What to Expect During the First Week of Study Abroad

In my Ultimate Guide to Study Abroad I’ll cover all of the details of my study abroad program at Kingston University in London. Each post in the guide will include helpful tips and tricks that I learned during my study abroad journey, as well as more practical information about what to expect while abroad. Since I am studying abroad in the Greater London area the posts will be specific to England and the UK, but the tips and info will be interchangeable for those studying in different cities!Friends during first week of study abroad The first post in this series will cover what to expect during the first week of your course abroad! I just survived the first week of my program at Kingston and I’m here to share some of the experiences that I had this past week. From being totally exhausted to making new friends the first week will probably be one of the most hectic (but fun!) week of the summer (or term if you’re abroad for a semester).

  • You’re going to be so tired––Everything during the first week is so exciting! Going to the local pub, grocery store, and cafe are all firsts in your new city that seem so much more enticing than they do at home. Going to these unfamiliar places is part of the fun of studying abroad, but constantly being out is going to make you so tired! You’re also going to be meeting new friends, staying up late to get to know them, and walking everywhere all adding to your total exhaustion.
  • You will have forgotten to bring something important––Maybe you didn’t bring a blanket or toothpaste or some other necessity that you absolutely cannot live without. The cool part about forgetting something is that you have an excuse to visit a local store and try a new product that’s likely different from the ones that you use at home. Immersing yourself in local products is a great way to get to know the city a bit.

Love traveling like a local? Read my tips on how to explore a city like the locals do.

  • You will meet so many new people (and become quick friends with them)—There are a lot of people in your program who you’ll be living and attending classes with, and you’ll pretty much become instant friends with them. Nobody wants to go to the grocery store or to get coffee alone, particularly in a new city, so you’ll get lots of invitations to do these mundane activities with the people in your program. There’s something magical about being in a new environment with near strangers that will encourage you to over share and become friends really quickly.Making friends during first week of study abroad
  • You’re going to get lost––And that’s okay! You’ll probably feel wildly overwhelmed (and maybe upset!) the first time you get lost, but remember that getting lost is part of the fun! You’re exploring your new home away from home––even if it isn’t in the way that you had anticipated. Just take your adventure in stride!
  • You might want to have a bit of alone time—You should absolutely take time for yourself if you need it—especially if you’re an introvert like me. Taking time for yourself won’t mean that you’re missing out on something important, so take time to practice a little self care if you feel you need it. Traveling and being in an unfamiliar environment can be stressful for anyone so take all of the time necessary to get acclimated to your new city.
  • You’re actually going to have to go to class—It’s easy to forget that you’re abroad to actually study and not just travel. Balancing homework, classes, and traveling from the very beginning will be your best bet as to not getting behind in classes and having the term of your life.
  • Your dorm is going to be much different than home—My dorm, or flat as the English would say, is much smaller than my apartment in the States. I’m lucky enough to have my own small ensuite bathroom in my dorm, but it is still really different from home! The kitchens

Have you ever wanted to study abroad? If so, where would you go?

How to Travel like a Local in any City

If you’re anything like me, you love getting out of the bustling city center and experiencing how locals actually live when visiting somewhere new. Here are some of my top tips on travel to any city through the eyes of a local.

1. Talk to Locals—Obviously the easiest way to travel like a local is to meet the locals! Chat with your servers, waiters, and those sitting next to you at cafes and pubs. Not only will you be able to get insider tips on what to see and do, but you’ll also be able to get an understanding of what it’s like to live in the city that you’re touring.

2. Stay at out of the city center—Sure, staying further away from the city center may mean that it’s harder to visit some of the main attractions of a city, but you will be able to see how people really live. You’ll get to see grocery stores, families playing in parks, and you’ll even find local restaurants that you otherwise would have missed. Staying away from the main attractions is easy with AirBnB, and other lodging websites that offer apartments as one of their filters. Many AirBnB rentals are owned by true locals who can give you insider tips on what to see and do other than typical tourist attractions. Plus, you may stay in a neighborhood that you otherwise may have never experienced!

I had a really great experience staying in an AirBnB in London and York and can’t recommend either of them enough!

3.Take tours of a neighborhood—The best way to visit somewhere is to explore through the eyes of someone who lives in the neighborhood. Many popular neighborhoods have locals who give tours that take you behind the tourist attractions. You’ll be shown pubs, street art, and restaurants that are well off the beaten path where you can later visit and enjoy! A great way to find these tours is through AirBnB Experiences. I recently went on a photo tour of Notting Hill as a part of an AirBnB experience and saw so many gardens, beautiful homes, and boutiques that I never could have found on my own.

Travel with locals to find cool neighborhoods

If you ever find yourself in London with two extra hours, I cannot recommend booking Soleil’s tour enough. She’ll tailor your time together to meet your specific interests and also take fabulous photos of your for keepsakes.

4. Utilize public transportation—By using public transportation (or walking!) you’ll see how inhabitants of the city get to and from work, the supermarket, and other routine activities. Beyond seeing the locals you’ll be able to make small talk with ordinary people—ask them for tips of the city you’re in! If the public transportation is above ground you’ll also be able to see more of the city, which is a huge plus.

5. Attend festivals—Find out if there are any local festivals happening when you will be in a city and go to them! Regardless if it’s a specific cultural holiday or a nationwide event, you’ll interact with a variety of locals and further your understanding of the culture of the region that you’re in. Plus, festivals usually mean sampling new food, and that’s always a major plus.

Bonus: bring back something that you love that isn’t necessarily a souvenir. Post cards and trinkets for friends and family certainly have their place, but consider bringing back an experience from the city that you visited. For example, learn how to make a traditional meal from the country that your visiting, or learn a skill that’s done by the locals, like surfing! Having these skills will be a great reminder of your travels every time you use them at home.

How do you travel like a local? Let me know in the comments!

Postcards From // London (first 24 hours)

This is my third visit to London, and this time around I’ll be staying in the city for over five weeks for my study abroad program at Kingston University. Typically, in my Postcards From series I write one blog post per city/region that I visit. However, since I’ll be staying in London for such an extended period of time I thought that I’d break my time in the city down into several smaller posts, with this being the first! In this post I’m going to break down my first twenty four hours here in the capital of the UK.

Us standing in front of a house in Notting Hill

One of my friends from college, Britney, flew into London to spend the week here with me before my course starts. We met at Paddington Station, and took the underground to our AirBnB in Kensington. We’re staying at a really great AirBnB with host Sadan. We have our own room with an ensuite bathroom, and access to her backyard, which is basically a carefully cared for garden with palms and ivy. Plus, Sadan is a lovely human who chatted with my friend and myself for a while about our interests in London and gave us suggestions based around what we wanted to see (bigger bonus: Sadan works in the field that Britney majored in so that’s exciting).

Read about my last AirBnB experience in York.

8PM: Dunbar’s + Bubbleology

Our first stop was a late dinner at Dunbar’s, an Indian restaurant near Notting Hill. The restaurant itself was sort of small, i.e. our kind waiter had to physically move our table out of the way so that I could squeeze behind it and sit, and then put the table back in place so that we could eat. Although it was small, the food was so good at Dunbar’s. I’m by no means an expert on Indian cuisine, but the lemon rice and roasted cauliflower I had was obscenely tasty. The rice had little flakes of lemon zest and lots of mustard seeds, and the cauliflower had a hint of spice that I couldn’t put my finger on.

Britney loves boba and one of her only requests was that we get boba while in London. She picked the Bubbleology in Notting Hill. Danie drinking a boba tea

9PM: Photo Session in Notting Hill

Our walk back from getting dinner and boba turned into a mini impromptu photoshoot with some of the painted houses on Portobello Road. Most of the houses are painted in varying shades of pastel colors with a vibrant door out front. However, my favorite was the house painted in a deep purple and had a door the color of a pumpkin. Danie standing in front of a purple home in Notting Hill

10AM: Farm Girl + Portobello Road

Britney and I both love experimenting with local farm to table and health food restaurants, so we decided to have breakfast on our first day in London at Farm Girl. Farm Girl takes a holistic and healthy approach to cafe culture, and serves a wide variety of dishes that fit within that framework. I got a turmeric latte with coconut milk, a salad with avocado dressing, and a vegan brownie. If you ever find yourself at Farm Girl, GET THE BROWNIE. It was so creamy, and chocolatey, but not too dense or rich. My non-veg friend even said that it was delicious, and couldn’t tell that it was made without dairy. Salad bowl from Farm Girl

12PM: Kings Cross

I’ve already established how much of a Harry Potter fan I am in my post from Edinburgh, so it’s no surprise that one of our first stops in London was visiting the Harry Potter’s Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station. Platform 9 3/4 is a replica from the first film of the Harry Potter franchise when Harry runs through the magical wall between platform nine and ten to reach the hidden platform with the train that will take him to Hogwarts. There is a cart with luggage that sticks out of the wall where tourists are able to photograph themselves pretending to push their items through the wall. There is a pro photographer on hand who takes your photos, which can be bought at the attached store. As always there was a huge line at the actual picture taking point and in the store itself. However, we waited in line, browsed the gift shop, and made our purchases in all under an hour.

Platform 9 3/4

6PM: Vapiano

Britney studied abroad in Florence last summer, so her love for Italian cuisine runs deep, which is why we found ourself dining in a Vapiano that we passed on the street. I first went to Vapiano in Edinburgh, and loved the style of the restaurant—-and the food of course. How it works: there are various counters situated around the dining area where you can order traditional Italian cuisine (aka pizza, risotto, salad, and pasta), after your order is placed you simply swipe your cafeteria card that was given to you by the hostess when you walked in (the card stores the items that you ordered for an easy check out), then you dine on your tasty food (we got bruschetta, arribiatta, and bolengese), finally you present your cafeteria card to the hostess on your way out and pay.

If I lived in London (or anywhere that has a Vapiano) it would be one of my favorite stops! It’s so quick, tasty, and authentic!

8PM: Millennium Bridge + St. Paul’s

As a die hard Harry Potter fan, Britney wanted to visit Millennium Bridge as the site of one of the intro scenes from the Deathly Hallows movie. I, on the other hand, wanted to stand on the bridge and see the best views of Saint Paul’s Cathedral. The dome of the cathedral peeks out from behind the surrounding buildings, making the perfect vantage point on Millennium Bridge. We were on the bridge as the sun was beginning to go down, so the cathedral, the Thames, and the Bridge itself were all engulfed in a gorgeous hazy golden shadow.Saint Paul’s Cathedral with telephone booth

Have you ever been to London? What was your favorite thing that you did in the city?

Danie standing inside red phone booth

Postcards From // Oxford

I first visited Oxford for an afternoon during the summer of 2014. Even though I was only there for a few hours, I instantly fell in love with the tan brickwork and winding streets of the city. In 2014, I was visiting with a tour group—hence the brevity of the trip—and toured most of the ‘main attractions’ of the colleges, but little else of the city. Four years later, I’ve made it back to explore the city as well as the colleges.

I made a point to see the famous Radcliffe Camera! Nope, this building doesn’t function as a camera in the sense that we know it. Instead, it’s one of the libraries for undergraduates.

Little did I know the day of my visit was an ‘open day’ at Oxford so there were a bunch of high schoolers running around the city looking for the college of their dreams. The open day meant that most of the colleges were closed so that the potential students could access everything. However, I woke up really early, like 5AM early, and before all of the students arrived and was able to snap a few quick photos and see the picturesque colleges.

Once colleges began opening for the open day, I turned away from the university and began exploring the city. My first stop was, of course, the botanical gardens. Oxford boasts one of the world’s oldest botanical gardens, which began collecting medicinal plants in the seventeenth century. The gardens had quite a large variety of plants for being in such a small space. They also have information on many of their plants and how past humans have used them. If you’re plant obsessed like me, this is totally the place for you!

After touring the gardens I simply walked around the city, visited a few local clothing boutiques, and the Covered Markets.

Postcards From // York

After spending nearly a week in Scotland, it was time for me to return to England. I hopped on a quick train ride down the eastern coast from Edinburgh to York. Founded by the ancient Romans, York is a delightful city on the Ouse River. As an added bonus it has an incredible thirteenth century Gothic cathedral with original stained glass! Beyond the cathedral and river, the city boasts a lively city center with lots of shops and restaurants.

I stayed in an AirBnB while in York. This is the first time that I’ve stayed in an AirBnB as a solo traveler, and my host, Clare, couldn’t have given me a better experience. When I checked in, Clare welcomed me into her home and took me to my private attic room. It was so cozy and had a great view from the attic window! Once I was settled in, she showed me a bunch of maps and resources that would help me explore the city—including vouchers for York Minster and the Jorvik Viking Centre. Clare was so kind and sweet! If you’re ever in York, or just want to travel somewhere cool with AirBnB, stay with Clare!

Want $40 in travel credit from AirBnB? Click here to find out how!

The weather got seriously warmer as I returned to England, making a stroll along the river a delightful experience. There was some sort of rowing competition going on on the river, so I sat on the original Roman walls and watched for a bit. The locals didn’t seem that interested, but living in the Midwest we certainly don’t have that sort of event ever so I thought it was a good time.

Although boats are cool, there is truly nothing like the York Minster. There just isn’t. Now, I’ve been to a lot of the greatest European cathedrals (Notre Dame de Paris, Florence Cathedral, St. Paul’s, Westminster, etc.), but in my opinion none of them live up to the York Minster. The cathedral itself towers over the city, and its towers dominate the skyline. The stained glass really steals the show for me. It’s original from the Medieval period when it was installed, and is currently undergoing restoration for preservation. The details in the stained glass were immaculate. I’m not an artist so I’m always impressed when I see great detailing in works of art, but somehow this seemed different and more impressive. I already want to go back.

Next stop, Oxford. Then, London where I’ll be for nearly five weeks while studying abroad at Kingston University.

Postcards From // Edinburgh

Arriving at the Waverley train station was truly a magical experience. And I mean that quite literally. As all Harry Potter fans know, the seven book series was largely written in various cafes around the city of Edinburgh. I remember first reading about Hogsmead when I was in elementary school, and the imagery I conjured up in my brain was eerily similar to the aesthetics of the Royal Mile. Don’t even get me started on how the castle could literally be Hogwarts itself. The gigantic stone castle is perched atop a steep hill overlooking the city, and its everything I imagined Hogwarts looking like. From atop the castle you can see much of the city as well as the coast. And from below, you can almost pick out wizards darting about on their enchanted broomsticks.

I stayed at Haystack Hostel in a triple room with two real nice British girls in town for a festival. I think that it’s a fairly new hostel as they were still installing mirrors and light fixtures into the rooms during my stay. I’d personally describe the decor of the hostel as shabby chic—lots of faux fur pillows and blankets and pine. I chose the hostel because it’s basically right across the street from Waverley station. However, it was on the third floor of the building, without an elevator. I wasnt surprised because most buildings in Europe don’t have elevators, but I was sort of sad. I’m getting quite tired of lugging my big suitcase up and down stairs.

Scottish Gallery of Modern Art (one + two): Edinburgh has not one but two Modern art galleries within the city. I was pumped to see them, until I realized that they were quite a trek outside of the city center. Everything in Edinburgh is situated on a hill, including the two galleries. It felt like I walked uphill all of the way there, and back. However, I did enjoy getting out of the bustling city and seeing some proper British homes. The Galleries themselves were sort of lackluster, in my humble opinion as an art historian in the making. The One had an exhibit about Jenny Saville (read about her below), but none of the works touched me the same way that Aleppo did. Two had a good collection of surrealist paintings—Dalí, Magritte, and the likes. Both Galleries had large outdoor installations, too.

Scottish National Gallery: I’m not saying that I wasn’t impressed by the National Gallery, it just wasn’t my favorite museum that I’ve been to. With that being said, I had a moment whilst in the Italian Renaissance gallery. Surrounded by paintings of the great Italian masters was a painting by Jenny Saville titled Aleppo. Sticking out like a sore thumb in a room of oil paintings and religious imagery, Aleppo is made of pastels and depicts a contemporary scene of the horrific events from the city of Aleppo. Saville drew inspiration from the tradition of ‘Pieta’ (aka the moment where Mary is cradling the body of Jesus), which is why this work was included in the Renaissance room. Except instead of biblical figures, Saville used images of dying children. The pain in the eyes of the children shook me to my bones.

Royal Mile: Okay, so the Royal Mile is quite touristy, yes, but it’s also a must see in Edinburgh. Basically, it’s the major street that cuts through Old Town. It begins at the Holyrood Palace and ends at the Castle. There were lots of shops selling Scottish wool, trinkets, and souvenirs as well as pubs and diners. It was mostly up hill, which was a strain on my already over exerted calves.

Postcards From // Glasgow

Today is the summer solstice, and two days ago I tried to buy a winter coat to protect me from the winter like weather here in Glasgow (Wondering what I mean by try? Well, I was in line and getting ready to buy said coat in a Marks & Spencer when a woman walked by the checkout line and snatched it out of my hands. I was too weirded out to attempt to buy another). It’s seriously so cold here, especially when the dang wind zips through the streets.

Minus the weather, I really dig Glasgow. There are so many museums, parks, and bakeries that I couldn’t ever visit them all. Plus, you’ll be walking down the street when suddenly bagpipes will just start playing. I even saw a bagpipe band, which consisted of like 10 bagpipes and a few bass drums! They were leading an impromptu parade. This parade was unlike any other I had seen. Following the bagpipes were taxis and busses screeching their horns non-stop for the entirety of the parade route. I asked around and none of the locals were able to articulate what the parade was in celebration of.

I saw a lot, did a lot, and walked around 20 or so miles in Glasgow. Here are the specifics:

Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery (+ Park): I’d like to start out by saying that there are an incredible amount of parks in Glasgow, like so so many. Situated in this park, is one of the most visited museums in Scotland––the Kelvingrove Museum. It’s divided into two separate sections, Life and Expression. The Life portion is centered around the natural history of Scotland, while the Expression portion focuses on art. The Museum mostly has Scottish, like the Glasgow Boys, and European, like Dalí, artists. Unsurprisingly one of the highlights of the collection was my favorite piece––Christ of Saint John of the Cross. Dalí’s work is situated in its owned room, that’s darkened and lit from above with special lights. It was totally breathtaking.

Glasgow Cathedral and Cemetery: When I texted my mom that I was touring a cemetery as part of my explorations in Glasgow she was a little confused. I feel like it’s sort of a European tourist-y thing to do––visiting old cemeteries that is. This one in particular had really great views as it was situated on a necropolis of sorts. I was able to see stellar views of the city as well as the cathedral below. The art history major living inside my bones was saddened to find out that no bishop resides in the Glasgow Cathedral (aka it isn’t a cathedral), and instead a Presbyterian church now lives in the space. Even though it isn’t technically a cathedral, it was still a gorgeous building.

People’s Palace: When I heard that there was an indoor winter garden, I knew that meant one thing…succulents. And I wasn’t disappointed by their collection of plants in the indoor garden. They had cinnamon, lemons, tropical trees, and so many other types of gorgeous plants. Also included in the Palace is a museum about the people of Glasgow, and a cafe.

Glasgow Modern Art Museum: I had a hard time locating the gallery even though it was located in central downtown. The GoMA is housed in an old neoclassical building, which is probably what threw me off. The sprawling galleries were filled with art from many prominent individuals in the world of Modern art––can you say Andy Warhol (his mushroom soup can!!) and Andy Goldsworthy. I’m a sucker for all things Goldsworthy so I was delighted that they had a room featuring mostly his works.

Postcards From // Manchester

Let’s talk about crossing streets in the UK. How do you do it? Which direction do you look? Cars seemingly jump from any direction and I just do not understand. Looking and seeing a passing car not having a driver in the correct front seat is terrifying. My brain doesn’t register that I’m in England and drivers sit on the left side of the car and instead jumps immediately to robot driving cars. I’m not sure why robot powered cars are so scary to me because it’s 2018 and those exist. Anyway, send me good thoughts so I don’t accidentally bump into a car while crossing the street––or rather a car doesn’t accidentally bump into me.

I feel like I didn’t do a ton of touristy things while I was in Manchester. I just did a lot of walking and ‘window tourism.’ I’m not sure if window tourism is a thing, but I basically I walked around the city and looked at things without going inside––sort of the same thing as window shopping but with architecture. Maybe this is just regular tourism, but I like the ever flashy window tourism term better.

I saw the Manchester Cathedral, the canals, the shopping districts, Town Hall, some of the train stations, as well as Chinatown. The canals were my favorite part of the city. Pedestrian foot bridges criss cross the waterways and larger train bridges sit further above the water. Lots of geese live on the canals, and several houseboats were scattered throughout the waterways as well. Trust me, it was as picturesque as it sounds. Independent galleries, restaurants, and bars are intermixed in the canals as well. I’d consider living in one of the houseboats if I knew how to swim.

One of the few places that I went to in Manchester was the Manchester Art Gallery. Most of the art that they had on display was from the eighteenth and nineteenth century, which are the periods of which my main interests lie. I think most, if not all, of the collection was by British artists. I feel like in art history courses we mostly brush over British artists––except Turner, Hockney, and Hirst––and I’m really loving getting introduced to new British artists! For example, I fell in love with Henry Moore’s Mount’s Bay. The Art Gallery placed two mustard yellow chairs in front of the painting, which is allows the viewers (aka, me) to sit and look at the choppy waves. The chairs make the museum seem much more home–y and sort of make it seem like you’re watching the ocean out the window of your beach house. Another cool artist that I saw was Kate Haywood, but they only had a few of her works on display so I gotta do some more research before I declare her a new fav artist.

Postcards From // Liverpool

It took four connecting trains to get to Liverpool from Bristol. Somehow I managed to not miss any of my connecting trains and arrived in Liverpool on a cloudy afternoon. My hostel was only a short walk up a big ol’ hill, and after I checked in I was led to my room. The room was at the bottom of a few set of steep stairs, and down a long winding hallway. If the walls weren’t painted, and the floors carpeted I would have thought that I was being led into a dungeon. I didn’t have WiFi or cell service, so maybe it was a long gone dungeon… who knows.

Beyond the things listed below, I sort of just explored the city. The architecture of the city is stunning. There’s tons of gorgeous bricks, and cute lil parks. Apparently there’s a band that’s from Liverpool, too. They’re called the Beatles, you’ve probably never heard of them.

What I Did:

Pho: After checking into the dungeon I realized that I was starving. Knowing that one of the coolest streets (Bold Street) in Liverpool was only a few minutes walk away, I decided to just walk there and find something that struck my fancy as the British would say. The coolest thing about Europe (maybe they do this in America and I just haven’t noticed?) is that they put their menus outside of the restaurant so you can decide before you walk inside. I chose Pho because I was seriously craving spring rolls, and theirs sounded hella great. I got the said spring rolls and a peanut sauce as well as the spicy green pho. The pho wasn’t spicy, but it was tasty so that’s what really matters.

Albert Docks: I think the Albert Docks are the traditionally touristy part of Liverpool. There were lots of shops, mostly ones selling Beatles memorabilia. Including a giant jelly bean sculpture––fascinating. Most importantly, in the water surrounding the docks tourists can look at jelly fish! I don’t know what they’re doing there, but I hope that they, too, enjoy listening to the Beatles tunes.

Tate Liverpool: One of many Tate galleries, Tate Liverpool is located at Albert Docks, It’s sort of a small museum on four floors that overlook the Mersey River. I was able to see some Rothko’s, Mondrian’s, an Arp sculpture, and even an entire exhibit dedicated to Roy Lichtenstein. The more pop art I see, the more I really dig it. However, the most exciting work that I saw was Glenn Ligon’s Untitled (2006). Basically, it’s a big neon sign that reads “AMERICA.” Except the sign itself is mostly painted over with black paint, and therefore, the viewer mostly only sees the black paint rather than the neon illumination. Commenting on Americans who are overly obsessed with themselves + neon signs = happy Danie

Walker Art Gallery: The best part about the Walker Art Gallery? How every room is literally filled to the brim with paintings. It reminds me of paintings I’ve seen of eighteenth century salons. It was wild to just be in a room and there were paintings covering every single space on the walls. I don’t think that I’ve ever been to a museum that was arranged in this manner.

Love Thy Neighbour: Let’s talk brunch. As a Millennial, I know for a fact that brunch is the most important (and best) meal of the day. In order to not skimp on brunch, I went to Love Thy Neighbour twice while I was in Liverpool and regretted neither of my choices. I got the avocado and tomato toast, fluffy pancakes, hot chocolate, and chai latte. The interior was decorated with plants, and unique lighting. It’s probably the most Instagram worthy places I’ve ever been.

Situations I Found Myself In:

I slept in a hotel room that didn’t have windows or air conditioning, and was at least 2 stories underground. A man knocked on my door in the middle of the night (this has oddly enough happened to me before).

I pretended to not be a native English speaker because I couldn’t understand a waitress when she asked me a question and I felt bad asking her to repeat herself multiple times.

I went into a grocery store.

Postcards From // Bristol

I’ve finally made it to Bristol! I’ve been planning this trip/study abroad for months now, and I was so dang happy that I arrived in England after many months of anticipation.

I touched down in London bright and early Tuesday morning, and promptly caught the coach to Bristol (I quickly learned that in the UK the word ‘bus’ is used for busses that run within a metro area, and ‘coaches’ run from city to city covering long distances––this was the first of many miscommunications between the British and myself… don’t even ask me about the bag vs. pound dispute). I was so tired from not sleeping on the flight that I slept the entire two hours on the coach, and unfortunately, did not wake up refreshed upon arrival.

Thankfully, my hostel (The Bristol Wing) let me check in two whole hours early, so I was able to take (another) nap before heading out to discover the city. Back to the hostel though because it’s real neat. The Bristol Wing is inside an old firehouse that has recently been transformed into a hostel. There is a huge open courtyard enclosed by the old red doors where the firetrucks were housed. As a bonus, the courtyard has so so many plants, including succulents (although, I don’t know how they get enough sunlight, but that’s none of my business). The interior of the hostel is carefully painted in graffiti-esque style, which was quite hip and cool.

Now, onto the things I actually did in Bristol.

Castle Park: Situated fairly close to my hostel is an actual castle! Well, the remains of one at least. It’s basically just the walls and the vaults, but it’s still pretty cool! This one was the first castle that I’ve seen in real life so that was real neat. The garden was my favorite part, however (but is that even a surprise). It had lots of plants, AND BEES! The park is situated upon the River Avon, and it was quite nice sitting along the river and trying to get my brand new phone to work (except when it overheated immediately and I had to take it back to the store). The phone is an Android. I don’t think it has a camera and I’m not sure that it can download apps––both of which the person who sold it to me said it could do.

The Bristolian Cafe:Several months ago I read this stellar review of The Bristolian Cafe, and knew that I just had to give it a try. I got the vegan breakfast and an almond chai. The breakfast came with beans, mushrooms, potatoes, scrambled tofu, and eggplant (excuse me, aubergine) fries. The food was great, good, and fine. I’m not a food writer, so I’ll skip describing it to you and instead tell you about a weird thing that happened to me. As I was waiting, this woman sat down at my table with me and began smoking a cigarette and telling me about her life. We covered her kids, the untimely death of her parents, and what she did with the money that was left to her after their death. Ultra strange because there were multiple empty tables surrounding me. As she finished her cigarette, she stood up and sort of vanished into the misty morning. I don’t think that she bought anything.

The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery: Did you know that Banksy is from (or at least the style used by Banksy) is from Bristol? As an art history major, I did (I Googled it a few weeks ago). The Bristol Museum’s website says that they have art by their ‘local boy Banksy,’ which intrigued me. However, I couldn’t find any work by their local boy and when I asked the gallery assistants where to find the work by Banksy they sort of looked at me confused. Maybe that’s the point? Regardless, the museum was interesting––and humid. There wasn’t any air conditioning, which made me kinda sad for the paintings inside. I hope they’re okay. The room with the Modern paintings had a dehumidifier and a fan, so that’s something! Plus I was able to see Grayson Perry’s ticketed exhibition The Vanity of Small Differences. Update: I Googled it, and apparently the Banksy is right at the front and I just missed it.

Clifton Suspension Bridge: Once upon a time we had a speaker at Truman that was doing research on comparing the Clifton Suspension Bridge and ancient Egyptian artifacts. I don’t remember the details, but they’re not important for this really. I was planning to walk across the bridge, but then I looked down and then further down to the river flowing below. Nope, nope. The gorge that the bridge crosses is quite deep. I guess you could say that I’m afraid of heights or whatever, so I decided to just look at the cool bridge rather than walk across it. It looked nice, so I came out winning by not falling into the river.

Things I’ve Learned:

St. Mungo’s (the hospital from Harry Potter) is real. Except it’s not a hospital, but instead a charity.

The British hate Trump as much as we do.

Whenever you ask a cafe to give you an iced vanilla coffee they’ll blame your weird order on being an American (probably true).

The birds are bigger here.

I think that I need to learn the difference between backyard and public garden because the differences aren’t that obvious here. Yikes.