30 October, 2012

Jess' adventure in London


So last weekend a scouse (from Liverpool) friend of mine came down to visit me. Being her first experience of the south and in fact, the capital city I relished in the opportunity to take her on a mini “Grand Tour”; first of my hometown – Essex – and then of some of the sights of London.

Now, I’ve only just moved back down myself after having spent four years living in the north, so it was a great chance to rediscover my roots and perhaps discover some forgotten gems from my childhood. As I discussed in the previous blog, I’ve been really lucky to have travelled quite extensively but I didn’t realise until this weekend how much I had neglected my hometown and the very close surrounding areas; London, in particular. Essentially I believe that I became a tourist in my own city.

We had one day to cram as much of London in as we possibly could. Not an easy task when London is huge and every area has its own quirky uniqueness. I decided that the historic and royal landmarks had to go on our list, as did the markets of Spitalfields and Covent Garden; my favourite part of London.  So off we went, looking like keen tourists with our cameras and giant maps…

I introduced my friend to the joys of the London Underground, which as a regular user I have taken advantage of but forget how confusing it can be to the unfamiliar. I have also taken for granted the efficiency of the London transport system, despite the weekend closures due to the seemingly never ending maintenance work. This of course can always be rectified by using the city buses, which are also fairly frequent and have the benefit of giving a view of the attractions outside (and phone signal).

Taking the number 11 bus from Liverpool street – after an hour well spent shopping at Spitalfields - we looked out to the bankers home of Bank, naturally, passed St Pauls Cathedral and watched tourists clamber on top of the lions at Trafalgar Square. We got off the bus at Westminster to see Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament along with Big Ben and the London Eye. It was fascinating to see flocks of people - regardless of the horrendous weather conditions - having their photos taken in front of the buildings. I think it makes you look at them differently. The buildings I mean. Well, at least I did anyway.

It was tea o’clock by this time so refuelling was in order. I had myself a lovely cup of tea and a well needed sit down after the stress of avoiding being in other people’s photos. It was then onto the most anticipated part of the day: Covent Garden!  Less overwhelming than Oxford Street with a lot more character plus the added bonus of street performers make this my number one in London. It’s even more magical at Christmas. Perhaps because of the Disney store. We raided the market stalls, saw a man juggle swords and flirted with a silver-painted man. It was wonderful.

After a hearty pub meal we got back onto the tube home at around 6pm. To be honest I was quite impressed with how much we had fitted into the day. In addition to entertaining my friend I had also managed to reignite my own love for London. I have even started a bucket list of things I want to do here, which mainly consists of places I want to eat at… There is definitely a clear reason as to why all of these “fancy-camera-tourists” come to our capital city; because its eclectic mix of attractions can brighten up even the greyest and wettest of days.

 

25 October, 2012

12 October, 2012

It's all so quiet...shhh...shhh...



Mid-term break seems to have hit us. It’s like the Apocalypse has fallen upon the London Center. I feel a bit like Will Smith having survived. I’ve always wondered what it’s like to be a legend...

Students are flitting in and out, collecting their passports and any forgotten items so that they can flee the country or at least get some respite away from exams and studies. Don’t forget us though! We shall still be here throughout the week. Working…

Since I hear the majority of you are flying to lands far far away (Italy, Spain, Holland etc…) I would like to share some pearls of travel wisdom of my own in an attempt to cheer myself up. I also hope that this serves as inspiration for the current ICLC students to write some pieces about their travels for this blog.


“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow." 



A quote I recently found and ‘favourited’ on Twitter. Quite frankly I don’t usually like deep and sentimental phrases but something about this one really hit home and made me smile. I’ve been fortunate over the last four years to have travelled quite extensively, telling friends and family it was imperative if I wanted to succeed with my language learning. I have volunteered in Costa Rica, run around a maze dressed as a clown – ‘working’ - on the island of Menorca, studied in Mexico (climbed some volcanoes too…) and I have worked in a rather up market hotel on the Amalfi coast in Italy. Diversity certainly appeals to me. As does a challenge. I liked arriving on foreign lands with a guidebook in hand and a rough idea of what to expect from the next few months. However it’s not until you land safely back in the comfort of your own home and look back on what you have learnt, achieved and more often than not struggled with that you really appreciate the distance you have travelled. Before I left for Costa Rica, a 17 year old angel (…) never would I have imagined that on my 18th birthday I would be teaching kindergarteners the “Happy Birthday” song, slaughtering chickens (for meat purposes) and dancing to Latin beats until the sun came up. What I’ve really learnt from these past few years is that anything really is possible. And probable. So why am I continuing to ramble about this to you? Well. Having been an international student on two different continents and having safely come out the other side of Higher Education, I would say that your University years are a truly educating experience and your time abroad will teach you as much about yourself as it will about others. Grab each and every opportunity, make the most of new experiences, try something new, because before you know it you will be resting your head on that familiar pillow wondering where all of that time went.


Have a fantastic mid-term break. Stay safe. Give your brain a well deserved rest. I've included some favourite photos of mine below...

 
Yep. That's me beneath the Gandalf costume...

08 October, 2012

the start of something new

I've never written a blog before. I tried once. I was in Italy and thought that instead of continuously repeating myself I would record the ins and outs of my daily life online for my friends and family to read themselves. I wrote one entry. My "friend" kindly pointed out that I had used semi-colons in the wrong places and I must admit that whilst I have been crowned the "grammar queen" of international languages - Spanish and Italian, let's not get too carried away here - I was ashamed to admit that my English perhaps needed a little work. As the Fall 2012 students are all too aware, email is my preferred method of communication as I feel like I can be as formal - "to whom this may concern..." or informal as I deem necessary but a blog proposes the challenge of talking to a very wide audience, some of whom I have never met (hello stranger) and as I think I have demonstrated rather well already, I have a slight, OK, quite a large tendency to ramble...

I've not even properly introduced myself. I am Jessica - or Jess (not Jessie or else I feel like the cowgirl from Toy Story 2) - the new Programme Coordinator at Ithaca College London Center. I recently graduated from University where I studied Spanish and Italian and so I have first-hand experience of what it feels like to study here in the UK and abroad. [Note to current students: (<--correct use of colon?!) come and find me in the Front Office. I'll swap stories about Italy if you tell me about your travels in Europe. I'm already quite envious of your adventures overseas.] It's also worth noting that surprisingly I am the only English member of the admin staff, but contrary to what you may believe after watching all those Hollywood movies, being the token English girl by in no way means that I; 1. talk like Keira Knightly, 2. look like Keira Knightly, 3. live in a palace/castle/stately home and nor am I 4. an evil butler.

I have been told that I have free reign over this blog. Kindly passed on by Claire, ISee Elsie is like my adopted child and I am expected to take care of her in the same way as my predecessor did. I like her so far but then again, so far all I have done is talk about me and I like me so, so far so good right? I should probably talk a bit more about the London Center. I suppose that this space is for people other than me. I did warn you about my ramblings. However if you do want to find out more about the life of Jess then pop into my office, bring a brew (northern slang for a cup of tea. I'm not actually northern.) and pull up a chair. I do love a good gossip. And tea. And perhaps some digestives? Sorry, I'm talking about myself again...






So last weekend I was taken on my first trip away from London. Having prepared the packs, organised the rooming list and got everyone on the coach - after apologising to Colin for spelling his name wrong (it was an accident, I promise!) - we were all set to go. First stop --> Warwick Castle! Now you would think that after flying all that way across the Atlantic the students would be impressed by such a grand and prestigious building, but no, these students were quite entertained by the local wildlife...

 


After Bill and I enjoyed our champagne lunch (I'm joking.) we got back onto the coach and headed toward Stratford-upon-Avon. Here the students were able to visit the place in which Shakespeare was born and buried and in the evening we watched a "Comedy of Errors" at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Now, I must admit that not having read the play - nor knowing anything about it - I was probably at a slight disadvantage. However everyone else seemed to enjoy it, laughing along at the right times and generally getting the gist of what was going on. It was then onto the infamous Dirty Duck pub for a pint. Bill had bought a number of badges with various Shakespearean quotes on, which he handed to each of the students. I received one with the line, "Though she be but little she be fierce", which I think says more about my height than anything else. I'm not entirely sure what did happen at the pub that evening...I retired to bed early. My student days, though I hate to say it, are far behind me now...


The following morning I enjoyed breakfast with Katy and Molly before we headed to meet the others for a talk and tour on Shakespeare's life. The weather held out beautifully during the day (I now write this beneath a gloomy sky - not literally, I'm still sat in my office). There were blue skies and spots of sunshine and - can you believe it - it did not rain! After some free time filled with retail therapy, it was onto our final stop, Oxford. The London Center students were given a couple of hours to explore the town, take a nosey around the prestigious colleges and buy some merchandise from the shops - Kelly made the mistake of purchasing a college jumper and was told by our coach driver, David to take it off or face walking back to London...which she did. Take it off I mean - she certainly did not walk home.


Overall my first trip was pretty fun. I enjoyed getting to know the students a bit better and I hope that they feel the same way about me. I must admit that I have rather enjoyed my first three weeks at Ithaca College London Center. It has a somewhat family feel to the place that is easy to get swept up in and I feel like I have been taken under its wing. This blog seems to have turned into some sort of sentimental piece. I must quickly rectify this; I am British after all a do not, under any circumstance display my emotions. On that note, I think I shall bring this entry to a close before I get too carried away; however it is practically an essay now. I hope that you have enjoyed reading my second attempt at blogging and that this time I can get past writing just the one entry. Maybe I can get to grips with those semi-colons too...?!