Tag Archives: Travel

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.


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,


Where can you find the freshest, cleanest air?

8 Jul

ImageFinland. It’s no surprise that a country with so much space and so little population has the purest air. With only a few big cities in the whole country, it’s easy to have clear skies free of pollution. Even in Helsinki, the biggest city, located at the very southern tip of the country, with cruise ships, etc. docking/passing through everyday, still has clear skies, every day. The sky is a bright blue with puffy, cartoon-looking clouds. It seemed like a fake world. I’m sure the amount of trees filling this beautiful country doesn’t hurt. Everywhere you look, you are surrounded by big pines or birches. Even flying into the airport, there was just trees outside the window, I was so worried when we were descending and all I saw were trees! Then, we finally landed and there was just a random runway in the middle of a forest that seemed to span the whole country. Now granted, I flew into a small dinky airport in the middle of the country, but still. I flew along the whole western coast as I approached the airport and all I saw were trees and small islands off the shore, also filled with trees.

ImageFinland is truly beautiful. But the most amazing thing I got to experience while I was there was the midnight sun. I was lucky enough to be there for the Midsummer Fest, when everyone goes to their summer cottages (which apparently almost everyone has one) to celebrate the longest day of the year. All summer long, in the north of the country, the sun never sets. Ever. This was the strangest, probably most annoying thing to ever experience. It was so hard to sleep! But it was still very cool. Unfortunately, this means that there is only about an hour of sunlight during the winter, though.



Another great thing about visiting such an exotic country (meaning most people don’t visit it) is being able to see animals I never would’ve otherwise. I ran into some reindeer on the road while my friends and I were on a road trip around the country. I even got to eat reindeer. I also got to see a wolverine! ….well I saw it in a zoo, so it was very tame and even pretty adorable. But still cool.

Most people don’t think about places like Finland, but it’s really beautiful and while the Finnish are very prideful of their country, they are still welcoming to visitors and tourists, and again for my sake, all speak great English.

Until next time, Moi Moi! (Bye Bye in Finnish)


Die Another Day

1 Jul

Our bus left for wadi rum at 8:15 am. A Styrofoam box of stuffed pastries and a juice box was waiting for us in each seat. After a pit stop and a visit to see St. George’s church with the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land, we arrived at “Captain’s Camp” which consisted of tents, a rest-stop looking bathroom, and a common area where we were served traditional Bedouin food. We were glamorous camping, glamping as they say. After being shown to my tent, I threw my book-bag on my full sized bed and got some mint tea.

Before departing for our desert tour, we were given koofias to protect us from the sun but mostly to distinguish us as tourists. We hopped in the backs of trucks and set off for wadi rum. Finally we stop to get on our camels. Some are taller than others, some fatter, all are incredibly awkward. When they stand, their skinny three-jointed legs rise unevenly in the front and back. Their steps are clumsy in the sinking sand and they seem unaware that they’re bumping into each other. Their eyes look sleepy and are probably half closed to keep out the desert sun. Their overall appearance is hilarious. After dismounting our camels we climb to the top of a small mountain to watch the sun set before we head back to camp.

The next morning we left at 8 for Petra, the rose-red city. Again our tour guide explains the history of the land, how the Nabataeans carved the city out of sand stone 2000 years ago. We walk through a gorge for about a mile and then our tour guide tells us to stop and look down. He leads us a little further and then tells us to look up. The famous Al-Khanez (treasury) lies before us. He explains the theories of what it was built for. No one knows for sure but one thing was certain: the Nabataeans built to impress. Thousands of years ago, visitors to Petra felt the same awe that we were feeling now. After lunch we’re give the option, or challenge, of climbing the 900+ steps to the monastery. It takes about a half hour to get to the top, well sort of. There are a few paths that lead to even more incredible views than the monastery. So we make our way up to the tallest one. The sites throughout the canyons were beautiful, but nothing beats looking down on it all.

After two days in the desert I’m exhausted and turn to head back. I pass a Bedouin man leading a donkey up the mountain. Aren’t you going to see the other views, he asks.
La, ta’aban. (no, I’m tired)
But you have to see them.
Tourism is understandably the main source of income here and we’ve been declining offers to buy things all day: trinkets, donkey rides, cold drinks, etc. No thanks, I say.
He points to the donkey. For free.
No, I shake my head. (Nothing is free here.)
Come on, it’s free. Money doesn’t make friends. We are Bedouin, we like to make friends. (despite his accent his English is good.)
I look up at him for the first time (with mistrust). He’s got the dark skin, shoulder length black curly hair, and beautiful kohl lined eyes of the people here. It’s too much to resist.

He helps me onto the donkey and directs me to scoot up in the saddle and hold on to the handle. I’m only four feet off the ground, but the ground is nothing but sand and rocks and happens to be hundreds of feet above the canyon floor.
He reassures me that donkeys have four legs and humans only have two, ergo the donkey is more stable. I speak a little Arabic to him and from then on we exchange Arabish. His name is Abdullah and he has 13 brothers and sisters. (his father has 4 wives, but he could never afford that many.) He’s learned Spanish, Portuguese, English, and another language just from tourists. I don’t need to travel; the world comes to me, he explains.
We head down a small rocky slope. I’m freaking out.
Close your eyes and open your mind, he says. I do.
Which path first? Down to the waterfall or up to the top view?
I don’t care.
To the waterfall then.
We start down and he keeps himself between the donkey and the rocky ledge.
Shway (slow), I beg.
It’s ok, close your eyes and open your mind, he reminds me.
We’re a few feet from the cliff and I’m hyperventilating. I clench the metal of the saddle but my hands are so sweaty that if the donkey goes down, there’s no holding on. He reassures me that no one dies before their time and waits for me to calm down before going on with what he’s saying:
The valley down there is the source of our civilization. All of the green is because of the spring that starts up there, the water runs all the way down there. It’s because they found this one spring, that the people could build an entire city around it. A city along a major trade route that’s seen countless people. He’s proud to show me this, and rightly so.

Next he takes me up the other path and points out the highest point to the left and the shooting location of the film, The English Patient, to the right. It’s the end of my ride and I thank him. All my friends are up at the top, giggling at the situation. Abdullah goes into a hut. His friend comes out and says, how many camels for this one, pointing to me. More laughter. Tsharafna (nice to meet you) I say to Abdullah and head back down with my friends.

Tareq: shufair, tour guide, harres

20 Jun

My first weekend was spent at the Dead Sea with four fellow CIEE-ers and our new friend, Tareq. This is how we met.

A disorganized group of girls pack their things and set off for the supermarket. We stop a taxi on the way and ask him to take us to the store. It’s only a few blocks away but he doesn’t know where it is (or doesn’t understand our Arabish?) This is going to be difficult, we think. We continue to walk and a taxi slows, goes into reverse and waves me over. Great, he saw four girls from Amreeka and is a little too eager to give us a ride. I shoo him away but he’s persistent. I walk up to him and say Dead Sea. I’m blocking traffic and cars start to honk at me, so I go around to the other side. He happily agrees to take us to the Dead Sea, wait for us to swim and bring us back for 50JD (about $75). But can you take us to the store first? Again he agrees. This is Tareq, our “shufair”.

The drive alone takes my breath away and Tareq stops periodically along the way at the places he knows we will want to take pictures: an overlook of the dusty, rolling hills of Jordan and a sign that indicates we are at sea level. He lets us know that he will be whatever we need him to be: driver, photographer, “harres” (guard).

When we arrive he gives us the options of going to a “touristy” beach which will cost about 11JD apiece or trying to find a free one. “Free” we say and he pulls over and points down a steep bank to a menacing looking beach. “Touristy beach!” we say and Tareq turns the car around and we return to the well-civilized beach. He negotiates with the man at the gate, let’s him know we’re students and we all get in for 14JD. We follow Tareq down the beach and he stops, points to the ground and says wait here. I look down at the dirt and assume my post. He goes over to three men sitting under a hut-looking shelter and presumably does more negotiating. He secures a table and chairs under an umbrella (he paid for them but doesn’t make a big deal of it, this is Arab hospitality). We start towards the umbrella but one of us sees our other American friends at a beach on the other side of a fence. Let’s go over there. Tareq picks up our chairs and we head further down the beach. As we get closer we realize the futility in trying to get to the private beach. Let’s just go back to the umbrella. Tareq, now dripping with sweat under the hot Jordanian sun, obediently picks up the chairs and starts up the hill. If he’s feeling frustrated with us American girls he doesn’t show it. “Asifa” (sorry) we say, but he insists it’s “mish mushkila” (no problem).

Our umbrella has been invaded by an Arab family. Again Tareq begins to negotiate. Maybe we could share, I suggest. That’s nice of you, he says, but they have a large family and there’s not enough room. The family leaves and we finally settle in the shade. As we swim, or rather float around, in the Dead Sea we ignore the signs warning us to protect our eyes and mouth from the salt water. It burns like nothing I’ve ever felt before. Each of us in turn scrambles up the hill, squinting in pain, and groping for the shower. Tareq can’t help but giggle at us as he sits in the shade and smokes his “aghila” (hookah). He offers me the hose and we take turns, both switching off between aghila and cigarettes.

hollytannerHe was an airline steward for 7 years and tells us of his adventures in Cuba, Bangkok, Milan, Greece, and everywhere but America. He wants to go someday. He’s in his late twenties and we assume from the ring on his finger that he returned to Jordan to settle down and start a family, though taxi drivers don’t make very much. As we sit and stare across the Dead Sea at Palestine, he tells me the story of the city of Sodom, buried underwater because of its citizens’ immorality. It’s true, he says, check the internet.

Another girl and I toss around a soccer ball like a volley ball and attract the attention of a few Jordanian men who want to play. They’re not very good but neither are we so it’s fun. Soon it’s time to leave and another Jordanian man approaches us to take a picture with him. He must have been impressed by our volleying skills. Tareq wants to intervene but stops himself. He knows the world and guesses (probably correctly) that American women don’t want a man to protect them. I consider this for a minute. I consider his role as harres, and my being half-clad. I start to see things a little differently.

On the way back we make a stop at an expensive rug store. I pick out a few postcards but they won’t let me pay for them. Tareq tells us he’s on his way to a picnic with his friends and we’re welcome to join him. We politely decline, saying we have to shower, but take his number in case we want to get lunch in the city some time. When he drops us off we all agree that 20JD per person is a more appropriate price to pay. We took a chance on Tareq, and he turned out to be pretty alright.


18 Jun
  Sun          Mon       Tues     Wed      Thurs      Fri         Sat          Sun
RainRainMostly CloudyChance of RainChance of SnowChance of SnowPartly CloudyChance of Rain
This is the weather for my last week in Christchurch. I am thinking of heading south, paying homage to the Scottish stronghold of Dunedin. The problem is, the further south you go, the colder it gets.
I am eternally skeptical of every Kiwi that claims a ‘cold’ winter. In my mind I instantly pull up a side-by-side comparison of a wet, 40-and-50-degree discomfort to a rip-your-face-off wind and 5-foot snow bluffs in Walmart parking lots. Then I picture my resident Alaskan, John, laughing and stroking his fisherman beard at the whiny-ness of my lower-forty-eight woes.
Nevertheless, this claim of ‘winter’ got me thinking. There are millions of people that celebrate Christmas on the back patio in t-shirts and sunglasses. The same people take January trips to the beach and pack park picnics for lazy Saturdays. Fellow Northerners, I know, this sounds weird. But, if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, this is your normal.
Normal, eh? This is the idea that sells the study abroad pitch. The experience of a ‘new normal.’ The patient observation, then participation in a culture you do not and will not ever own. To inhabit the foreign, trying to put on the eyes of the native. Moving into the neighborhood and saying ‘hello’ or ‘hola’ or ‘guten tag’ or ‘Kia Ora.’ We crave to shed our tourist mentality and be a cog in a machine that isn’t ours.
Whether it’s a rainy winter, an unexpected ‘u’ in colo_r, or that sacred time of day known to some as ‘afternoon tea’, I have had the privilege of taking the kiwi normal for a whirl. The good news is, I survived…