Tag Archives: Global Gateway


This weekend, I pulled off what could quite possibly be one of the biggest surprises of my life, even though my surprisee claimed that he wasn’t that surprised. Since coming to England a little over a month ago, I have not seen any of my family in person, and have only seen other students that I knew from home once. For the past year or so, I have known that my 15 year old brother, Seth, would be on a school trip to Germany during the same time period that I was in England, and I had planned for about that long to surprise him while he was there. After communications with Seth’s German teacher (who also used to be mine), and struggling to find a flight time that would work for me and my school schedule, I booked my tickets and made a plan to surprise my brother at the Cologne Cathedral. I arrived at the cathedral a little before Seth’s school group got there, and waited anxiously for them to appear. Unfortunately, Seth got his first glimpse of me before I could get my camera ready, but I heard him say “That’s my sister!” and even managed to capture him on camera with the biggest smile on his face after seeing me – I could tell by his reaction that he genuinely wasn’t expecting to see me there, and that he was happy that I was there. I actually was somewhat worried that he wouldn’t want me tagging along in the city with him all day.

After being reunited with my brother, we took a walk through the cathedral and then climbed the 500-600, uneven, narrow, spiral stairs up to the top of the cathedral, which is something that I had vowed four years prior that I would never, under any circumstances, do again. But, I knew that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity with my brother, and I wanted to make sure I took it. After our trip to the top of the cathedral, we walked around the city, going into a few shops, eating breads and ice cream from street vendors, and spending time catching up after not seeing each other for a month. Then, we went to the Lindt Chocolate Museum, which, honestly, was pretty underwhelming the second time around. (Like the cathedral, I have been there before.) But, I would not have traded the opportunity to spend that time with my brother for anything.

As odd as it may seem, in the moment, it was just another typical day with my brother – we just happened to be in a different place than normal. But, after saying goodbye, which was literally one of the hardest goodbyes of my life, and thinking more about what I had just done, I realized how amazing this experience was. Not only did I get to spend a little bit of time with my brother, but I got to spend time with my brother in a foreign country – a country for which we had both studied the language, and a country which I have come to love and didn’t know if I would ever get to visit again. I got to climb up to the top of one of the world’s most famous cathedrals and have that experience with my brother by my side. I will never forget that day, and I am extremely glad that I put my reservations about traveling to a foreign country by myself aside and decided to make the trip. It was definitely worth it in my opinion.

I will leave you with a (not so great) picture of Seth and me standing outside the Cologne Cathedral – I was too busy having fun with my brother to worry about getting amazing photographs.

Until next time,

Seth and me outside the Cologne Cathedral.

Seth and me outside the Cologne Cathedral.



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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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