The UK is like the US, but also not really

It’s been a few days, but not as much has been going on as it was initially. A couple observations before I go into what exact things I’ve been up to though. There are definitely similarities to the US, which is what I expected. But there are also some things that are distinctly different. I mentioned the tipping before, which I’ve found is a little more nuanced than I originally thought. It turns out that people do tip, but only about 10% and only if you are at a restaurant or somewhere with table service. It does make me wonder though, because I am likely going to get a tattoo while I am here, there’s a tattoo parlor not too far away. But in the US, it is basically required that you tip your tattoo artist, and usually by a pretty good amount, but I have no idea if that is as much of a thing here. We were also sitting in a little cafe the other day and someone pointed out that it was playing only the British artists that we hear in the US, like Ed Sheeran and Adele and Hozier. Obviously its nice to have some things that are familiar, but it always makes me a little sad at how much the culture of the US seeps out into so many countries. As well, there are little things that I wouldn’t even have considered that are different because I’m in the UK. Like the notification globe on Facebook is showing Europe and that part of the globe rather than North and South America, and my ads in Spotify are the exact same, expect the people have British accents. It’s funny how much things tend to be American centered that we just take as normal things, but they really aren’t.

Anyways, we have now taken all of our diagnostic exams for our classes, which was not something that I knew was going to happen. We also got to go into Bath Abbey, which was absolutely lovely (see picture below)IMG_6105-PANO.jpg

I do want to try and go back though, as we didn’t get to see as much of the Abbey as I would want to explore, and also because some other students may end up being tour guides for the Abbey towers. I am always amazed at how much craftsmanship and man hours and art goes into abbeys and cathedrals and a lot of those kinds of religious buildings. Rachel, my housemate, and I were also walking around the other day and we walked past a fudge shop, at which point one of the workers literally banged on the window to get our attention and then very energetically pointed at a tray of samples he was holding, so we had to go in to try one. They were truly delicious, and he tried very hard to get us to buy some, but we did not, although we did find two other housemates and made them go get samples too. He also waved at us every time we walked by, even if we were in the adjoining alleyway, so I am planning on going back at some point and actually buying some fudge, because it was actually really good, we were just trying to get back to take a diagnostic.

As a house, we all also went to a pub that is very nearby called The Ram for dinner a few days ago. We didn’t learn this until we were leaving, but we actually did it entirely wrong. The correct way to order food at a pub is to go up to the bar and order and pay for your food and drinks, then go sit down. We absolutely did not do that, we just sat down. But happily, a man whom I’m guessing is the owner came over and took our orders, and explained to us after how it usually goes, but he was very gracious and kind about it. There was also a couple people who were seated at the bar, near our table who were playing on http://trumpdonald.org/ and the owner brought it over to us, clearly as a joke, and I think they also found the visible reaction from our table funny. I haven’t actually been asked about Trump as much as they prepped us for it, and it’s usually very surface, except for at my internship meeting today, but I’ll get to that later. I’ve also now officially had my first pint at a pub in the UK (sorry Mom), along with a veggie burger that was actually quite good. I’m vegetarian and I’ve been pretty happy with my ability to find vegetarian food wherever I’ve gone to eat.IMG_6109.JPG

I also went to my internship with the Bath Philharmonia (https://bathphil.co.uk/) for the first time today, not to work, but just to meet with everyone and get a feel for what I will be doing. They actually have a concert next week, so my first week working there will be a little different than my usual schedule. But they have multiple programs in terms of outreach and education associated with their concerts, like letting kids come and watch and going to their schools the next day to make music with them based on the music they heard the day before, which I might be able to go to with them. I will also probably go in for part of Thursday, the day of the concert, to see how things run during the day for shows and all of that. Unfortunately, I have two classes on Thursdays, so my time is a bit more limited. I will also probably be ushering for concerts in the future, which meant that I also had to go out and get some black clothing for that, because I did not pack with that in mind, which is silly because I own plenty of black clothing from working as a stage manager for shows, so that’s somewhat of an oversight on my part. Happily, there is a Primark nearby, which is essentially like a Forever21, except cheaper, and I was able to get some stuff for not very much money. As mentioned above though, I was asked the most direct question about Trump I’ve gotten from the conductor of the Phil, which was “What are your thoughts on Trump?” to which the General Manager chided him for being so direct about it on my first meeting with them, but it was clearly all in good spirits. There is also a clarinet player in the Phil who graduated from Oberlin’s Conservatory, which is pretty cool, and he happens to be the son of Simon Rattle, who is apparently a very well-known conductor in the UK.

Also bought groceries last night, so now I will mostly be able to actually start cooking food for myself, although I must say that I don’t have very much confidence in my cooking abilities, but I think I will be able to make do. In the future, I think I want to find some recipes and then buy ingredients based off of that rather than wandering around and randomly grabbing things that may or may not actually go together into a meal.

This has been a very long post, and I apologize for that, it has just been a while. This weekend there isn’t as much going on, we’re getting a tour of the markets, which is good as I need to buy a towel that is actually long enough for my body, I’ve been using one that a former student had left, but is not really quite long enough for me. We are also going to Stonehenge and Salisbury on Sunday, so I’m sure I will have plenty to say about doing that. Catch ya then.

Orientation Day 1

So we’ve actually started doing things today, it was probably the busiest day of this week of orientation. We started out by having a welcome and general orientation session with the director of the program and getting introduced to all of the staff, who all seem really wonderful. Plus they served us tea and coffee after, and I’m always a fan of free refreshments. That also gave us the chance to chat and mingle with each other, and I got to talk to 3 of the 4 other Oberlin students on the program. Oberlin has the most students of any college this semester, and I had only (briefly) met one of them prior to being in England, so it was nice to meet everyone else.

We then got a tour of Nelson House, which is the main center for the program. We aren’t taking classes at a college or university, like most programs. Instead, our seminars take place at buildings owned by the program. All of my seminars happen to be in Nelson House, but not all of them are. It’s a really nice building that has offices, a library, and social spaces. We also got our books for the semester, which I didn’t have too many of, only two of my classes actually had books that we have to buy. I also had a meeting with the main mentor for all of the interns, such as myself. I have an internship at Bath Philharmonia, which is a new internship, so I don’t know as much about it as some other people. But I am excited for it, it seems like they are going to try to integrate my psych and arts management majors by doing a project on the role of the arts in the community, which will be interesting.

Also got lunch with two people from my house at a Thai place across the street from Nelson House. It was pretty delicious, and not too expensive. Plus, they served us tea after the meal, which is something I am a fan of. Tipping also isn’t a thing here, which was not something I was used to. It’s also strange to me because there’s a lot of emphasis on tipping in America and how necessary it is for people in the food service industry. Every one on the program also did a scavenger hunt around the city of Bath, in teams by house. We started a good bit later than everyone else because we took a bathroom break beforehand, but somehow still managed to get third place, which won us a £ 10 pound gift card to a local grocery store. I also was able to get a SIM card for my phone so that I can use it in the UK without it costing tons of money and some groceries so that I can eat the next few days.

There’s also a lot of social and cultural stuff that we went over that we can do. I’m particularly interested in volunteering at a local church that has a toddler group. I don’t have much interest in religious activities, but I am interested in children, and actually do have experience working with kids in a church setting. I also want to volunteer with a local youth theater, helping with their current production. I’ve done a lot of that before, and want to try and maintain some connection to theater whilst in the UK, as that has been a constant in my life and I would like to try to keep it that way. There are also some other things I would consider doing, like the Jane Austen Dancers, who do Gregorian dances, or some of the clubs and societies at Bath Spa University, which is the local university we get an associate membership to. We’ll just have to see how much time I have, but I do want to try and get to know the locals and get more involved in things.

Fun Fact about the UK of the day: “Trump” is a word using to mean breaking wind.

Also you should check out the blog of one of my housemates: https://take-a-bath.tumblr.com/

Arrived

Well after two plane rides and a bus ride, I am in Bath and coming to the end of my day. It’s pretty much been good so far, haven’t done a whole lot. We had to wait a bit at the train station to get our bus to our house because the driver had to take a lunch break, but the house I’m in is actually really close to the train station. And let me just say, basically all of Bath is just cute. There are also enough coffee shops to go to a new one each day for probably about a month. I went for a walk with some of my housemates earlier, and there are plenty of shops and little places to explore. 

We also got a little orientation about the area and our house and all that, and I have to say, I’m pretty excited for the tradition of our house having a team for the pub trivia night, most of my house is into the idea. We also all made and ate dinner together and are now watching a movie in order to stay up to adjust to the new time zone. Previous students have left a great selection of movies, although a fair number are on VHS due to them being incredibly cheap, but hey, I’ll take it. 

Mostly now, I want to take a shower and unpack a bit and go to bed. I’d say it’s been a good first day.

Pre-Bath

Well here we go, the first blog post. In a week, I will be on my way to Bath, England. To be perfectly frank, I’m a little scared. I have spent a lot of time out of the country, I’ve traveled to Paris a couple times to visit family, spent three weeks in Tanzania the summer before I started college, and went on a service program to Nicaragua the summer after my junior year of high school. So really, I probably shouldn’t be too worried, I’ve gone through customs, adjusting to large time differences, and being in countries other than my own. However, I’ve pretty much always gone with family (except the service trip, which was a school trip), and always adult family, so I didn’t have to worry as much about being as responsible for everything myself, but now I’m going on a trip where I basically know no one else. There are two other Oberlin students on this program, but I don’t really know either of them that well.

I am a little anxious about meeting and getting to know people, as I have a tendency to become more quiet when I meet new people, so I’m making it one of my goals to get to know people and try to put myself out there more. One of my other goals, since I will be working at an arts organization, is to find what is different between working in an arts organization in the UK versus in the US, including what is done better in the UK than can be applied to the organizations I work with in the US. I also want to try and take advantage of the opportunity to travel, especially since I have family in Paris, who I’m guessing would be happy to have me visit. As well, since I am doing a project about the role of music in the community, I want to try and get involved in things going on with the community of Bath. After all, part of studying abroad is trying to get to know a culture different than my own.

That’s mostly it at the moment. I’m basically prepared to leave, I have my visa for my internship, plug adapters, and a travel journal that was a gift from a friend. Talk to you once I’m in Bath!