Friday, September 30, 2011

The Last Little Bit of Fresher's Week

Its Friday and I've completed all the information sessions I had to go to today. I have only two more days before the hardest four years of my life start. So let me fill you in before I have to start paying the University to take all of my time away from me :)
First of all- I've been going to lots and lots and lots of information sessions. And I must say, the University and especially the International and Study Abroad Office (ISAO) are doing a really good job on keeping everyone informed on pretty much anything we need to know about. They also both offer lots of way to socialize and meet people, which has been really fantastic for me.
I went to a HOST info session where I decided that HOST probably isn't my cup of tea. The HOST scheme lets students live with a British family for a weekend for free. The student just has to pay an administrative fee and the price of travel. However, you don't get to pick where you go and the woman running the session really stressed that its not a tourist/travel thing. Its to live like a real British person for a short amount of time. However, I'm here for four years, have made British friends, and really believe that I'll probably get my own feel of real British life over the length of my course. So, no thanks HOST. I really do just want to travel.
After the HOST session was a Keeping Safe in the UK session. And while I had read most of the information online that.....
... Fire Alarm just went off. Freshman FAIL....
.... the lecturer said, it was nice to meet the head of the University's security. And nice to know that he had over 20 years of police experience. For all of my family that are overly worried about my safety- I live on one of the safest universities in all of England. That's a fact, so don't worry. Also, interesting side note- here, its 999 instead of 911 and pepper spray is illegal to have on your person as it is considered a firearm in this country. Craaaaaaazy.
At the end of that day (Wednesday), I went to a postgraduate cocktail party at Falmer Bar, which is on campus. It was the best social event I've gone to so far. While I've loved meeting all of the undergraduates and exchange students, it was really nice to meet fellow postgraduates who will be here for longer than just a semester. I also met up with my Alumni Friendship sponsor (a mentorship through the University) and she's very nice. I'm making friends, YAY. Hahaha.
On Thursday I finished registration (such a relief), went to the international postgraduate welcome talk (put on by the ISAO), and went to an international student trivia night. Registration was really just a headache of a process, so I now have a lot more respect for all international students patience. I still need to pick up the rest of my loan, but I'm not sure where from. I think that might be a fun journey for me later today when I finish typing this. There seems to be a serious lack of email response happening with the university right now. I also went to one of the HUNDREDS of welcome talks the University puts on. And I'm not exaggerating (ok, maybe a litte). There are welcome talks for freshers, postgrads, internationals, and any combination of those three that you can think of, put on by many different organizations- like ISAO, the students union, life sciences, etc. Its nice to have such a good source on information constantly coming from the school. The University of Sussex has the most helpful staff of any institution that I have ever learned or worked in. And I think that is really something special about this school.
The international trivia was so much fun. Again, I met a lot of really wonderful people from all over the world- this time Sweden, Canada, Germany, India, and Hong Kong. We didn't win, but we were only 5 points behind from the winners. And for how bad I am at trivia- I'll take that as a personal win haha! After trivia ended, some of the group went to East Slope Bar to get to know each other better. One of the most interesting talks of my life went on in the hours we passed at East Slope. A little bit of politics, views of personal countries (and other countries' views of my own), and some serious differences in social constructs were talked about. And while five very different countries were represented, everyone kept a cool head and stayed open minded. I can't quite put into words how refreshing it is to meet so many people who are SO very different that are willing to talk about "sticky" subjects with an open mind and an educated view.
I've run into one of the girls from my floor a lot these past few days and we get along well (she was the Canadian at East Slope that I just talked about). I still have the majority of my floor to meet, but we all pretty much keep to ourselves since we are all postgrads.
Finally, today- the head of Life Sciences (the school that my program falls into) gave a welcome talk to the new postgraduates, I went to a Banking in the UK information meeting, a library induction, and a travel tips session. Basically an information overload day. I THINK I've decided what bank I'm going to go with, but the only problem is that it takes 4-6 weeks to clear a check. And, I'm not sure, but I think my loan comes in the form of a check. So that would suck. BUT, plastic IS a girls best friend and at the worst, I can just use a debit card from the US until my money goes through. The library induction really wasn't that helpful, I think only because I've used a university library, and even worked in one, before. They are pretty much the same. I do, however, have a more intensive library induction through my school where they will show us more research-related library information. I'm looking forward to that one. And then, finally, Travel Tips. Very useful. I'm getting really excited about visiting my friend from home who is studying abroad in the Netherlands. Hopefully I'll get to visit (it'll be before Christmas) and I'll have at least one exciting travel story to bring home and share with you all during the holidays! My floormate Caitlin might even come with me :). We shall see how this pans out...
Here are some pictures of the pub crawl I talked about last post:


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Settling in

I hope you enjoyed the pictures from the last post.
Now I'll get into a little more detail about actually moving into the school and settling in.
So as I told you, at the time of my writing of the last post, I hadn't done too much besides move in to my room and go to one of the bars on campus (East Slope Bar) with two of my floormates. However, since then a lot has happened... mostly socializing... so I have a bit more to fill you in on.
The school had a "free shop" set up on welcome weekend for students to pick through what last years students left. And lo and behold, I realized that the only silverware I brought were two spoons and a knife. So, needless to say, I picked up some more silverware. I also found a cheese grater, a peeler, and a book (Emma by Austen). It was nice not having to spend the little cash I have to buy these kitchen essentials. Which brings me to my current frustration- my current lack of money. The loan company sent my check to the school and told me that the school is supposed to take out tuition and rent money, and then give me the rest of my loan (which I will then have to deposit in a bank, yadda yadda yadda). Which is fine. Actually, more than fine. It makes my life easier. Anyway, I've emailed the financial office to see how the loan money is going, because paying tuition and accommodation fees is part of what I have to do before I am completely registered. But I haven't heard anything back yet, so I am unregistered and don't have my loan money for things like food. I don't need a lot of money at the moment and I'm not in trouble for being unregistered (yet), but its still frustrating and I'm hoping it'll be cleared up soon.
Now for some more exciting and interesting news! Sunday night, the International Office hosted a "Home from Home International Night", where the international students could go and find other students from their home country. I've met a few Americans through that and even spent some time with them last night while out on another International Office sponsored event. I also met a girl from Bulgaria who I spent time with last night as well. They are all undergrads and most of them are only here for a semester or year on an exchange program. The ones who are here on exchange have been in Sussex since the beginning of September and they told me about ASSDA, which I guess is the WalMart of England. I think they said its even owned by WalMart. And I think this is FANTASTIC because I'm poor haha.
Yesterday was a pretty cool day. We had the Freshers Fair, which is where all the clubs and societies are out trying to get you to sign up with them. I doubt I'll have much time, but there was a lot of free stuff and a few clubs that I'm pretty excited about (the Film Society watches movies on Tuesday.... their first movie screening is Momento... it pretty much speaks for itself. Awesome.) I got a free day pass for the buses, won a free week pass for the buses, and got a lot of pizza coupons haha. I also signed up for the local libraries and received my library card. So besides just being fun, I got some cool free stuff and was able to get stuff done without having to take a bus into Brighton. I also did my first load of laundry yesterday (thrilling, right?) And omg, its SO expensive to do laundry here. 3 pounds to wash and 1 to dry. I'm sorry, but 4 pounds for one load of laundry is helllllla money.
Last night, the International Office put on a Pub Crawl. Like I already mentioned, I met up with the Bulgarian girl and the Americans. I met a lot more international students there as well, from all over the world- France, Japan, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Slovakia... Its been really awesome meeting all of these people from different places. Its an experience I think everyone should have. The actual pubs were fun too. Even though we really only went to one pub... the other three were bars. But I enjoyed them all. We went to the King and Queen, Tiki Tik, Pav Tav, and I don't remember the name of the other one. The last two bars were in an area called The Lanes, which Dad and I hadn't wandered into, but I've been told is the biggest attraction of Brighton. And all of the pubs were near the Royal Pavillion, so it was cool to walk around and see the Pavillion peaking through the gaps between buildings.
Today, there is an outdoor market on campus and two more socials that I'm planning on going to. So I need to start getting ready for the day!

Until next time,

Sunday, September 25, 2011

And so its begun!

I apologize for making you wait. Between the misunderstanding of how to charge a US laptop in the UK, to shaky/nonexistent hotel wifi, to a mess of setting up my laptop to the University's network, I just now REALLY had time to sit down and write this entry. So get ready; I have over 2 weeks of intense traveling to cover AND the beginning of school. I hope you are prepared.

Let's start at the very beginning- Arriving in England. The first day I got in- Mom, Danny, and I got my phone situation all taken care of. I got a pay-as-you-go plan for local calls and an iTouch for skype/facetime/texting (which lets me do international calling for free!). I have a phone line at the school, so if you would like to call me and pay an international fee, just ask and I'll send the number along. Otherwise- skype will be my main form of contacting everyone.

Mom, Danny, and I went to Stratford-Upon-Avon the day after I arrived in England. We looked at all the Shakespeare birthplace stuff, found an EPIC wizard/wand shop, and met a really cool goose named Preston. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the day:

The next day, we went to Warwick Castle (both are in Warwickshire, so we were very close). Warwick Castle is probably my favorite castle of the four I've seen so far. Its a little gimmicky, definitely a tourist pull, but when you ignore the gimmicks and go for the history-based exhibits, its absolutely amazing.

The next day, Dad joined us. That day, we went into London and went to Harrod's for high tea. We saw John Terri there, one of the top scorers for Chelsea FC (the team I like). Coooooool.

The next day was a day packed with all of the touristy things of London that we could fit in. We saw the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, and the Tower of London. At night, we went on a Jack the Ripper tour. It was AWESOME!

This last picture of a random alleyway IS NO RANDOM ALLEYWAY. Jack the Ripper walked this alleyway. Oooooooo awwwwwww.
The next day was another tourist-packed London adventure day. We went into the Tower of London and found platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross (Harry Potter fans, anyone?). At the Tower, there were more hats for Danny and I to try on. While waiting in line, the girl ahead of us put on the hat and it fell down to her shoulders. Danny and I excitedly tried it on next... and our heads were WAAAAAY too big. Hence the sad faces.

The day after, we went down to Brighton and visited the University to try and sort out the fiasco that was my luggage situation. Let me fill you in- We ordered for four of our bags to be picked up, stored, and then delivered to me at school once I moved in. The school could not hold my bags for me (lack of insurance= poopy liabilities) and it was impossible to move between hotels with two huge suitcases and two full carry-ons. One suitcase was much more manageable. HOWEVER- the company sucked. They collected every bag well after the collection date and sent two of our bags to the school. This is why we went down to Brighton- to retrieve the bags that were delivered too early. We get down only to find out that the school will hold my bags for me (out of the kindness of their hearts). I am currently still waiting for the other two bags to be delivered to me. I hope I get them soon... Anyway, the trip to Brighton was spur-of-the-moment, but still a nice trip nonetheless.
The next day, Mom and Danny went home. After they left, Dad and I went into London again to hit up some more tourist spots. We went to Picadilly Cirus, the Hard Rock London, the British Museum, and Abbey Road. Dad has the pictures of us walking across Abbey Road, so you'll have to get those off of him. At the museum, I hung out with Cleopatra and deciphered the Rosetta stone. No big deal. I'll throw in a picture of my favorite part of the museum- which was the stone walls.

The next four days, Dad and I went to Edinburgh in Scotland. We walked the Royal Mile, which stretches between Holyrood and Edinburgh Castle, and went on a Highlands tour that took us to Loch Ness, Glencoe, and the Moors.

After Scotland, we headed down to Brighton... only to get back on the train and return to London to go on a Windsor Caslte, Bath, and Stonehenge tour.

Then started the more restful few days in Brighton. We went to the beach, saw the pier (and discovered Moo Moos which is the best milkshake EVER), walked around North Laine, and went inside the Royal Pavillion.

Which leads me to move in day.
I met two people who are on the same floor area as I am (we are missing three people still) and got my room mostly unpacked and set up. I haven't really done anything super exciting (most of it has been visiting IT, buying Welcome Week tickets, etc), except last night (Saturday) the two other people on my floor and I went to one of the bars on campus and hung out for awhile. They are both really nice and one of them is a fellow American. She's from LA. I was surprised to realize how much I missed hearing the California accent :)

Well, that's about it for now. I have some international welcome events later today and get to meet my Alumni sponsor tomorrow, which I'm looking forward to. But until then, I'm going to rest (since I'm STILL exhausted from the England/Scotland trip before I moved in) and will update you later on.

<3 Lenzie