meals with the whole (or at least part) of my family. 

Watching Christmas via Facetime definitely made me a bit homesick. It's difficult not to think about home with the amount of studying I've been doing lately as well. It's that finals stress that never fails to come, but that's just part of being a student. I'm going to make this last week count though. There are still things I haven't done but want to do, so now is the time! I'm going to keep myself busy, so it will seem that I will be seeing my family in no time at all. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Rock Show at Wembley!

Yesterday I went to see the British pop-punk band You Me At Six at the Wembley Arena in London. 

Wall of M n M's

The show was amazing! I went with my friend Matt who actually showed me the band when I first came to England. We went into London for the entire day and did some sightseeing and some shopping. It was great to walk all around London. Since I leave in 8 days, it may well have been the last time I see the beautiful city. We walked around Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Oxford Street, and everything in between. We even went into M n' M World; it was my first time and I had NO idea there were that many colors!! We got some crispy ones to snack on while we continued walking around London, admiring the old buildings. 

We took a lengthy tube ride to Wembley Park and were a few hours early. We decided to get a bite to eat before the show began, but the nearest restaurant was McDonald's - and it was packed. After walking a short ways and finding nothing better, we settled for some good 'ol McDonalds. 

We took our seats (Section N10, Row A) and they were great seats. We were about halfway back from the stage, near the audio control people (ok, I really don't know what they're called). We had a great view of the stage and the incoming crowd. It was beautiful!

We sat around for a bit waiting for the first act to take the stage. In the meantime though, we watched all the fans strolling in. There was even this group in front of us who were dancing before the show even started. They looked pretty silly to me, but I guess they were having a laugh to themselves. The crowd was smaller than I expected, but many didn't show up until the final act - You Me At Six.

The first band came on, We Are The Ocean. This band had a good sound. I was fascinated with watching them on stage because they had two drum kits on the stage. I realized one was actually just used for percussion without the full set, but it was still really neat to see. The second opening act was Deaf Havana. This was another great band. I was really impressed with the opening acts. I liked them a lot! The lead singer of Deaf Havana was a riot too! He really got the crowd in the right mood. 

The Lights!
Finally! The last show of You Me At Six's tour, Final Night of Sin, was about to happen. The lights switched off and the crowd, which had now swelled to three times the size, went nuts! The band starts playing before the curtain is lifted, and just before the curtain does lift, fireworks blast from overhead. It was a beautiful sequence of one firework after another then all at once. I could tell it was going to be a great show from the start. One of the first songs they played was 'Loverboy', a personal favorite of mine. With three full albums, the band had a lot of material to choose from. I'd been listening to all of their albums for days and I loved being able to hear my favorite songs played live. Josh Franceschi, lead vocals, did a phenomenal job at entertaining the crowd as well. They are all wonderful performers! 

Lights and Flame on the stage

Throughout the show, fire, smoke, and confetti reigned both on and off the stage. The pyrotechnics were never-ending! The light works were great too. Colors swarmed the stage and the band, and the rock atmosphere was ignited! Speaking of rock atmosphere, the crowd was amazing. There was plenty of great moshing done, clothes were flung about, bodies were carried over the crowd, friends were on their friends shoulders while shouting the lyrics back to the band, and people were waving lighters and lit phone-screens back and forth. When the song 'Reckless' came on, Matt and I knew there was no way we could sit still. We jumped, shouted, fist pumped, and sang in our *ahem* best voices to our favorite song. The entire night was phenomenal. You Me At Six put on an amazing show, and I'm lucky enough to have witnessed it. And, I can't believe I got to see a rock concert at the Wembley Arena during my stay here; it was definitely a highlight of my time here! 

See the crowd

Rock on!

Monday, December 3, 2012

More Historic Britain

Yesterday I went into London with my CMU friends and we visited Abbey Road and The British Museum. 

When we got to Abbey Road, we weren't sure which zebra crossing was the one actually used in the photograph for the Beatles. So, we decided to take photos of the first crossing we saw. I mean, it looked the same as the one on the famous album cover. It wasn't. A kind local came up and told us we were in the wrong spot fo the famous photo recapture. It turns out we were just one crosswalk away, but we felt a bit silly. When we got to the famous zebra crossing, there were murals and writing painted and drawn all over the stone rails outside Abbey Roads Studios and along the road. There was even writing on the lampost. The stones were covered in fan art and letters people wrote to their Beatles heroes, and in middle of the street, taking haven on a centerpiece statue, people were lining up to take photographs of their friends mimicking the popular walk as seen on the Abbey Road album cover. There was only one problem with all of this: Abbey Road is a real road, with real cars, and real people trying to get to work, or school, or wherever else they need to be. And despite the crowds of tourists on this single crossing, cars don't want to wait for each person to pose in the middle of the street! 

After we made our own way across Abbey Road, we all headed to the British Museum. It's a free museum which is why we chose to go. It turned out to be a really neat experience. The museum is enormous and we could have never seen everything in the two hours we were there. Some of my favorite things to see were the Rosetta Stone, old Grecian sculptures, and the innovative and unique African crafts; the Native American room was really interesting as well. There were so many articles on display, it would take a person many trips to see everything. I really enjoyed visiting the museum, and I didn't even mind the crowds.

... Now I must get back to studying for my Spanish exam!