Monthly Archives: May 2014

Half Term Break

This week, my school, and most of the other schools in England, have been on Half Term break, which means no school. As a result, I have been able to go sightseeing and enjoy spending some time with my host family and getting to know the town that I’m staying in. I have had so much fun this week, and have gotten to see some amazing things. Here is a list (in no particular order) of some of the things I have gotten to do this week.

1) Drink lots of tea.
2) Get extremely engrossed in Britain’s Got Talent. Seriously, I’ve watched it every night this week.
3) Have my first experience at Primark. It’s like a whole new (and cheap) universe of shopping. It’s actually a good thing that we don’t have Primark in America, because I would spend way too much time and money there.
4) Travel by train.
5) Sing very loudly in the car to the Wicked Soundtrack. My host mom is also quite a fan, and our harmonies are brilliant.
6) Write a couple of postcards to people back home.
7) Go to pet shops looking at and holding various reptiles. My host sister is getting a leopard gecko for her birthday in a little over a month.
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(a bearded dragon we named Kevin)

8. Book a trip to Barcelona to see some friends in a little less than a week.
9. Run errands with the host family.
10. Play Scrabble, Yahtzee, and Bananagrams – a few of you will know how much I love Bananagrams.
11. Become completely engrossed in The Girl who Played with Fire.
12. Go to the zoo. The zoo was a bit different than the zoos that I’ve been to in the States. They had a bigger variety of small and medium sized animals, but did not have quite as big of a selection of larger animals. However, they did have an adorable penguin that was wearing a wetsuit. And no, I don’t know why.
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(Penguin in a wetsuit – it appears his name was Ralph.)

13. Have a dinner outside at a pub overlooking a castle.
14. Visit and tour a castle that is almost 1000 years old! This is quite possibly my favorite item on the list. Arundel Castle is absolutely beautiful. It is still used and lived in today by the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk. It was amazing to see a castle that is not in the middle of a theme park, is so rich in history, and is older than the United States. I wish that I could’ve taken more pictures of the inside, but sadly, it was not allowed. However, I will share some of the pictures that I was able to take of the outside. Note: It was an absolutely beautiful day when we visited the castle as well. These photos are not edited or filtered in any way, and were taken on an iPod. Proof, if you needed it, that England is absolutely beautiful.
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(The castle.)

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(The castle gardens, which reminded me of Alice in Wonderland.)
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(The top of the Keep.)

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(Another view of the Castle.)
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(Simply gorgeous.)
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(The way to the Keep.)

In all, it has been a pretty successful Half Term break, and the week is not over yet. Tonight, I’m cooking supper for my host family. We’re having cavatini and garlic bread, which is one of my favorite meals from home. And tomorrow, we’re going to London by train for a bit of sightseeing. I’m extremely excited for that, but that will have to be a post all its own.

Until next time,
Steph

 

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Free Time

Free Time

Amy and I like to play with each other’s hair. This is my latest creation – spiral French braid.

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Raincoats, and Beaches, and Hot Chocolate – Oh My!

Have you ever worn your raincoat for a day at the beach? Have you ever drank hot chocolate at the beach? I have! Today, we unleashed 90 Year 4’s (third graders) on the beach of the English Channel. And even though I’m in a Year 6 class, since my host mom is a Year 4 teacher, she arranged for me to come with them as a chaperone, so that I could have fun at the beach as well. I was definitely excited to go to the beach for the day on a field trip, and the only thing that could bring me down was, well, rain. On our walk down to the beach, which was over a mile long, it started to rain. It had stopped raining by the time we arrived at the beach, so it wasn’t that bad. On the horizon, however, you could see that there was a bigger storm rolling in.

The students got a little while to play and do some science and geography work on the beach (and I got to feel the water of the English Channel for the first time). It was getting colder, darker, and very windy, but the kids didn’t seem to mind at all. They were too busy finding interesting rocks, seaweed, and even crabs along the beach. About an hour and a half after we arrived, it started to rain again. We moved the students up near the beach huts and instructed them to eat their lunch, hoping that the weather would pass, and it did soon enough. I was so cold at this point that I went to the concession stand and bought a hot chocolate to enjoy – something I never thought that I would ever want while sitting on the beach. The rain eventually stopped, and the students got a few more minutes to play on the beach while the others finished. 

Things got interesting on the walk home, however. As you can probably imagine, it’s interesting enough to walk 90 children over a mile (especially with about half of the number of adults that we would take on a field trip in America) in nice weather. Add in the fact that it started “chucking down” rain – to borrow a local term – a short while into our walk, and then started to thunderstorm about halfway into our walk, with all of the students complaining about being cold and wet, that walk turns into a completely different, yet equally as interesting, experience. By the time we got back to school, all of the teachers were frazzled, all of the students were wet and soggy, and all of the fun had gone completely out the window. In fact, one of the students even said that she hated today.

Today was definitely a new and interesting experience. Before today, I had never had to wear a raincoat on the beach. I had never enjoyed a steaming hot chocolate on the beach, either. But, for the few minutes the weather was good, it was completely worth it to see all of the students being able to play and explore on the beach. And wouldn’t you know, the sun came out and the rain dried up just in time for me to walk home from school with Amy. It was so nice, in fact, that I was able to get to the post office and mail out some postcards to my classes back home.

 

A couple of random notes:
– I got to hold a London 2012 Olympic Torch this week! It was probably the highlight of my trip so far. 
– The British accent is starting to sound pretty normal to me, which is good because it means I can understand it better, but bad because it’s kind of lost it’s novelty. 

I’ll leave you with some pictures that I took at the beach today – before the weather got too bad.

Until next time,
Steph

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First Impressions

I arrived in England a week ago today, and I was instantly blown away with how, for lack of a better term, English, everything was. I literally felt like I walked onto a movie set of an old English town with cottages lining each side of the road, school children in matching uniforms walking home from school, a bit of rain coming down… It was absolutely breathtaking. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I  wasn’t expecting it to look exactly like what they show on film. 

After taking in all of the sights on the drive from the airport, it was time to meet my host family, which was perhaps the thing that I was most nervous about. I wasn’t nervous for long, though, because I surmised within seconds of meeting them that they are all very lovely people. My home consists of My host mother – Suzie, her parents – Chris and Joe, her 15 year old son – Alex, her 11 year old daughter – Amy, and the family dog – Ginny. They have all been more than welcoming and kind, and it only took me a short time to feel at home. Amy, especially, has been wonderful at making sure I feel included, understand all things English, and have things to do whenever I get home from school. I will definitely be sad when it’s time to leave and I have to say goodbye.

Another big component of my life here in England, and the main reason why I’m here, is school. I have been placed in a Year 6 class, which is the American equivalent to 5th grade. The school that I’m placed at is such a charming school. Each year group has their own wing of the school with three classrooms and a common area each. Each of the classrooms and common areas are fully decorated in the theme of whatever the main teaching topic for the unit is. The classrooms are fully student centered – the teacher does not even have a desk in the room. The students are very disciplined in terms of school routines and procedures. They do not need reminded about what to do when x happens, instead, they just do what they know they are supposed to. On the flip side of that, however, is that the students who do choose to act out during free time, lunch, etc. go all out and will continue their behavior despite all efforts of the teacher to control it. I think this is a result of the area that the school is in and the home lives of some of the students, not unlike some of the schools I have seen and heard about in the States. 

I am really enjoying my time here so far. It has only rained once or twice since I arrived, though it is supposed to rain again tomorrow, and I have been able to go to the beach on two different occasions – something I’m not really able to do in the landlocked state of Indiana. I am enjoying learning about the cultural differences between Americans and British people (it’s true, they do drink a lot of hot tea, and yes, I have become a hot tea drinker) and even the subtle differences in the American English vs. the British English language. In fact, Amy and I have a bit of a game going – we try to think of as many different words/meanings between British English and American English as we can. Even though I knew there were quite a few differences, I have been surprised with just how many we have actually come up with.

On a personal note, I have also tried several “new” foods since being here. Those of you who know me well know that I can be a pretty picky eater. In fact, food was probably the thing I was most nervous about apart from meeting my host family. Even though I haven’t really eaten any “exotic” foods while I’ve been here, I have eaten things that I had never tried before, and actually finished and even liked them as well, which is something I am sadly quite proud of. 

I suppose that I should close for now. The evening is winding down, so I will just be enjoying the evening watching TV in the lounge with Suzie. More adventures to come later.

XO – Steph

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