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Tips for Visting London

16 Dec

Last week is what is known as “Revision Week” here at St Andrews.  It’s basically Dead Week at Purdue, minus that whole having class thing.  Which means I had a whole week free dedicated to studying for my three finals that are coming up.  Instead of cracking open all my notes on British History and Ancient Israel, I cracked open my wallet and bought an overnight bus ticket to London.  I spent 5 days roaming around London getting to experience it at my own pace.  It was one of the best decisions I’ve made studying abroad.  Not only did I get to take a nice break from academics, but I got to do it in a city I’ve dreamed of visiting since I was a little kid.

Now that I’m back in St Andrews, still not studying, I wanted to share my tips on visiting London with y’all.

  • Buy an Oyster Card
    • If you plan on using the Tube at all, you will have to purchase an Oyster card from inside any of the stations.  It is a thin plastic card that you load money onto for your subway fares. The card is way faster than trying to pay for each individual journey separately and it gets you a cheaper rate. You “top up” the card in three ways.  You can add more money to it with your credit card via a machine in the station, pay cash to a teller, or with a card online.  It cost about £2.10 for a single journey in central London.  If you go outside what they call Zone 1, it will be a bit more.
  • Ask for Student Price
    • A student price is sometimes called the Concession price. I thought they were talking about snacks for the longest time, but its actually just the cheaper enter rates.  At all things that aren’t free to do in London, ask if they have a student price.  8/10 times they will (The Globe Theater does. The London Eye doesn’t).  You’ll just have to flash your student ID and you will save a couple £££.   It doesn’t hurt to ask at retailers too.  Some shops will have a 10%  student discount.
  • Go places early!
    • “Go Ugly Early” isn’t just for Harry’s.  After a late night out about in the city, you might want to sleep in past 9am, but don’t do it.  To save time, get to big tourist spots early in the day so  you won’t waste time in the long queues (lines).  My guidebook said the average wait time for the London Eye was one hour.  By going early I spent an hour total at the London Eye.  That included a short wait to buy my ticket too.   On the other hand, I decided to go to the Natural History Museum  in the mid afternoon and had to queue for a half hour just to get inside and another 30 minutes to see the dinosaur exhibit.
  • Get to know the people in your hostel
    • Because I went solo I figured the only time I would get to speak to someone was when I was buying something.  Not true at all.  The girls that I met in the hostel where great! There was Rachel and Ragen from Ireland, a super sweet Brazilian girl whose name I never caught, Amber also from Ireland, two German girls, and the two Maria’s from Greece.  Not all of these girls where at the hostel at the same time, but they all were some of the nicest people I’ve met here in the UK. We would share advice about what was interesting to see in the city, how to get some place, where the best shopping was, ect ect ect.  Amber and I even teamed up one day and walked around the city.  She took me to the British Library and I took her to Kings Cross.  Because of the girls I met in the hostel, my London experience was that much better.

I hope these can help you out if you ever plan on visiting London or anywhere you travel. Sadly, I’ve actually got to study now for my finals.

BOUNS TIP: Don’t be afraid to travel alone! I was, but seriously being on my own in London was an amazing experience. You can read what I wrote about traveling alone over on my own blog.

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Scottish Weather Woes

20 Nov

As most of us native Hoosiers know (and anyone who has been at Purdue long enough to witness all four seasons), Mother Nature answers to no one.  This I’ve discovered  hasn’t changed with me switching continents.  Here in Scotland, she is as ever indecisive as she is in Indiana.  It is almost impossible to predict what weather gear you are going to need on any giving day.  Watching the forecast is a good place to start, but be careful the weather man lies.  Even if there is a 0% chance of rain that day and you see a grey cloud in the sky, be prepared to get wet.  My phone app, I’ve just realized, only gives me the actual temperature and not what it feels like with the wind chill. I have walked outside one too many times  thinking I’ll be fine in a warm sweater just to have to run back into my room for my coat. Thankfully, I have it on good authority that it doesn’t get as cold here as it does in Indiana (a lady in the study abroad office used to work at that crimson and creme school in Indiana), but it is still pretty cold on the days it does hit below the freezing point. Anyway I wanted to share  a short list of weather supplies you can’t survive in St Andrews without:

  • Rainboots/Waterproof shoes
    • Some people might tell you that you can get by without a good pair of rain boots,  but I’m here to say they are wrong. I tried to survive Scotland without rainboots, but its impossible. You will need a pair of rain shoes.  Male or female, if you don’t want to be constantly shoving newspaper into your shoes trying to dry them out.  You don’t necessarily need to pack them because you can find a good pair in stores pretty cheap. I think I got mine for 20 quid when I was in Glasgow a few weeks ago. They have made my life considerably happier.  Wet socks are the worst.
  • Sweaters
    • Unless you want to be chilly in lectures, bring or plan on picking up some warm sweaters.  I suggest wool if you aren’t allergic.  A lot of the classrooms and lecture halls here in St Andrews can be pretty drafty.  I have a tutorial in a professor’s office and even sitting beside his space heater I freeze without a sweater!  Even my own room can get chilly because the heating is only one during certain hours of the day to save energy. 
  • Fleece Jacket and Heavy Coat
    • This one seems the most obvious of this list, but I actually came to Scotland without either of these things.  I accidentally left my fleece at home and I didn’t want to have to deal with packing a heavy coat.   Fleece jackets don’t seem to be quite as popular here. I don’t see them in stores much,  but bring one to help fight the chill off!  A winter coat is also a no brainer.  If you are like me and don’t want to worry about dragging on all the way here there are some great stores that carry nice, warm winter coats. I bought one for about 70 pounds from a local store and I couldn’t be happier with it.  It is the warmest coat I think I’ve ever owned.
  • Accessories
    • You should always have in your bag a hat, a pair of gloves, and an umbrella.  I’ve had it start raining on me when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The temperature is in flux all day so you never know when a big wind will kick up with a cold bite to it.  And if the sun does decided to stick its head out from behind the clouds, you can always put your accessories back into your bag.  Better safe than sorry.
  • Socks
    • Socks have been the plight of my existence here in Scotland! I don’t know what it is, but every time I leave St Andrews I’ve had to buy more socks.  You can ask my traveling buddies and they will let you know that cold feet are my biggest complaint. My feet freeze here!  Make sure to bring nice thick socks, not just thin athletic ones.  I promise your toes will thank you (and your wallet).

While it does seem pretty basic and obvious to bring these things with you on a Scottish Adventure, I didn’t. I’ve had to buy at least one of everything on this list since I got here. Albeit I only picked up another hat because it was on sale for a pound in the grocery store.  Leave your shorts and tank tops at home.  Even on the off days in September when it did hit the mid 60s, it wasn’t warm enough for them.  In all  just make sure you are prepared for what ever the weather decides to throw your way, because after all you don’t want your study abroad experience to be defined by freezing feet and soggy clothing (which mine some days has unfortunately been).

My Scottish sock collection (and slippers too).

Academic Lingo

14 Oct

At least the lecture halls looks familiar.

So I’ve been at St Andrews now for a little more than 5 weeks and I’m finally getting the hang of the academic vocabulary here! While it’s not too different from how we talk about school and classes at Purdue, it can be quite confusing until you understand what you are talking about! So I present to you my quick guide to Academic Lingo at St Andrews.

First things first, University equals College.  It has been hard for me to make this switch, but it is getting easier to say things like “I go to university in the States.”  This one also gets shortened to “uni” a lot.  You just have to accept it.  Now on to more important words.

Whenever you meet someone new they will probably ask you this, “What subjects are you taking?”  They are asking essential what your major is.  A proper answer would be something like, “Oh I’m in Maths and Divinity.”

If you happen to meet someone in same subjects as you they are very likely to ask what modules you are in.  Modules are best described as a course. It includes both the lecture, the tutorial/seminar, and the labs.  Lectures are just like the are at Purdue. For the 1st and 2nd year modules they are normally a pretty decent size so you don’t have to worry about getting called on.  A tutorial or a seminar (names used interchangeable) is pretty equivalent to our recitation classes.   These tend to be pretty small from 7-15 people. They are lead by your tutor. Tutors can either be a grad student or a professor.  These are the classes  where you are going to get called on to answer questions even if your hand isn’t up. Labs of course are just what you think they are–labs.

Sub-honors and honors are two terms I’ve had the most trouble with.  They can be equivalent to our terms of Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior; but they are also related to upperclassmen and underclassmen.  Sub-honors consist of your first two years at university.  They are the 1000 and 2000 level modules.  Honors then is the 3000 and 4000 level modules.  To make it into your honors modules you have to pass the sub-honors modules, you just can’t take the higher level classes like you can at Purdue.  To be super clear the terms sub-honors and honors do not in any way relate to things like the Honors College at Purdue.

One final term that you run into a lot is JSA or JYA.  These are acronyms that mean you are a Junior studying abroad (or year abroad).  This is probably my least favorite term I’ve learned here just because I get called a JSA a lot, but I’m not a J.  It blows peoples minds that I’m a senior studying abroad.  Studying abroad isn’t just for juniors.  It is for freshman, sophomores, seniors, and super seniors too.  We shouldn’t pigeon hole the study abroad experience.  It can offer you amazing life discoveries no matter what point you are at in your academic career.

I hope this guide can help you if you ever decided to study abroad! I know that I would have loved something like this to help me as I was prepping to come to St Andrews.  As always you can read more about my adventures studying abroad over on my main blog Mly Mllr’s Travels.

Until next time,

Emily

Fresher’s Week. St Andrews Edition.

25 Sep

Well, I made it to St Andrews! I got here just in time for the start of Fresher’s Week. It is a strange feeling though being a “fresher” (their term for freshman) again, but I’m embracing it and enjoying getting to experience what it means to go to St Andrews. These were my favorite things about Fresher’s Week.

On Monday morning I went to the Opening Ceremonies for the Arts and Divinity. I imagined it was going to be a few of the heads of the university talking about how important it is to do well in school and balance your social life, a few bad jokes, singing of the school song, ect. It went as I expected with just a few slight changes like the song sang was in Latin and a small 5 piece chamber band came out to play a slow piece of music which I may have nodded off during (I’m going to blame jet lag though), but after the Vice Chancellor spoke we were rewarded with a performance by one of St Andrews’ a cappella groups, The Other Guys. In a spoof of Katy Perry’s California Girls, these guys woke up the crowd. I didn’t understand some of the song (like what exactly does schweffed mean), but it was so clever and funny and worth watching. Here is their official music video for you to judge.

IMG_3943It is not every day that a University celebrates its 600th birthday, but on Friday and Saturday St Andrews did just that. From birthday cake and fireworks to recreating the journey of their Papal Bull, festivities filled this small town. One of the highlighting events was the Graduation Ceremony feature Hillary Clinton, Dr. Jane Goodall, the Right Revd Dr. Rowan Williams, and many others. Tickets were raffled off to the ceremony and I wasn’t lucky enough to get one, but I did stream it online. It was long, but worth watching just to hear the speeches given and see my one of my favorite politicians.  The highlight of the celebration though was the closing fireworks on Saturday night on the beach. By nightfall the sand was packed full of the people of St Andrews and students from the university. The sun was slow to set, but we kept waiting by chatting with those sitting near us, taking pictures with new and old friends, watching kids run around in the sand. As it grew darker all attention turned to the pier where the fireworks were going to be launched from and when the pier let up with the first flames, everyone cheered. Six hundred years they had been waiting for this and it was worth it. The fireworks were beautiful, big and booming in every color imaginable bursting just above the sea. For me as an exchange student, it has been such an honor to be here to celebrate the university’s 600th birthday with everyone.

St Andrews Pier WalkA student tradition at the University of St Andrews is completing a Pier Walk after attending Sunday service at St Salvator’s Chapel. I was told that it was a tradition that came about as a punishment for some student’s who turned up to chapel one Sunday just a little too inhibited from their Saturday night activities; however, some sources on the web say it is to honor a man who swam out to sea to save men from a sinking ship in the bay. Whatever the origin, peer walking has become a student tradition. This past Sunday was what you imagine the weather to be like in Scotland–windy, rainy, and cold. None of these things make for easy pier walking because you take serious risk losing your balance and falling right into the shallow part of the sea. Tons of students gathered outside of St Salvator’s chapel in the quad just past noon, almost all wearing the tradition red student gowns. At about ten past the hour we all exited the quad, quick to jump over the cursed initials on the cobble stone that mark the exact spot where Patrick Hamilton was burned at the stake. With the winds coming in off the sea, the weather was even worse when we got to the pier. Luckily, someone had the wise idea that it wasn’t quite safe enough to walk the tallest, narrowest part of the pier and so we only walked the wider, lower part of the pier. No one fell in and everyone lived to go to the first day of classes.

For me Fresher’s Week has been quite the introduction to life at St Andrews and their traditions. While it may not be anything like my life at Purdue, I am happy I am here.

Wish me luck in my first week of classes,

Emily

Going to Scotland

26 Aug

Map

Hello to all the readers of Purdue Students Abroad! My name is Emily and I’ll be a blogger here starting now! Normally you can find me over on my own personal blog http://mlymllr.wordpress.com/ but I couldn’t turn down the offer to blog here too!

Now for a bit about me. I am entering my senior year at Purdue and I’ve elected to spend the fall of it as an exchange student in Scotland at the University of St Andrews. I’m an English major and no, not the education type. I’m the plain boring likes to read tons of books and argue about them type. I’ve been active in many student orgs in the past three years at Purdue such as PSUB and RHA and I’m going to miss them while I’m away, but I plan on having lots of great experiences at St Andrews to make up for it! This will be my first time out of the States because I’m not counting a three day trip I took to Canada because I was too sick to do much of anything.

This summer has been in full prep mode for my four months abroad. I’ve been scribbling and highlighting in my travel guides, watching Scottish history videos on youtube, looking for cheap deals on travel gear, and most importantly talking to other students who attend St Andrews. Thanks to tumblr and Facebook, I’ve been able to reach out to others and ask them about life at St Andrews.  From a few people on tumblr I learned that e-books are normally an acceptable form of textbooks at the university (I’ve had a bad experience before at Purdue trying to use one in class). Now I plan to take my e-reader with me!  Once I joined the St Andrew’s network on Facebook, I had access to thousands of St Andrew’s students; but most importantly I joined my res hall’s Facebook group.  Already I’m getting to meet people who I’m going to share an apartment with, learn about what goes on during Fresher’s Week, and evening learning that one of the big home-wares stores that students use is going out of business just after the start of term!

Social media has really helped calm my nerves about leaving the familiarity of West Lafayette. I’ve got two weeks until I get on that plane and travel 3,500+miles to Scotland and I start learning what it’s like to be a student at St Andrews for myself.

Until next time,

Emily