Field Trip to Roman Ruins & British Pub Life

Yesterday we had a guest lecturer come in to give us a precursor to our course. In an hour, she attempted to cover 6000 years of history, ending at the point of the time period we’re going to study. Covering 6000 years of history in an hour is no mean feat, but she managed it. It was helped in the afternoon by a field trip, where we went to see what’s left of an old Roman city, Caistor St. Edmunds, illustrating the exact things we’d been learning about in the classroom that day.

Unfortunately my phone went on strike after I tried to take photo #3000, so I only got a couple of photos of the field trip site. This photo doesn’t show any of the cool old walls, but it does show the pretty English countryside that we were in!

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That night, the university organized a British BBQ at a local pub for us international summer school students. After a brief stint there, enjoying the free burgers, me and a few friends set out to explore another bar, Gonzo’s, that we’d heard good things about. Gonzo’s turned out to be wonderfully spunky, and we spent a good couple hours there before heading back to the uni for the night.

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(Gonzo’s pic borrowed from a friend).

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First Day of Class & Norwich Market

Yesterday was our first class day here at UEA. After three days of touring the city and working hard at enjoying ourselves, there was a definite “vacation’s over” mood in the air, though we were all excited for our classes.

All of the class sizes at the international summer school are very small – I think the biggest class has 18 or so people – but mine, as it turns out, is the smallest, with just three students. Yup, three. At my university in Canada, the smallest class size I’ve ever had is about 150 for lectures, with seminar classes having around 20 students. Having just three of us in the class should make for an interesting new experience, especially on field trips.

After a brief introduction to the course, the professor let us go early that day. One of my class friends and I hit up the library, bookstore, and then spent the afternoon in the city, walking around and going to the Norwich Market.

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Orientation in Norwich

Arrived yesterday in Norwich at the University of East Anglia. The university provided us with a coach transfer from London Heathrow to get here, which was great – after spending the past couple weeks always having to constantly figure out where I’m going, what I’m doing, what I’m eating, and where I’m sleeping, it was very relaxing to just get on the coach and let it carry me to the university. My dorm room here is just a standard, small size, but after spending the past four nights in a ten-bed hostel room, both the space and the privacy feel downright luxurious.

Today was our first day of activities, starting with a welcome brunch, followed by guided tours of the campus as well as the city of Norwich.

On the UEA campus.

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The day finished with a classic afternoon tea, which the summer school organizers described as “the most British thing they could think of for us to do”. Despite being called “tea”, the meal included a great deal more. There was tea, of course, as well as sarsapilla (kind of like a cheap champagne), platters of sandwiches, an assortment of cakes, and scones with clotted cream and jam. The tea room itself was in a room built onto the side of the Norwich Cathedral, which was very pretty.

Norwich Cathedral:

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During afternoon tea, I sat with someone each from Morocco, Turkey, Mexico, Australia, and France (plus me – Canada). It felt perfectly natural, and then all of a sudden it hit me how unlikely it was that that particular combination of people, and those specific individuals, would all find themselves sitting and drinking tea together in an English cathedral. The conversation roamed from our hometowns, to politics, to the proper way to eat a scone, to religion. The program is made up of students from literally all over the world, all with different cultural backgrounds and personal opinions and perspectives; classes don’t start until Tuesday, but I’ve already started learning.

-Caelan

 

Lessons Learned From Solo Adventures

I’ve currently reached the end of my solo adventures; for the next month I’ll be at the university program, and in Ireland I’ll be with a tour group. Just for fun, here are all the lessons I’ve learned from the past couple weeks of travelling solo.

  1. When you’re lost, try looking around you. Look up. Often, you may be able to see the place you’re trying to get to, or even a sign for it.
  2. Always ask if there’s a student price. Many places have them (about half of the attractions I went to) and it applies to people ages 12-25. I never got asked to show a student card. The student price is usually 2/3 of the regular admission price, but quite often the cashier/ticket booth person will forget about it unless you ask them.
  3. Sometimes, you can get a better answer if you ask nicely.
  4. People are friendly. Talk to them. Go for a drink at the bar. Join in a card game. You’ll be surprised at how much fun it is to hang out with absolute strangers, and how quickly those strangers will come to feel like friends.
  5. That being said, recognize that you should not embrace EVERY opportunity to make friends. Some people are too friendly. Some people are creepy. Avoid those.
  6. Go to a grocery store to get food if you’re staying somewhere for a couple of days. You can buy plenty of food at a supermarket for a fraction of what it would cost you at a restaurant (but be prepared to eat some hodgepodge meals).
  7. Ask the hostel/hotel workers for advice: what’s the best attraction, where’s the nearest food, what are the local deals, how to get around. They know their stuff, and they’re happy to share their knowledge!
  8. It’s a good idea to plan ahead a bit, to have an idea of the things you want to see in a place. It helps save time deciding what to do once you get there.
  9. It’s also a good idea not to have too rigid a schedule. Try to have some wiggle room, so that if you hear about something that sounds like fun, you can add it in without too much juggling. Be spontaneous!
  10. If you’re ever lost – don’t panic. You find a lot of great things when you’re lost. And eventually, you’ll get back on track. (Some of the awesome things I found while lost: a great used bookstore, a great new bookstore, a beautiful park, a cool old graffiti-covered building, and the best egg salad sandwich I’ve ever had).
  11. Always lock up your stuff in hostels. At one hostel I was in, people freely left their laptops and passports lying around and nothing seemed to go missing. At another, I left my shampoo unattended for a few hours in my dorm room and it disappeared. Staying in hostels is a great experience, but at the end of the day, it’s a good idea to remember that you’re bunking with absolute strangers. Use the hostel lockers. And bring along a combination lock, so that you don’t have to rent or buy one (which is expensive).
  12. Whenever I go somewhere new, I almost always hate it at first. Feeling awkward or missing the safety of home in a new, strange place is normal. It means you’re out of your comfort zone, and that’s a good thing.
  13. If you really don’t want to do something (i.e. stairs), but it’s in the way of you and something that’s really cool (i.e. a great view) it’s definitely worth it to make the climb. If you want it, don’t let anything stand in your way – especially not fear.
  14. Embrace the adventure.

London: Day 3

Today was my last full day in London. I spent the day trying to pack in as much as I could before I have to leave this city. There’s so much to see here – I could easily spend two weeks (or more) just going to the museums. Plus, another fabulous thing about London – almost all of their museums are completely free.

I started the day at the Tower of London, which was the first place I’ve gone that I actually had to pay admission for in this city. It was expensive but worth it; as a history lover, the Tower was super cool!! I got to see the Crown Jewels, which are still in use today, as well as the old armour of the kings (including a very large suit of armour for King Henry VIII). The Tower is also where many people have been put to death, including three queens of England, and where two young princes died mysteriously (it is suspected that their uncle murdered them, so that he could take the throne after the death of their father). As well, over 8000 people have been imprisoned in the Tower, even though it wasn’t built to be a prison.

Outside the Tower of London:

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Panoramic view from within the tower grounds. On the left is the White Tower, which holds the armoury. The famous Tower Bridge is visible in the background.

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After the Tower, I went to the Natural History Museum. I’ve mostly been going to see attractions that have something to do with history, art, or culture, and it was surprisingly relaxing to go to the Natural History Museum. Three hours went by in a flash as I looked at dinosaurs, moon rocks, and the mammal exhibits.

Front foyer of the Natural History Museum.

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I finished off the day at the National Gallery, which holds so much amazing art. Another cool thing about London’s museums – the majority of them are open late on Friday evenings, usually until about 9pm (and they’re still free at that time!). I was there only briefly in the evening, just long enough to see the works by Van Gogh (my personal favourite, especially after spending two weeks in Holland), Monet, Pisarro, and Cezanne, among others.

This brings an end to my solo adventures for this trip. Tomorrow, I’m off to the university program, and the next chapter of this adventure!

-Caelan