Monthly Archives: April 2018

Spring Break Week 2: London

For the second week of spring break, I spent a week in London with my mom. Coming from Germany, my grandparents and I met my mom in London. My grandparents spent a day with us and then went home. Being just the two of us, my mom and I saw a lot of sights in London.

On the first day in London, we all went to Westminster Abbey, walked through Trafalgar Square, St. James Park, Buckingham Palace, and Covenant Gardens. Westminster Abbey was one of my favorites, as it was very interesting to see all of the famous royals, scientists (ironically), poets, and more who are buried there. Thanks to my Scottish Music class, I got to see up close some of the historic royal figures and their coffins. While a little morbid, the exquisite detail in some of the coffins was amazing and having a good historical context made it even more interesting. The fact also that royal weddings take place there makes it even more fascinating. We also saw Big Ben and the London Eye, but sadly Big Ben is undergoing refurbishment and so it was covered in scaffolding.

Westminster Abbey

Big Ben

After my grandparents left, my mom and I spent the next 6 days exploring all around London. We walked through Hyde Park, went on the London Eye, saw the Tower of London, had afternoon tea, visited St. Paul’s Cathedral, went to Harrods’s, walked around Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus, and Leicester Square, and ended with taking the Harry Potter Studio Tour. We also mastered using the London Underground, or as it is called, “the tube.”

Some of my favorites, other than Westminster Abbey, were the Tower of London and of course the Harry Potter Studio Tour. The Tower of London was the old palace of the royal monarchy in medieval time. The Queen’s jewels are also located there as well. It was very cool to be able to walk around and see the areas of the castle during that time period. It looked like a little village encompassed by a large castle.

Inside of the Tower of London

The Harry Potter Studio Tour was amazing. You were able to walk through all of the sets from all of the Harry Potter movies. Being a big fan of both the books and the movies, it was very cool to see the costumes, props, and how the special effects were made for the movies. We were also able to try the famous butterbeer! I was a little skeptical at first, but it was surprisingly good, although very sweet. We deduced that it is essentially cream soda with butterscotch syrup and whipped cream, but it was very good.


Diagon Alley set

The Hogwarts Express!

My mom and I also were able to try the popular pastime of afternoon tea. We went to an Alice in Wonderland themed afternoon tea, which was very cute. It consisted of small finger sandwiches and many small pastries all themed to Alice in Wonderland. Overall, the amount of pastries was a bit much and it definitely was a try-only-once-for-the-experience sort of ordeal.

Our Alice in Wonderland-themed afternoon tea

We covered quite a bit in the time we were there and I now feel like an expert on London! Mastering taking the tube was an interesting experience, as everyone moves very fast and the trains themselves are very fast as well! While the tube is very efficient, the only downside is how filthy it is.

One thing that I noticed after travelling around Europe and then coming back to the U.K. was that I felt a sense of relief, as though I was returning home. In London, all of the grocery stores, shops, brands, restaurant chains, and language is all the same as in Scotland. The fact that I felt this sense of familiarity and hominess in London proved to myself that I had adjusted to living abroad. I became aware that I have embraced and adapted to the culture of the U.K. and that it has become like a second home to me. This is the type of experience and the goal I had for studying abroad. This proved to me that I have achieved one of my goals for living and studying abroad and it is one that I am proud of.


Spring Break Week 1: A Tour of Europe

I apologize again for such a late post; it has been very busy time here at St Andrews. But, I will leave that for another blog later.

St Andrews has a 2 week spring break in March, just as Whitman does. My grandparents and my mom all came over during this time: my grandparents the first week and my mom the second week. This post will be only on the first week with my grandparents.

My grandparents spent a week in Edinburgh before coming to St Andrews. It was great to get to see them, but unfortunately the weather was not so nice. During the end of the week prior to spring break, another smaller “Beast from the East” came through and the temperatures dropped. It was also very windy, meaning we could not be outside for too long without getting blown away! I was able to show them around, specifically the golf course for my grandpa, and we got to eat some of the local cuisine, and they got to meet some of my new friends as well.

We then went off on a week long tour to 3 different European cities: Amsterdam, Brussels, and Cologne located in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.

We started in Amsterdam and I have to say that I was very surprised about how gorgeous the city was! The buildings are all very pretty and some lean due to their unstable foundations. I was not expecting Amsterdam to look like that, but it was a great surprise! We went on a canal cruise, went to the Anne Frank Museum, and went out of the city and saw the famous windmills. While there, we also saw how clogs were made, tried many different cheeses, and saw how the windmills worked. What also surprised me was the amount of bikes in the city! They were everywhere! You had to be careful or else you might get run over. Overall, it was a very fun city and I hope to go back someday.

Canals of Amsterdam

Making clogs

We then went by train to Brussels, Belgium. Of the cities that we visited, I think that I liked Brussels the least. It was a typical city and we saw the City Center and visited the small town of Bruges for a day. Bruges was very pretty and a lot larger than I had realized. It is a mixture of a quaint town and a larger small-town tourist hub with canals and small shops. I of course bought Belgian chocolate and had a Belgian waffle. We stayed for 2 days and then went by train again to our next location.

My Belgian waffle! It was quite good

Town of Bruges

City of Brussels

Our final location was Cologne, Germany. It is a small town that is famous for its Cathedral. The Cathedral was one of the largest in the world and it was massive! Our hotel was right outside of the Cathedral, but it was easily visible from every part of the town. It was hard to get the entire thing in one picture! We were only in Cologne for a day, but we were able to see some good sights. We went to the Lindt chocolate museum, situated right on the Rhine River. It was fascinating to see how the chocolate was made and the history behind the Lindt company. Even though Lindt is a Swiss company, it was still fun to go to. The was a large chocolate fountain that we got to dip wafers in as well! Also, as the name implies, we went to a cologne shop, or perfume shop, which claims to be the makers of the first perfume in the world. Famous figures such as Napoleon, Princess Diana, and even Bill Clinton have been said to have bought the perfume. We got free samples as well and it is a very subtle scent. For dinner, we went to a Brauhaus which claimed to have opened in 1317 and I was able to get my fist German beer. To be quite honest, it was not that good, but it was all for the experience.

The massive Cologne Cathedral. I could not get it all into one picture!

After Cologne, we flew to London to meet my mom.

Overall, it was a great experience and I was very glad that I was able to go to the cities that I did. Each had a different culture and learning to adjust to the culture shift with only being there for a short time was hard, but I gained a new appreciation for each culture as well. It was always a bit overwhelming when going to a new city every couple of days, but it taught me how to quickly adapt to change in a short period of time. I also learned how to travel by trains and accept that there will always be challenges when travelling. We had a couple of hiccups, including some lost possessions, but learning how to deal with these problems is a good life lesson that I was able to learn. It was time well-spent with my grandparents and I am very grateful for them taking the time to come out and travel with me.

Facing Challenges Abroad

I would like to apologize for the delay in this post. Midterms and spring break proved to be a very hectic time and I was unable to post this when I wanted to.

This post is dedicated to the challenges and lessons I have learned so far from attending St Andrews and being in a foreign country in general. While I have been having a great time at St Andrews, I have face challenges that I had to overcome.

The first challenge was making friends. In the beginning, I was very lonely. I initially gravitated towards trying to make friends with the other study abroad students, but it quickly became apparent to me that my interests did not align with theirs. They wanted to go out and party every night, something that I do not enjoy doing. After being ignored, I decided that I needed to reach out to the other students in my corridor. I have been extremely lucky that the students in my corridor (hallway of my dorm) are so friendly and nice. After reaching out to them, having conversations in the kitchen when making meals on the weekend, and being invited to sit with them at meals in the dining hall, I quickly became friends with many of them. They have all become my close friends and I am very thankful to be meeting students from different countries who are kind and include me. My friends come from England, Scotland, Malaysia, South Korea, Germany, Ireland, and the U.S. I have been able to learn the customs of each of their countries, in addition to the customs of St Andrews and Scotland as well. This has enhanced my experience and allowed me to become integrated into the culture of St Andrews, along with having a better understanding of different cultures.

School in general has been a large challenge as well. Understanding how the grading system works, what the expectations are for assignments, and contacting professors are all issues that I have to deal with. The grading system is on a 20 point scale and the conversions to A B C grades are a little complicated. Expectations on assignments have been one of the biggest challenges. Since I am considered a “third year,” many of the classes I am taking are upper-level. This means that the professors expect that, since you are an upper-classman, you know all of the rules and expectations regarding assignments. It also means that you have been taught certain curriculum before that carries over into the upper-level classes. I found that out through my math class. I did not do well on an assignment because I solved a problem using the wrong method, despite getting the right answer. Most students knew the method because that is what they had been taught in previous years. I, on the other hand, had no clue that the directions implied a certain method. After talking with the professor, I learned that nothing could be fixed. Being a perfectionist, this frustrated me. There was nothing that I could do about it and I learned a valuable lesson from the experience. In order to provide clarity on expectations, I was going to have to ask questions. This has always been a struggle for me, but I have had to go outside of my comfort zone in order to be successful and get the answers I needed.

I of course miss my family and friends back home as well. Thanks to technology, I am able to keep in contact with them very easily. My grandmother has also continued to send me care packages just as she does when I am at Whitman! These always make my day when they come.

St. Patrick’s Day-themed care package from my grandma!

Moving to a foreign country always has its challenges, but learning how to deal with the challenges has allowed me to grow as a person. By learning the culture of St Andrews, making new friends, and stepping out of my comfort zone, I have been able to better myself and gain an understanding and new perspective of the world around me.