Reflecting Wednesday, Jun 19 2013 

I’ve been back about a week now. I ended up getting a sinus infection a few days after getting back which explained why I was going to bed at 7. So to anyone looking to travel abroad, make sure you take vitamins daily to build up your immune system before, during, and after the trip. I have talked to so many people about my trip such as my family, friends, and co-workers. I love sharing what I did in England and the things I experienced and learned. Some days it doesn’t even feel real that I went there. I spend a lot of time looking through my pictures and remember how much fun I had. However, I am glad to be back home. I missed my family and cuddling with my dog. Speaking of my dog, she sleeps with me every night. She was so excited for me to be back home. The rest of my summer is going to seem rather boring in comparison to the 2 weeks in England. I’m actually looking forward to this semester. I’m really starting to get into my Public Relations classes which makes me really look forward to the career that I will have when I graduate.

I’m glad I decided to blog about my experiences in England. It is going to be a great way to look back on the trip and remember everything I did. I’m so glad the university I go to strongly encourages study abroad. Once again, I am incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity. I will never forget it.

-Alyssa

Home Sweet Home Wednesday, Jun 12 2013 

The flights yesterday were kind of rough. The one from London to New York wasn’t too bad. I watched 3 movies- Beautiful Creatures, Les Miserables, and Breaking Dawn part 2. Our flights were on time, but it was the wait between flights were things went downhill. I started feeling incredibly sick to my stomach. Now I’m pretty sure it was just air sickness, but it made the flight from New York to Nashville rough. We got back to Nashville around 6:30 where my mom was waiting for me. By the time we got home it was around 8. I was absolutely exhausted from the jet-lag and went straight to bed. I’m still feeling jet-lagged today. I’ve been showing my family the pictures I took and telling them about the trip. It was kind of weird getting up this morning and not going to get breakfast with Whitney, Lauren, and Nicole like I’ve done for the past 2 weeks. Also, not having the entire day planned out and full of things to do made today a very lazy day. I need to catch up on sleep.

-Alyssa

The Final Day in England Monday, Jun 10 2013 

Today was our last day here in England. It has really flown by. We started off the morning with a final class meeting in the park in front of the Gandhi statue.

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Next we went over to Westminster for a tour of Westminster Abbey. We were all really looking forward to the tour for the obvious reason of it being the place of the Royal Wedding. However, it was difficult to really enjoy walking around the Abbey. There were so many people there walking around and taking tours that it was hard to really take in what we were seeing. Also, photography was not allowed. Aside from all of the connections to the Royal family and past Royals, there were a lot of memorials and graves. We saw the actual final resting place of Mary Queen of Scots as well as many other Royals. There was a spot for Oliver Cromwell of course. There was just so much to see, but Jennifer, Taylor, and I had to make sure we made it to the train in time to go to our tour.

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The Harry Potter Studio Tour was absolutely amazing!! I’m feel so blessed to have been able to go. I grew up reading and watching Harry Potter. Once we got off the train there was a double-decker bus to take us to the studio. I couldn’t even contain my excitement. As we waited in line to start the tour, we got to see Harry’s cupboard under the stairs. Before the tour we got to see a special video made just for the tour. The first room we went into was the Great Hall. It was so incredible to be on the actual set of the movies. We got to move through the sets and props at our own pace. There was so much to see. All of the detail that went into each of those sets was incredible. We got to “fly” on broomsticks through the green screen technology and see a lot about the special effects. The back lot had several outdoor sets and props. There was the Weasley’s car, the bridge, Tom Riddle Sr’s grave, Privet Drive, and the Potter’s home. We then went through the creature shop and Diagon Alley. We saw a lot of concept art as well as small paper models of different set and places within Hogwarts. There was also the model of Hogwarts which is what we see whenever there are overview scenes of Hogwarts. The gift shop was amazing. I walked around it several times trying to decide what to get. There were replicas and robes and t-shirts and wands and books and dvds and so much more. There was even candy inspired by the books such as chocolate frogs. There was so much there, and I took so many pictures.

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Today was just incredible. Actually, the trip all together has been amazing! I will miss being here, but I am ready to be back home with my family and my dog. we have to get up early to take the tube to Heathrow airport. It’s going to be another long day of flights but I’m excited to be back home. I feel so incredibly blessed to have had this opportunity and to have all the experiences I have had. I thought I would never be able to have an opportunity like this and am incredibly grateful that I did. Well tomorrow is going to come early and I need to finish packing. Goodbye England. It’s been fun.

-Alyssa

London Day 3 Sunday, Jun 9 2013 

I woke up this morning feeling a little better. Not 100 percent yet but much better. We started off the day by going to the Victoria and Albert Museum. There was so much to look at in there that we couldn’t even begin to see all of it. We were split into groups again and sent looking for religiously significant items, and to look for the bust of Oliver Cromwell. We found the bust first then went looking for displays to write our paper on. The displays range from modern times to hundreds of years ago. Although it held no relevance to the class, we walked through an exhibit on fashion in London through the years. It was incredible to see how fashion has changed from big full skirts, to casual jeans and t-shirts. This first picture was taken through a glass door. It was a library that was not open today. That was very upsetting for me considering how much I love libraries.

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The attention to detail on everything was incredible especially considering the time period most of the stuff we saw was created in. We didn’t get time to see a lot as we had somewhere else we had to go. After we all met back up, we went to Brompton Oratory. We didn’t really get to see much of it because there was a Mass going on, and there was no photography allowed so I didn’t get to take any pictures. The church was so ornate and beautifully decorated. It seemed like every inch of it was decorated in some way. The Brompton Oratory was the first catholic church built after the Protestant Reformation. The Protestants believed that a church should be simple. The Oratory was anything but simple. After leaving the Oratory, we were sent off on our own. Because we were in the area, Whitney, Nicole, Lauren, Neha, and I’s first stop was Harrods. It is a giant department store, and also a very expensive department store. We felt rather lost and out of place looking around. I felt like it went on forever. We only looked through a few areas of the store before moving on.

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Next we went over to the West Minster area so see Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, the Oliver Cromwell statue (since he is a big reason why many things in churches we visited were destroyed), the National Portrait Gallery, and Buckingham Palace. At the National Protrait Gallery, we mainly went in so Whitney could see Duchess Kate’s portrait. In the same room as her portrait was the portrait of Dame Maggie Smith, who played Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter series. After the National Portrait Gallery, we went in search of Buckingham Palace. It was so crowded! There were people everywhere. But while in London, it is a place you must see.  IMAG0300 IMAG0301 IMAG0302 IMAG0304 IMAG0306 IMAG0307 IMAG0308 IMAG0309 IMAG0310 IMAG0311
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We then walked as quickly as possible over to the British Museum to try to see some of the items that our professors suggested we find. We got there about 5 minutes before we closed, just enough time to see the Rosetta Stone. Since we didn’t have any time to see anything else in the museum, we left to get dinner at the Museum Pub and planned where we would go next. I got vegetarian fish and chips. It was basically cheese fried in the fish batter. It was very good. We decided to next go ride the London eye. This involved walking very quickly back to the tube and going back over to the Westminster area. However, it was so worth running around London. The views were incredible!

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Being able to quickly get around London using the tube made me forget just how big London is. We wouldn’t even see all of the city from the top of The Eye. There is so much there to see and we won’t have time to see the majority of it. It was a very full day today. Tomorrow is our last day here and it is the one I’m looking forward to the most. I can’t wait! We are going to Westminster Abbey and then Jennifer, Taylor, and I are going to the Harry Potter Studio Tour! I’m so excited!

-Alyssa

London Day 2 Saturday, Jun 8 2013 

Today I woke up with a cold. I felt miserable the majority of the day. We started off the day by going to Wesley’s Chapel, which is a Methodist chapel built by John Wesley. I spent the majority of the tour sneezing and coughing and struggling to stay awake. I can’t believe I ended up sick while here in England!

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After the tour, we had a little bit a free time until our next activity, so we went back to the King’s Cross area via the Tube (known as the subway in America). Our professors told us we would be pros at the Tube before we left. We will see if that happens. Over by King’s Cross is the British Library. For me this was the most amazing place ever. I love books and I love to read. I was a little overwhelmed in the store there trying to choose just one book to buy. There were so many great books and some that were just beautifully decorated. There was Alice in Wonderland shirts and other gift items and just so much stuff to look at. I ended up getting the 75th anniversary pocket edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. It seemed fitting since I went to the pub where Tolkien used to hang out with C.S. Lewis. If I didn’t already have a beautiful leather bound edition of C.S. Lewis’s Alice in Wonderland and other stories, I would have gotten Alice in Wonderland as well. The art work, done by Tolkien, is beautiful, and I’m very proud that I can now say I got a book from the British Library! The part of the library we walked through housed beautiful texts from other cultures, many of which were religious texts. There was even a Beatles display. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed in this section. I did take a picture of this huge encased bookshelf that was part of the photography allowed area before we had to dash off to our next location.

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I had to take a picture of this sign just because I used to live about an hour south of Chicago. I loved seeing a sign to go visit Chicago!

 

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Next on our agenda was to go see The Tempest at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. To get over to the theatre, we had to cross the Millennium Bridge, which happened to be “destroyed” by Death Eaters in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince! Another exciting Harry Potter related moment for me! The theatre itself is no the original Globe Theatre. The original one burnt down. This one is their best guess at what it would have looked like. Where our tickets were for, the standing area, was where the peasants would have been back in Shakespeare’s time. The higher up you sat, the more money you had. The play itself was incredible. One of the main characters, Ariel, was played by Colin Morgan who was Merlin on the BBC series Merlin. He was wonderful with the part. Like many of Shakespeare’s plays, there was plenty of humor. It was just an excellent experience.

 

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So far London has been crazy. There is so much to do and I don’t know how we are going to have time to see everything we want to see. We have another full day tomorrow. Hopefully I feel better in the morning!

-Alyssa

London Day 1 Friday, Jun 7 2013 

Today we left Whitby fairly early to begin out journey to London. The train ride seemed to take forever. Once we got off the train at King’s Cross Station, we made our way through the busy streets of London to our hotel while dragging our suitcases behind us. After getting settled into our hotel rooms, we met up as a class at a park just outside of our hotel to go over what we would being doing the rest of the day. We were split into groups to go explore different parts of London. The group I was in was assigned to the Covent Garden area. Make our way through London with just a map that none of us could read very well was kind of confusing. Most streets weren’t marked so we had to go off of landmarks. Thankfully, it didn’t rain. I’m not sure what I was expecting from Covent Garden. It was rather touristy, although much of London seems to be that way. We decided to look for a place to eat since none of us had eaten lunch. Most of the restaurants were of various cultures. i don’t think we saw one English style restaurant. We found a sandwich shop to eat at where I got an Italian style sandwich. After eating, we continued walked around our area. We saw several theatres and a shopping area which had well known stores such as Diesel and Urban Outfitters. We made our way back to the park easier than finding Covent Garden. Once the class gathered back together, we all shared what we saw in each of our areas. After our class meeting, Whitney, Lauren, Nicole, Caitlyn, and I relaxed in my room for a little trying to plan out everything we wanted to see. There is a lot to see and do while in London, and I only hope that there is enough time to see it all. After a little bit of resting our feet, we walked back to King’s Cross Station to do something that I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a little girl– Run through the wall between platforms 9 and 10 and end up on platform 9 3/4. That dream came true. Among all the shops at the train station, was half of a trolley on the wall with a sign above it reading Platform 9 and 3/4. For anyone who is still wondering what I’m talking about, it all leads back to the wonderful Harry Potter series written by J.K. Rowling. They even had a shop where people could get Harry Potter shirts, postcards, wands, and other fun movie related items.

This was basically one of the most exciting things ever for me.

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After we got back from King’s Cross, we were all exhausted. Today was a long day of travel, but I’m sure tomorrow will be even more jammed back since there is so much we want to see and do! I can already tell that I won’t be take as many pictures here because I’m not comfortable with having my rather large camera out while walking around the city. Thankfully, my phone can take some pretty good pictures.

-Alyssa

Hike to Robin Hood’s Bay Thursday, Jun 6 2013 

Today we took a six and a half mile hike to a small fishing village called Robin Hood’s Bay. The views were incredible. It was a tough hike of several hills and valleys but it was so worth it. After we reached Robin Hood’s Bay, we found somewhere to eat since we were all exhausted and very hungry. Then, after eating we asked a local where we could find some ice cream. Since everything closed around 6 we had to rush down a very steep road to find the ice cream shop. When we got there, the owner was closing up, but served us anyway. I got cookies and cream ice cream, and it tasted wonderful. We enjoyed our ice cream while walking back up the road which was conveniently on a hill and then waited for the bus to take us back to Whitby. Once we got back to Whitby, we changed out of our tennis shoes and went to the North Sea to put our feet in the water. The water was freezing!! Even the sand on the beach was cold! No matter how cold it was, it was still awesome.

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Today turned out to be a very significant day for me. Almost 2 years ago I had major surgery on my hip to reshape the ball and socket so that they would fit together properly. Usually, if I am walking or running for an extended period time, I still have some pain. However, today I had no pain at all. It was a miracle. Throughout the whole walk, I just felt like I was on top of the world. The walk also remind me of something very important. Life is full of highs and lows, just like the path we walked along today. Sometimes, when you’re at the bottom, it seems impossible to climb back up, but God is always there guiding the way. Today was incredible, inspiring, and everything I had hoped it would be. Tomorrow we make our way to London for the last leg of our trip.

-Alyssa

 

Whitby Wednesday, Jun 5 2013 

This morning we made the walk back to the train station to make our way to Whitby. Whitby is absolute beautiful. I feel like I could stay here forever. It’s located on the North Sea so we are all making plans to go stick our feet in the water. After we got settled into our rooms at the hotel, we broke into groups to get lunch. Whitney, Lauren, Nicole, Neha, and I found a super cute cafe to eat at and warm up with an excellent cappuccino and toasted cheese sandwich. It was way better than a regular American grilled cheese sandwich. I really could eat one of these every day.

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After lunch, we met up with the rest of the class at the top of the 192 steps leading up to Whitby Abbey. Despite it being the remains of the once grand Benedictine Abbey, it is still incredibly beautiful, and you can still see exactly how the Abbey would have been laid out in the traditional cross shape of many abbeys and cathedrals. Whitby Abbey was disestablished under Henry VIII. After it’s disestablishment, it fell into ruins and some of the stone was even taken from it to build a home from a man with the last name of Chumley. For once on this trip, it was not Oliver Cromwell and came along and ruined things. The Abbey now belongs to English Heritage. It also served as inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

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I could have stayed up there all day taking pictures, but eventually we got hungry. So we made the long walk back down the 192 steps and headed over to Magpie Cafe, which we were told had the best fish and chips. I am not a big fan of fish but this was really good. Also, we had an excellent view from our table.

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We spent the rest of the night relaxing, which is something we haven’t done since we’ve been here! Plus we need a good amount of rest because tomorrow we hike to Robin Hood’s Bay.

-Alyssa

 

York Tuesday, Jun 4 2013 

Today we left Harlaxton and took a train to York. There was some carrying our suitcases up and down stairs and we walked from the train station to our hotel in York. It was an exhausting morning. Once we got to our hotel, we split into groups and went for a little exploration and lunch. Nicole, Whitney, Lauren, and I found a little sandwich shop not too far from our hotel. The employees were so nice and talked with us about York and asked us questions about America while we ate.

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After lunch and some light exploration we all met back at the hotel to walk to our tour of York Minster Abbey. It was absolutely beautiful! Many churches in England were built on top of older Romanesque and Norman style churches. At York Minster, we were able to actually go underneath of the Abbey and see part of the old church. There was even a display of Roman artifacts. York Minster is undergoing several restoration projects including that of a very large stained glass window. Many features were restored or survived the destruction from the reformation.

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York Minster has the largest amount of medieval stained glass. The main way to tell if stained glass is from the medieval period is whether or not there is a lot of sunlight shining through and it is also not as vibrant.

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This is part of the church underneath of the church.

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After our tour of the Abbey, we walked to a Quaker meeting house to talk with one of the members about the Quaker religion. They strongly believe in equality and pacifism. Everyone is treated the same no matter gender, sexual orientation, age, or race. When they don’t agree with something, they protest peacefully. Their meetings are very different from a Christian church service. No one person leads the meeting. They all sit in a circle quietly until God speaks through one of them. It is great to learn about religions that are so different from my own. After we talked with him, we were off to do our own thing again for the rest of the day. So Nicole, Whitney, Lauren, Caitlyn, and I decided to walk to Roman wall. Parts of it no longer existed but it once went all around York as a Roman fortress.

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York has turned out to be very beautiful. There were some amazing views from the Roman wall. Tomorrow we pack back up and walked back to the train station to go to Whitby. I am so excited to see what’s next.

-Alyssa

Oxford Monday, Jun 3 2013 

Today’s trip took us to Oxford University. Technically it is several different colleges in Oxford but it is known to most as Oxford University. We were there during the students’ exams. They had a very formal uniform to wear for the exams. Unfortunately I did not get a picture of one of the students so I will do my best to just describe it. It was a black and white uniform that consisted of either a black skirt or pants and a white button down. They also wore what I can only describe as a cloak that would have been worn in the Harry Potter movies. The final piece of the uniform was a carnation. The color of the carnation depended on where they were at in their exams. Oxford is a very historic and beautiful town. Like Stamford, it isn’t very industrialized because the train tracks never were built near the town.

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After our official tour ended, all of us split in to groups to try to find the perfect Oxford University shirt. I’m proud to say I found one. Once the group I was in found our shirts, we went to find The Eagle and The Child pub, which is where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein would hang out. As a fan of both authors, this was an incredible experience for me.

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When we got back to Harlaxton, the refractory, which is where we would eat, was already closed. Since we were all hungry, as a class we ordered pizza and sat around and had class discussion. This is our last night in Harlaxton so we spent some time doing a last walk around of the manor and grounds. It’s bittersweet, but I’m looking forward to seeing more of England. Tomorrow we head to York.

-Alyssa

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