Kelley Blankenship
University of Worcester, England

Reflections on my time in Worcester so far:
  • I find myself a terrible chef here. Back home I consider myself a decent cook, but here I don't cook, I just eat. It's not that the food is difficult to work with, or that I don't like it.  I simply just can't cook here. But at the moment, I'm ok with that. 
  • The student life at Uni. of Worcester parties... all the time. There is physically no way to keep up. 
  • Worcester for the first month and a half = cloudy. Worcester in spring = sunny (most days). 
  • Naps are my friend :)
  • People say "Cheers" instead of "Thank you"
  • Being an international student gets you lots of free stuff on Wednesday nights. 
  • Always get your books early in the library. If you don't, they will be gone. 
  • I don't trust the snack machine in the library. It stole 70p from me. 
  • The best chocolate is the Cadbury Bournville dark chocolate bar. Unfortunately, it's also expensive. So when I'm short on cash, I go for a KitKat Chunky. Different, but equally delicious. 
  • The Worcester News posters make for good (cheap) decorations for the kitchen. 
  • You must get in to Tramps nightclub before midnight... or else you pay £6 or something crazy like that. 
  • Running around the horse race track is nice.
  • Theme parks are on a much smaller scale as opposed to the US, but still entertaining and relatively cheap :) 
  • I swore up and down that I wouldn't eat at McDonalds... until I realized that it's the only place decent open past 10pm.
There are many other things that I could add to this list, but one of more recent thoughts that I've been having is that everything feels very normal now. I went through the first two months or so feeling a bit out of place and homesick, but now I'm not really sure what it's going to be like when I go back home. (Probably a bit of reverse culture shock.) Everything (well almost everything) feels so normal now. I have a regular grocery store. I know what food I want at that grocery store. I know my way around Worcester (within walking distance). I know my way around campus. I know how to read the train schedules. I know how to find cheap travel deals online! I know the lingo. I have a group of friends. AND I'm completely OK with people driving on the left. Everything seems normal. Finally. :) 
"Where ever you go, go with all your heart."
Elizabeth Hiatt
Johannes-Kepler Universitat Linz

Wow what a busy couple of weeks! Classes have been going well, and I’m actually getting ready to finish one. My International Business final (and only) exam is the week after we get back from Spring Break! I can’t believe one of my classes is almost over already.

I didn’t get a chance to post last weekend because I was away the entire weekend. I went snowboarding for the first time! I had always wanted to try it, and I was so happy to finally get the opportunity. I learned some very important lessons trying to learn how to snowboard:
1. No matter how many times you fall down, you just gotta get back up
2. Attitude is everything
3. Yes, it is possible for your entire body to be sore all at once. Your entire. Body. Take it from me.
A lot of people told me that snowboarding is harder than skiing, and whenever I told anyone it would be my first time snowboarding I would always get this one look that said “wow, really?” In truth, I did think it was hard! It’s very tiring, but there are few things comparable to actually making it down the hill (even though it was the bunny hill…) without falling, and maybe even succeeding in doing the turns we were taught. Our teacher was really nice and super patient with all of us beginners. I had a great time, and I definitely can’t wait to go snowboarding again. But, by the time we got back late Sunday night all I wanted to do was collapse into bed.

On Tuesday we had the “English-Speaking-Countries” Stammtisch. Every couple of weeks the University has a different Stammtisch (or party, you could call it), and each gathering focuses on different regions of the world. The first one was the Austrian Stammtisch, so natives of Austria brought and shared traditional Austrian food and music. It was really an adventure trying to coordinate everything for this week’s Stammtisch, especially since the day everyone needed to bake only two ovens in our entire building were working. But, we got everything sorted out, and people made everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to Sheppard’s Pie to Vegemite sandwiches. I baked a couple red velvet cakes (which in itself was an adventure – I can now definitely know how to ask “Do you have red food coloring?” in German). All in all, it was very successful!

On top of university work, I’ve been really busy planning my spring break details, and I’ve finally gotten everything sorted out! For the two weeks I have off from classes I’ll be going to The Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, and Slovakia! I can’t wait! I’m particularly excited about going to Slovakia because I may get the opportunity to go hiking in some astoundingly beautiful places (if the weather cooperates). One of my friends who is from Slovakia is getting a group of people to go, so I’ll be meeting her there and hopefully we’ll be hiking soon thereafter! If not though, I’m sure she’ll be able to show us around in her hometown and that we’ll have a blast. I’m so excited about spring break, but I have to remember that yes, I actually do have classes to do work for (shocker!). So this week I’ll be frantically trying to get the rest of my work done and getting ready for my two-week travels!
Kelley Blankenship
University of Worcester, England

Wow! What a weekend! Let me just say that the Irish know how to do St. Patrick's Day!

My weekend started off on Friday morning with a very early wake up call to make it to the Worcester train station by 6:59am.  Tamara and I practically walked like zombies through the cool morning air, but we made it just in time to catch our train to Birmingham. After an hour on the train, we made it to the airport! Woohoo! I remember being very excited that we were actually going to Dublin! Ah! Everything ran smoothly with the exception that Tamara almost had to pay £50 because they said her carry on wouldn't fit in the little measuring thing.  Let me just say that Ryanair is a pain-in-the-behind when it comes to your carry on. They're crazy. Anyway, Tamara didn't have to pay because we squished her bag in, but then it was a bit of a struggle to get it back out :)

After a very short 45 minute flight, we landed in Dublin!!! Tamara and I took a bus to the city centre, ate a small lunch and then met up with her friend Chris, who we were staying with for the weekend, and the rest of the day we went exploring around the city... in the pouring rain I might add. Despite the rain, it was so much fun! Dublin is such a nice city and it was totally decked out for St. Patrick's Day, so there was green everywhere!

Saturday morning we all slept in a bit because we had gone to a party the night before at another friend's flat in the city.  Chris made a nice English breakfast that was delicious! We then painted up for the St. Paddy's Day festivities! The first one of the day was the parade! I must say that it was one of the strangest parades that I've ever seen.  There were people on floats saying things like "Dream with your eyes open!!" in really creepy voices, a guy dressed as Dracula, and a giant rhino in a wheelchair....?  Despite some of the strange acts floating down the parade, it was so much fun! We had trouble finding a place to stand and ended up having to walk quite a ways to find a place to stand, but we ended up in a great spot! After the parade we popped in a Japanese restaurant for some lunch and then rode the bus back to our flat for a nice power nap. :)

The real fun began when we decided to make our way back in the city to the area known as The Temple Bar. There is an an actual pub called 'The Temple Bar', but the area carries the same name.  I've never seen so many crazy drunk people in my life.  I've also never seen so much crap on the ground. haha. There were police officers (called Garda in Ireland), but they weren't really doing anything.  We ended up meeting up with a bunch of French people that were friends with Chris and hung out with them for the rest of the night. The plan was to go on a pub crawl, but that wasn't really possible because of the amount of people that were actually in the pubs. We found one pub that we could fit in and stayed there for the rest of the night. It was so much fun!

Elizabeth Hiatt
Johannes-Kepler Universitat Linz

I’ve finished my first week of classes here, and I have to say I think they went pretty well! I don’t have more than two classes in one day, which is something I’m definitely not used to. All of my classes are only about once a week, with the exception of German, which is a twice a week class. Oh there’s one other exception too… My International Financial Markets class is one day. That’s right. One. For eight hours… and then I’m done! Is that not one of the most awesome things ever?

I’ve learned a few things about how the class sessions and courses here are different from the ones back at home that I’m used to. For one thing, it’s very common to knock on the desk after a professor finishes a lecture. One girl told me it’s kind of like applause, and if no one knocks when the class is over it means that the students all though the professor did an exceptionally terrible job. It’s also common to knock once or twice if you have a question during a lecture. It’s kind of like raising your hand, but I think I actually like knocking better because you can raise your hand for a while without being seen by the professor.

Another thing that’s a little bit different, at least from Maryville College classes, is that (at least, during the first lecture of the class) if a student decides that the class isn’t one they want to end up taking, they can just get up and leave. Here at JKU if you aren’t present for the first lecture of a course you are automatically unregistered for that course, so if students don’t sign in they just get dropped from the course. Because of this, many students sign up for more classes than they need, and then they get to go and check the class out to see if they’ll find it useful.

One thing in particular that’s different that I’m excited about is that one of my classes will have an oral final. I’m used to having spoken finals in language classes, but this one will be for my religion class. The professor explained that we’ll be put into groups and that for the final first each person will present a portion of the class. Then the second half of the final the group will discuss and debate about a particular topic. I have never had a final exam quite like that, so I’m excited to see how it will go.

All in all, I think my classes will be very interesting. They’re not very big, or at least not as big as I thought they would be, and it looks like they will all be taking a part-lecture-part-discussion format. The class that I’m most excited about is my religion class. It’s called The Impact of Religions and Value Systems on European Culture. The professor is visiting from a Catholic school in the city, and he pointed out the fact that it’s interesting this class is even being offered, as JKU has no religion department. He used that point to then discuss the current public discussion about religions in Europe, and I think this class is going to be absolutely fascinating.

Even though I think it’ll be a challenge, I’m also excited about my German class. I really want to be able to learn as much German as I can while I’m here, so I also signed up for a “tandem learning” program at the school. I’ll be paired with a native German speaker who wants to improve his or her English, and we’ll help each other with our respective languages. I think that it’s a fantastic idea, because it would be very easy to just slip into the habit of using English most of the time here. And I don’t want that to happen!

I’m especially excited for this coming weekend because the international group on campus organized a ski/snowboarding trip! We’ll leave on Friday and come back on Sunday. I am so excited because I have always wanted to learn how to snowboard, and now I’ll get the chance to do it in the Alps! I have a feeling I’ll probably actually spend most of my time on my butt while I’m out on the slopes, but I don’t have any doubt that I’ll still have fun. Once again, I’ll update with pictures next time!
Elizabeth Hiatt
Johannes-Kepler Universitat Linz

This weekend was absolutely amazing! We went on a trip to Budapest, and it was incredible. We left bright and early on Friday morning for the four-hour trip. I love the fact that travel options to different countries are so vast here. When we arrived in Budapest we checked into our hostel, which was surprisingly very nice! Only three people to a room. The day we got there some of us went to the Szechenyi Bath, one of the abundant bath houses in Budapest, a city know for it’s hot springs. I had never been to a spa or thermal spring before, so it was especially exciting. There were a few indoor baths that were lovely, but we spent most of our time in one of the large outdoor baths. It was freezing outside but the water was so warm. It was absolutely amazing and so relaxing.

When we got back from the bath-house we went for dinner and Palinka tasting at Szeged Restaurant. We were served traditional Hungarian food (mine started with a Goulash soup that was delicious). The Palinka (pretty much a Hungarian schnapps) was pretty good. We tried three different types, and I couldn’t really place the flavor of the first one or the third one, but the second one had a cherry taste. My favorite type, though, was one we got at a different restaurant the next night. The next morning we had breakfast at the hostel and then went on a city tour. The architecture of the city is magnificent. Our fist stop was Hero’s Square, which was constructed for the 1000th anniversary of the arrival of the Hungarian people in that area. There are statues that depict the leaders of the different Hungarian tribes.

Our next stop was to see the Parliament building, and our tour guide told us a little more about the history of Hungary, and then we went up to the Castle District, which provides an absolutely breathtaking view of the city.
Finally, we stopped even further up the hill and looked out over the city and the Danube.
After the tour, we got a little time to explore on our own, so one of the other girls and I took a tour of the Opera House. Our guide told us that despite war and various other catastrophes the Opera House survived all of these years completely intact. She said that a bomb once actually was dropped right on the building and fell onto the stage but didn’t explode! After that we went down to the river then walked across one of the bridges. We went up to Gellért Hill after that to see the St. Gellért monument. It commemorates a missionary bishop who was martyred in about the year 1000.
We had another delicious Hungarian style dinner and tried a different type of Palinka that I liked the best. It had some spice tastes like cinnamon, but I feel like there were also some apple and honey flavors in it too. All in all it was a great weekend and I can’t wait to go back sometime! But it was really busy and I’m exhausted. I start classes tomorrow and I’m looking forward to beginning the semester.