Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Still Stateside...

Hello again, this time from Montana!

I have now been "home" home since last Monday, and it has been wonderful to reconnect with my parents, sisters, Matt, his family, and friends. It definitely took me a while to get readjusted sleep-wise, but I'm back on track now. Emotionally, the transition has been easier than expected. For now, I'm just thankful to be home and enjoying the Christmas season. What I'm really worried about is our January Term, where reality is truly going to hit. I'll be taking a four credit class in three short weeks, meaning I'll be in a middle-school classroom for about four hours each morning, and in lecture for about four hours each afternoon. Intense, to say the least!

But before I start worrying about that, I better fill you in on the last part of my trip. Just like my previous posts, I'm just going to give you a couple of sentences on each place:

Oxford- Honestly, I didn't enjoy Oxford as much as I enjoyed Cambridge. It wasn't as "homey" feeling, and wasn't laid out as nicely. However, we did have a really good tour, including many J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis references. Most of our group paid a visit to the "Eagle and Child," the pub where the two met on a regular basis.

Stratford- Shakespeare central! Our group was able to take advantage of many of the opportunities offered by the Royal Shakespeare Company, including two performances of "Twelfth Night" (one regular, one understudy), a tour of Shakespeare's birthplace, a stage combat class, a Q&A session with one of the actors, and a look at their archives. One of my favorite weeks!

Bath- Beautiful Georgian architecture set the stage for our study of Jane Austen's "Persuasion." While we were there, I toured the Roman Baths, ate a formal lunch in the Pump Room restaurant, had cream tea (scones, clotted cream, jam, and tea) at the Jane Austen Centre, and spent two hours in the Therme Spa (the rooftop pool was amazing!).

Lyme Regis- Quintessential British seaside town. Stayed in a luxury B&B overlooking the ocean (where Rolling Stones' drummer, Charlie Watts, also stayed while we were there!) and enjoyed many walks along the coast. It was not peak tourist season, so it felt like we had the place to ourselves. We were able to reenact a scene from "Persuasion," which was a lot of fun for our whole group.

Plymouth- Actually, we did not stay in Plymouth itself, but at a place called Battisborough House about ten miles away. Basically, we had an entire mini-mansion to run wild in. Again, we were right by the coast: huge black cliffs, crazy wind and waves. This place was remote (i.e. no cell phone coverage, no internet), which led to a lot of quality bonding and hanging-out time for all of us. We celebrated Thanksgiving here by cooking an entirely homemade dinner and sharing it family-style- one of my favorite memories of the trip :)

Salisbury- Salisbury itself was not that significant, other than its close proximity to Stonehenge. It does have a magnificent cathedral, but unfortunately, I spent much of my time here finishing up final papers...

Stonehenge- This was about the only thing I actually "did" in Salisbury. To be quite honest, I wasn't that impressed! It was a miserably cold and windy day, leading to a very quick walk around. You couldn't get very close to the stones, and it was smaller than I envisioned. We took the necessary pictures, and headed out.

London- Our third and final time here! Much of the time was spent Christmas shopping. Bought a lovely rose-covered teapot at Harrod's (what Macy's is for NYC, Harrod's is to London), visited the Tower of London, and had my last serving of fish and chips. It was definitely a bitter-sweet time...

And now, I'm home. It still feels very surreal that all of this is over. The only thing I can compare it to is the feeling I get after Christmas is over, but on a whole new scale. So much anticipation, and I still can't even believe that I actually did half of the things I did. It's definitely going to take a long time to process this all...

Looking back on my goals, I feel pretty accomplished. I was "at home" in England, discovered a lot more about the world, understand the works I read on a whole new plane, learned a lot about myself and gained a lot of confidence, and had an amazing time doing it! I wouldn't trade this trip for anything, and am so incredibly grateful that I was able to do it.

I have no idea how this trip will impact me in the future, but I'm sure it will all be for the better. I feel much more confident in my abilities to make it on my own, but also discovered that I really want that "certain someone" by my side :) Living in a different culture was sometimes difficult, but I appreciate America in an entirely different way now. Coming into this trip, I didn't know many of the other members, but I left them feeling I have 21 new lifelong friends.

Finally, thanks to all of you for reading! I hope you've enjoyed living my trip vicariously through me :) If you ever want to talk to me about the trip or see pictures (I have about 4,000 to wade through!), please don't hesitate to ask! I would love to share/process with you!

Merry Christmas to you all, and best wishes for the New Year!

Allison <3

Friday, December 4, 2009


Hello from Minnesota!

Yes, as hard as it is to believe, I am back in the U.S. already! This is a short post just to let you all know I made it home safely. Our flight back went extremely well, and I am so happy to be back with my roommates again :) This weekend, they are going to help me get all of my stuff out of storage and into our apartment (which I am extremely grateful for!) Monday morning, I fly back to Montana, and will really be "home" then. I cannot wait to see my family, and Matt, and his family!

I am a bit jet-lagged, as you can imagine. Went to bed at 10:00 last night, which was really like 4:00 am. Bleh...

Because of this, I am not going to blog about the last leg of the trip just yet. However, have no fear-- I won't have much to do for the next month but spend quality time with loved ones and get ready for Christmas :)

Here is the preview list for next post: Oxford, Stratford, Bath, Lyme Regis, Plymouth, Salisbury and Stonehenge, one last time in London... and probably a few things that I'm too out of it to remember now!

Love to you all, and happy belated Thanksgiving! (I had much to be thankful for, believe me!)
Allison <3

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Greetings From Canterbury, Pilgrims!

Hello Again Pilgrims!

Sending you this within sight of Canterbury Cathedral. We have just spent a great couple of days within the Cathedral Precincts, studying Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales." While I confess that Middle English is not my favorite, I definitely have a new appreciation for this work after spending time at the pilgrim's end goal.

This posting will be quite brief, as it is mainly for the purpose of letting my family know I am ok. We are off to Oxford tomorrow, to take a literary walk focusing on J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Understandably, I am very excited for this! Plus, it should be funny to hear of the Oxford/Cambridge rivalry, AFTER being to Cambridge.

On the way here (Canterbury), we did have a stop at the Hundred Acre Wood, for a slightly less literary stop at Pooh Stick's Bridge. We played Pooh Sticks, and saw Piglet's house. A great time was had by all :)

Personally, I am at a very interesting point in England Term. Over here, the Christmas Season is in near-full swing, which is making me very homesick. Also, everyone in our group is getting physically sick, it seems, which makes for a bunch of cranky and weary travellers. As much fun as we are having, I think everyone is starting to miss the comforts of home (Read: Mom!). I am also getting a little travel-weary, and miss Matt and the family terribly. So, prayers for endurance and renewed appreciation for being over here would be greatly appreciated :)

That's all for now. I don't know when I'll post next, but until then, love to you all!

Allison <3

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cheers from Tunbridge Wells!

Hello Faithful Readers,

Long time, no see! Yes, I realize it has officially been over a month since I last posted. I do feel a bit guilty about that... but not too much :)
Internet abroad is spotty at best. If you have it, often it is not free. Even if it is free, I usually have to beg a laptop off of some one. So, if you want more posts, please send me a laptop :)

Now, on to what you all want to read: My Recent Travels. Since I last published, I have been to three countries I haven't been to before-- Northern Ireland, France, and Italy. More specifically, I have been to Belfast, Bayeaux, Paris, Venice, Florence, and Rome. We regrouped in London, where we had another whirlwind week. Now, we are in South East England, at a retreat center called Salomon's for some much needed R&R. Like before, I'm just going to attempt a two-sentence summary of each, so I don't lose you in the details...

Belfast: Homestays! My dear friend Nelly Patterson and I stayed with the interns of Fisherwick Presbyterian Church. We spent the weekend hanging out with a bunch of international 20-somethings, and laughing over cultural differences. Countries represented include the U.S., Spain, and Ireland.
Bayeaux- First foreign language speaking experience (to be honest, it was a bit rocky). My 20th birthday was spent touring the Normandy beaches and eating dinner in a French restaurant, having poetry written in my honor recited to me. Then, I got flowers :) Simply wonderful.
Paris- The City of Lights! In case you were wondering, Parisian people really dislike Americans as much as everyone says they do, unfortunately for us. However, once my mom got there, we managed to "do" the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe. In a day. Do we know how to travel or what?

Now begins the magic that was free travel :)
As I mentioned, my lovely mumsy was able to come join me for a "Highlights" Tour of Italy. We went with a fairly big tour group, complete with personal radios and a flag waving tour director (named Mercedes Medici. Seriously.) Being part of a tour was actually the best decision we could have made. All of the plans were made for us; all we had to do was sit back and enjoy!
First Stop, Venice: My personal favorite of our trip. So many quaint pastel buildings, complete with laundry hanging to dry. Innumerable little canals and bridges made for many picturesque sites. We got to see a glassblowing demonstration on the Isle of Murano, which has been a lifelong dream of Mom's :)
Then, on to Florence: On the way there, took the required picture stop at the Leaning Tower of Pisa (not the highlight of our trip, I might add.) While in Florence, we took in the Ponte Vecchio, The Duomo and Baptistery, and Michelangelo's "David." A beautiful city, with such a rich artistic past!
Finally, Rome: Between Florence and Rome, we stopped in Assisi (as in St. Francis of Assissi). It turned out to be a very charming little town with gorgeous vistas and a peaceful atmosphere. Then, on to the chaos that is Rome! The traffic, especially the motorbikes, is even worse than they say it is! During out time there, we took in the Trevvi Fountain, Spanish Steps, the Colosseum, the Forum, and St. Peter's Basilica (We saw the Pope!). An unexpected highlight was seeing the Italian version of the Changing of the Guards.
During our Italian holiday, mom and I consumed a lot of pizza, pasta, and gelato. We also had many good conversations, and altogether, a wonderful time. I was very sad to see her go :(
(However, Dad and the girls were very glad to see her back!)

After those incredible ten days, I immediately jumped into an incredible week in London. During those seven days, I saw/went to: The British Museum, the Museum of London, the Tate Modern, Westminster Abbey, The Imperial War Museum, Harrods, the Natural History Museum, the British Library (for a performance of "Beowulf," complete with harp), and "Les Miserables" on the West End. Needless to say, it was an amazing week, but an exhausting one as well.

Now, I am actually caught up to the present. While in Tunbridge Wells, we are going to have a lot of class time, as well as a lot of time built in for relaxing and enjoying each other's company.
My apologies if this got long, but a lot happens in an England Term month! :)
I barely scratched the surface of everything I did. If you want more details or have any questions, please feel free to comment or send me an email. Or, I can definitely fill you in when I get home :)
As hard as it is for me to believe, we now have only 5 weeks left of this unforgettable journey. During the last two months, I have seen my confidence grow, as well as my sense of independence and adventure. However, even though I now know I can survive just fine without the comforts of home, I still am looking forward to coming back to them :)
Based on my past blogging records, I'll post once more (if you're lucky) before we're done haha.
Only joking. Mostly...

Until next time,
Allison <3

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Greetings From Ireland!

Hello Again Readers!

I apologize for my three-week lapse in posts! As you can imagine, my life is constant chaos right now! Since I wrote last, I have been to York, London, High Leigh (a conference center north of London), Dublin, and Sligo! I will attempt to do a brief, one or two sentence summary of each, or this posting will get entirely too long!

York- So meaningful! (Mostly just because of the surname, I'll confess!) We went to York Minster (so gorgeous), walked the Roman walls, and experienced the Jorvik Viking center (Think Pirates of the Caribbean at Disney meets historical Viking town--smells and all). Bought many Christmas presents there, be forewarned!
London- Where do I begin? Such a whirlwind week! Riding the Tube/Underground ("Mind the Gap!), took a red bus tour and saw all the sights, took a river cruise on the Themes, went out dancing, went shopping, basically did the "tourist thing." Next time, museums and shows!
High Leigh- Much needed break after London. A lot of classes (yes, we do study over here!), and a fun "Party" (talent show) in which I performed some self-written "emo" poetry about Edward Cullen (hence, the Facebook pictures).
Dublin- Now I understand all of the stereotypes about the Irish being big drinkers! We were there for the 250th birthday of Guinness, which I'm sure didn't help matters. Went to the Dublin Writer's Museum, went on a James Joyce Walk, and took in a comedy show at a local pub (great way to understand the culture and current events, believe it or not!)
Sligo- Everything I thought Ireland should be! Green, sheep, farms, rolling hillsides, and best of all, the ocean! Our cottages are right by the coast, and fully lives up to the expectations of the gorgeous West Coast of Ireland. Also, a good spot for some "down time" after Dublin.

Next, we're off to Belfast (where we have homestays!), and then France! My birthday (one week from today) will be spent on the beaches of Normandy and banqueting in Bayeux :)

Love Until Next Post,

P.S. To family and roommates- I won't be able to call until Belfast, because I can't add money until I am back in the UK. So, until then, think of me fondly!
Special note to my mom: I can't wait to see you! It's coming up so fast :) Please bring me some more pens (handwriting 2000 word essays really depleted my supply!) Gel pens, blue, o.5 mm, you know what I like :) And don't worry, we will talk on the phone before then! Don't stress :)

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Hello From Wales!

I'm currently stationed at St. Deniol's Library, which is a residential library in the small town of Hawarden, Wales (Coincidentally, pronounced the same as Hardin!). We are here for almost a week, relaxing, reading, and writing papers. On our way down, we stopped in Liverpool and visited the Beatles' Story :) (Emily K- I took lots of pictures for you!)
The time we spent in the Lake District was idyllic. Beautiful views everywhere, and a good time of community bonding in our own private conference center.
Our next stop is YORK! I can't wait! I will probably buy their gift shop out :) We are on to London after that, which I'm sure will be unforgettable. We are doing "the tourist thing" this visit to London (I think we end up there three different times...), and will be having fun visiting museums and taking the Tube and such.
This is going to be a quick posting, because I am borrowing a very nice friend's computer "just to check my email," so I should probably get it back to her. Just so you all know, I am happy and healthy (that was mostly for Mom and Dad). By the way, Mom and Dad- When my phone is out of the service area, incoming calls go straight to voicemail, which explains our problems earlier this week. Also, I got my glasses fixed for FREE at the Queensferry Walmart! (Yes, there are Walmarts over here!)

Lots of Love to you all! Next Post: After London...

Allison <3

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Many Apologies from England!

Hello All!
I am so incredibly sorry that it has taken this long for me to blog on England Term! As hard as it is to believe, I have already been in the UK for over a week now. We just finished up an amazing week in Edinburgh, Scotland. I toured the castle, experienced the Festival, and saw the Royal Military Tattoo. I fell in love with the Scottish people, their fierce pride, and their hatred of the English :) It was a sad day when we had to leave, even though we were there for almost a week.

We then visited the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, and enjoyed seeing the North Sea coastline. Our next stop was Durham, England, where we visited their magnificent cathedral. We are currently stationed in Keswick, England (Northern Lake District Area). It is gorgeous! Green (and sheep!) everywhere! So picturesque and quaint- everything I had hoped for :)

One prayer concern is for communication (or lack thereof). While I am having an excellent time, I feel like I am being very lax in keeping in touch with loved ones back home, which is taking a serious toll on some of my most important relationships. I don't know an immediate solution. I want to enjoy this experience to the fullest, but also realize I can't neglect those still at home.

But, other than that, I am having the time of my life. "Learning on Location" is better than I had ever imagined! I am forming some amazing friendships, seeing some amazing sights, and learning a ton about all of my favorite subjects. You just might lose me to the UK! :)

Cheers and Love to You All!
(And phone calls and postcards to follow!)