Month: September 2015

The Pineapple Incident

Just in case anyone knows the How I Met your Mother episode: don’t worry, that is not what happened to me.

I’m just borrowing their title to describe an ongoing incident involving various peoples’ lack of knowledge regarding where and how pineapples grow. I remember this being one of those funny mainland U.S. stereotypes that everyone thinks pineapples grow on trees.

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Maybe this counts as a tree but it’s definitely not what people picture

Apparently this lack of knowledge also plagues Europe and I have had an entertaining time explaining to everyone how pineapples grow.

A few days ago I was hanging out with my friend from Germany and talking about Hawaii, that’s when I broke the news to her. She froze, with her mouth open, and shouted “NO!” and then made me google a picture of pineapple plants to prove it to her. Then, when her English friend came over she made sure to tell her right away how pineapples grow.

It happened again last night after the orchestra concert when all the orchestra members were hanging out at one of the campus pubs. Thankfully we sat outside because when the topic of pineapples inevitably came up there were at least four people (including me) screaming and laughing about it. One boy jumped off of the bench, screamed, ran ten feet away, and sat down on the ground saying “NO IT CAN’T BE TRUE!” Even the other music kids who were there with us were giving our end of the table strange looks. The boy who ran away eventually came back and proceeded to shout at everyone else that pineapples grow on the ground.

The growth of pineapples has been and will probably continue to be the funniest and apparently the most life altering piece of information I can share with the world.

Windsor Great Park and Free Laundry

In the United States, we pay so much for school that we get very excited about the “free” things, including laundry. Here, since fees are so low, the laundry service is one of the things that students must pay extra for. £2.50 a load is not bad but it’s just something I’d rather not pay for if I don’t have to.

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I mentioned the laundry thing to a friend who is living in a house off campus. We had been meaning to exercise anyway so she suggested we make a plan around my laundry. So, today I walked over to Englefield Green, which is just the town right next to Egham. She showed me around her house and let me do my laundry and then we went for a run in Windsor Great Park. This is the park that, if you were to walk through the entire thing, gets you to Windsor, where the Queen spends most of her time. As much as I generally dislike running it was a pleasant outing because the weather was nice and the scenery was beautiful.

Windsor Great Park
Windsor Great Park
The lake
 

After our run, we rewarded ourselves with pasta for lunch, probably counteracting the run entirely, but oh well. Then an old friend of hers came over and we spent time visiting and telling stories. They are going off to actually visit Windsor, which I will have to do eventually, but they dropped me back off at my hall because, as usual, I have an orchestra rehearsal this afternoon.

Induction Week Orchestra

12032555_10206620781752718_839642054_nRoyal Holloway music building

During my first few days here I wandered around campus looking for important buildings and getting used to the area. Everyone can probably guess that the very first place I set out to find was the music department. Per the usual trend, the music department is way off to the side and across the main road from the campus. It is an old building with small corridors and spiral staircases and the rehearsal hall is in a newer annex built in the back.

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The building with all the practice rooms (they’re all huge)

The music program here hosts an “Induction Week” orchestra and choir. Induction week is the week when everyone goes to meet with their academic departments and finalize their class schedules. Most people only have one or two meetings and a lot of free time. The music department makes use of this free time and hosts rehearsals all week on select pieces with both an orchestra and a choir. Since there will always be an excess of flute players in the world they had it planned out that flutes would double parts and rotate on the pieces. I am playing on Manuel de Falla’s “Nights in the Gardens of Spain,” and Emmanuel Chabrier’s “España Rhapsody for Orchestra.” During the first rehearsal, I was too antsy to wait for my piece so I asked if I could just read one of the parts on the other pieces. They said I could do that as much as I want as long as I know my pieces for the concert on Sunday. I’ll probably behave for the remaining rehearsals, I just couldn’t wait any longer on that first day.

Here is the view walking back to campus from the music building:

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Moving In

The eleven of us American women studying at Royal Holloway moved into our flats this weekend. We are split between two halls and within that we are split up among flats. Whoever did our room assignments tried to split us so that we would be in an eight person flat with other English and international students rather than more Americans.

I’m happy with my room assignment for many reasons. First, the flat I’m in is across the hall from one of the American girls I get along with best (she’s similarly sarcastic, snarky, and grumpy). Second, the people in my flat are, so far, pretty nice and relatable people. Most students take gap years here so not everyone is 18. I think at least three of us are 20 and a few are younger. Together we represent parts of England, Wales, America, China, Korean, and Australia. Third, and perhaps most important, my room is right next to the kitchen.

Orientation Topics

The first day of orientation was informative, fun, and entertaining. The first people we met were Andrew and Lynn who were discussing English cultural differences. This talk was mostly a set of stories that they have collected over the years of doing this job. They told us about the alleged “baby trick” that’s well known in Europe in which a group of kids come up and throw a baby at you, you catch the baby, and then they run up and steal out of your pockets while your hands are full. They stressed the importance of just avoiding babies all together. Andrew continued to drill into our heads that this is a country of alcoholics and to remember a little phrase, which is that English people are oppressed, suppressed, repressed, and depressed. 

Next we met Charlotte, who is the academic officer in charge of our grades. Andrew suggested that we all buy her a nice bottle of gin to ensure that we get all A’s (she kicked him out of the room after that). She gave a nice presentation on the structure of courses and what we should expect from the grading system. During the break I got to meet Anna who was the next presenter. I told her I was planning on playing flute here and so we talked a bit about music. She had studied music all the way up to her A levels and said that playing piano is still her main source of relaxation. During her talk she kept joking that she was drunk (or who knows, maybe she was). She spoke about critical thinking and how the essay writing process in English schools is based on open-ended questions and critical analysis rather than the American closed-ended question and descriptive narrative style.

David Castle, a former policeman, gave the last talk of the day on safety in this country and in Europe. He ensured us that the majority of crimes in England are petty theft rather than violence. He talked about some common sense things like not keeping everything in one bag, not walking alone at night, and watching your drink. I was slightly annoyed by our group during this talk for multiple reasons. There was a moment when half the room whined/groaned when we were informed that carrying knives is illegal in this country. Mr. Castle explained that a swiss army knife smaller than 3 inches is generally okay but for utility purposes only. Even then, people were complaining, which made me wonder how many people really did pack knives with them expecting to have them on their person constantly.

1st Day in London – 15/09/2015

Pro Tip: If you are flying from Hawaii to London I highly recommend you find a nice direct flight if you can. I have flown from LAX straight to LHR before, which is a long flight but less stress. For this trip I wanted to fly with the group that was departing from JFK together. So, my flight plan ended up being:

Kona -> Honolulu -> overnight to LA -> JFK -> overnight to LHR            somewhere around 24 hours of traveling.

I am now in London 11 hours behind and ready to party! (and by party I always mean sleep).

The plan for this first afternoon/evening was to get settled and meet at 445 for dinner. I, however, apparently had different plans because despite setting alarms I woke up at 715. Fortunately there was another group after us who had left at 615 so I figured they were still there and I found the restaurant a few blocks from the hotel. I sort of stumbled in to find a huge group of students along with five of the coordinators. I’m guessing I looked frazzled because a waiter asked me if I was okay rather than asking if I needed a table. I met all the coordinators and they let me sit with them (the big kid table) while I ate my dinner. I met a woman who got her master’s degree at Royal Holloway University and a man who went to Egypt through this study abroad program (I’m sure I’ll get to talk to them more throughout the week). Now that I’m somewhat rested and still 11 hours behind I’m going to head out with some women from my school for a fun Tuesday night on the town.

Back Story

To truly start at the beginning would be to go back to high school when I decided that my top priority in college was going to be to study abroad, regardless of where, when, how, and what. Fast forward a bit to when I spoke with my microbiology advisor who explained that the best time I could study abroad would be fall term of my junior year or a summer. I worked on finishing up all my 3 term series courses including physics and organic chemistry so that I could be gone for a term without too much impact on my degree track. Initially, I thought I would look into a summer in Germany to not miss a term but the majority of programs offered were language programs. After deciding I wouldn’t go for a language course I figured going to England or somewhere in the UK would be my best, most interesting, option. I found a program at Royal Holloway University offered through IFSA-Butler that is accepted by OSU and went from there.