The End of an Era

By the time I post this I’ll probably be at London Heathrow, preparing to leave England. I left Southampton on Saturday, made my way to the Holiday Inn at Heathrow and enjoyed not having to rush to the gate and board my plane. The staff here has been wonderful and even gave me a free drink voucher because my room needed 5 more minutes to be ready. Not going to complain about that!

But what’s really going through my head is this emotional tug of war battle. On the one hand, I am overly excited to head back to the US. I have never appreciated what we have more than after living here and learning about what my friends from other countries have. In the least cliche way possible, I am very proud to be an American. I’m also over the moon excited to see my family and friends…and dog. It’s been almost 9 months since I was last home, and a whole year since I started this journey, and I’m looking forward to reuniting with those who supported my decision to pursue a master’s degree.

On the other hand, my heart is breaking. This past year has been one of the most amazing years of my life. Full stop. Period. I have met some of the most interesting, courageous, caring people that will always hold a special place in my heart. They have taught me so many things, both in and out of the classroom and library settings! I can not imagine that this past year would have been as impactful as it was had those people not been a part of it.

While I try to figure out if I’m really happy or not about leaving, I’ve reflected a bit on myself. This year has brought many firsts into my life, including:
-Living in a foreign country for an entire year
-Traveling alone, to places where I don’t speak the language, eating alone, and making myself talk to others in the hostels
-Opening my mind to the world
-Giving football (soccer) a chance, and actually enjoying it
-Not being afraid to put myself out there and live a little

It has also taught me many things, such as:
-Understanding how hard English is for those who do not to speak it as their first language
-Stereotypes are just that – stereotypes. You have to give people a chance no matter who they are or where they come from

And these are just some of the initials things I thought of over my wine and pizza last night. As the days pass, I find a job and move on with my life, I know this past year will play a huge role into my personal and professional development.

So, to my new friends, I love you and miss you already. To my friends and family in the USA, see you all very, very soon!

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Why Every American is Now a “Football” Fan

As the World Cup continues, and the US Men’s National Team plays for a chance to move on tonight against Germany, I’ve continually been asked, “Do Americans really like football?” As seen on TV (no, this is not an infomercial!) and the internet, Americans are actively watching the matches, engaging on social media sites and actually acting as though they care about what happens! So where did all of these “fans” come from? In my opinion, there are two kinds of football/soccer fans in the US:

1. The real fans: These are the people who played soccer growing up, follow the MLS and/or actually understand what’s going on. They have an appreciation for the sport outside of the World Cup. Believe me, there ARE real fans in the US.

2. The “I love America” fans: This is where the majority of Americans fall into, myself included. We all sort of understand the rules since we played it in gym class, know yellow and red cards aren’t good and the point of the match is to get the ball in the goal. But that’s pretty much it. Ok, I might be exaggerating a little but not too much. For the most part, you’ll never see soccer on our TVs unless the US is playing.

But the point I’m trying to make…No matter what the sport or event, we’re Americans. We’re known for showing our patriotism. Most of us have something in our closets that has the American flag on it and if we don’t, we’ll get something! We love where we’re from and want to make that known, especially to our athletes playing. Today, it’s soccer. Tomorrow, who knows?! It could be figure skating or archery or whatever. The point is if there are Americans positively representing the country, we stand behind them.

To be honest, I do have a better appreciation for football since living in England. I’ve probably watched more matches in the 9 months I’ve been here than my whole life combined. But that’s the fun part of living in another country. I get to experience different things and gain better appreciations that I wouldn’t have been able to if I’d never left home.

So there you have it! We might not love soccer all year long, but we love our country. Alas, we love the World Cup. With that, good luck to the USA tonight and remember, One Nation One Team.

Time to start blogging again!

It has been far too long since my last post, and since then, so much has happened:

  1. I finished my second and final semester of my postgraduate programme:  After Easter break, I turned in a total of 10 different assignments, which was more intense that I had originally anticipated.  Some were individual, others group and all took an excessive amount of effort to finish.  I could calculate approximately how many words I wrote, but I might frighten you.  Second semester turned out to be a bit better than the first, but there were still roadblocks along the way.  If you’re reading this, and considering coming to England to study from another country, just know that the teaching style here will probably be different than what you’re used to.  I’ve spent more hours teaching myself this year than I could have imagined.  While this is not entirely a bad thing, I wasn’t prepared for this, making the entire years a complete learning curve.  But, I did learn a great deal over the past 8 months.  I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in any one subject, but I do have a better understanding about a wide variety of digital marketing areas.
  1. I started my dissertation: Just when I thought my days were going to be a little easier…bam!  My proposal was approved, I received a supervisor and was off and rolling.  I’m really enjoying my topic so far and have been told it could really add some new knowledge to the marketing industry.  Who knows, maybe it will! More on my dissertation later, but don’t want to get ahead of myself.  Here’s a little hint…it’s all about hashtags!
  1. I spent 17 days traveling around Ireland, England and Scotland:  After handing in my last assignment, I had a few days to relax before catching a 6:50am flight from Southampton to Dublin to meet my parents.  While they had some issues (cancelled flight out of Chicago and unfriendly employees of an airline that will not be named), I made it to one of my favourite cities without any issues.  This trip was a great experience for the three of us, though I think my parents were pretty tuckered out by the time they returned how.  Admittedly, I was too! More posts and pictures to come on this trip in the coming days.

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I have no excuses anymore to not blog regularly.  In fact, blogging will probably help me clear my brain of my dissertation research and everything else that is going on.  Be on the lookout for posts about  the rest of my trip to Germany, most recent travels and any other new and exciting adventures I have from now on.

Sandmans New Europe Tour – Berlin

On Wednesday, I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to step out into Berlin and see more of this amazing city. Before arriving, some of my American friends recommended the Sandmans New Europe tours. I’ve been on a few free tours in other European cities with great experiences so I figured I’d try this one too.

On this morning I met my tourguide Rob, an Englishman with a sad love-story-gone-wrong, bringing him to Berlin a few years ago. I met him in the middle of Pariser Platz, or Paris Square, which looks upon the Brandenburger Tor. This square was named after the French capital in honour of the anti-Napoleon Allies’ occupation of Paris in 1814. Basically, Napoleon took the arch, put in near the Louvre, Germany took it back, renamed their square to mean the Victory (which sits on top the Brandenburg Gate) is always watching over Paris (or, the French). Pretty cheeky!

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We then learned a little history such as – did you know the word Berlin is Slovak? Or that Germany was once part of the Prussian empire? At one point, Prussia was “enormous” but eventually become part of Germany and Poland. In 1871, Germany unified and, under Prussian leadership, became the German Empire.

Next we came across the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This memorial was opened 9 years ago on the 60th Anniversary of WWII. It is centrally located, forcing people every day to confront the memorial and what it stands for. This memorial is specifically for 6 million Jewish people murdered during WWII; every other group of people were murdered during this time have their own memorial somewhere in Berlin. Peter Eisenam, the designer of the memorial, has left the meaning behind it up to interpretation for each individual. One interpretation we heard from Rob, was that it represents the rise of anti-Semitism. As you move in towards the middle of the memorial, it becomes deeper, making the stones taller. The memorial looks like a bell-shaped curve – lower on the edges and increase/peaks in the middle. The middle represent Hitler’s rein. This is not just a memorial, but also a warning for what we need to protect. Under the memorial is the Holocaust museum, which I plan to visit before leaving Berlin.

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From there we came across a car park. How is this interesting, you might ask? This car park is where Hitler’s Bunker used to be. It is now blank as to not glorify what was once there. It is also the site where Hitler and his wife, Ave, committed suicide in 1945, one day after their marriage.  Didn’t stay here long, as I’m sure you understand why!IMG_2401

Walking down the street in the rain, we came across Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus, which was once a Nazi building. In 1952, this mural was painted on it to “depict” what life in East Germany was like. More than likely, this was not a realistic representation, but more for show to the American and Soviet governments.

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Behind Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus is what the Berlin wall looked like in 1961. Its rounded top made it impossible for people to grab hold/climb over. Life in West Berlin was better than the east, and the wall separated many loved ones unexpectedly. In its 28 ½ years existence, only 121 people successfully made it from East Berlin to West Berlin.   This wall is the 7th version as it’s been torn down/rebuilt since its destruction in 1989.

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A quick walk from here brought us to Checkpoint Charlie, the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point during the Cold War and where the United States and Soviet Union met during this time period. Sargent Harper the American soldier pictured, looks towards East Berlin while the other side pictures a Soviet Union soldier, tasked to watch West Berlin.   Again, this is just a replicate, and according to Rob, not a completely accurate one.

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The rest of the tour took us through Tolerance Square, past the Dasconcert Haus, Deutsche Oper Berlin, the site of the 1933 Nazi Book Burning, TV Tower and ended on Museumsinsel. We also learner about the Ampelmännchen. This is the symbol shown on the cross walk sign. As one of the few features still in existence from communist East Germany, he has become a popular tourist symbol.

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Let’s be honest, I think I learned more about Berlin and Germany during this tour than I ever did in history class. Big shoutout to Rob for being an awesome tour guide, and for providing an educational, entertaining and enjoyable afternoon. Though it rained off and on, I am so glad I decided to go. I already have my Munich reservation so hopefully it’s as good as the Berlin tour!

Berlin the Beautiful

First day and I made it through alive!  Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but let’s just say I navigated the city and made it back to the hostel in one piece.  But, it has definitely been a long day!

Waking up at 2:45am is never easy, and grabbing a 4:30am coach to the airport is that much harder.   But, it beats paying for a night at a Heathrow hotel, which isn’t cheap.  I flew Germanwings from London to Berlin and was pleasantly surprised with the experience.  The flight was a little delayed, but only by 5 minutes.  The flight attendants were friendly and served water, cheese/ham sandwiches and chocolates to everyone onboard.  Better than a pack of peanuts if you ask me!

We touched down at Berlin Tegal and, of course, it began to rain.  It’s like I attract the rain wherever I go these days!  But, not bother.  Passport control was the best I’ve ever experienced.  Literally, walked off the plane, had my passport checked and stamped, and was on my way to baggage.  There were 4 passport checkers right at the end of the tunnel, which was unbelievable.  The bags arrived within 5 minutes of getting of the plane as well.  Kudos Berlin for making my airport experience an A+!

Once out of luggage claim, I easily found the Tourist Information desk to purchase my Berlin Welcome Card.  This card gives me access to all the public transportation as well as discounts at restaurants and museums.  Since I’ll be here 4 nights, it just made sense.  It’s also predicted to rain every day so now I won’t have to worry about getting stuck in it.

Next step…figure out how to get to my hostel, The Wombat.  Now, of course I did all the research I could before leaving home regarding directions, and the hostel provided very helpful directions on my confirmation email.  I took the TXL bus to Alexanderpratz, then the U2 (underground) from Alexanderprats to Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz.  From there, a few quick lefts and I was at my doorstop.

The Wombat staff was super friendly when I arrived and I only had to wait 20 minutes before checking into my room.  During that wait, I was handed a wifi password that’s good for 7 days.  Not bad since most hostels nowadays charge an arm and a leg for wifi.

Now, when I originally booked my room, I could only book two nights in a 6 mixed dorm and two nights in a 6 female dorm.  This meant I would have to check out after two nights and recheck-in.  Fortunately, The Wombat was able to put me into a 6 female dorm for all 4 nights, making my life a whole lot easier!

When I finally got into my room I met Vivian, an exchange student from Hong Kong studying for a semester in Liverpool.   Super friendly and also travelling on her own.

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With the sun peaking out from behind the clouds for a bit, I knew I needed to suck up the exhaustion and get out there.  I took the U2 to Potsdamer Platz and found some original pieces of the Berlin Wall on display.  From there I took a quick walk to fine Tiergarten.  Since I’ll probably be dodging rain for the next few days. I took a stroll through the park, taking in its greenness and spring-like smells.

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Then, I made a quick peak at the Reichstag building to see its beautiful glass dome and stone sculptures.

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On the way there I found the Memorial To The Sinti and Roma of Europe Murdered Under National Socialism.

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Next, I went from one side to the other of the Brandenburger Tor.  This city gate was built in the 18th century and was a symbol of divided Berlin and the Cold War.

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With the weather still on my side I walked up Unterden Linden to Schloβplatz for a quick look at Museumsinsel (Museum Island), Fernsehturm (TV Tower) and St. Marienkirche.

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Then, the wind started picking up and I realised all I ate today was a peanut butter sandwich and a few bites of my cheese sandwich on the airplane.  So I jumped back on the U2 from Alexanderplats (yep, ended up back there) towards the hostel.  Knowing I didn’t want to be too far from my hostel, I grabbed a quick Italian dinner at La Cucina next door.  Tortellini alla panna did the trick and I was back on my feet…and heading for the hostel.

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When I first checked in I received a drink coupon, but I don’t think I’ll be using that tonight! Better save it for tomorrow when I can enjoy it. Might even check-out the Photo Booth that’s outside my window then as well.  But for real, there’s a Photo Booth outside.

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For not, I think it’s time to head to my room, put on a movie and get ready for my New Europe Tour tomorrow morning!

There’s a First Time for Everything!

Well folks, today’s the day I step WAY out of my comfort and take my first solo trip. That’s right, solo, as in alone, by myself, no one accompanying me…you get the idea.

Now, if you know me or have read through my blog posts, you’re probably thinking: “Wait, didn’t you go to ASU for your undergrad not knowing anyone? Didn’t you move to Rome, Italy for 6 months? Don’t you currently live in England?” Yes, yes and yes. But, I wasn’t completely on my own in any of those places as they were all for academic purposes and I knew I’d meet people pretty quickly.

This is different. Today, I’m sitting in London Heathrow T1, enjoying a coffee and muffin from Pret and awaiting my flight to Berlin, Germany.

Germany has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Some of my ancestors are German or Prussian. Also, when it comes to history, one of my favourite time periods to study was, and is WWII, which includes the concentration camps and Holocaust.  There are so many memorials and museums dedicated to this time period that it only makes sense that I visit.  Aside from history, I do enjoy a glass, pint or litre of beer from time to time and what better place to experience a proper Beer Hall than in Munich?!

So, over the next 9 days, I’ll travel to Berlin and Munich to experience a brand new culture and way of life. I’m excited, a little nervous, but ready to see what this country throws my way. Stay tuned for updates from my German adventures!

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First Football (Soccer) Match

If you didn’t know this about me, I love sports. All sports.  I love watching them, playing them, you name it and I’ll try it.  In my family, if you don’t like sports, well, good luck!  Just filled out my March Madness bracket the other day and like most, it’s already in the toilet.

I grew up a dancer (ballet, tap, jazz, pointe, hip hop, modern, you get the picture) but dabbled with sports in between.  Had my time playing softball – not for me.  I really liked baseball but once I was at a certain level I was asked to leave because I was a “liability”/they were afraid I was going to get hurt by the pitching machine.  In high school I played golf, and still play whenever I can.  When I lived in Arizona, being able to play golf had its bonuses as you can play all year long!

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 20.05.34In terms of watching sports, I’ll watch anything.  I like:

Baseball (Go Cubs!)

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American Football (Go Pack Go!)

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Hockey (Let’s Go Hawks!)

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Now Football (or as we silly Americans call it, Soccer) is a sport I didn’t grow up with.  Sure, I went to a few matches in high school and played it in gym class, but it isn’t as popular in the states as it is everywhere else in the world.  So, living in the UK and trying to take in as much culture as possible, I experienced my first football match on 15th March 2014 – a Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Norwich.

IMG_3194We arrived at St. Mary’s Stadium on a surprisingly pleasant and sunny Saturday to a sea of red.  It’s nice to see people supporting the Saints through jerseys, t-shirts, scarves and beyond.

IMG_3190 IMG_3212We purchased out tickets through the University of Southampton and were seated in one of the corners.  A little worried about these seats, I was happily proven wrong.  The stadium holds a little over 30,000 people so there isn’t a bad seat in the house!  We were early enough to grab a pie, cider and watch warm-ups.

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With 20 minutes before the match, more than half the seats were emqpty.  But, as I soon learned, the seats fill up about 5 minutes before the whistle blows.  We contributed this to the fact that you can’t bring alcohols past the concession stands, so everyone drinks before finding their seats.

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When the match stated, the atmosphere changed dramatically.  It was a bit hard to understand the chants and cheers of the fans but there was one I did recognize – “When the Saints go Marching In”.  Having gone to a Catholic school for part of my life, and our mascot being the I.C. Saints, this was a familiar tune.  So, I joined in as best as I could.

Southampton beat Norwich that sunny Saturday, 4-2.   Not bad for my first, but definitely not last, Football match!

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