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United Kingdom

Last Month of Class!

May was a busy month for me! We only had class the first week before our school’s exam period started. During this period, we have no classes as they want you to use the time to study. I had three classes with papers for our final and only one with an exam. The exam environment was also so different to the one I’m used to! They have it in a big hall and assign you a desk to take it. They have multiple proctors during it, and make you place your student ID onto the desk for them to check and sign a registry! I had to use the washroom and instead of just being able to go, I had to be escorted by someone all the way into the washroom and she then stood outside the stall! I was shocked that they take their exams this way. It was very stressful because the papers account for 100% of my grade! I had one paper that needed a word count of 6,000- I have no ideas how I pulled that one off! May was also the month of Ramadan, so on top of all of this, I was fasting as well! The fasts here were pretty long and averaged about 18 hours! I tried to visit some family to get good home-cooked meals, but I was only able to go twice since my schedule was so hectic. I also had a friend fasting with me for a portion of the month, so that was nice of her and made me feel less alone. One of my friends from Concordia also came to visit me during this time! It was so nice to have someone from home around. She also really wanted to go to Italy while she was there so after much debating, I finally gave in and we booked flights for the next day! It was definitely my most spontaneous trip, but we had the best time! I even got to recreate one of my Mom’s pictures from when she lived there! 

My mom when she lived in Milan.

Me copying my mom’s photo!

Me in Milan!

I’m sad the semester is done, but also happy that I’m done with all the work I had to do! I’m in Morocco again right now and will back in London mid-june and stay for another month. I’m excited to be able to explore without the stress of school! 

 

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Spring Break Abroad!

April was very packed for me! I started the month in Bordeaux, France with my friend Sophia. It was a very cute city and where we were staying was very French, complete with a cute little balcony. We ate baguettes and cheese and walked around a lot! We also went to this really good restaurant that made me start to think of food as an experience. It was truly gastronomic and I keep thinking about their lemon tart… 

Street in Bordeaux.

Statue of Alexander the Great in Greece.

I then went to Thessaloniki, Greece for a Gilman Summit! It was run by the US State Department in collaboration with Fulbright. I got to meet so many amazing, genuine people and it was definitely an experience I will always be fond of. We toured the city as well as some businesses there and met with a lot of local government officials as well as the US Ambassador to Greece! We were able to talk about a wide array of topics from the Syrian refugee crisis and the Greek economy to how to become an Ambassador to a country like Greece (Hint: You either put in 20+ years of hard work and luck out by handling a big problem or you donate a lot of money to a presidential campaign). 

Gilman Scholars at the event in Thessaloniki.

Gilman Scholars with Geoffrey Pyatt, the US Ambassador to Greece.

I then went to Marrakech, Morocco where I met up with my good friend and flatmate, Yasmine! She is from there so we stayed with her and she showed me and my friend around. It is really a different life there since the culture is so different. Everyone drives really fast and the only way to get to where you’re going is by knowing in advance how to get to where you’re going! We were so lucky to have someone to be able to drive us around and do the talking for us so we didn’t get ripped off at places like the old market. It was also so hot there! It was hot in Greece as well, but we were near a body of water there so there was a nice breeze. In Marrakech, there is no body of water and when the sun is on you, it is ON you! I could literally feel every degree of heat and it was only in the 80s! 

Market in the Old City.

Majorelle Gardens.

Old City Market.

Exploring was fun, but now I need to get back to reality as all my coursework for all my classes are due and it’s exam season! I am looking forward to that being over! 

Until next time. 



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The Trip of a Lifetime
As of April 30, 2019, I officially finished my semester abroad at Westfield House in Cambridge, England. Just typing that sentence is unbelievable because I never thought I would be able to study abroad. This semester has been such an incredible and life-changing experience. I am so thankful for all the people who made it possible for me. If I had to pick one word to describe this whole experience and semester I would choose “surreal.” Merriam-Webster defines surreal as “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream” with synonyms such as “fantastic” and “unbelievable.” In many ways this semester has been a dream come true. I cannot recommend strongly enough what an incredible experience studying abroad has been. Obviously, I can only speak from my own experience, but if study abroad is even a slight possibility try as hard as possible to make it happen. I could write pages and pages about what I want other people to know about study abroad, but I doubt anyone would want to read all of that and this is just a short blog post so I will choose just a few. First, I think many shy away from study abroad because of the expense. Travel in the United States is very expensive. Honestly, my plane ticket to and from the U.S. was the most expensive part of my entire semester. Study abroad does not have to cause additional financial strain. There are more scholarships available for students studying abroad and this semester, even with all my travel and other expense, ended up being significantly less expensive than a normal semester at Concordia. The money that I did spend was not going toward tuition or room and board but to incredible trips across Europe that I will never forget. This aspect of study abroad depends heavily on what each person chooses to spend their money on, but with good planning and budgeting study abroad does not have to be an additional cost of college and might even save money! Second, also dependent on each person and program, I will never get another chance like this to travel. Westfield House does not have classes on Friday, so each weekend was a three-day weekend and a much lighter homework load gave me so much freedom to travel. Not so much in England but in other parts of Europe students can get a cheaper price on train or bus tickets and special discounts as museums. In Paris my friends and I got into Versailles, the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and the Pantheon for free because we were students! Nowhere in the United States can you get a flight for $20 and just hop over to another country for the weekend or take a short train ride and end up at the Queen’s country estate. It is wild to watch movies or read books set in Europe and recognize all the places I have been in the last four months. There are so many things I could regret not getting to do but it would take multiple lifetimes to go to all the places I want to visit. Instead, reflecting on the semester, I almost cannot believe all the places I have been because they are places I never thought I would visit. Finally, studying abroad has given me a much broader perspective of myself and the world. The ability to travel and experience a taste of life in other countries is an eye-opening experience. There are some things that I am very excited to come back to in the U.S., but there are other things I will miss about Europe. England is a very orderly country and I have come to appreciate this so much. For example, riding an escalator everyone standing stays on the right side while people walking up or down can pass on the left side. So simple! Stepping out of American culture and the places I was familiar with, even just for such a short time, has been so good to reevaluate what I do and why. This, I think, is the most important reason to study abroad. While saving money and traveling the world are incredible, the personal changes and growth I have seen in myself is what I am most proud of. I am not coming back to the U.S. as the same person I was when I left. I cannot exactly explain what is different, and maybe others will not even notice, but there is a difference. I feel like I have rediscovered and uncovered new parts of myself. I do not yet know how this will translate back into American culture and how my new perspectives and thoughts will fit into my old spaces, but I am so excited to see what happens and for all the adventures I will have in the future!

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March in London
March was a fun month. I went to Sky Garden, which offers a nice view of the city for free! My friends and I also went to the Saint Patricks Day parade which was very cool! They had lots of good Irish music and dancing! The London Eye also turned green for the night. My friends and I took a day trip to Dover, Kent and hiked up the Cliffs of Dover. It was really beautiful and I love being next to an open body of water! Also, I swear I could see France on the other side. I have a friend interning at Parliament and she offered to give my friends and me a tour which we, of course, took her up on. It was very beautiful and we ate inside one of the nice restaurants inside which are cheap because the prices are subsidized by their government. It was also interesting to be in the gallery while the House of Commons were in session, but they were not voting on anything regarding Brexit so it was not as heated as I hope it would be. My classes ran through the first week of April before they let us off for our three week-long Easter break! I am excited to spend that time exploring the city and other places.

The view at Sky Garden.

The London Eye turned green for St. Patrick’s day.

Me and my friend in Dover, Kent.

Me in Dover, Kent.

Parliament.

Inside parliament.



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Adventure is Out There

Studying abroad, as the name implies, is an educational experience, but these three months in England so far have been filled with learning experiences both in and out of my classes. The different circumstances, opportunities, and experiences have allowed me to reflect on and grow in my personal life. It is crazy to think in less than a month I will be done with my classes in Cambridge and just a few weeks after that I will be returning to the United States. I have been on so many incredible adventures and I am so excited for my last few before the semester ends, but in the midst of these adventures I have also been taking time to reflect on this.

One of the biggest day-to-day changes in my life (other than being half-way across the world, of course!) is having free time. This has been a really lovely change because I have had time to spend time exploring, hanging out with friends, reading for fun (not just for classes!), and journaling and reflecting. Journaling and reflecting allows me to the see the ways I am changing this semester and how I have grown. One of the biggest areas I have grown in is my confidence and independence. I laugh thinking about how often I would be nervous or skip events on campus or in the Twin Cities because I did not want to go somewhere alone. Since being in Europe I have flown to Barcelona and Paris all by myself not counting all the smaller trips I have gone on by myself in England and Cambridge. When I come back to the United States I want to continue growing in this area and keep exploring new places and going to new things even if I have to go by myself. While I always recommend travelling with other people (it’s more fun and safer!) short solo trips are also always a fun little adventure.

Another area I have grown in is my planning and organization. I have always considered myself a pretty organized person but planning trips in new places travelling only by public transport and trying to coordinate buses and planes and trains and places to stay and sightseeing is a whole new level of planning and organization. When first coming to the Twin Cities I was intimidated by the Green Line and the bus system in the Cities and rarely ever used them for this reason. Here in England, I do not have an option and have become very familiar with public transport in England. It is time consuming the requires careful planning, but it is so worth the effort!

These changes have created a better sense of independence and adventure within me and I am excited to keep exploring after I return home. It continues to blow my mind that people live their everyday lives in these beautifully historic places I am visiting. This has given me a greater desire to explore the places I live. I might have to go alone and it might take some planning (although I can drive myself in the U.S.) but adventures do not have to happen only on special occasions. Each day is a new adventure and I want to continue appreciating the places God has put me in and learning and growing wherever the future takes me.



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Tours, Tours, Tours
In the past two months studying abroad in Cambridge I have probably been on more guided tours than the rest of my life put together. Touring often goes hand-in-hand with visiting new places, especially when traveling in groups of people. In my first two weeks in Cambridge I think our group did three or four walking tours only of Cambridge, not including tours of various churches and London. However, these tours have been some of best learning experiences of my time abroad so far. It is so fun to learn from locals, especially when they are passionate and add their own personality and funny comments into the tour. Another great plus is there are lots of free walking tours or audio tours that are covered in the price of admission. I spent the last weekend in February in Edinburgh with a group of students from my study abroad program. I instantly fell in love with Edinburgh and went on the two best tours of my time abroad so far! On Friday our group did the free Potter Trails Harry Potter walking tour of Edinburgh. Our guide was so knowledgeable not only about Harry Potter, but also about J.K. Rowling’s life and the history of Edinburgh. She also gave us all wands, kept us entertained with spells and Harry Potter trivia along the way, and gave us some advice for other great places to visit in Edinburgh! On Sunday I was hoping to do a tour of the Scottish Highlands but discouraged by the prices of all the tours I was finding. Somehow, I stumbled across a free tour given by Hairy Coo Tours, a wordplay on the traditional Scottish Hairy Cows. I got some friends to sign up for the tour for me just to be safe and read many reviews online to verify this free tour was not a scam. The tour turned out to be such a fun experience and we learned so much about the Highlands and Scottish history along the way. It was such a fun way to experience the beautiful scenery of the Highlands and definitely fit my student budget! For anyone traveling or studying abroad I would highly recommend looking at tours in the areas you are visiting. While tours are not everyone’s favorite thing, in my experience so far it has been a great way to see the highlights of a city while learning about its history and quirks from a local. Do some research in advance (TripAdvisor and Pinterest are my most visited websites at this point) and be open-minded to some unique experiences! You will learn a lot along the way and hopefully create some fun memories!

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Weekend Trips in Europe

I have officially been in Europe for a little over a month now! My classes have been going well and have had way less work attached to them than I am used to. This has given me time to take weekend trips almost every weekend!

One of our program trips was to Bath, England where we got to explore the Roman baths and see the cute town’s architecture. We also went to Stonehenge which I was excited about and surprised to learn that it is literally in the middle of nowhere. Just rocks in the middle of a lot of land.. why did they put them there? I think it functioned as a clock, but all I know is that it was pretty cute.

Roman baths.

 

Stonehenge.

We also went to Wales where I fell in love with Welsh cakes! They are kind of like scones, but not quite a scone. They are, however, very good. Wales had the most amount of sheep I have ever seen and also gave me two rainbows in one day! How perfect!

My friends and I at Caerphilly Castle in South Wales.

 

Me at Tintern Abbey in Wales.

My friend and I took a weekend trip to Paris and it was so much fun! I have still not stopped thinking about their croissants which were the best I have ever had. We also went to the Louvre and seeing the Mona Lisa in real life was amazing, but I honestly thought she would be a little bigger. We visited Versailles while we were there and I do have to say that Louis XIV really went off on the palace design, especially the garden. When we went back to Paris and climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe (I’m still not sure if the view was worth the 1 million steps) we were blessed with the most incredible view! Paris at sunset with the Eiffel Tower in full view. It was honestly breathtaking and I still cannot believe that I saw such an insane view with my own eyes! Wild!

Me in front of the Mona Lisa.

 

Me in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Amazing view at the top of the Arc de Triomphe.

I have also been exploring London since we have been having really great weather. My friends and I were even able to have a picnic in Kensington Gardens yesterday!

Our spread at our Kensington Gardens picnic.



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London, England
Hey everyone! I have been in London for almost two weeks now, and it has been really cool. I used the first week as a get my life together week and ended up buying a lot of stuff for my room/bathroom like cleaning supplies and a thicker duvet since it was a lot colder than I anticipated, as well as things for our kitchen. I actually got very overwhelmed while grocery shopping and came back with only pasta and an apple. Needless to say, I had to make another trip. I also met up with a fellow Gilman Scholar and we went to the British Museum (all museums are free! How cool!) which was very interesting. We also had a few orientations and meetings for school, however, I mostly tried to adjust to the time difference. This week was the start of my classes, and I have been very shocked! Their classes are about the same as ours, however, the students speak a lot freer and do as they wish during class. I have mostly noticed this with my smaller classes and our professors just roll with it, so I am assuming that is the norm. They do have considerably less assignments though, as all bar one of my classes is wholly graded off a single assignment. This weekend we are going to Stonehenge and Bath, so I am super excited for that! Below are some pictures of my time in London so far. Mumina Mohamud

The view from the top of the London Eye! Big Ben is the closest tall building, however it is covered in scaffolding as it is currently under construction.

 

Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial in Grosvenor Square, where I had lunch.

 

Shopping at the aptly named Oxford Circus.

 

The Shard, which is just outside my housing! Photo by Yasmine Taviot, my flatmate.



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5 Differences Between Concordia and Cambridge
I have been studying at Westfield House in Cambridge, England for almost one month now! Unlike most of the other Concordia students studying abroad this semester I do not have a language barrier in England (most of the time!), but I have noticed some major differences between my days here in Cambridge and my normal routine at Concordia. In typical click-bait fashion, here are five differences I have noticed between Concordia and Cambridge.
  1. Classes: Concordia is a small university and tries to keep class sizes to smaller than twenty students. I may have thought I would not be in a class smaller than those at Concordia, but I was wrong. Westfield is a very small school; all my classes have less than ten people in them, and my average class size is four people. Many people warned me the learning style in the UK is different than in the US, but honestly, I have not noticed much a difference. The classes are taught similarly to my classes at home where there is a lot of reading during the semester and final paper summarizing our thoughts.

    Westfield House students Spring 2019

  2. Food: This is one difference I did not expect to encounter living in England. Obviously British people have their own food and preferences, but I did not realize how different their food was. The first time I went grocery shopping I was so confused! Many of their foods have slightly different names than I was used to, meaning I had to look a little harder and longer on my first grocery trip. Due to different health regulations, many foods also taste slightly differently than in the US. One other major difference is British food tends to be healthier. This has been a really nice change except for when I am craving something sweet; British chocolate just isn’t quite the same!
  3. Travel: After having a car on campus, I hardly ever walked to Target to do my grocery shopping; driving in just so much more convenient. Obviously I will not be driving in the UK, but driving is much less common. Walking around Cambridge in the morning, it is normal to see people biking all over town in business clothes. Gas is ridiculously expensive here, but walking is a part of their culture. The train station is a two mile walk from Westfield House, which is considered quite doable by most British people (and honestly it was not that bad).

    the River Cam which I cross to get into the center of Cambridge

  4. Weekends: Most of my weekends at Concordia were spent hanging out with friends and doing homework. As I am not going to waste my opportunity to explore and travel while in the UK, each weekend I have gone a different adventure. Since most of my homework is reading it is easy to take a book on the train or bus with me. I have visited so many beautiful and historic buildings, museums, and towns. It is so fun to be surrounded by so much history and I looking forward to even more adventures on future weekends!
  5. Tea time: This is maybe the one stereotype about British people that is entirely true. They love their tea over here. Tea is a normal thing to offer at pretty much anytime of day. Cambridge is a university town, so obviously there are a plethora of coffee shops and cafes, but tea is a much larger part of the menus than in coffee shops in the US. There is nothing better than being offered a warm mug of tea wherever you go!
As I continue to settle into life in Cambridge, I am excited to continue exploring and learning more about British and European culture and history. Sending love and hugs to everyone from the UK! -Bethany

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Exploring The U.K.

It’s always nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and Oxford was the perfect escape. Oxford is a city in England that is most known for the iconic University that some of the greatest scientists, prime ministers and even wizards (Harry Potter) have lived.

 

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When I think of Oxford my first thought is the University of Oxford, a school that everyone knows about, it is one of the oldest universities in the world and always finds itself in the top 10 list of best universities in the nation. The Bodleian Library is the second largest library in England, which is second to the British library. When you’re walking around the university campus it seems that you’re in a movie, a place that is unbelievably beautiful. I don’t understand how there are real people that go to school in these amazing buildings. I was just in awe of the surrounding areas and would definitely not be able to focus on my school work, but then again it is a high honor to go to Oxford so school must be a focus.

 

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The city of Oxford as a whole isn’t just the university, it is the perfect getaway from the city of London. Oxford holds a lot of history and culture and I think it is the perfect example of the mix of both. The university keeps the historical importance of the city and with a high street that adds a bit of modern touch. Oxford is definitely a city that I will be coming back to.



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