Studying “Across the Pond” 2017/18

Jamie Agnew
LSE 2017/18

Harrods in London.

Harrods in London.

Everything has been going great over on this side of the pond. Classes are really picking up pace, which is keeping me busy. LSE has classes and lectures for each class. Lectures are two hour presentations on the material, and you are normally with 200-300 other kids. Classes feel much more like Hampden-Sydney because there are only 20 kids in each class and it is much more interactive. The nice thing about lectures is that they don’t take attendance because they are recorded online, so you can watch them at your own convenience. That is a big plus because I have two lectures on Friday, which I don’t like going to and therefor can watch them on Sunday. Wednesdays are my full-days off, which is common over here because they like to allow    sports teams to practice on Wednesday afternoons.

Big Ben at sunset.

Big Ben at sunset.

So with all that being said, I only walk to school on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. The walk is about 25 minutes door to door, which seems like a lot, but it is actually a very enjoyable walk. I’m living on the south side of the River Thames, and LSE is on the north side, so I walk across the Blackfriars Bridge everyday. I could technically take the tube, but it would take the same time door to door and would cost more. Plus, it is great exercise to walk.

Two friends from home (Washington D.C.). Vincent Kardos (center) and Jim Hurston (right).

Two friends from home (Washington D.C.). Vincent Kardos (center) and Jim Hurston (right).

 

 

The dorm I am living in is called Bankside House. There are only LSE students living there, but I don’t really know that many kids in it. Most of my friends live in the other housing options around the city. I have a single room with an en suite bathroom, which I enjoy a lot. I have had a roommate the last couple years, and it’s nice to have a room to myself for once. The room is much bigger than the ones at Hampden-Sydney.  Bankside House is in Southwark and is directly behind the Tate Modern. I prefer my location to all the other housing options because it is quiet. The area that I live in used to be considered a bad part of town, but in the last 20 years it has really changed for the better, making it a very trendy place to live.

View from the rooftop of Urbaneast. My friends dorm.

View from the rooftop of Urbaneast. My friends LSE dorm.

The culture in London is much different than the United States and much different than Hampden-Sydney. Everyone wears dark, skinny clothes. No one wears shorts. Chuck Taylors are the most common shoe. And, no one wears baseball hats. It is quite intriguing to see the differences in fashion on both sides of the pond. I would say I have conformed somewhat to the way people dress over here, but there are certainly things that still make me stand out as an American. Given all of this, I wish I hadn’t packed some of my pink and red polo shirts, because I haven’t worn them once. It will certainly be interesting when I return home, because I will have to change my style back to the US style.

“Bon Voyage” 2017

SAS 2017
Jack Weaver

For me, there was never a decision to be made about studying abroad, but rather the much more difficult question, which country? When I learned that the ISE (Institute for Shipboard Education) program called Semester at Sea allowed me to visit 11 countries across four continents, I couldn’t resist. After all, my love for travel is what fueled my desire to study abroad in the first place. Therefore, Semester at Sea was a perfect match, with one exception–the means of transportation. I had never so much as been on a ship before, so the thought of living on a ship for four months was understandably overwhelming. I decided to knuckle down, step out of my comfort zone, and do it for the once in a lifetime opportunity to travel the world. Throughout the summer, I often times found myself questioning whether or not I made the right decision, which is the problem that comes with facing so many fantastic options. However, the minute I stepped onto the ship, I knew I made the right decision. My new home for the next four months was breathtaking. It wasn’t something I had to deal with, in order to see so much of the world, or a sacrifice, but far from it. It is a magical experience in itself. Walking up to the vessel, I immediately noticed it’s giant stature, but beyond that it looked quite plain. It wasn’t until I stepped inside that I could fully appreciate the magnificence of the M. V. World Odyssey.
The interior looks like something out of the Great Gatsby. Elegant is an under statement. Beautiful wood trim lines the walls, the doors, even the cafeteria, pretty much everything is decked out in this beautiful wood. The carpet is a deep royal blue, with a majestic pattern that gives off a warm feeling of utter decadence. I was then guided towards the Kaisersaal, a fantastic room filled with enough furniture to seat 500, not to mention the furniture feels like it was plucked from early 20th century mansions. I then glanced upwards to find that even the ceiling was decorated with a mural that spread from corner to corner of the massive room. After I finished checking in, I proceeded to my room, to find a heavy wooden door with bronze guild. The first thing to catch my attention was the amount of woodwork in the cabin. The dressers, tables, both desks, cabinets, and even the bottom half of the room was covered in this premium wood. The design was complimented by artwork in gold frames. The bathroom was equally amazing, the walls were lined with a pearl marble finish, while the sink was comprised of a darker marbled stone. The gold/bronze trim from the room was even more prevalent in the bathroom, and to top it all off a sea duchess was painted on to the marble shower, emitting a feeling of untethered serenity. It was at this moment that I realized I’m actually living and studying in a moving hotel. And, not just any hotel, a five star hotel that while I was marveling in its splendor, was simultaneously transporting me across the world. Being an art admirer, one of the most impressing things of the masterpiece of a ship, was the prevalence of artwork throughout. Prints and originals alike line the hallways and rooms of the ship, accentuating the classy feel. However, in my opinion, the diverse array of sculptures were far more impressive, as they were all museum quality originals. The glamorous decor of the ship was great, but it also felt over the top, after all I am just a student. I was curious as to why Semester at Sea would go to such great lengths to provide such a luxurious accommodation for me. That was until one of my professors explained to me the history of the ship. From 1998 to 2012, the ship was the home of one of the most popular German television show Das Traumschiff. The name translates to dream boat, and it is easy to see why. My professor went further to explain that Semester at Sea actually leases the ship for 9 months, and one of the conditions is that the ship cannot be altered in any way from the original set of the show. The reason for this is that fans of the show pay large premiums to be able to sail on the set of their favorite show.

 

London in the fall 2017

David Arias
London 2017

The First Month

It’s only been a month since I arrived to London, but long enough to do lots of things.
Regarding my housing, I feel very satisfied. I moved to Goldsmid House, which is a UCL residence fairly close to Buckingham Palace and the Big Ben. I was quite lucky to be placed at this residence, as apart from the amazing location, my room counts with a private bathroom and a semi-double bed, as opposed to many other UCL facilities that only count with single beds. However, in terms of transportation, I wasn’t as lucky as others who live a walk-distance from campus. Daily, I commute by tube to campus, and I take the bus to go back to my house. It’s important to highlight that although commuting by bus takes much longer than taking the tube, I enjoy it more, as the route back from campus passes by Trafalgar Square, the House of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey.
In terms of academics, I can’t complain much. Although I’m taking very demanding courses, I was able to enroll in some of the courses I was more interested in. I’m taking four intermediate courses: two of Economics, one of Political Science, and one of Business. Probably the most challenging one of the four is Political Science, as it focuses on Central Eastern Europe, a region I’m not familiar with, and approaches the subject from a completely political and historical perspective. Nevertheless, all of these courses are really interesting and the module I enjoy the most is Emerging Market Economies, which is about the transition of countries in Central Eastern Europe from centrally planned economies during communism to market economies after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989-91.

Liverpool Football Club

Liverpool Football Club

In terms of entertainment, I’ve also been very satisfied. Apart from enrolling in my classes at UCL, I was also able to join the UCL Football Club. I will play Wednesdays and Saturdays on a league in which other schools in London, like King’s College, London School of Economics, Imperial College, and others participate. This club is the biggest one at UCL, and apart from focusing on the athletics, it also carries several social events during the term which I will happily be part of, like the Christmas Party.

 

Anfield Liverpool's FC Historic Stadium

Liverpool Football Club’s Legendary Bill Shankly

Apart from getting involved in many activities at UCL, I was also able to travel to some places this month. On my first trip I took a bus to Liverpool. It was a very short trip, as I only stayed one night, but long enough to visit, Anfield Liverpool’s FC historic stadium, and the Cavern Bar, which was the bar where the Beatles were discovered. As Liverpool isn’t a big city, one day is more than enough to tour the important places of the city.
On my second trip, I went to Venice, Italy. I stayed two nights and was able to visit iconic places like Plaza San Marco, El Gran Canal, and Santa Maria della Salute. Venice was great, and probably one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been; however, I’m a bit disappointed as I wasn’t able to ride on a Gondola, Venice’s most famous mode of transportation.

Nico and I in Venice

Nico and I in Venice

Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the coming weeks, I hope I can travel more, meet more people, and learn more, but so far the future seems bright, as Halloween approaches and my classes are getting more interesting.

“Bon Voyage” 2017

SAS 2017
Shemar Blakney

Life is different on my study abroad program.  My commute to class is easy because I can get anywhere in about 3-5 minutes. I can always hear people talking about their experiences from the last country we visited, or their plans for the future countries.

My living space is nice and moderate. My room does not have any windows, so I wake up to pitch, blackness every morning as if it is 3’o clock in the morning, but it may 2’o clock in the afternoon. My roommate’s name is Curtis, he is from Connecticut and goes to Elon University. My home abroad is different from my home in the US because we are constantly moving, and my home abroad is always surrounded by water. Also, I had to get use to rocking side-to-side and not being able to walk in a straight line due to the rocking from the waves.

When packing for this trip, I wish I would have left behind a lot of the clothes I brought with me because you always buy a lot of clothes while you are abroad. I wish I could have packed my family and friends with me, so I could show them the world I am experiencing.

Most of the people dress just like at home because we are mostly American students. I have seen some traditional dress from our international community; however, I use the term international community sparingly because we ALL are international. #WeAreForeigners #GlobalCitizens While I was in country, I thought I would see more “traditional” dress; however, I noticed that people still dressed similar to what I was accustomed to. That is when I realized that I was thinking of the stereotypical image of the countries I visited, or the Single Story Phenomenon. The Single Story Phenomenon is when one generalizes a group based only on one aspect of what you hear or what the media portrays when in actuality the group is so much more than one’s opinion. Think about it; you cannot describe yourself with one word or one sentence. I have changed the way I dress by not always wearing basketball shorts and instead wearing pants or cargo shorts. However, I have not given up my crazy socks!

One thing I am trying to get used to is time. We use military time on the ship, and military time still sometimes confuses me. Also, I am going through around 11 different time changes while I am away.

My favorite food that I have tried so far is squid and jollof rice. This rice is made with tomatoes, onions and a blend of spices.

Mandella's Cell

Mandela’s Cell

We have been to many places so far and have more to see. But, there is one in particular that I want to share.  For one of my classes, we went to Robben Island to learn about intergroup relations during the Apartheid Era. While at Robben Island, we visited Nelson Mandela’s cell where he spent 18 years of his life. The cell was barely twice the span of my arms. There was not a “bed”. Only a mat on the ground. It was a very humbling experience because I could not imagine enduring 18 years of physical and psychological abuse. Not only did Nelson Mandela do this, but he also never lost faith, and he forgave everyone in the process. It was a very inspirational experience.

 

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!