Friday, September 27, 2013

Study in England - Day 19

by Claire Palmer
University of Worcester, England
 
I've finally started classes over here! I really lucked out with my schedule (I only have 2 classes, but it counts as 4 back in the US because of the content!), and they're each once a week, so it's slower paced than back home.  Also, the only grading in each of them is a final exam! It's a little worrisome that my fate in these modules lies on one test, but at the same time, I think it will help me out.  They both require a lot of independent study, which I actually do better with after being homeschooled, and without homework to worry about, I can take my time to read and really understand the material.
     I've also started with some societies offered by the university.  I've joined the Anime and Manga Society, as well as the Equestrian Team.  I was a little hesitant about joining with the anime scene here, considering paranoia over stereotypical anime fans in the US, but everyone has been very nice, and I'm actually planning on going to the London Comicon with them next month! 
     As for the Equestrian Team, we've just started! I went to a social meet-up with a few other members last week at a club (my first nightclub visit...very interesting, but not quite my cup of tea) and had a lot of fun getting to know them! Just this past Wednesday, however, we had a "taster session" where we were placed into groups and had a mini-lesson to assess our abilities.  I was placed in a pretty low level class (we just cantered twice), but it was fun nonetheless! I plan on doing competitions as well, if they'll let me! It was quite different than what I'm used to, though! I was placed on a school horse named Bilbo (perfect, right?) who had been in the beginner lesson right before, and my immediate reaction to his stiffness around corners was to dismount and work on flexing from the ground, but I obviously couldn't do that! We rode in a uniform line the entire time, which was strange to me after working on natural horsemanship and pretty much anything not beginner, but it really took me back to my very early lesson days! I became a little paranoid that they wouldn't understand my experience (the instructor reminded me to keep my hands on either side of the horse's neck while I was asking for a bend, which required me to move my hands, so I don't think she understood what I was asking of him) but even if they for some reason keep me in a lower level group, I still think it'll be fun just to get on.  It was a little hard, though, to be treated a bit like a beginner by the people helping out, but I think that, aside from any ego I have left over, it might have been that I'm usually the one in that position, so the reversal of roles threw me off.  I have also found it quite difficult to explain my level of riding.  Because most of my time was spent essentially training, I don't have much showing experience to compare it to, yet at the same time, I've done a 3' course no problem, and was training for a 2' 9" Pony Club rating right before my hiatus.  I don't like going around saying that, though, because I'm a bit paranoid of sounding like I'm just talking up my skills, and I don't want to be thatAmerican!  I'd been exposed to lots of girls back home who had very well trained horses, therefor were able to compete at much higher levels than me, even though their skill level in that discipline might have been lower than mine (if you can handle a 16.2 hh 4 year old retired racehorse while developing fibromyalgia, you can do anything), which always made me feel really left out, unskilled, and inadequate.  It kinda brought back some of those feelings, but I'm just going to try my best to look past everything, and maybe make up for it by doing well in the shows I never got to do!
     It seems that the showing here is capped at a 2' 9" course, which I've jumped loads of times in the past, in addition to dressage, which I have quite a bit of experience with as well.  So even if they feel my skills fall short (again, I'm super paranoid of this happening), I should be able to do at least something, or work my way up to it in time.
     Kinda silly that my main concerns fall with fitting in with the horse scene, huh? I'm choosing to take it as a sign that my classes aren't stressful! I'm sure that by the end of this semester I'll find my place and everything will work out.  I've got a very good support group of loved ones in the US, and with them backing me, the sky's the limit!
See you, Space Cowboy!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Study In England - Day 10

by Claire Palmer
University of Worcester, England

 I'm really starting to feel at home in Worcester!  My room has become quite homey, and with course inductions underway, I feel very prepared for classes to start next week!  But I think above all else, the friends I've made in this short amount of time have helped me settle in more than anything.
     My first flatmate, an exchange student from New Zealand, moved in during my first night while I was sleeping.  I was a bit nervous about meeting the people I was going to be living with, but after introducing myself in the morning, I found out that we have quite a bit in common, and she, along with one of her classmates from New Zealand in the next flat, have become very good friends of mine! Later that day, the rest of my flatmates arrived: three from Sweden and one from Holland, all of which have been very kind and friendly.
     All of us international students moved in about a week before the domestic ones, so on Monday, when my course inductions (sort of like orientation) began, I was with almost all British students.  I was a bit quiet at first, probably because I felt like a bit of an outlier, but when it came down to a group activity, everyone was very interested to hear that I was from the US (apparently I don't have a "classic American accent" as they call it, so some people didn't notice right away).  I've kind of relied on that as an ice breaker when meeting new people, and as silly as it sounds, it actually works! There really aren't many Americans studying here, so when the domestic students I've met hear someone with that accent, they want to know things like what part of the US I'm from and what it's like there, etc.  Although it might sound a bit vain enjoying talking about yourself, it really made me feel comfortable  that people were interested in getting to know me better. (Also, I was especially helpful during a pub quiz when the instructor asked "Which US states produces Jack Daniel's Whiskey?"!)  By the end of the day, I became very comfortable walking up to random students and introducing myself, which is something I would have never done before!
     So, when studying abroad, or just going anywhere new, I've found that the best thing to do is to take a deep breath and begin a conversation with someone!  You never know who you will meet or who will have the same interests as you until you get to know them!
See you, Space Cowboy!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Study in England - Day 3

by Claire Palmer
University of Worcester, England

Well, I've finally made it to my flat! It's now been 8 days since I've arrived in England, but it seems much longer due to the fast pace I've kept!  Most of the other people in my flat arrived to the campus directly from the airport, and after hearing of their experiences (some having 28 hour flights!), I'm quite happy that I chose to tour around a bit before moving in.
     I wouldn't suggest exploring the area before moving in to everyone, but because I had my mother with me, it worked out very well.  After flying from Knoxville to Detroit, then to Boston and finally landing at the London Heathrow Airport at 6 AM on Tuesday the 3rd, I was very exhausted (I had trouble sleeping on the flight due to a good selection of movies and a screaming child) and was very glad that I didn't immediately have the pressure of registering and unpacking everything.  We arranged in advance for a car to take us to our hotel, and after drinking juice and strolling around Hyde Park for a bit, our room was ready and I was finally able to get some sleep.  Thankfully, the exhaustion and jet lag only lasted for a day for me and I was able to enjoy seeing sights such as the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, 221b Baker Street, and Fleet Street, all while slowing becoming accustom to the culture of England (although there are many, many others as well in London!).  That Saturday, we took a train to the Shrub Hill Station here in Worcester, and after a bit of an adventure, found our hotel, which was in Stourport-on-Severn, about 10 miles out of the city centre.  We took a cab into town that day and the next, and purchased just about everything I would need for my flat.
     I think if I hadn't had my mother or anyone else with me, I definitely wouldn't have gone into London or even Worcester early, but I'm very happy I did! It was nice to have time to make the transition from foreigner to tourist to resident at a slower pace, as opposed to jumping right into daily life, without having to worry about staying on my own in a strange country with two large bags.  Because stress can sometimes cause a flare up of my fibromyalgia, this also lessened the chances of needing to deal with any health issues on top of everything.  If I had to state a takeaway lesson from this entry, this would be it: If you have the spare time, money, and a companion, I would definitely suggest taking the time to explore your new home before moving in, but if not, there is absolutely nothing wrong with moving straight in.  Everyone here has been more than helpful to me, and even if I hadn't gone shopping for items for my flat in the days before moving in, there are a number of people here who would have helped me with that.  Here they've even arranged for international students to move in before domestic ones so we can have a bit longer to adjust and be on the same level.
See you, Space Cowboy!

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