Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Horse + Wales + Me = ????

I need to stop saying “Thank-you.” England is all about the “Cheers!” Hello one and all from Canterbury! It’s nice to know that I’ve finally reached my official destination for the duration of my time as a UK resident. I’ve been at the University of Kent for about three days, after the London extravaganza, which was as exhilarating as it was exhausting. I need a vacation for my vacation!

Call me crazy, but I actually enjoyed the orientation program. The meetings were pretty amusing, as it was fun to listen to British accents for several hours straight, and Kathleen and I clicked with two new friends who will hopefully become travel mates of ours for the duration of our time abroad. We were viewed as the London “experts,” so after our program dinner, we had a flock of jetlagged lads and lassies follow us into Central London for an evening out on the town. Needless to say, we were pretty exhausted all weekend, but that did not stop us from venturing into Picadilly Circus the next night for a play and pub crawl. We befriended a troup of travelers from Down Under and beyond; they all met in different countries over the course of the year and met in London for the weekend, reunion-style. I am definitely a fan of the kinds of friendships you make while traveling, and I hope that as I continue my travels here, I’ll accumulate as many as I can.

After some goodbyes and a two hour bus ride through the English countryside, I arrived in Canterbury and began to unpack. The Brits treat “Welcome Week” (a.k.a. “Freshers’ Week”) much differently than they do in America. Instead of organizing name games and hand-holding, they throw you into the culture instantly. Before I knew it, I was on a bar crawl that culminated in a night of dancing at “The Venue,” the University’s on campus dance club, which is rated the best university club in all of the UK. Since I was well rested, among other things, it was a very fun night. Brits dance completely differently than Americans. Boys will dance together in groups, and are often more “into it” than the girls, which completely fascinates me. While waiting online to enter the club, I befriended people from all over, literally. Greece, Austria, the Caribbean, Germany, Brussels, and beyond. Kent’s not kidding when they say it’s the most diverse Uni in the UK. I loved hearing them try to imitate American accents, which they’re all obsessed with. How flattering.

The next few days were (and are, for that matter!) full of meetings and a few receptions and wine socials for international students, making it a mix of fun and borrrrr---inggggg. Classes start a week from yesterday, which is hard to take in. Starting class in October is something I’ve never done, and to be honest, I’m pretty antsy to get going with everything. The rainy season has also started, but I am equipped with pink rain shoes and a matching coat, so all is well and fashionable, as it should be.

Now, for some exciting news, listen up! Call me insane, crazy, out of my mind, since I probably am, but here is a flexible itinerary of my weekend plans for the next three months:

October 4-5 --- Oxford, Cotswolds, Bath, Lacock, and Stonehenge
October 9-12 --- Heather visits London
October 18-19 --- Horseback riding in Wild Wales
October 24-26 --- Amsterdam and Bruges
October 31-2 --- London IFSA Program Weekend
November 7-9 --- Edinburgh
November 14-16 --- Paris
November 21-23 --- Ireland*
November 28-30 --- Thanksgiving in Canterbury
December 5-7 --- Barcelona with Justine*
December 12-14 --- Brussels and Aachen Christmas Markets
December 19 --- NEW YORK, NEW YORK

*We need to plan on our own. The others are organized by our program.

Lot going on, eh? Kathleen and I had a minor freak attack when we realized getting to the airport is a four hour bus ride, making traveling quite a pain. However, we then realized that IFSA has a partnership with “International Friends,” a tour group that gives discounted rates to IFSA students. Best of all, the tours leave from Canterbury. We celebrated with cider and planned the next three months seamlessly. I don’t know which trip I am most excited for... As of now, our trip to Oxford, Bath, Stonehenge, and the Cotswolds is all set, and as of recent, our Wales Horseback riding extravaganza is also booked. Can you imagine me on a horse in the mountains of Wales? Start picturing it. I hope the horsey will like me! Giddy up!

I got so caught up with blabbering about my travel plans that I failed to mention my first trip into Canterbury, which I highly recommend you all check out. It is the most adorable city with a loveable Medieval charm. Kathleen and I took the UniBus into town for the day and explored the shops and streets, which are all closed off for pedestrians, thus upping the Medieval feel. We also took a row boat down the river that strolls through the city, allowing us to take some pictures that, as Allison puts it, look fake. That’s how magnificent the town is. Tomorrow, the Uni is taking us on a guided tour of the Cathedral. The campus overlooks the Cathedral, so I’m very psyched to see what it looks like from the inside.

That’s all for now. Cheers!