8 Things I Learned about America while I wasn’t Living There

While studying abroad in England, I learned a lot about English culture. But, by learning about another culture, I realized I was also learning about my own. Based on this post, here is what I learned about America:

  1. Food inferiority: The first time I ordered cheesy “chips” in England, I expected the typical, synthetic nacho cheese you get with fries in the States. Fortunately, I was wrong. The cheese was real! On top of this surprise, once I ordered, the takeaway worker fried the chips right then instead of having them pre-fried and cold by the time I got served, like at most American take out restaurants. I also acquired a taste for garlic sauce, which goes great with cheesy chips… Although one of my British friends swears otherwise. Unfortunately, garlic sauce is hard to find past Northern England. I could barely find it in London, nevermind America.
  2. Intersections vs roundabouts: One of the first differences I noticed about the roads in England, besides driving on the opposite side, was the abundance of roundabouts and unnecessary winding crosswalks. At first I did not understand why they barely have any intersections in England, until one of my British classmates explained how little land there is in Europe compared to America, and that roundabouts save more space than intersections. I still do not understand why a lot of the crosswalks wind through traffic, though. I think they would be much easier to maneuver if they were straight. But maybe because they rely so much on roundabouts in Europe, they do not understand the practicality of a straight crosswalk.
  3. Drinking culture: First, you are legal to drink at 18 in most of Europe and 21 in America. Second, you are supposed to get carded if you look under 25 in most of Europe and under approximately 40 in America. Third, when buying alcohol or entering a club, people are a lot more relaxed about drinking than in America. Fourth, the British party harder than any American I have ever seen.
  4. Money: Besides the obvious currency difference that American money is plain old green compared to the colorful British Pound or Euro notes, I had not realized another major difference: Americans name their coins. Even after living my life calling coins by “penny,” “dime,” “nickle” and “quarter,” I never noticed we gave them specific names, whereas British coins are all “pence” and Euro coins are all “cents” no matter the amount, until I met an English student who studied abroad in America. He told me the hardest adjustment for him was trying to remember which coin was called what. Also, British money has eight coins, while American money only has four. This is because British one and two pounds are coins, not notes, and then their pence run in one, two, five, 10, 20, and 50 coins. As useless as Americans may find the penny, the two pence coin feels even more useless to the British.sheep-1
  5. Sheep: So many sheep in Britain. On the motorway, I have passed fields and fields of sheep. The sheep were my first surprise when I arrived in England. Even landing in the country, I saw white dots on fields from the air and I had no clue what they were until I took the bus to my university. My fellow American students and I were in awe over the sheep, which confused many of our British friends until we told them we do not have that many sheep where we are from in America.
  6. Pedestrian streets: I love pedestrian areas! I think they encourage healthier living by requiring people to walk in certain areas. When I arrived back in the States, I went shopping with my mom, and she parked in one lot. Then, when we were on our way to get food after, she went to get back in the car while I wanted to walk to the restaurant, which was right across the street. I tried to convince her to walk, but she was too stubborn to change her way of life because she is so used to driving everywhere, even when it is right across the street.20161003_111757
  7. Sales tax: The first time I went to Poundland, which sells everything for a pound, I expected to pay more than a pound. Like how we pay more than a dollar at the dollar stores because of sales tax. I received another pleasant surprise when the total was a whole number. I later learned this is because sales tax is already worked into the sales price before you buy something, and not added as extra at the register.
  8. The alphabet: Ok, so I knew Z is pronounced “zed” in Europe, but what I was not prepared for was H being pronounced “haych.” Growing up in America, whenever a child said “haich,” they were scolded and told to stop pronouncing the letter “aych” the wrong way. Little did those kindergarten teachers know, almost everywhere else pronounces H “the wrong way.”

Any other differences I missed?

P.S. I’m a finalist in the ISEP Study Abroad photo contest! Like/share my photo here to help me win fan favorite! Spread the word to friends and family, too! Voting ends 23 February.

Thanks a lot!

Up next: my experience with reverse culture shock and other updates.

 

Shakespeare’s Globe & My Final Days in England

Besides seeing a West End show each day I spent in London, I also toured Shakespeare’s Globe, visited a few museums and explored Camden Market. Then, I took a train back up North to Sunderland for my final day in the U.K.

While heading to the Globe, I got off the Underground at London Bridge Station and took the wrong exit to find myself on a spooky street. Turns out, this spookiness was intentional because it is part of the London Bridge Experience. I had plenty of time before the first Globe tour started at 9:30 a.m., so I decided to test my London navigation skills without Google maps.

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My first time in London, I walked past the Globe and London Eye, crossed a bridge and got lost next to Downing Street. I did not know at that time where I got lost at, but on my second trip to London, I recognized the area and found out it was right next to the Prime Minister’s house. I figured with these two experiences behind me, I could find my way around without help this time.

So I started walking. After about five minutes, I found myself at a dead end. But I couldn’t really complain because I had a close-up view of Tower Bridge. I walked around the fountains of water spouting from the pavement on that cold, rainy day and of course I took a selfie. Then I followed the Queen’s Walk, passing the Southwark Cathedral and meeting another dead end on a pier.

But I couldn’t complain about this dead end either because I found a cool historical ship and, nearby, an enormous fish-shaped boat sculpture between some shops. I snapped some pictures because that was some intense art! I continued down the Queen’s Walk until I reached New Globe Walk, the home of Shakespeare’s Globe.

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Fish boat sculpture

Unfortunately, they were not performing any Shakespeare shows at the Globe because “Globe season” ends in October. Fortunately, the tour I took was me and two other people; a small enough group that the guide took us to the different boxes and even let us stand on the stage.

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Yeah, I stood on the stage. And yeah, I was freaking out a little. Maybe a lot. I’m still freaking out while typing this about a month after the experience. But what an experience! Our tour guide had a great sense of humor and, even besides my minute on the stage, made the tour worth every penny. And then all the money I spent at the gift shop. But all the money I spent there goes to the theatre, which is a cause I have a weakness for.

On top of my Globe tour experience, I also visited a few museums: the National Gallery (with Monet and Van Gogh), the British Museum (with the Rosetta Stone), and the Tate Modern (with a great rooftop view). I met up with my fellow gishwhes team member, Becky, when I visited the Tate. The two of us explored the Camden Market, shared some gelato and saw “Matilda.”

I spent the day before I went back to Sunderland seeing “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” In other words, I spent it geeking out like Scorpius Malfoy, mostly because of Scorpius Malfoy, with fellow Harry Potter fans.

I did some last minute packing for my return to the States and tried not to cry while leaving the place that became my home, where I made friends that became my family.

Up next: what I learned while abroad and experiencing “reverse culture shock.”

Germany

I visited my German friend from high school, Ellie, after my trip to Greece. She lives in a small seaside town in Germany called Kiel. Her and her family graciously welcomed me into their home for my stay.

I flew into Hamburg first and explored the city. I went to the Miniature Museum, which is the largest miniature railway. The specific details the builders put into the tiny people and places is amazing. They capture everyday and normal moments, like using the toilet and seeing an opera, and strange and occasional moments, like throwing a man in a lake and music festivals.

I walked along some pretty streets, saw interesting modern art and passed by a few decorated churches.

I arrived early at the Hamburg bus station to go to Kiel and meet Ellie, only to find out my bus was delayed by another hour. The bus arrived almost two hours late and Ellie and her mother picked me up around midnight, which I think was really nice of them.

With Ellie and her family, we took a trip to Lübeck and visited the Hansemuseum where I learned about Germany’s role in the Hanse trading alliance. It was nice to learn something positive about German history for once.

We returned to Kiel and Ellie and I went to her choir practice. I am not a singer, but the songs were upbeat and the atmosphere was energetic enough to keep me entertained. We then went to a local pub with the choir group.

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On top of the church tower

The next morning, I went up the top of a church tower with Ellie and her father, who is the pastor. The view of the Baltic Sea and little town was cute.

Ellie’s father explained the roles of each church bell and I noticed that he did not mention a role for the small bell on its own. So he decided we would give that bell its chance in the spotlight and ring it on its own.

Later, Ellie and I walked along the Baltic Sea before attending the opera Rigoletto. The opera was in Italian, but German subtitled, but interesting enough to watch since I knew the story beforehand.

My final day, I explored Hamburg some more. I saw the newly opened opera house by the harbor and explored the waterfront.

Up next: My final days in England and what I learned while abroad.

Spain

After a relaxing Christmas with my flatmates Brynn and Jess in England, I set off for Barcelona, Spain. I was quite nervous because I do not know much Spanish, but I soon learned that this city is pretty and welcoming.

Barcino letters

My first day was jam packed with tours. I did the free walking tour and a Gaudi tour with the same tour guide, Erik. This tour guide gave the most fun tour I have been on yet, that I bought a second tour. The free tour took us around the quaint Gothic Quarter and ended at a park with the most beautiful fountain I have ever seen. When the tour guide said the fountain was the best he has seen before, even beating Rome, I did not believe him. But once I saw it, I was in awe.

The fountain

The second tour was a Gaudi one, where we learned more about the architecture of Barcelona, especially that of Gaudi. He even designed a building that inspired George Lucas’s “Star Wars” stormtroopers and other parts of the films. This tour ended at Sagrada Familia, a grand basilica that Gaudi began in his lifetime and continues to be worked on today. The church is planned to be completed by 2026, in 10 years. I am not sure if that will happen, but, based on how it looks now, I know it will look wonderous once it is completed.

The Gaudi building that inspired “Star Wars”
Sagrada Familia

I finished day one with a tapas tour. I tasted a lot of different tapas, which are small portions of what could be larger meals. We even drank red wine from a beak-like bottle called a pouron. It was quite difficult not spilling any on my clothes since we could not put our mouths on the bottle.

My first tapa

Day two I spent in the city of Tarragona. This city is filled with Roman ruins. Seriously. Just walking down the streets, I passed a few ruins just sitting in the middle of modern buildings. I mostly just walked around the city, had a tapa and then dipped my feet in the Mediterranean Sea. The view from the sea was so pretty that I sat on the sand admiring it for about an hour.

Mediterranean Sea

On day three, I went back to the park with the fountain and explored. I ate some strawberry ice cream on a nutella covered waffle and then headed to Park Guell. This Gaudi dedicated park was about a half hour walk away and uphill, but so worth the view from the top of the viaduct. I was expecting nice architecture, which I got, but I was not expecting a view of Barcelona. I am definitely glad I took the hike.

View from Park Guell at sunset

Next stop: Brussels, Belgium for New Year’s with my friend Dara!

National Donut Day 2016

Today is National Donut Day. My aunt brought me an entire box of Krispy Kreme and I devoured three donuts on the spot. My aunt bringing me the donuts, though, was the most excitement I have had almost all summer break so far.

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I am still healing from my sinus surgery about two weeks ago, so my nose is a bit congested. I am not allowed to exercise now, but I have been able to work again. I think it is better to work so I can save money for study abroad, even if the job is not the greatest. I cannot wait to be able to exercise again, though, so I can dance more and go to the gym with my aunt again.

Other than healing and working, there is not much to do around here. Especially when I cannot drive and all my friends live at least two hours away.

I have been staying busy by reading, but sometimes I get tired of sitting around my house all day.

Any suggestions for fun activities to do by oneself and without needing a car?

P.S. I live in a small town, not a city.

Bernie Sanders Rally 2016

Today, I attended a Bernie Sanders rally near my hometown in Scranton, Pa.

Seeing so many people in one place who share the same views as I do was uplifting. It was such a welcoming and energetic crowd.

Bernie’s entrance caused a few joyful tears to roll down my cheeks. He was such an inspirational speaker and interacted with the crowd’s outbursts. He would say something along the lines of: “I agree with that, too” whenever someone yelled about wages being too low or other issues that outraged about us as a nation.

The rally was truly worth the trip. It instilled faith in me that our country can be fixed.

If you can vote, please vote and show your support for Bernie Sanders!

KCACTF 2016

This past week, I attended the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) with East Stroudsburg University’s theater department. The festival was hosted by West Chester University, where I watched three plays and attended three movement workshops. Two of my fellow ESU students were selected to attend Nationals in Washington D.C. for technical theater.

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The first play I watched was “Argonautika.” It is a comedy that follows the story of Jason and the Argonauts in Greek mythology, which is one of my major interests.

I also watched “Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom” and “The Bacchae.” I was quite disappointed in both of these plays. The first because it seemed unfinished with many plot holes and the latter because it was more like a poem recitation than a play.

The workshops I attended were on Russian droznin movement, tai chi and Broadway dance. The Broadway dance workshop was the most informative, especially because I am considering a career in dance.

At the KCACTF closing ceremony, I cried tears of joy for two of my classmates when it was announced that they would attend nationals for stage management and sound design.

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Me (center) with Becky (left) and David (right). Becky is attending Nationals for stage management and David for sound design.

I can easily say the festival was a success for ESU and I cannot wait to incorporate what I learned in the workshops into my performances.