Thursday, January 27, 2011

Walking tour of London, classes, clubs, Cambridge and theatre, oh my!

Again, this is going to be a very long post so at the end of each section I will have my “Sparknotes” version of what was the most important thing from that section!  It’s a cheat sheet called New Things I Learned!
Pubs and Clubs!
They are crazy here.  I have been to two so far and I now realize why all the British girls that go to Viterbo get so bored with our down town bars.  The first club I went to here is called Oceana and I went on a Monday, which is a big night for Uni students, (university students) to go out here.  This club has multiple rooms for dancing with different music in each but I was only in the 80’s room and the ballroom, which is the biggest room with the hot music of right now.  I have to admit that this place was a little overwhelming to me since I don’t really go to clubs at all.  There were so many different rooms that when I was leaving I got lost trying to find the coat check.  It’s a place I wouldn’t mind going back to but I much preferred the other club.  
<Ballroom at Oceana

McClusky’s is the big club to go to for Saint Mary’s students on Wednesday nights.  It only has one room and a pretty big bar area as well.  It was a little more laid back there and there was more room to dance without bumping into people.  I will for sure be going back there again, but I know I don’t have the cash or the motivation to do it every week.
There is also a pub on campus that is owned by the school that is fun.  They have events almost every night and it is really relaxed and had a fun atmosphere.  Not a lot of people go but the international students go a lot and I’ve had a lot of good laughs there so far, especially on karaoke night!
New Things I Learned-
*I like smaller clubs better, and I really enjoy pubs to clubs.
*I have such a bad sense of direction I can get lost in a big club, even though I was not even drunk.
*The people dancing the most suggestively in the clubs were the Americans; I didn’t even see that many British people grinding which surprised me because in the States that is what a lot of people dance like in the clubs.
Walking Tour of London
Amazing, just amazing!  The only thing is I saw so much, and learned so much in such a short period of time I don’t think I retained a lot from this day.  We did the Westminster Walking Tour, and I’ll just type out the description of the day as listed in the pamphlet:
[St Mary’s and Proscenium welcome you with an introductory tour of London that includes all the best sites in the West End, including Westminster Abby, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square. ]   The tour guide gave so much information that I can’t even remember it all.  I know I need to go back during another day and really take my time with all these places and go into them, well not go into all of them because I would get in a lot of trouble if I just tried to walk into Buckingham Palace!  This was a fun day and there was so much to see it was mind blowing.  I want to get to know this area very well!  The history of London is so alluring to me, and I can’t wait to find out more.

<Big Ben/Houses of Parliament

<me with one of the fake staute guys

<Houses of Parliament
<Buckingham palace
New Things I Learned-
·         That there is so much History within a few square blocks here it will blow your mind.
·         I learned about so royal family drama!
·         That big ben is the name of the actual bell inside the clock tower, and that noncitizens can’t even go see it, only high up there people like Michelle Obama get to see it.
·         That the guards black fuzzy hats they wear are made out of female bear fur!
Talk about beautiful!  This was a great place to see and I would highly recommend it as a stop for others if they get the chance!  There was so much medieval architecture that was stunning.  There are actually 31 colleges that make up Cambridge University which I didn’t know.  Some of the most famous of campus are Trinity and King’s College.  I went to the Round Church here which is one of three left in England.  I also went into The King’s College Chapel which was so beautiful it took my breath away.  It was this huge church with amazing architecture and lots of stain glass windows.  The ceiling was even gorgeous.  There is a video of both of these churches on my facebook, and the King’s College Chapel one turned out pretty well.   I also went punting while I was at Cambridge which was really fun.  You go in this punt boat since the university is right on the River Cam.  It was a fun way to get another look at the campus.  I was surprised that Cambridge Univeristy has this whole mini village around it; there was a street market and everything.  There were a lot of cute little shops and a lot to do.  The last thing we did was go into the Cambridge museum of Zoology which had a section devoted to Charles Darwin since he went to Cambridge.  We even got to see the real finches that Darwin collected in the Galapagos, along with other things he collected there.  
<Punting tour, that is the guy that drove the boat standing up

<-King's College Chapel

If this video works it will be the one of King's College Chapel!

New Things I Learned-
·         Cambridge is made out of 31 different colleges.
·         King’s College Chapel is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen

Classes are run a lot differently here.  I switched out of my theatre theory class and decided to take one nontheatre class.  So I only have class on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I am in class a lot more often than I thought I would be!  The theatre classes I’m taking are practical theatre classes which means they are performance based.  On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I have theatre classes from 10am-4pm with an hour break for lunch.  Then on Thursday I have a two hour lecture from 4-6 that is an English class gender and society in the 19th century novel. 
I really love my theatre classes but they really wipe me out.  Two of them are going into being in a show because the class is the rehearsal for the show.  This is really nice because you are automatically in the show and then you don’t have extra rehearsal in the evening on top of your classes!  I am really exhausted at the end of these classes because it takes a lot of effort to always be putting yourself out there with new people.  I always make sure I volunteer to be used for theatre exercise and always offer to demonstrate what I did during different acting challenges but it is starting to wear me out.  It has been really fun and I’m learning a lot but I’m a little mentally drained after class because it is so much more effort to learn when the classes are so different and new. 
The biggest difference in the theatre department here is that it is a lot more student run.  The professors are there more as a guide and they really let you make your own mistakes.  They don’t give as much of a direction at all because they see it as more beneficial for you to fall and have to pick yourself back up and figure it out.  It is really good and frustrating in a way because sometimes you can feel something you are trying going really badly and I’m used to the professor stepping in at this point and telling me how to fix it and here you just have struggle a bit more.  The time it is the hardest is when you are working with a group and I’m used to the professor being the mediator when something the group is doing is not working but here we usually don’t get any direction till the final showing.  They want us to feel like part of a mini company more than a professor and student relationship.  Two of the classes I’m taking are going into touring a production of The Canterbury tale.  The class is adapting the stories and we are writing a modern version we can do as a play.  We are doing everything for this so for the most part which is a lot different from Viterbo.  I’m used to auditioning for an already set show, being cast in a part I know is mine, and then working under the directors guidance.  I suppose I usually have a more traditional theatre experience of getting cast and here it is more like we are our own company.   Both situations have their pros and cons so I’m thankful I’ll get to experience both while I’m doing my undergraduate. 
New Things I Have Learned-
*Putting yourself out there with new people is freakin exhausting. 
*Even in London it is nice to have one muggle (nontheatre) class for a break from the theatre lifestyle.
*Even though I’m doing  a lot of the same acting games I’m doing them with different people and a different teacher which means I’m getting a lot out of them.
*Theatre people at all schools are a little more out there then the rest of the students, it does not matter where you go.
*Even though I love this school I really do miss my Viterbo people and my theatre classes back home!  Though that does not mean I wish I was there right now, I wouldn’t trade this chance for anything!
I’ve been to two shows here so far at professional theatres, and two shows done by Saint Mary’s students but I will talk about that next time.  Right now it’s time to cram a bunch of international students into one dorm room to watch 500 days of summer on somebody’s computer.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Much needed update!!!

I have been here for a week now and everything is going really well.  I’m surprised at how much there is to adjust to, because I thought the transition would be so easy.  I didn’t even think about the little things to adjust to like not knowing where to go grocery shopping right away, or not being able to use Netflix over here because it is an American website (which really bummed me out!)  Then there are the bigger things like learning how to use public transportation, meeting so many new people, sleeping in a new bed, missing so many people, and trying to figure out a whole new school.  So I’ll just give a little break down day by day of what has been going on.  If you don’t want to read all of this stuff, I have the key points about what I learned after each day.  It’s like the sparknotes to my blog.
Day one, Tuesday/Wednesday
First of all, the plane trip was not that bad at all.  I left at about 2 pm my time and got to the airport in London at 7:30 am the next day because of the time difference.  London is 6 hours ahead of central time.  The only bad thing about the airport and plane trip was my bad luck with technology.  I tried to use my laptop at the airport and realized my computer had a horrible virus and was attacking itself.  I could not even shut down my computer because it was popping up so many things and trying to get me to by this so called antivirus software, all I had to do was enter my credit card info.  I did not enter my info because that was the scam and when I got to the school my computer was even worse.  The tech people at Saint Mary’s were not prepared to handle how bad my computer was so I to go without my computer for a few days till I could get it fixed. 
Since I didn’t have a phone yet I couldn’t contact my mom to tell her was okay once I got to the school, and this is where the funny story comes in.  Just so you know the airport I arrived at in London was huge!  So huge I had to take a train that was inside the airport to get to the terminal I was supposed to meet my tour group at.  I middle age guy could tell I was lost and heard me asking someone I needed to find terminal three and he said that was where he was walking and could lead the way.  He was nice and it was a public place to I followed him while he was telling me funny slang words I should use over here.  He was very helpful but he started getting a little overly friendly.  He gave me a bottle of pop that was unopened even though I said no thank you (which I didn’t drink), and then once we got to the terminal ended up giving me his “card” which was just his name and number on a piece of hard paper written in pen.  It was kinnda awkward and even though it was never creepy.  I called my mom from the airport phone to tell her I arrived safely and told her about this random guy and how I was now just waiting for my tour group to show up.  Since I didn’t e-mail or call my mom once I got to the school (no phone or working internet yet) she started to worry.  Then one of her friends brought up the movie Taken to her, in which college age woman tourist got sold into the sex industry by guys to tricked them into it. She freaks out because of the guy I told her about in the airport.  My mom is very facebook savvy so she found Vikki’s facebook (who is the Saint Mary’s student who studied at Viterbo first semester) and asks if she has heard from me and tells her she is worried.  I was in the cafeteria here when Vikki hunted me down and then she let me use her phone to call my mom, who was freaking out a little by this point.  Then my mom told me, “Have you ever seen the movie taken?  It’s always the nice guys who say they are not creepy who are the real creeps!!!!” 
Other than that the first night was a little uneventful, there were about 30 study abroad students and all of us are American except for 2 Australians. We were all exhausted so after orientation we ended up trying to go to bed pretty early.  Tried is the key word.  We arrived on a Wednesday and Wednesday is the biggest party night here.  There is a huge clubbing atmosphere here so it was like a rave in the hallways and none of us have ever heard anything like that going on in dorms before.  There is literary a pub owned by the school on campus and kitchens in the dorms that are used to party places so it gets very crazy on Wednesdays. 

<At the Airport in MN
New Things I learned-
-Don’t make your mom worry; get in contact with her some way!
-Even people who seem nice can be really creepy, so try not to look like a tourist too much.
-Don’t plan on getting a lot of sleep on Wednesday nights.
Day 2 Thursday
Needless to say we were all Zombies by this point because of extreme jetlag and lack of sleep.  It was still really fun though because it was great to meet so many new people.  We signed up for classes, and got to look through some really cool parts of the school.  During orientation I started hanging out with Sam (girl) and Jess from Australian.  Sam ‘s school had an exchange program too and she had a guy named Scott come to her school first semester and they started dating.  Now he is back here is after orientation he helped Jess, Sam, and I get phones and drove us all to this cool shopping area called Kingston.  There was a nice three level mall there and I had my first meal off campus, McDonalds.  I also dropped off my computer to get fixed, and they had to remove everything and put it on a harddrive and put it back on.  It cost about $200 after the exchange rate, which sucked but at least everything was saved!  It was very liberating to get a phone, because you don’t realize how helpless you feel without your phone or internet till you don’t have either and you are in a different country!
We also went to a indie nightclub that night called New Slang where British Sea Power was playing., which was really fun.

<At New Slang

<The Waldegrave Drawing room on Campus, we had a meeting in here and this room is rented out for events a lot as well.

Thing I learned-
-You learn a lot from hanging out with locals.
- You don’t realize how helpless you feel without technology till you don’t have it.
-Don’t try to keep up drinking with anyone from Australia; they will kick your ass.  Luckily I just stopped after a while and gave up.
-Girls here dress a lot more fashionable then where I am fun, though fashion seems to outweigh flatter in some ways when it comes to clothes.  I hardly ever see girls in sweatpants or jeans.
Day 3, Friday
Jess, two other international students, and I all went into Kingston again so I could get my computer and so they could get phones too.  There is so much to see everywhere it is insane.  Plus you are always just a short walk or train ride away from another burrow where there is even more to see.  I also found out this day that Topshop is the huge clothing store here.  Jess and I ended up staying in Kingston till pretty late and came back and missed eating in the café, and this was the night I had my first little freakout.
I came back to the dorms and was pretty homesick and just wanted to talk to people from home and eat something.  I tried to configure my computer so it would work on the internet here but I didn’t do it right so it kept booting me off everything.  It was about 10pm and I had not eaten since about 2pm.  I was alone in my room freaking out on my computer I just spent $200 for not working and I started crying.  I ended up calling my mom on my even though I knew it would be expensive and that helped a lot.  I decided I was hungry and I was going to get food even if it was only from a vending machine in the student union.  The only thing was that all the buildings that had vending machines were locked up by this point.  Some security guards told me a pizza place that would deliver so I went to the public computer lab to call them up, only to find they were closed.  I was frustrated so I decided to just head back to my room and tough it out.  I called my mom to update her on my failed attempts when a dominions delivery guy on a motorbike drove by, to which I just had to laugh at the situation.  My mom looked up this number for me but by the time I ended up calling them they were not delivering anymore.  So when I got back to my room I called up Sadie, my best friend from college, and that cheered me up a lot.  I went to sleep really hungry but in a good mood after talking to people I love.

New things I learned-
-Sometimes you just have to laugh at how stupid situations can be.
-Talking to people you love can make you feel so much better.
-If you don’t have any food in your room, and you know you are going to miss supper, pick up food on the way home.
-At the end of the day, don’t sweat the small stuff.
Day 4 Saturday
This was the day we went into Knightsbridge which is a nicer shopping area of London where a lot of the really expensive places are.  I just woke up, and realized I missed brunch, when Jess came into my room and invited me to go and said we had to leave really soon if we wanted to catch the train.  Jess has a friend from back home in Australia that lives in London and we were going to meet her there with some of her friends.  The public transportation system is amazing but I’m really glad Jess was there to help me figure it out because I was really lost on how to use it at first.  

Two random side stories I want to remember!  When we got off the underground there was this anti fur thing going on.  One of the anti fur woman was feeding a bunch of pigeons when some crazy guy that looked like mad eye moody from Harry Potter came over and hit the pigeons which his staff and started cussing the anti fur lady or and then he just wandered away mumbling to himself.  Also, a really flamboyant guy walked out of the underground wearing a fur  vest and had a look of “oh shit” on his face when he saw the rally that was priceless. Then he booked it like no other past them and it was great.
We met Jess’ friend outside of Harrods.  Harrods is as big or maybe even bigger than the New York City Macy’s.  It’s the only thing I can compare it to.  It was crazy in there.  There were rooms filled with designer purses, another room just with perfume, another for makeup, and there was even a pet store in there.  There was a whole floor with gourmet restaurants and food to buy as well.  There was food ranging from fancy chocolates to sushi.  There was even a guy at the pizza place singing full out opera while tossing pizza dough which is two skills I have never seen used together.  There were clothes in there that were up to 1200 pounds, which would be about $2,000.  We also looked in other shops as well, and at this point I had not eaten for over 24 hours but I didn’t really care anymore.  We ended up going to this little café for an early dinner at this little café and I got a chicken fajita wrap which tasted like the best thing I had ever had at this point.  We caught the underground and trains back to campus after a long day of walking and I slept very well.

<That whole building is Harrods

<One of the best meals of my life!
New Things I learned-
-Public transportation is amazing, but it is a lot to take on.
-People watching in London is really fun.
-The exchange rate eats all your money.
------More to some soon!!!!  Sunday was my walking tour of London and I just started classes so I'll take those updates later, right now it is Wednesday night so I will be going out soon!

Monday, January 10, 2011

My last night in the states.

I can’t believe this day is finally here.  Tomorrow I’ll be on a plane to London where I will be studying abroad for a semester.  Technically I’ll be going to school 10 miles outside of London, but I’ll only be a short train ride away from the city.  The college I will be attending is Saint Mary’s University in Twickenham. I’ll be taking classes in their applied theatre track.  Instead of trying to reword what their applied theatre track entails I’ll just copy and paste the description from their site:

Drama and Applied Theatre is a course for those who have a passion for changing society for the better and are prepared to take action. Alongside practical sessions, articulate debate and discussion is actively encouraged as we search for the best possible theatrical solutions to fulfil our project briefs. We welcome students who have imagination, enthusiasm and commitment.
In developing your group practice you will be expected to reflect critically on your work, asking yourself two key questions: ‘why are we doing this?’ and ‘who will benefit?’ The course will challenge you physically, emotionally and intellectually whilst calling for empathic understanding and sensitivity to the risks involved in project work.
Drawing on the most innovative current practice the course will equip you with the necessary creative skills to become cultural leaders and make a significant difference to the society of the future.

I’ll be taking four classes or as they are called over there, modules.  I will be taking two classes that will be working on staging a tour of The Canterbury Tales and one class called International Practice and Practitioners.  I have not picked my fourth class yet.  I have a few options but wanted to wait to decide till I met the professors and get a chance to talk to them. 

So maybe I sound calm during this post but honestly I’m freaking out.  The only time I’ve been out of the country was going to Canada last summer.  I have flown solo before but it was to Missoula, Montana so it will not be the same as going internationally.  I have been dreaming about studying abroad in London since I was twelve.  When I was twelve I was obsessed with Orlando Bloom and found out he originally went to college for a B.F.A in acting in London before his film career blew up.  So after nine years of thinking about this it is crazy to think the story will start to unfold tomorrow.  It seems surreal to me.  I know I will grow so much from this experience, and not just as an artist but also as a person.  If I were a person who hyperventilated, I would be right now.  My body is reacting really strongly to my nerves.  I keep having to remind myself to take fuller breaths.  I just hope everything goes smoothly during the flight tomorrow.  I know once I get to the college I’ll be fine.  Before I start obsessing over everything that could go wrong tomorrow I think I will go for some much needed distraction.  Off I go to watch some British stand up comedians, it will be my homework for learning British humor!