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.

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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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An American/British/Faroese Thanksgiving

Well, another Thanksgiving has come and gone, but it will be one I’ll always remember.

As we sat at lunch on 28 November before a 4 hour lecture, one of my friends asked me, “will this be your first Thanksgiving without family?” At that point, I truly realised how far away I was from my family. Boom, just like that, total shut down. Let’s just say sitting through that lecture was not a pleasant experience.

Fortunately, I had something to look forward to after class. Thanks to the hospitality of some amazing friends, we feasted like…Americans! There was turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole and the best homemade gravy I’ve ever had.

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Great food, Call of Duty, and some amazing friends made this year’s Thanksgiving in England a memorable one.

A night out at the German Bar

Let me tell you, being a postgrad is not all fun and games.  But, when times get stressful, my friends and I are learning that we need to step away from the computers, close the books, and have a little fun.  On Thursdays, we have lecture from 2:00pm – 6:00pm.  This, my friends, is a very long time to try and pay attention to one lecturer.

Usually after this lecture we head to The Stag’s Head, our campus pub, for pizza, beer, and table football (foosball).  Last Thursday, we decided to branch out and head to the city centre.

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With the holidays approaching, Southampton is slowly changing into a winter wonderland.  At the city centre, the food stalls have been converted into Bavarian-themed huts and they’ve placed a German Bar smack dab in the middle of everything.  With our brains feeling like mush after class, we decided to check it out.

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Now, for a German Bar, in England, we expected some of the workers to be, well, German.  Low and behold, they were English.  But, the beer was cold, the mulled wine was hot, and the sausages were delicious!

IMG_2359IMG_2363With reports, essays and presentations looming over our heads, it’s hard to take a few minutes, or hours, for ourselves.  But, thanks to the holiday spirit, we took a timeout from university life and had a memorable evening.

DM Group at German Bar

Creative DigiFest

Yesterday I attended the Creative DigiFest at the De Vere Grand Harbour Hotel in Southampton, England.  The morning consisted of business pitches given to a panel of 5 “Dragons”.  There were some very innovative ideas and the video gives snippets from each pitch.

As a DigiChamp, I took videos and tweeted throughout the event.  Check-out my Twtitter profile, @AmandaBobel, to see more tweets and pictures from the event or click here: https://twitter.com/AmandaBobel.  Make sure to start following me so we can explore and experience the digital marketing world together!

 

Crafting is the Best Medicine for Stress Relief

Homesickness.  If you’ve ever lived away from home, you know exactly what this is.  If you haven’t, it isn’t fun.  I knew there would be a day that I’d start to miss home but it’s not something you mark on the calendar and prepare for in advance.  It hits you when you’re most vulnerable.  For me, that day was Monday.  Middle of the semester, one course ending, another course starting, due dates looming over my head…the elements of a perfect storm.  Alas, meltdown.  Thanks Mom and Dad for answering my Skype call so late at night!

I needed something to get my mind off school for an afternoon so my friends Liv, Foteini, and I decided we needed a little craft therapy.  And, what perfect timing, as the holidays are quickly approaching.

On Wednesday we set out to some craft shops, the pound store, and the 99P store for some affordable materials and headed to Liv’s house.  Prior to our arrival, Liv put out Christmas candies and had her iPad ready with festive music.  We listened to Christmas tunes in English, Swedish, Faroese, Danish, and maybe a few others, I can’t be quite certain.   She even made us a delicious, homemade dinner to end the evening.  Best hostess ever!  Many thanks to the Justinussen home for your hospitality.

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In the end, we only finished a few crafts but had some much needed girl talk.  One of the crafts we made were snowflakes out of popsicle sticks which you can find here: http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/originals/9c/31/56/9c31568348fd88258e439f6362f73963.jpg.  We also made yarn bowls – http://www.saifou.com/entry/20670.html -, but they were still drying when we left so I’m really hoping they turned out.

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We’ll just have to see next Wednesday night when we have Crafting Night Part 2.

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The University of Southampton’s Web Science Institute

Yesterday, The University of Southampton launched the Web Science Institute.  With only one other WSI in England, this is a very exciting time for the University and Web Science programme.   The Institute will study the web and the impacts it has on economics, politics, technology, and society.

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(An introduction from Vice-Chancellor, Professor Don Nutbeam)

In an interview with BBC News, Professor Dame Wendy Hall, one of the WSI founders, said, “There is a ‘perfect storm’ brewing which combines open data, open education and open research, so this is a very exciting time to be launching the Web Science Institute.”  For the full article, check out: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-24898583

In addition to the WSI launch, the University’s first MOOC went live yesterday.  This Massive Open Online Course focuses on the origins and evolution of the web.  As of yesterday, thousands have signed up for the course from all over the world.  For more information on the Web Science MOOC, and future University of Southampton MOOCs, visit the Future Learn website: https://www.futurelearn.com/partners/university-of-southampton.

IMG_2230(Dr. Lisa Harris speaking about the Digital Economy)

Fellow DigiChamp Merel van Dijke and I were invited to the launch to conduct interviews with key members of the WSI as well as other University of Southampton Web Science staff members.  Working with Simon Morice and David Willox, we set-up video equipment, took pictures, and were prepped with questions.  When it came time to conduct the interviews, I was a bit intimidated.  Here I was, an international MSc student, ready to interview some of the most influential people in the Web Science world.

But, once we started rolling, my nerves settled and I started to enjoy the experience. Some of the people we interviewed were:

  • Vice–Chancellor, Professor Don Nutbeam
  • Professor, Dame Wendy Hall
  • Professor, Sir Nigel Shadbolt

They were all very nice and extremely knowledgeable, making for smooth, informative interviews.

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(Interviewing Professor, Sir Nigel Shadbolt)

With the world of Web Science evolving right before our eyes, this event has made me extremely excited and curious about the knowledge and technologies that will come about in the approaching years.