Journals from England Fall, (University of Nottingham)
2009-12-11 Ready for European adventures
10 Dec. 2009
On Saturday, Tim and I head out on our European odyssey; we will be flying into Rome first (courtesy of tickets we purchased from Ryan Air for only 10 pounds!) before heading to Florence, Munich, Nuremberg, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Dsseldorf, and Krakow. Today I packed up all my possessions I've had here in England " it felt strangely like I was getting ready to go home, but I know that won't be happening for another six weeks or so. Tonight I am staying at my girlfriend's house on the outskirts of Nottingham and tomorrow I am heading over to my mate Harry's house in Castle Donington, which is about five minutes away from East Midlands Airport.
It's kind of scary to be heading off into Europe, but I'm glad Tim is with me on this trip. I have come to realize that traveling requires more organizing and planning than I could have ever imagined. There are flights to book, train timetables to research, hostels to search for... at the time all of this planning seems very tedious and it's hard to be motivated. But now that I am about to head off to the continent, I have to say I am happy that I did a lot of planning before; it saves you from the stress of not knowing what's going on when you arrive at your destination.
I think one of the things I am looking forward to the most is just getting to walk around in so many cities, taking in so many different sights and cultures. There are many ways to travel. Some people like to see museums and other tourist attractions, but I've found that I seem to have the best time when I just give myself a day to wander around a city, get a little bit lost, find my way again, and stumble onto some cool market, neighborhood, or building I would have never seen by planning my day out.
Tim and I purchased a Eurail Pass which gives us eight days of unlimited travel between five adjacent countries. This allows us to travel all around the continent with the convenience of not having to purchase a bunch of individual tickets, and it will supposedly save us some money too. Even though we have this rail pass, we still will have to pay between five and twenty euros to reserve our seats. I'm sure I'll have more to say about the merits or downfalls of the Eurail Pass once my trip is done.
I know a lot of the study abroad programs are just about done and many of my friends are packing up to go home about now, but one of the differences of the England program is that we have all of winter break as free time to do whatever we want. Although this added month of travel is quite expensive, I think it is totally worth it. I've always wanted to see Europe, and now I have an entire month to do so. I know some other people are spending a few weeks on the continent, or seeing Ireland, or exploring the United Kingdom some more. There are many options for travel.
One of the negatives of this winter break trip is that we have exams for the two weeks when we get back before we go home. Luckily, I only have one exam, but lots of people from Linfield are spending part of their breaks studying and reviewing flash cards before having to cram after they arrive in Nottingham once more. We also have the option of staying in our current dorm rooms for a longer period, but the university charges 15 pounds per day to do so (which is about what you can expect to pay in a hostel).
I must say, it was a bit frustrating to realize we have to completely clear out our dorm rooms so that the university can rent out our rooms for conferences. I understand this, but it is a bit of a hassle for us study-abroad students. Also, the university informed us recently that we are responsible for taking care of the bedding they gave us at the start of the semester. Luckily I packed light so I am able to fit all my things in one large suitcase; also, it is quite convenient that my girlfriend has lots of spare storage space in her house and offered to let Tim and me store our luggage there. We are packing light for Europe: Tim has one large backpack and I have two medium ones... thought I must say it would have been nice to have a backpack as large as Tim's (Rick Steves brand " Tim is a huge proponent of all things made by Rick Steves, so check out some of his products and his show on PBS).
I almost forgot to mention that Katie and I prepared a Thanksgiving meal for all of our English friends recently, courtesy of Katie's mother. She mailed Katie a huge box full of all the things you need for a proper Thanksgiving meal, and the best part was that everything was microwavable! I think our best course was the stuffing.
Well, I think that's about it for me. I'll be in Rome in a few days, and I'll be sure to write a few blog posts while I am in Europe.