29 July, 2011

Tenterhooks- a True Story

If a person is on tenterhooks, they are in a state of uneasy suspense or painful anxiety.  This originates from the hooks or bent nails that hold cloth stretched on a tenter (thank you, dictionary.com).  On a side note, a tenter is a frame that cloth is stretched on so that it dries evenly.

The reason I bring up tenterhooks is because I was thinking of the excitement of getting ready to come over to London.  I know that you have packing to do, flatmates for find, money to sort out and summer jobs to wrap up, too.  But I remember being in your position.  With all that going on, I just wanted to get on the plane and come over to London!  My anxiety wasn't painful and there wasn't really any uneasy suspense, but I was waiting impatiently for that departure date to arrive.  I was so ready to be in London!

Everything I'm about to relate truly happened.  You can ask my mom.

There are only a few highlights of my own departure and arrival in London as a study abroad student that flash across my memory.  I knew what I wanted to pack, and I had everything laid out in organized piles in my room at home.  Of course I knew that they needed to be in a suitcase to get them over to London, but there they sat in my room until around 2am the morning of my flight (I think I was leaving O'Hare around 10am to connect to my transatlantic red-eye from Newark later that day) when I panicked and chucked my neat piles into my duffel bag and backpack.  I think I spent a lot of time sitting on my duffel, struggling to get it closed, and not a single moment of that night sleeping.  Another memory was my arrival at O'Hare.  My mother came with me to the check-in desk, and while I was waiting I was going through the checklist I had been sent.  I had my acceptance letter to show at the border, but I had completely forgotten to ask my parents to write me a letter of support to say that they would help me financially, if I needed.  So, very quickly, while waiting to check-in, my mom scrawled a note on the back of Bill's big summer quiz, which used to be posted to students in a big pack of papers (only some of the questions have changed in the last decade), to say that she wouldn't let me go broke while abroad.

This next bit now causes me to shudder, since immigration is now a large part of my job.  When I arrived in London I hadn't really slept on the flight and I hadn't slept a wink the night before, so I was perhaps a little loopy from lack of sleep.  One thing I do know, there were two border agents at the desk I approached, the trainer and the trainee.  As a result I received a thorough questioning from the trainer who seemed to be setting an example.  I was baffled when I was asked my mother's maiden name, because she didn't change it when she got married.  Then, more importantly, they asked me how much money I had.  That was a much easier question, knowing the contents of my pockets.  "$5," I said.  "$5?" he asked.  "Yes," I said.  No problem, I hit that one straight out of the park.  He just stared at me.  "Anything else at all?" he asked.  "Nope," I said, still batting 1,000.  "You're telling me that you've just flown over from the USA with an empty bank account and no credit or debit cards?" he asked.  "Oh.  Of course I have those.  I thought you wanted to know how much cash I had on me."  Batting 500.  And I completely forgot to show him the note from my mom (though the state of it would probably just have attested to my disorganization even more).  Batting 0.  He rolled his eyes and stamped my passport, and I entered the UK.  In my defense, I hadn't had much sleep, but I'm not here to make excuses for my moments of delinquency.  I was a bit of a numpty that morning.
Me as a study abroad student.  I'm the one in the middle
The moral of my story is this: no matter how ready you think you are, get some rest and don't panic.  The upside is that I'm able to bring experience to my job. 


PS- I'm pretty sure it's not usual to be asked your mother's maiden name at immigration.

28 July, 2011

Jack is Back!

A day that I have been hearing about since sometime in the year 2000 has arrived.  Yes, Jack Hrkach, the first to arrive of our two visiting faculty this semester, is in London, and he's here for a long stay.  As Bill said, the eagle has landed.

Before I was a Theatre History student of Jack's, I remember discussing his move to London.  This is something he has had on the books since before I met him.  As a Brit-o-phile, Jack has been taking students to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival almost every August since 2000, he took a sabbatical semester to teach in London in the fall of 2005 and brought a group of Honors Students to London last March.  He is now taking his terminal sabbatical and spending his last two semesters as an Ithaca professor teaching in London for the fall 2011 and spring 2012 semesters and helping us organize our 40th anniversary Ruby Juby celebrations.

Claire, why do you know so much about Jack's travel history to they UK?, you ask.  Yes, I was a students of his, yes, Jack is avid about keeping in touch with alums, but more importantly, I helped him fill out his visa application to come over here and teach for the next year.  Student visitors, entering the UK should be pretty straight forward for you.  You have your acceptance letter from Rachel Cullenen, you will have a Student Visitor letter from the ICLC to show the Border Agent when you arrive, and you should have some sort of proof of funds to show that you can support yourself while you are in the UK (as you will have no right to pick up part-time work).  Easy-peasey-lemon-squeezey.  Thus far entering the UK hasn't cost you anything (I don't count your tuition to Ithaca in that statement).  Students coming in on Tier 4 student visas, you've had a slightly more rigorous and expensive process, having applied for your visas before you can come over to the UK.  But once you have that you're good to go.  You had some hoops to jump through, and timing was of the essence, but most of you have been approved and I'm hoping to hear from the others soon.  Whoop!
Jack's arrival in London last August.  That's the enthusiasm of someone excited to be in London!

Jack's visa application to work in the UK was a little more labor intensive.  We spent an hour and a half on Skype working on the application together and cheered loudly when Jack emailed to say that his application had been approved a few weeks later.  Partly because I have a lot of responsibility about immigration issues and partly because I remember Jack planning this extended stay in London since nearly time immemorial, I was so pleased when he finally made it over.  Luckily none of our fall 2011 students had to resort to packing him in their suitcase to get Jack over for the year.

Linda Heyne, when you arrive in London in a few weeks I think Bill's secret code for you will be, the German classical scholar and archaeologist as well as the long-time director of the Göttingen State and University Library has landed.


25 July, 2011

Global Citizenship

I've been wracking my brain since last week to think of what the next blog post should be about.  Part of me thinks it should be about something to do with getting ready to come over, but packing, money, housing and the other big topics have already been touched on.  My next thought was to talk about something light and cultural, but I'm a bit stuck there.  Writing about accents and comedy was such good fun that I'm not sure what to follow it with.  Seriously, some of the most fun I have ever had doing research was trying to find comedy clips that helped make my point without being too explicit (explicitness isn't something that separates British and American comedians).  There's also the theme of things happening around the ICLC, but the carpets are in now and I don't think we are getting a kitten any time soon.

My choice is to try Bill's tack and address current events.  It was a strange weekend here in London, that just passed.  Strange isn't the most descriptive word to use, but it covers a lot of bases.  It began with horrors in Norway which then fought for headline space with the death of Amy Winehouse.  Two very different events, both startling for very different reasons.

While abroad we hope that you take a keen interest in world affairs.  The term 'global citizen' is thrown around the study abroad community, though its definition can be difficult to pin down.  Is it a reference to global awareness?  Does it mean that social responsibility is shared globally?  Or is it a term for people who are interested in seeing as much of the world as they can?  Do students automatically become global citizens when they study abroad?  Probably not.  It's just as easy to embrace foreign customs while abroad as it is to cling to the traditions you are used to.  It's a choice people make when they find themselves face to face with a new culture.

Whether your four months abroad leave you wishing for many more months abroad or looking forward to your flight home in December, think about your own global citizenship.  Follow the news, stay aware of your surroundings and if you're traveling in Europe and further, stay as educated as possible about where you are going.  In the last few semesters students have canceled trips to Tunisia and Egypt.  Greece, a popular weekend destination, has been very much in the news because of its ailing economy.  The trips you plan are completely up to your discretion so we hope that you are as responsible as you can be when planning your travels.

Some tips for staying aware:
  1. Stay up to date with the BBC.  Because it is not privatized, they make a pretty successful attempt at impartiality.
  2. London has free newspapers in the morning, the Metro, and evening, the Evening Standard.  They can be found at most Tube stations and other travel hubs.  Neither one is owned by Rupert Murdoch, so they should still be around when you get here in August.
  3. Monday-Thursday mornings, the ICLC buys The Times, The Guardian and The Independent, three of the UK's largest newspapers.  They give fuller coverage of more serious world affairs than the free papers and approach them from different political sides.  The ICLC also subscribes to The Economist which arrives every Friday morning.  All of these publications are kept in the building and available to all of our students.
  4. Follow the news at home as well as abroad.  Take note of the differences in the presentation of issues, try to view the USA through an outsider's eyes to gain a better perspective of how you're viewed abroad. 
  5. Stay up do date with the US State Department for news and travel warnings.  You may also want to register your travel details with them so that you can obtain help through the embassy more easily in case of emergency. 
Take the opportunity of studying abroad not only to see more of the world, but see how the world sees you.  For some this may be surprising, for others it may be difficult.  We recommend trying to break out of the 'American bubble' while abroad and get to know the local culture and customs.  Drink tea by the gallon and beer by the pint, have fish and chips, go to a movie premier in Leicester Square and make friends with your work colleagues at your work placements.  Read the free papers like the rest of the commuters, have an opinion about university fees and wait with baited breath to find out if Greece drops out of the Euro zone and goes back to the drachma.


20 July, 2011

You May Need a Translator

You're getting ready to come to London by packing, getting your money in order, finding flatmates and thinking about housing.  But have you been brushing up on the language?  Yes, we all speak English, but in the UK the way people talk says something about them. 

Not only do people from Wales sound different from people from England who sound different from people from Scotland who sound different from people from Northern Ireland, but accents vary from city to city within the same country.  Part of the reason for this is probably that English started off as a second language for everyone but the Angles, in the vaguest sense of that unresearched sentence.  William the Conqueror can't strictly be blamed for this because he came over speaking French.  And not Parisian French, it was Norman French.  So there may have been a little Danish and Norwegian mixed up in what William the Bastard was saying (seriously, that was what he was called before he was called the Conqueror, it's not an insult, just a descriptive title.  Thank you, Stephen Fry!)  When William arrived in 1066 English was already being spoken in much of what is now modern England, though in The North (as the signs on the M1 say in capital letters) people were speaking a language that more resembled Danish than English.  In Wales they spoke Welsh, in Scotland they spoke Scottish Gaelic, in Ireland they spoke Irish Gaelic and on the Isle of Man they spoke Manx.  To the conquering Normans English was a low language spoken by conquered people.  As the Normans settled into England and Wales the English evolved and picked up words from French.  Language exposed the class difference between the conquering and land-owning Normans and the natives who were working on the land or displaced.  That's why in Modern English we are served pork (from the French word), but farmers raise pigs.  The same goes for eating beef and farming cows.

The English language eventually conquered the Norman nobility, and they brought the language into Wales, Ireland and Scotland.  And that's where the comedy comes in.  A lot of subject matter has a geographical basis, because a comedian's place of origin can be quickly discerned from their accent.  Manchester and Liverpool are about 37 miles apart, and yet they have developed distinctly different accents.  If you can understand them, listen to Liverpudlian, John Bishop, talk about temperature control and Jason Manford talk about being Mancunian visiting Liverpool.  Did these men really learn to talk within such close proximity to each other?  Similarly, Sarah Millican, representing the east side of The North coming from a place called South Shields, doesn't sound anything like these two men talking in her Geordie accent (as a note, since we are talking about linguistic differences, when Sarah Millican mentions a jumper, she means a large sweater, not a little girl's dress).  I have a mid western accent, and that description fits people from a mass of land that is more than 7 times the size of England (thank you Wikipedia). 

And then you cross into Scotland.  If you watched the clips of the Northerners a few times to figure out what they said, brace yourself for Glasgow.  Scotland was difficult for the English to get into.  Partly because the Scots didn't want them to come in, and partly because the Romans didn't build many roads past York, so it was a difficult journey to make.  As Kevin Bridges points out, language continues to be a barrier.  Listen to how he pronounces Glasgow.  Sear it into your memory.  This word doesn't rhyme with meow.

Traveling south, here's another border comparison.  Bristol, from whence hails Russell Howard, on the east side of the Severn in England and Swansea, birthplace of Rob Brydon, on the west in Wales.  The distance this time is wider, at approximately 80 miles, and I would venture to say the difference in accent is, too.  The clip of Rob Brydon is from a show called QI (that stands for Quite Interesting), hosted by Stephen Fry.  This show has been a source for much of the research that went into this blog post.  Having heard a little bit of Stephen Fry's accent in Rob Brydon's clip, I will lastly introduce you to a posh accent.  To put an exact location on a posh accent you need to know where the person went to private school.  Have a listen to Michael McIntyre explain when to drink coffee.

Revisit the links on this post in December and see if you can understand these comedians any better than in July!


14 July, 2011

Reasons to Celebrate

  1. New carpets.   
  2. Bastille Day.  It's today.  France is probably partying in the streets.
  3. The fall semester starts in a little over a month in London.
  4. Visa applications being approved.
  5. A really good job packing your luggage.
  6. Finding a flat.
  7. Friends coming to visit London.
  8. Kittens.  Just to continue the theme.
  9. Catching a 6:03am flight.  Not as easy as it sounds.
  10. Birthdays.  Claire just had one.  Bill's was a few months ago, and Heather and Sarah have them coming up in a few months.  Everyone has one this coming academic year, even those people born on February 29th.  And the London Center is turning 40 this year!  
Recalling my student days, we didn't usually need much of a reason to celebrate.  Receiving lost luggage was a reason for celebration, seeing a film was a reason to celebrate and even Tube strikes were reasons to celebrate.  The ICLC has more fixed criteria, but turning 40 surely meets it.  In that time we have had over 6,000 students, well over 100 faculty, approximately 78 trips to Stratford upon Avon, 8 directors (plus a few interims), and an unquantifiable number of cups of tea during the Irish Lit class.  When asked to count how many times ICLC students have arrived late due to delays on the Circle line, that task was found to be impossible.  Yes, a lot has happened over 40 years at Harrington Gardens.
Put your party faces on, the ICLC is turning 40!

Being the 40th anniversary of the Ithaca College London Center, it is our Ruby Jubilee.  Therefore the theme color of the year is red.  Gifts will be given to staff members who have rubies as their birthstone.  All baby girls born to people with any association to the ICLC will be named Ruby (their middle names will be Elsie.  Their surnames will be left to the discretion of their parents).  As it is a Jubilee year for us, that Tube line will run a special service to Gloucester Road (via the Circle, District and Piccadilly lines).

There may be some facetiousness presented here (except for the gifts to staff members with rubies for birthstones), but we do intend to celebrate!

-Elsie (who has been on holiday)

    13 July, 2011

    Hamlet Might Have Said As He Headed To Wittenberg, 'To Pack or Not to Pack?'

    As August approaches and the number of days until your departure becomes more and more surreal, the ICLC staff are busily getting ready to welcome Group 79.  New carpets are being put in (we don't do that for just any group! Perhaps for a forthcoming group we will put in a new boiler! Or a kitten!), tickets are being ordered, mass emails and quizzes are being sent out.

    On a side note, has anyone out there ever heard the phrase, "If Jamie Oliver (or anyone else) saw that, he would have kittens!" as a way of saying that person will have a tantrum?  Is that a British-ism? 
    Jack Hrkach- Captain of packing lightly

    We've touched on some of the major points of getting ready to come over- money, housing, football solidarity- and one major one still lies ahead: Packing.  For everyone but those with the most special personalities, this is a dreaded job.  There's the weather to consider (don't forget your winter coat, even though London winters aren't much like Ithaca winters, we have had some snow the last few years.  Last year's even made the news!), activities (will you be going on many walking tours, will you need to dress smartly for your work placement?) and airline luggage allowances to name a few.

    Here are a few key things to remember when packing:
    1. You are coming for 4 months, not forever.
    2. If your luggage is too heavy for you to carry on your own, you have too much stuff and need to take things out of your bag.
    3. If you bring enough clothing so that you can be fully dressed for 2 weeks, you're doing fine.  Don't weigh down your bags with enough clothing never to have to do laundry.
    4. You will accumulate things to bring back by December.  Leave room in your bags for them.
    5. The UK has loads of toiletries.  Many are the same at those sold in the USA.  And if they don't have what you like, be brave and consider it a cultural experience.
    6. What is your airline's luggage limit?  You don't need to pay extra- that's a sign that you have overpacked

    Having done a quick reread, I apologize for sounding a bit pedantic.  This is all common sense.  But it's also easy to ignore.  Perhaps there is one thing that you can't live without, but remember to be practical about it.  If it's your duvet you may want to tough it out with a British one for a few months.  If it's your Arsenal jersey, bring it by all means!
    No joke, Drew really is attached to his kilt!

    What are some important things to bring?  A converter plug for your computer is good, no need for many other electricals.  Good walking shoes hardly ever go amiss.  You're here to immerse yourself in British life and culture!  It will be ok to leave some of the USA behind for a few months!


    11 July, 2011

    A Hard Choice Lies Ahead

    You’ll be faced with numerous choices in London. Where shall I live [Edgware Road, Marble Arch, Earl’s Court, Bayswater, West Ken, Fulham, etc.]?  With whom shall I live [Tom, Dick, Prince Harry, or with an English family, or maybe solo in Clapham]?  What kind of phone network should I use? Should I go to Brussels, Bruges & Amsterdam on fall break OR would Vienna, Budapest & Prague better suit? Should I date that charming Italian bloke, or the German guy? Decisions, decisions, decisions. What would life be without them! Descartes summed up the human situation 400 years ago with his famous ‘cogito ergo sum’, or ‘I think therefore I am’,  but perhaps events in the 20th century have eclipsed Cartesian rationalism in favour of the free choice implicit in ‘eligo ergo sum’, I choose therefore I am.

    Tough decisions all. But there can be one even tougher as you are coming to a tribal country. As in North America, with its tribal native peoples, so too Britain had its indigenous tribal groups like the Belgae, the Cantii, Iceni, etc. They are long gone, their only legacies being hill forts and place names like Belgium, Kent and Scotland [after the Irish ‘Scoti’ tribe]. The real tribes today are football tribes. Altogether there are 92 professional football teams in England, almost three times the number of NFL franchises in the much larger USA. Most big cities have two: for example, Manchester has United and City, Liverpool has Liverpool and Everton, Sheffield has United and Wednesday, Birmingham has Villa and City, Bristol has Rovers and City. One is usually red and the other is blue, which are also the colours of our two principal political parties.

    Your ‘eligo ergo sum’ dilemma is that, strangely enough, the ICLC is in London, by some distance the largest city in the UK. As such it has 11 pro teams, 5 of which are in the top division. It’s like New York, Chicago or LA having 5 major league baseball teams and/or NFL franchises. The big five in London are [alphabetically], Arsenal [north], Chelsea [south-west], Fulham [south-west], QPR [west] and Tottenham [north]. The next tier has 3 teams, Millwall [south-east], Crystal Palace [south-east] and West Ham [east], and the remaining three are Charlton [south-east], Brentford [west] and Leyton Orient [east]. Identifying with one team, adopting it, and wearing its colours explain some of the violence associated with football in the UK and globally.
    A big moment in Claire's life
     So whom are you going to choose? The easiest choice would be Chelsea. After all it is the closest to us, it is very successful and the London centre is located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.  But a lot of people dislike Chelsea with a passion. Our Sarah is one such: she supports ABC, Anyone But Chelsea.  She would probably go for Swansea this year as they are a Welsh team and Sarah is Welsh. I am a little schizoid in that I support two teams: my first love, the super hoops of QPR, and my new love, Arsenal. [Yes, my wife knows about it: she’s OK so long as the bigamy of my tribal loyalties do not set the template for my domestic arrangements.] I will be torn when the two play each other in the Premiership. Heather, meanwhile, is ABMU, anyone but Manchester United. Otherwise she is pretty secretive about her affiliation, but I have a suspicion that she has an affection for Preston North End as she studied at the university there. Claire meanwhile has never shown much interest in football, but recently she came out of the closet in a big way. Her support for Charlton Athletic is plain for all to see. They are a solid, friendly community club based in south-east London. The first game we will attend this term will be the game between Charlton and Sheffield Wednesday. You will also meet Claire’s friend Floyd who is generally to be found in her office.
    This looks like more than bigamy...
    Many of you might end up living in the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. If so, Fulham and QPR are strong possibilities. If you don’t care much for footie, you can choose your tribe by colour. Most are either red and white or blue and white; notable exceptions are West Ham who are purple and blue and Crystal Palace who are red and blue. Meanwhile, because of my tribal bigamy, I will look like a rainbow most of the term.


    07 July, 2011

    If we were watching Have I Got News For You, these pictures would spin.

    This week's post is a picture quiz.  Any guesses where these are?
    The competition next year, Brings so many people here, It's not on the Avon, But I see why that conclusion would be drawn.
    A king and a queen, And many in between, May be buried here, Though the cathedral has nary a pier.
    Out of control, A Puritan soul, Where does this Lord stand, Where he once took command?
    In homage to Paul, Barefoot and all, Where is Sean, Without his shoes on?
    He spends all day, Looking across the way, At his friend Spencer, Having been a victim of the censor.
    Serbia's so proud, The Czech Republic's cheering very loud, Everyone wore white, At this site.