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.

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.

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