London in the fall 2017

David Arias
London, 2017

First Entry

I’m David Arias, an international student from Colombia at H-SC, and I decided to study abroad at University College London for the fall semester of my junior year. When looking for study abroad opportunities (H-SC offers many) I kept in mind that I wanted to keep improving my English and study at a school as different as possible from what H-SC had to offer, not because I didn’t like H-SC, but because I wanted to challenge myself and experience new things. UCL appeared as the perfect option because it offered me a 40,000 student population university, located in Central London, with a wide range of departments and courses I could choose from, which at the same time, was ranked among the top ten schools in the world. After a demanding application process, I was accepted at UCL last spring, and I started preparing for this great opportunity.

University College London

University College London

After four months of preparation, in which I worked for a while and then visited my family and friends back home, I’m finally here in London, staying at one of UCL’s housing facilities, which is five minutes away walking from Buckingham Palace, and I couldn’t be happier to be writing this entry. It’s already time to register for courses, or how Brits call it, modules. Registering for classes at UCL is not as easy as waking up at 5:30 a.m. and registering for classes on Tigerweb using an Econ Lab computer. Here, affiliates (exchange students) have to contact the equivalent to a Department Chair and ask for available courses for affiliates and general approval before registering on Portico (the equivalent to Tigerweb) for courses. It’s not been an ideal process, as I have to take a certain amount of credits in order to graduate on time but, the availability of courses, along with kindness UCL faculty and staff embody, keep me optimistic that I’ll be able to take the courses I want to take and the ones that will eventually transfer to an H-SC transcript.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

Apart from the registration process mess, I’ve also been able to tour the city and visit iconic places in London. Big Ben was the first one on my to-do list, and after two days of orientation with the agency that helped me in coming to London, I went to have a couple of drinks with a friend next to the Thames, at a bridge where we could appreciate the London Eye and the Big Ben at the same time. It was definitely a great feeling to realize that the period of preparation and stressful pre-departure from Colombia was finally over. And, I was now on to the exciting part of this new semester-long adventure, as the Big Ben and the London Eye were there, next to one of my closest friends, welcoming me to this great city that’s got lots to offer, and that I hope I’ll take advantage of through my time here. On the list, there is still a lot to do, as I have to visit Tower Bridge, the National Museums, and Buckingham Palace, not mentioning Camden Market and the different Football (soccer) Stadiums, which are really famous places here in London.

“Bon Voyage” 2017

SAS 2017
Shemar Blakeney

I chose to participate in the Semester at Sea Program because I will be able to travel to multiple countries instead of just one. Even though I will not be able to immerse myself as deeply as other study abroad programs, I have the opportunity to go experience a lot of different cultures.
I am extremely excited to visit South Africa and Japan; however, I am looking forward to traveling to all of the countries. I want to put meaning and faces to all of the places I have read and learned about in books. Also, I want to try the different foods in all of the places.
I am nervous that I will accidentally offend someone due to my own culture. Also, I am a little nervous that I will not be able to gain the global experience as I would if I would have participated in a traditional study abroad program.
I want to meet people from all of the countries and gain personal insight into their world. I want to see the world through their eyes and gain understanding into the true global world and not just my own single-viewed world.
So far, I have visited Hamburg, Germany; Barcelona, Spain; and Valencia, Spain. All of these places have their own unique atmosphere and people.
In Germany, I visited a local jazz restaurant and attended a local concert, and they were both spectacular with great music. I could feel the people coming together to listen to the music and enjoy life.
In Barcelona, I visited the Gothic Square where they had old architecture and statues. Gothic refers to the style and type of architecture of the buildings from a specific period in history.
In Valencia, I visited the Largest Aquarium in Europe called the Oceanografic! The Oceanografic was filled with sharks, crocodiles, seals, dolphins, beluga whales, and many different types of fish. Also in Valencia, I saw extraordinary types of artwork and buildings. They were unbelievable.
It is truly an experience to communicate with people in a different language. I have experienced some difficulty in understanding languages, but the barriers can be broken with a little practice and patience. I have spoken some Spanish to the locals to order food. It is helpful that a lot of the locals know some form of English, so together we can build an understanding with each other. Also, it is just fun to try to speak in another language to the locals, respectfully of course. The ship is filled with people from ALL OVER THE WORLD. I have made friends with people from Puerto Rico, China, Philippines, and Iceland. It is very interesting and enjoyable to talk with others and hear their way of life, and how they feel about our cultures.
I have tried some interesting food in Spain. I had a particular dish containing squid, cuttlefish, muscles, whole shrimp (with the head still attached) on top of noodles and vegetables. It was Spectacular and Delicious!

Studying “Across the Pond” 2017/18

Jamie Agnew
LSE 2017/18

I am studying at the London School of Economics in the General Course, which is their year-long study abroad program. Given that I have travelled to eight different countries thus far, I have always wanted to study abroad. When it came around time to apply, I focused all my attention to LSE for several reasons. One, I wanted to push myself academically in the fields of economics and finance, and LSE has a strong reputation in those subjects. Second, I didn’t need to learn a new language to live there, which took a lot of pressure off the situation. For those two reasons, I never really looked further than LSE.
I am really excited to get over there. All of my buddies have been in school for 2-3 weeks now, and I feel like I am left out of the fun. So, if nothing else, I am just anxious to have fun. I am also looking forward to meeting new people, which is also where some of my nerves are stemming from. While I am a sociable kid, anytime you go somewhere without knowing anyone, it can be scary. According to kids that have studied at LSE before, they have a good program to integrate the kids in my program including a boat party. I am also excited and nervous about living on my own. It will be nice to have quiet time, but I love to socialize so that is something I am going to have to adjust to.
Lastly, I am REALLY looking forward to traveling. I have buddies studying in other countries in Europe, including Germany, Italy, and the Czech Republic. Airfare is quite cheap over here, which encourages me to travel as much as possible. I have plans to go to Oktoberfest one of the first weekends I am there as well as Prague for Thanksgiving. Nonetheless, I am really looking forward to expanding my cultural horizons by traveling to different European countries.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

 

VPO 2017

Griffin  Salyer
Griff Travels 4
VPO 2017

How was your experience different from what you expected?  In what ways was it the same?

Lake Lamond

Lake Lamond

My experience was more enlightening than I truly expected. I came back wide-eyed and ready to take on a new world. It is weird how you might even expect this change, yet it still occurs so dramatically. I think about different ideas, in different ways, and about different perspectives than I had previously. I know more about myself, and I know more about others around me. I expected to come back with “wisdom” but it is not something I could have understood until I experienced it. Whatever it is that does this to us as humans, it certainly happened to me. It strengthened aspects of my faith, my resolve, and many ideas I have about the world. What I am saying is that no matter what you expect, you will always get more from an experience out of your comfort zone, and out of your own house.

What stereotypes did you have about your study abroad destination? Were those confirmed or negated?

Cool street performer and her dog just outside of the Edinburgh Castle.

Cool street performer and her dog just outside of the Edinburgh Castle.

Generally, I don’t like to go by stereotypes, whether they’re found in truth or rumor, just because of the principle of keeping an open mind about people. I find that I get some different ideas from my family and those around me, and that it’s alright, but I need to form my own opinions and really think for myself – especially when it is about my environment and the people that inhabit that environment. I found that English people are overwhelmingly nice and respectful. The country is not too far different from the U.S. and it felt like I was in a slightly different state, with slightly nicer people.

What do you miss/think you’ll miss most from abroad?

I really enjoyed the pub culture from the aspect of a place to go to bond with your friends,

Dalton and I on Calton Hill overlooking Edinburgh.

Dalton and I on Calton Hill overlooking Edinburgh.

have deep discussions about life and academics, and as a relaxing place that is separate from home and work. It was not about the beer. It was about the friendship that came with the pint and what you did with that friendship. I became much closer to many Hampden-Sydney men because of the discussions about both school and life that we would have over a relaxing pint. Sometimes, we would even read our books in the pub with a relaxing glass of wine or cold pint. It was an atmosphere that was conducive of so many positive experiences and I would feel wrong if I didn’t mention one of the most positive experiences I had.

What’s your general advice for students preparing to go abroad?  How about for students going on your study abroad program?

A war memorial for Scottish American Soldiers directly next to the gravesite of David Hume.

A war memorial for Scottish American Soldiers directly next to the gravesite of David Hume.

Prepare yourself for a different world, a different perspective and new experiences. Go and experience everything around you! Some of the most fun I had was just waking up, picking a place on the map, and going there. Walking everywhere is great, but make sure you have the shoes to do it.

 

 

What’s the best thing about being home?  What’s the hardest?

It is America. By far something everyone seems to take for granted too often. We seem to be one of the best countries, even when compared to a country that is as developed as we are. I got to get right back into school, where I am able to thrive, so that is wonderful as well. I cannot think of a hard thing about being home. I just gosh darn, love it.

In My Head.

The Symphony rages on in my head. A wonderful cacophony of elegant sounds smoothly sails from one side of my brain to another. I feel emotionally different. I feel stronger as a person, more driven, and more mature. I wanted to keep my reflection about my trip short, because it doesn’t need to be complex. It is simple. I grew as a person in every positive way. I came back more understanding of those around me, and with new convictions about where I’d like to direct my efforts. It was an incredible experience.

VPO 2017

Griffin Salyer
Griff Travels 3
July 25, 2017

What’s your favorite food you’ve tried so far?

My favorite food is by far any of the pub foods that are abundantly available in the U.K. Within the subsection of pub foods, nearly every item on any pub menu is restaurant or higher quality, and it is great for a growing young man like myself. Within the delicious pub food realm, I must say that my favorite so far is a panini, filled with tuna and mayonnaise and delivered to transcendence with melted cheese, appearing upon a golden platter and encircled by chips (fries for you America folk).

What have you accomplished while abroad that makes you proud?

The Church of Lincoln College where on of our lectures was held.

The Church of Lincoln College where on of our lectures was held.

I know how to travel. While abroad, by some act of god and the grace of my awesome parents, I did not have to do too much to refine my traveling skills and senses. I have an impeccable sense of direction, an impressive sense of smell for the best local places, and a common sense that can go to battle with the toughest streets of Rural U.K. In addition, my proudest accomplishment in the academic realm is receiving a bold and beautifully penned “Brilliant!” from my English tutor, Miranda Faye Thomas. A totally objective view of this is that it signifies how excellent I am (don’t worry, my ego isn’t that bad). Most importantly, something that makes me proud is the knowledge and skills that my H-SC has imparted upon me, and for that I am grateful.

How do you spend your free time? Is it different from what you would do in
the US?

I spend my free time discussing and interacting with new and old friends over subjects from academics to the height a sheep may jump when frightened. Incredibly, the best times have been spent not laying around and doing nothing, but actually interacting with my environment, my professors and tutors, and the people of Oxford and the U.K. This is not wholly different from what I do in the U.S. but it feels much more different because of the new environment and all the new people.

Are you making progress with the language? Any funny stories of language
gaffes?

The language happens to come very naturally to me. In England they actually, believe it or not, use the English language to communicate! It is truly a beautiful language. Aside from the jokes, the English in the U.K. has many differences, from tone and colloquial meanings, to the contexts of their jokes.  So far, my most embarrassing story is when I learned that “quite good” means “less than good”.  This was of course after one of my tutors had used the phrase when describing one of my papers, and I left the tutorial happy that my paper was “quite good”.

What are you learning in class? What are you learning outside of class?

Bath from Sham Castle.

Bath from Sham Castle.

We are learning Early Modern English history, the period from about the 1450s to the 1660s. I am learning many different lessons outside of class. There are too many to draw from so, just to give you a sense, I am learning lessons like how to talk to people who do not immediately understand your background or the ideologies in your country. I am learning lessons about the harsh reality of people and how they behave – whether good or bad – and how to distance myself from others who are a detriment to themselves, and worse, to those around them. On a lighter note, I am learning the horribleness to currency conversions and the tight rope that is walked when trying to live on a budget in a foreign country.

The ceiling of the Sheldonian Theatre where all Oxford students graduate.

The ceiling of the Sheldonian Theatre where all Oxford students graduate.

The academics have remained constant. Everything is a forward progression into improving the way I think, write, and articulate the thoughts I have. Every week improves my critical thinking skills and tries my soul on the thoughts that I use to have. The academics at Oxford have introduced my scholarship to a new division of thought process and thought articulation, as well as a development in the way that I structure essays. The experience has been overwhelmingly positive. I have become much more well read in legendary critics in literature, history, and the interpretation in both fields. Although it may not be clear in my writing on this blog, I have refined my reading and writing skills to the point that I am much more confident in my writing, speaking, and arguing ability, and much more confident in my ability to present an excellent essay to the waiting professors at Hampden-Sydney. I am enjoying my experience in Oxford.

In my head. I like to think often of how I grow each year, semester, and week as I learn more and am challenged by rigorous academics. I’ve learned from Hampden-Sydney that doing this can give you a sense of where you’ve been, but most importantly it gives you a sense of where you will go. From the beginning of this trip, to now at this last week, I have been through a wonderful experience of personal growth. Whether it comes from the academics, the traveling, or the combination of both – I have grown as a person in many ways. It is easy to forget how fortunate I am. Here, it is easy to remember, and not in a way that I mean to sound arrogant, but in the way that I am so thankful that I can see it more clearly now. I think traveling to Oxford, and staying on my own has developed my world view immensely, and from that I am immediately benefiting.

The entrance to Endinburgh Castle.

The entrance to Endinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh – Edinburgh was the best place I have visited on my trip. It was fun, cool, smart not always too crowded, and it had a world-class zoo! The Edinburgh Castle was an incredible piece of history and outlasted many different wars. The people there, and our AirBnB host, were extraordinarily nice and welcoming, while the entire area gave a nice sense of hospitality. There were many street performers there, and among them there were some talented bagpipe players – my favorite instrument. The only bad experience I had was on the way there, by bus, that took a whole 12 hours of overnight driving with the heat on. Never again will I travel by bus. The landscape was also incredible, and we got the chance to visit Lake Lomond shortly after arriving in Glasgow. I think everything about the Scottish Countryside can only be praised and it was more than worth every penny I spent.

The deteriorated rock of Sham Castle with Bath in the distance.

The deteriorated rock of Sham Castle with Bath in the distance.

Bath – Bath was a nice and comfortable town, very touristy, but also had an obvious personality. My group decided to wander around trying to figure out where to go, until we came upon the Jane Austin center. Here, everyone decided to take a look at what this little museum had to offer – except me of course. I decided that 9 pounds was too steep a price for an author I had barely read, so I waited outside for a long time watching the cars go by and the tour groups wander through. As I waited there, I got to see a shift change of the men who stand outside of the center in there 17th and 18th century clothing.

The Most Photographed Man in England.

The Most Photographed Man in England.

One of those men, who I forget the name of unfortunately, was a very well dressed (18th century standards) man who knew almost everything there is to know about bath, and about American Civil War reenactments! He was one of the most genuine people I met, and the coolest. After an hour of conversation with him, a few songs of the old south that he remembered, and a wonderful tale of all the famous people who have lived in bath, we parted ways and I left down the trail enlightened and entertained. As it turns out, this man is the most photographed man in England! He was famous and I had no idea – even when an LA Times reporter came up to him and told him she would be back later for an interview, I never thought he was famous! I did not even get a picture with him. Other than that, the cathedral was wonderful and I had a lovely time there in Bath.

Stratford-upon-Avon 2 – The second Journey to Stratford ended up being more fun and wholesome. During the day, Sam and I (my buddy from Sydney) decided to spend time talking in any honest pub we found. On our way to the grave of Shakespeare we found a nice pub in the wall just down the street from the theater. Here we spent several hours talking, then we left anxious for the upcoming Shakespeare play “Julius Caesar”. The play was wonderful! The best time we had here was at the pub “the dirty duck”, where we would meet the star of the play we saw the last time we were in Stratford. As we left at midnight, we were told that all the actors from the theater went there afterward to have a pint and hang out. It seems we have a wonderful taste in pubs.

Coming Soon: my final installment, final thoughts, and reflections about my trip. Tying up a couple different ends and concluding this blog series. Stay tuned to hear about my last two weeks and my travel home.

Japan 2017

Quinn Sipes
Japan Blog 6
7/21/17
When I last wrote, I had just finished my class and had an awful performance and I was so ashamed that I wanted to commit ritual suicide on stage to make up for how terribly I had performed. Well safe to say, I am still alive and I woke up the next day after my evening escapades with my classmates and teachers. I decided that after such an intensive class that I would take a one-day breather, so I really didn’t do anything except watch YouTube all day that Saturday. On the Sunday I made plans to go to Yokohama to visit the Ramen Museum.

A look inside the Ramen museum in Yokohama.

A look inside the Ramen museum in Yokohama.

I know that you may be thinking that the Ramen Museum sounds like a waste of time and super boring because it will just be a bunch of plastic ramen displays in a building. Not true! The Ramen Museum is what is known as a food amusement park. The building does have some plastic displays which talk about the creation of ramen and the various types all across Japan, but if you venture into the basement, you will be transported to 1940s post war Shinjuku, Tokyo where there are ramen shops all around. You get to have your pick of where you want to eat and how much you want to eat! There were 7 ramen shops in total all around in this 1940s Shinjuku neighborhood. There was also an old sweets shop and ice cream parlor that you could go into and buy some things to snack on. Because I went on a Sunday, the place was packed!! It took me 45 mins just to push a couple of buttons on the ticket machine to order one bowl of ramen and a bottle of Coca-Cola (which by the way is made from real cane sugar and taste waaaayyyy better than the corn syrup version we have in the states). And now I can say I had ramen from the Hokkaido region of Japan, somewhere where I won’t be able to visit.

Near the summit of Mt. Fuji.

Near the summit of Mt. Fuji.

Remember how I said I might go to Mt. Fuji but it was up in the air? Well guess who hopped on a train at 5 in the morning to get there…that’s right this guy! And guess who was dumb enough to put on a backpack and hike up Fujisan to the summit…yup! This moron! I arrived at Fujisan at about 10 am and began my ascent to the top at the Fuji-Subaru Line 5th station which is like 2 kilometers up the mountain…not much but well worth doing it from there compared from the bottom. The ascent took me almost 6 hours from the fifth station (a trek that would have taken me a grand total of 12 hours from the bottom…) and the descent took me 2 hours (guess you could tell I rolled down, right?) The hike at the beginning was not bad…I walked through some wooded areas and the slopes were very gradual and it lasted for about 20 mins and then I saw the first fork in the road. I read the sign that said to the summit 5.5 km. I was ready to knock those small insignificant kilometers in like 3 hours summit Fujisan and descend well before 4 pm.
I started up the steeper hill and wanted to die! The hill was so deceptive! It looked so easy that I rushed into it and pretty much hit a wall not realizing that it was almost 60 degrees for what seemed like miles! I pushed through this hill and the ones that followed until I reached the sixth station at which point I noticed I had sweated through my clothes. I put on my fleece and began to push forward toward the seventh station. It didn’t look too far and I was keeping pace with some little kids that were also ascending the mountain.
The trek to the seventh station took forever! It was steep; the ground was this fine volcanic ash and I slipped if I wasn’t careful when I put my foot down to move forward. I pressed on through bits that were nothing but volcanic boulders and parts where the trail seemed to go straight up for no reason (I am talking at like 90 degrees!). I made it to the eighth station and I could see the summit! After a while, a sign said that I was only 900 meters from the summit and that gave me the fuel to push through arguably the most grueling 900 meters that can exist on this planet. It was straight up almost the entire way with the terrain switching from ash to rock to boulder back to ash and slippery dust. I forced myself to climb higher and kept telling myself that I had made it so far and that I only had a few more meters to go. Turns out there was another sign saying that I had only gone like 200 meters and didn’t go as far as I thought I did. But I pushed all the way to the top. And I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to make it and then see the beauty from the top, which was nothing but big white fluffy clouds all around me.

The top of Mt. Fuji

The top of Mt. Fuji

I did what all Hampden-Sydney men do when they hike a mountain: I pulled out my flag and took a picture, commemorating it as a place the community can say they proudly sent a representative to. The community that I am referring to is the LGBTQIA+ community. If you are unaware, I am a proud member of the gay community and I thought it fitting to bring with me a pride flag donated by another Hampden-Sydney man in the community, and proudly raise it at the summit.

Sunset taken at the fifth station on the way down Mt. Fuji.

Sunset taken at the fifth station on the way down Mt. Fuji.

I took a couple of pictures at the summit and then basically ran back down the mountain to see the sunset at the Fuji-Subaru Line 5th Station. It was beautiful and it was probably even more beautiful at the summit…however, I had a train to catch and if I missed it, I would be out of luck until the next morning because it was the last train and the nearest hotel/hostel to me was another 4 kilometers from the train station and I was not ready to walk another 4 kilometers. Luckily I caught the last train headed to Shinjuku and made it back to my place at midnight disgustingly dirty, and hurting all over from the rugged hike. The next day I rested and relaxed my sore muscles.
The following day I decided to do some shopping because I don’t know the next time I am going to be in Japan.

Finally on the 20th of July I checked out of my share house and boarded the first Shinkansen (bullet train) bound for Kyoto! What a crazy experience riding on a bullet train is. It took me three hours to traverse half of the country and it would have taken me 8 and half hours on a regular train with multiple transfers. When I arrived in Kyoto I was hit by the unbearable heat! Kyoto is surrounded by mountains on three sides and sits in valley and during the rainy season the humidity is a killer! I was unprepared to step off the train and literally be dripping in sweat.

Main shrine to Inari in Kyoto.

Main shrine to Inari in Kyoto.

I checked into my hostel and decided to travel to Fushimi Inari Taisha, the giant fox shrine that most people consider quintessential Japan. It was a beautiful shrine and I got there right when the sun was setting at twilight and decided that it was the perfect time to see this amazing shrine. I started walking up to the main shrine and saw path leading up Mt. Inari…once again I decided to ascend a mountain but I did not bring a banner or flag or anything because it is strictly forbidden to raise a flag or banner at a shrine…it’s like doing something blasphemous inside a church. But I took my time ascending and made it to the top. I hadn’t seen a single person on my way up the mountain until I reached the top.
When I reached the top of the mountain, there was a rather large group of European school children on a field trip with chaperones and teachers. They were loud, which is kind of a no-no in a shrine because it is a holy site and you are supposed to be respectful to those who are worshipping the deities. I decided that I was going to pray and began to walk over to the purification basin when a boy no older than 15 took a drink of water from his water bottle and spit it out directly into the basin! The basin is filled with holy water is used to purify the hands of those wishing to worship. I was extremely upset and tried to make it as clear as possible that what he did was sacrilegious; a concerned chaperone came over and I explained the situation as best I could and then she chastised the boy.
I then walked to the shrine and saw the most appalling thing: a group of students were putting their trash on the altar and knocking off the rice offerings. This shrine is different from most of the other ones because Inari is the protector of rice yields in Japan and an offering table is in front of the shrine so that Japanese can offer a portion of their yield to ensure another successful harvest. I also tried to tell them what they were doing was wrong and they just laughed and called me some names. That’s when I went down to the shrine officers at the bottom of the mountain and told them what was happening. They ran to the top with me and escorted every one of those tourists off the mountain and asked them to never return. I just want to say that even though you may not be believe in the religion of the country that you are visiting you should still be respectful toward their practices. You are a guest in their place of worship and they are allowing you to see their wonderful world. That incident made me very angry and it hurt to see that a basic sense of respect toward one another was abandoned.

Statue of the love god enshrined in Jisu-Jingu.

Statue of the love god enshrined in Jisu-Jingu.

The next day I went to another shrine and to Jisu Jingu, the shrine of love. Turns out that Jisu Jingu as well as the surrounding Buddhist Temple and Pagoda are a UNESCO World Heritage site! I am not sure how many UNESCO sites I went to in Kyoto but I know that almost everywhere in Kyoto was some heritage site. Tomorrow is my last day in Kyoto and I plan on going into Gion where the Geishas linger and maybe going to the contemporary art museum to see the Kusama exhibit. After that, I head to Hiroshima for three days before traveling back to Tokyo to catch my return flight back to the states!

VPO 2017

The Travels and Reality of Griff
Griffin Salyer
Virginia Program at Oxford
England 2017

What is your commute like from home to class? What do you hear/see/smell
on the way?

Well, fortunately for me, both my lectures and my tutorials (meetings with my professors where we discuss our essays and arguments) are inside the college I am staying in. Some people have to walk into city-center Oxford (about 10 minutes) to get to their tutorials. Every single day, I get to walk out of the courtyard behind our “bevs” (the street our dorms are on is Bevington Road) and smell the morning dew and sweet flowers that are growing there. The next immediate smell is the “bacon” – the Ham really – that they cook for breakfast. I always hear the delightful sound of bees on the flowers and cars passing by in the early morning.

What’s your living space like? Who do you live with? How is your home
abroad different from your home in the US?

Again, I am fortunate. My room is one of the largest rooms with three large windows and a beautiful view of Bevington Road. I live without a roommate, but I share a bathroom with the people on my side of our apartment style living complex. My home here is wildly different than in the US mainly because it is a dorm room! Otherwise, I’m living in England, so many things are different – all the way down to the way you flush the toilet.

What did you pack that you wish you’d left behind? What do you wish you’d
packed?

I packed 4 pairs of jeans, lots of sleep shirts, 2 floral pattern shirts that everyone loves, some sweatpants, some workout clothes, my tennis shoes, my loafers, my white converse, and a pair of Sperrys. All of which are essential to the fiber of my being here in England, as I rely daily on every single item I brought. I wish I packed more shoes because my shoe game can always be better. I brought nearly everything I needed and I probably should have packed just a little less, so that I had more room to bring things back.

How do people dress in your study abroad location? How did you expect
people to dress? Have you changed the way you dress?

People dress similarly to the United States with a few differences and influences from Europe. On the whole, everyone looks just as you would expect – except with more sweaters. Ken Fincham rocks a mean sweater game (our UK Director). The influences from Europe usually include very tight clothing, but tight clothing that looks stylish and great on youthful people. I’m pretty fluid with my style – often on the forefront of stylish opportunity – and have indeed adapted some of my styles to match a more European look. I absolutely love it. I like to think that I look extremely good rocking the blond European (Handsome) youth look.

Does your host culture have a different concept of time or space than you’re
used to?

The time is right about the same, the only difference is their use of “half past the hour, quarter past the hour and so on.” Space use is a little bit different, almost everywhere space is a little bit more valuable than in the US. Since the Island is much smaller than the US, the space they use has to be used more efficiently. One of the biggest differences is their use of little plots of land and their caring for small gardens. It is a part of the culture here to keep small plots of land, but it takes years to get one!

What’s your favorite food you’ve tried so far?

Classic, Scotland made, beer-breaded fish and chips. Best choice I made for dinner, had with my friend Dalton (also an H-SC junior-rising senior), and a wonderful recommended Scottish ale to enhance the flavor of the fish.

Academics.
The academic situation has been steady and work-heavy as one might expect. As I get a hang of everything, my studies become much easier and more natural. I was yelled at for whispering in the Bodleian Library, so that was great too! The history is incredible and the literature we are reading is beautiful. All in all, I think (hope) my tutors like discussing with me and enjoy my arguments. I am doing well, and overjoyed to be studying at Oxford.

My thoughts.
I love the UK. My favorite part about this place is that it’s always temperate, always lovely, and the sights to see are always incredible. Scotland is now my favorite place on earth and the accents are wonderful. I have rediscovered my passion for bagpipes while visiting Scotland and now plan to buy some bagpipes sometime in my near future. There is a wonderful amount of time that we have when we do not actually have to do work and it’s a perfect balance between being completely free while keeping ourselves busy. I met an extremely nice and wholesome English man who is homeless and paints every single day right outside of the college I am staying at. A few days ago, I commissioned a painting of his for my one year anniversary with my wonderful girlfriend! The painting was spectacular and Henry was awesome about how he made it and kept it nice and safe until I could get it from him. Henry is BBC famous after a small short they did on him, and is generally known around Oxford as a pleasant man with a passion to paint. My feet are extremely sore. Sounds a bit odd, but I am certain I’ve walked around 100 miles in the last few weeks (maybe slightly exaggerated) and my feet are dying. I continue to learn small life lessons everyday, and one of my most recent lessons taught me about how darn expensive it is to travel – importantly the traveling itself is not expensive but everything while you’re traveling costs money. I have continued to find within myself an ever-growing love for my incredible parents. It feels as if I am maturing every day, and as each day passes I receive a small but significant perspective from the traveling I have done, the people I have met, and the lessons I learn daily. I love my school. I have been able to take a fine look at how other schools and universities operate and I can definitively say that I love my school more and more each day. H-SC is undoubtedly a unique place and I am thankful I made the choice to go there, and to stay there.

Travels!
This is the detailed story of all my wonderful travels while here in the UK. By the time I finish my studies here in England I will have traveled to Bath, Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Oxfordshire (Oxford), Dover Priory (White Cliffs of Dover), and Cornwall. I’ll start off with my first couple of weeks here – my adventures exploring Oxford and my time in London and Stratford. Next blog I will detail Scotland and the glorious bagpipes that originate from that beautiful land.

Oxfordshire – A wonderful town an hour away from London and in the center of England. Oxford is where – you guessed it – the University of Oxford is located. To give a brief overview, the University of Oxford is composed of many different colleges that piece together to make it a university. The colleges generally have different areas of expertise and many have their own libraries separate from the main Oxford library – The Bodleian Library. Every one of these colleges are scattered throughout the city, while many remain concentrated in or around the city center, a good number require a good walk to get to. Every college has their own pub, and every college has a good number of pubs within a 10 minute walk. As I said before, many of the colleges have their own libraries, while the colleges that used to be women’s colleges have the best libraries (this is because of their dependence on a separate library as many other libraries would not allow entry to women). The University town is entirely dependent on the university itself, as it has become a sort of tourist center due to the history, prestige and beautiful architecture housed within the city limits. Many of the buildings in Oxford are over 500 years old, with some being a millennia old and integrated into the college itself. Some structures still stand from before Norman conquest (that is pre- 1066 AD) and act as a reminder of the fort that once stood as a foundation for the now remarkable university. I would give the Radcliffe Camera the floor for the most memorable sight, simply because it is a beautiful artwork that is a part of the Bodleian library. The library itself is only accessible to students and the public is not allowed to see the absolute wonders that are the ceilings, books, and atmosphere of the inside of the library. Also notable are the gorgeous fields and rivers that surround Oxford and give it that English feeling. There are many more sights to describe, but for right now I will tell you readers that the best part of Oxford and maybe England is the difference you feel from the US. As I look into the partly cloudy and beautiful Azure sky, I reminisce on the feeling of the culture in Oxford. Everything added together is what makes this place inviting and lovely – as I sit on my computer I can feel the study abroad experience enveloping my thoughts, and becoming an integral part of who I am. Not only is Oxford a place to see, but it is also a place to grow. The real sight to see in Oxford is the growth in oneself while here – and I am beginning to take on a different sense of who I am while here. The feeling is much more a cultural revelation, than it is a tourist sight-seeing extravaganza. I hope by now you can understand how, when I describe Oxford, and I hope you can read this as I am in my mind. More on Oxford coming soon!

London – London is a beast of its own. I will be able to describe more about it in my last and all-encompassing blogpost – post number four – but for now, I can tell you that it is worth at least going to. I didn’t stay long, but the time there was nice and memorable. While in London my VPO group watched a reproduction of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and it was interesting to say the most. Unfortunately, it was not the original version that Shakespeare had formed with his talented hands, but an adaption by a newly hired director at the original Globe Theater on the Thames river. My buddy, Sam Farley and I got to have a blast together, while separated from our group in the theater. The experience was something worth it, but one that I might not try recreating. Once was enough. The city itself is ginormagantous, and the bus we were on took about 45 minutes just to get from one end of the city to a third of the way through its diameter. The food was expensive and the people were not particularly inviting. All in all, London is something to see, but not my cup of tea.
In addition to the Globe Theater we visited the Hampton Court Palace that was built by a high-ranking church official under King Henry VIII (who it was later confiscated from). The palace itself is extravagant and an awesome place to begin understanding the Early Modern English development and royalty. There my trusty buddy, Sam Farley and I got to walk around and see bed chambers of the royals, tennis courts with current aristocrats, beautiful gardens, and the extraordinary wealth held by powerful people at the time. Sam and I had a blast. During the trip we talked about everything under the sun, then some, and then some more. The history we had learned in our lectures from wildly intelligent men and women prepared us for our visit. Overall, it was a worthwhile trip and something I look forward to telling my kids in the future!

Stratford-Upon-Avon – In Stratford we saw another Shakespeare play (and we will be seeing another soon as well). The entire group went to watch Antony and Cleopatra – a tragedy about the downfall of Marc Antony and his love affair with Cleopatra. I liked this production much more than the Globe Theater production as it stayed close to the original play by Shakespeare. The town itself is cute and cozy, not too big, and no lights later than 11pm. All in all, for my first trip there it was nice and I also ate one of the best burgers I have ever had, while relaxing in a pub waiting for the show to start.

Japan 2017

Quinn Sipes
Japan Blog 5
7/15/17
I just finished my class here in Tokyo and I couldn’t be more upset. Before I get into the performance I had yesterday I want to look back at the days leading up to the performance. Every day we chanted Gekkyuden and danced our respective shimais for hours. We practiced the shoulder drum until our hands went numb and sat seiza until our legs couldn’t support our body weight anymore.

Performing the Takasago the day before the performance during dress rehearsal.

Performing the Takasago the day before the performance during dress rehearsal.

Oshima sensei told me the day before the performance that I have good energy for Takasago and that I was timing my dance perfectly with the chant. He said that it was the best dance I had done the whole class and I thought that this was good news for the performance…turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong.
On the day of the performance I was feeling powerful and intimidating in my dragon yukata with a golden dance fan in my obi. The men’s team had performed the drums pretty well and we had just chanted Gekkyuden and Hagoromo and executed it pretty well. I walked off stage and got ready to perform Takasago. I walked out on stage, opened my fan, took a second to breathe and started my chant. I pushed my diaphragm hard and my voice was strong, powerful, and filled the entire theatre. I began to dance while singing and then the unthinkable happened; The chant Gekkyuden came to my mind and I started to sing part of it as if it was Takasago. I realized two words in that I was singing Gekkyuden and not Takasago. I tried to rush back into the Takasago chant and I froze. My dance stopped, my chanting stopped, I was so lost and Oshima sensei who was in the choir had to give me the rest of line. I had never been so humiliated. I finished my line and continued to dance with the chorus singing behind me. It then came for my next line and I pushed through it without messing up. My final line came and I pushed that one out too, flawlessly and then finished my dance.
I finished the dance, closed my fan, turned and exited the stage. I heard applause as I exited, but I was too focused on not crying on stage for how badly I messed up. When I got backstage I couldn’t help myself but start to beat myself up over how I didn’t do a good job and how my senseis would be very upset and would not be proud that they had taught me how to chant and dance. Awaya sensei tried to comfort me (he had taught me how to do Takasago from the beginning), except this made me feel even more ashamed because I had let him down most of all. I went out into the audience to watch the senseis dances and when I entered the theatre I hid my face because I couldn’t stand to be seen after what I had done. Honestly, I wanted to go on stage and commit ritual suicide that warriors in ancient Japan would have done, because at least that way I would have done a better job at that than my dance.

Oshima sensei and I

Oshima sensei and I

After the performance, we all “graduated” and received our certificates from our senseis and I was ashamed to look Oshima sensei in the eye as I accepted my certificate. I quickly left the theatre, changed out of yukata and stayed with a few classmates until it was time to go to an izakaya (a traditional Japanese pub) for our party. When we got there all the seats were taken other than the ones right next to the senseis. (Perfect luck, am I right?) None of the senseis brought up the performance until after an hour in. Oshima sensei asked everyone at the table what they thought of their dance and after we gave our impressions of it, he told us what he thought. When it got to me I told him that I was very upset with how I performed and that I was not proud of it. Oshima sensei told me that the Fuji people (sidenote: we were being filmed and photographed for two separate documentaries. One by NHK, Japan’s equivalent to BBC, and Fuji) asked him if there was anyone that stood out to him in the whole class. (extra side note: the interview that the Fuji people gave Oshima sensei was after the performance) Oshima sensei told them that I was the only person who stood out to him and the only one that he will remember because of my energy. He said that throughout our rehearsals he could see and feel the energy in my chest and was expecting to see the same amount at the performance, however, he said that he was taken aback by how much energy came out in the performance. He said that the audience would not have noticed the mistake I made during the performance because the audience would have been too moved by the energy that I was giving. He also said that Noh is about making an impression, and he said that I definitely made an impression that the senseis and the audience would not soon forget.

Oshima sensei opening a sake barrel.

Oshima sensei opening a sake barrel.

I was very moved by what he said and it made me feel a whole lot better. I enjoyed the rest of the evening and Oshima sensei opened a sake barrel and led a toast. When we left, the izakaya, Oshima sensei took us out to a karaoke bar and continued the night. We laughed, had fun and enjoyed everyone’s company and by the time it was all said and done, I had to say goodbye to the amazing people I met. It was hard, and I was teary eyed the entire time as we all went our separate ways home. I won’t forget anyone that I met here, and I am sure I will keep in touch with them. I will be here in Tokyo for another week living it up. My plan is to do typical tourist things, including trying to hike up Mt. Fuji, but that is still up in the air. When I leave Tokyo, I will be travelling to Kyoto for three days, then to Hiroshima for four days before returning to Tokyo to fly home. I hope to have a great time here, but it will definitely be a lot, more lonely.

VPO 2017

The Travels and Reality of Griff
Griffin Salyer
Virginia Program at Oxford
England 2017

Hello!

I’m Griff. You may or may not have known or heard of me at H-SC, but in any case, I am here to detail my story, perspective, and feelings about studying abroad in Oxford, England at – you guessed it – The University of Oxford. I want this blog to be more of my voice rather than an official and enthusiastically professional writing – and so in making it my voice I hope you’ll feel a lot of personality coming at you. The informal structure of each one of my blogs will come in three sections: Replying to some given questions in which I answer as much as I can about this new experience, giving a scholastic and wholly academic perspective, and finally giving a sense of reality about what is going on over the water and in my head while I’m here.

Why did you choose your specific country and program?

Well, if we are being honest here, I chose this program because I want to expand my intellectual experience. I believe that exposure is one of the best ways to learn. Exposure to material, exposure to culture and, as cliché as it is, the experience of going and being exposed to different situations in a different country work as an incredible teacher. Another way I love to look at it is that this study abroad program was an opportunity for me to put myself into my most vulnerable state and prove that I can excel. I do not want to prove to anyone else but myself that I can thrive in an environment different than where I am comfortable. Saying “you should do that for the heck of doing that” is one of my biggest motivations because I know it will prepare me for leaving college, leaving my parents, and I’ll be ready to do what needs to get done when I am out in the world. I hope it won’t be too optimistic of a read here but I like to keep positive – bear with me!

What are you nervous about?

I am just not nervous at all. I had this tiny fleeting feeling as my momma (momma Salyer) left me at security – but once I had shown my I.D. and was in line my freedom warded off any nervousness that I had briefly felt. I cannot wait to explore England, and I cannot wait to try my hardest with the courses here at Oxford. I’m not worried about my grades, and I’m not worried about proving myself to anyone but me, myself, and I. If I can focus on trying my best and being relaxed, narrowing my concentration onto a wholesome experience – I will be alright.

What are your goals for your time in your host country?

So, here we go being honest again, being in this country and experiencing a culture separate from my own is what I want to focus on. This means taking part in pub culture, trying to learn the politics, making some friends here in England, understanding the history and landscape, and taking a step back to not be American for a brief second so that I can learn something new and different from those things I am accustomed. My overall goal that I will absolutely achieve before I leave the U.K. is to get what exactly studying abroad is for – finding a balance between learning in the host culture and living in the host culture.

Academics.
It is fascinating to me how incredible you feel when you are discussing the plays of Christopher Marlowe, or Shakespeare, or anyone else really. I have found that I have this super-intelligent organist in the background of my mind playing the most wonderful and superfluous sounds when I am discussing these intellectual topics. The reading and self-work is tiring but it just builds a mountain of knowledge you can use when critically thinking about a subject. It is awesome, as in awe – some, or some serious awe. Even more, the discussion I have shared with my classmates over some pints has been the most productive work I have done so far.

In my head.
Here, I sort of want to just put some thoughts out there. I am so very excited for the weeks to come. I am a little worn out with some normal drama that comes with people, but it is settling down and daily life is easy-going. My professors are all absolutely wonderful and I am loving it – getting beaten down a little in the work section, but I’m very glad about it. I am really excited to do this blog. I want to extend what is going on with me while I am here and try to emphasize the personality I want to convey and the reality behind every word I say. All in all, I wish I could ramble on and on and on and on and on, but I think I might already be sounding arrogant and self-absorbed. Hopefully, if you’re reading this, you are taking what I say with a little bit of a grain of salt. I plan to be unguarded and realistic about what I say (without being offensive) so that there is some unique perspective being shared. I want this to be different from any of the other blogs – and in doing so I hope to keep down the wall of fakeness – this isn’t my beautifully composed string quartet, but rather an introduction into a 20-year old’s thoughts and experiences (many experiences for the first time) in a new country.

If you cared enough to read this, thank you! Next week we will be discovering my experiences and I would love to detail the people, sights, and probably some misfortunes so stay tuned!

Griff

Japan 2017

Quinn
Japan Blog 4
7/10/17
I apologize for waiting a week to write one of these blogs but to be perfectly honest; I have been extremely tired after class to do anything, much less be witty on the web and write about the bad decisions I make while abroad. So, the past week has been a tough one. The pair of hakama that I bought turned out to be too small for me and I was out 40 dollars until someone in the class who did fit into them bought them off of me. My sensei also thinks that I am the best kotsozumi player in the men’s group, so guess what I get to do this coming Friday…that’s right; I get to lead the male group in playing the shoulder drum in front of an audience. Even better news is that I graduated from the Seiobo dance to the Takasago dance!
Here is a quick break down of the story for Takasago; Takasago is about a god who is a pine tree who disguises himself along with his lover as an elderly couple sweeping the pine needles around the pine tree that is his wife. The other main character; a Buddhist priest asks the old couple about the lover pine trees (two pine trees separated by a river who lean toward each other showing that they are in love with one another). The old man tells him the story of the two pine trees being gods and alludes to him and his wife being the two gods of the pine trees before disappearing. Takasago reappears in his true form as a young god and sings about the pine trees, his lover and everlasting love. I dance as Takasago in his true form, as a god. It is a quick dance, but there is a lot of singing which makes it kind of hard to perform, but I have picked it up relatively quickly and love this dance a whole lot more because there are quite a few stamps and it is a huge ego boost to be dancing as a young and powerful god.
I also have started memorizing a chant known as Gekkyuden, which I will perform on the main stage this coming Friday. It is a strong piece about long life and wishing the best for the emperor. Gekkyuden can be sung at weddings and it is considered very good luck if sung for the happy couple. If anybody would like this to be sung at their wedding, I am available for weddings and birthday parties…just email me, I charge 500 dollars for entertainment to be paid in cash up front…just kidding…but seriously, I am available.

In my dragon yukata on the main stage of the Keita School.

In my dragon yukata on the main stage of the Keita School.

I have been rehearsing really, hard and trying to memorize everything in a totally, different language. It has been really, really, rough and I have been able to do it, but it has come at the cost of me passing out at 8pm sharp every night. Later on in the week, I went yukata shopping and hakama shopping for my personal use. I found a yukata with a really, cool dragon pattern along with hakama that fit and complemented the color of the yukata, and a white obi which brings together the whole outfit. This yukata makes me look really intimidating and powerful when paired with the mask that Takasago wears for his dance in his true form.

Sunrise over Tokyo after our adventures in the gay district.

Sunrise over Tokyo after our adventures in the gay district.

The week flew by and before I knew it, it was Friday! As soon as class was over I went home took a nap and got ready to go to the gay district of Tokyo. Quick disclaimer; Legal drinking age in Japan is 20…I am/was 20 at the time I went out to the gay district. Needless to say I had a good time and I remember everything that happened, but I have to save some stories for my friends…let’s just say it was a night I won’t forget anytime soon, along with my classmates. We made it until 5 am when the trains started running again. As soon as i got home, I fell asleep and wasted my Saturday. On Sunday, I went to the Tanabata Festival.

Me putting on a mask before my Takasago dance (note this is not the mask to be used for the dance, this was just for practice. This mask would be used for the Seiobo dance)

Me putting on a mask before my Takasago dance (note this is not the mask to be used for the dance, this was just for practice. This mask would be used for the Seiobo dance).

The Tanabata Festival is known as the Chinese Star Festival.The Japanese adopted the myth and the festival into their own culture and it has become a big deal here. The Tanabata Festival celebrates the day that two stars are allowed to see each other. The story goes that there are two stars who are in love,  but can never see each other because they live on opposite sides of a river known as the Milky Way. The gods decided that the two should be reunited on one day. So, on the seventh day of the seventh month the stars are allowed to cross the Milky Way to be with each other. The festival goes on to celebrate love and it is believed that during the festival you should write a wish and it will come true. Well, guess what I did at Tanabata…yup, I was selfish and wrote a wish down for myself…look, I have prayed for the world at a bunch of Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples, I thought it was time to look after myself now.

I am entering the last week of my class and I couldn’t  be more excited. I am going through an emotional rollercoaster, because in this week I will say goodbye to some really, good friends that I have made here as they travel back to their respective countries, while I explore Tokyo and the rest of Japan for the following two weeks.  But, I am also excited, because I can’t wait to perform on the Kita School’s main stage and make Professor Dubroff as well as Oshima Sensei, Nagashima Sensei, and the two Awaya Senseis proud with how much I was able to accomplish in only three weeks. To put this into perspective; most professional Noh actors have their debut on stage at the age of three with beginning their training around age two. I would also like to point out that I am twenty years old and I have been doing this for less than three weeks. Actually,  pre-professionals training in Noh, train with the senseis for months on one aspect of Noh, focusing on one piece and it takes them about six months or so to make the same progress I made in three weeks. I have studied two dances, three chants, and one instrument…I just can’t believe how much progress I have made

Making a wish at the Tanabata Festival.

Making a wish at the Tanabata Festival.

I can’t wait to learn even more this week, but I don’t want it to end because I won’t know what I am going to do with all my new free time when the class is over.
Another side note; sitting seiza is still killing me and I don’t understand how people can do this for over an hour when a full length Noh play is being performed.