Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Hi Everyone!

I would first like to apologize for not posting in a long time. For the past few weeks I have been traveling around the UK and Europe, and I have not been around a computer or even strong WiFi. I will go into further detail below, but essentially I have been backpacking around, staying in hostels, and meeting people from around the world.

My plan is to split up the next two blog posts. This one will be about my travels in the UK, and the next one will about the rest of Europe. Again, I am sorry to everyone/anyone who has been reading this blog consistently and been looking for a new post. My hope is that you will at least understand that I had to take the opportunity to travel and in doing so I was unable to keep up with the blog.

As my last blog mentioned, on March 21st I had an essay due in each on of my classes. Once those were completed the travels began. The first stop was Durham England. In all my travels this was one of my favorites. It a small little town about an hour from the Scottish border. Atop the largest hill in Durham stood and amazing cathedral along with a castle. The cathedral is one of the oldest in England and apparently used to be painted red to stand out as a Christian beacon in barbarian land. The castle is now used as one of the colleges for the University of Durham. HOW COOL IS THAT! However, as impressive as both these buildings are, what I enjoyed so much about Durham was a slower paced and relaxed manner in which everything seemed to move.

Because my school is in central London, I have been used to the hustle and bustle lifestyle of living in a big city. Durham was a far from that as possible, and it was a great change. Again, I was fortunate enough to be traveling with Elaina Faust, and she has family living in Pity Me (a suburban village of Durham). We got to spend some time with her cousin family and his family. On top of that her cousin is currently working on a post doc focused on the Middle East so I was able to put my new knowledge of the region to the test ;).

Having to say goodbye to the enjoyably slow paced lifestyle of Durham, we hoped on a train to Manchester. The once great industrial city has definitely suffered from the de-industrialization of the country. Many areas of the city were not in great shape, but there is hope. The downtown area seemed to have a great deal of construction underway.

Personally, my favorite part of Manchester was the opportunity to tour the stadium of Manchester United. Manchester united is my favorite team in the Premier League, and it was great to the have the opportunity to see the historic pitch as well as learn more about the incredible history of the club.

Being in the neighborhood, we popped over to Liverpool. Many people I have spoken to have not enjoyed Liverpool, but I disagree. Maybe I'm just a sucker for a city on the ocean, or maybe it was the chance to spend some time at some of the old stomping grounds of the Beatles, but there was something about the city that made me happy the entire time I was there. It was definitely a more walkable city than manchester, and I as you will see from the next post, walking made up most of my travels.

Lastly, we headed to Salisbury; home place of Stonehenge. Whenever I see a giant cathedral, like the Duomo in Florence (1446) or the Cathedral in Durham (1018) I am amazed at what humans were able to accomplish without the technology we have today. However, I think Stonehenge blew all those away. Its mind blowing to think that 5000 years ago, a group of people could construct anything with stones that large. I'm sure the Pyramids at Giza might cause an even greater feeling of awe, but Stonehenge still did that job quite nicely.

And with that the Travels in the UK were done for now. However, the journey to the rest of Europe was just about the begin.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Hi Everyone!

We've reached crunch time at SOAS. On the 21st of March I have a 3000 word essay due in each one of my classes (four total). These essays are each 50% of my grade in the respective classes, and so that means there really isn't much room for slacking off. That also means that the majority of my time recently has been spent in the library doing research.

The Champions
Because all my classes are centered around the Middle East, there is a tremendous amount of overlap between each of the paper topics. My history paper is about the Reform movements of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. Unless you are a history nut, that might seem like a boring topic. However, when my Islam essay is about the immigration of muslims to the UK and United States in the 20th century, one quickly sees the connection of the failed reform movements that lead to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the immigration of Muslims to western countries like the UK and the USA.
Like I have said in previous posts, the strong connections between all of my classes leads to a very well rounded view of the region.

In other non academic news, the Football (soccer) team that I joined through the school just won the league championship this weekend. It was a beautiful day and I have met some great kids on the team.

Finally, in another unrelated matter, London has been working on a new transportation project called Crossrail. it is meant to connect many of the towns south east of the city to central London. Apparently this is Europe's largest Underground project ever undertaken.

I have only seen parts when I pass certain station, but it looks very impressive

Take care. Next time I talk you I'll be on vacation and hopefully have a little more to say.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Hi Everyone,

I don't really have any new pictures to share today. I am about half way through my semester, and so I think it would be helpful to look back on the semester thus far. I have had so many great experiences, but that does not mean there haven't been struggles.

This Map might be a little dated and not entirely accurate
but it gets across how I feel in class sometimes
First, I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to focus on one region of the world. The Middle East region has so much history, and I have never really had the opportunity to study before. The combination of History, Religion, Economics, and Management provides a well-rounded view. However, the combination does an amazing job showing the complexity of current events in the region. Like I said, I could not be happier to have this opportunity to concentrate on the MENA region, but there have been some hardships.

It is a blessing and a curse that I get to study these topics with so many natives of the MENA region. The blessings are obvious. I love the the first hand knowledge that students can provide to a discussion. The struggle is feeling so far behind them. I now have a vague idea of how some CMC students must feel when they take GOV20 but are not from the United States.

The DR Special
Living in London has also provided some challenges. For one, I have had to cook on my own for the first time. I have enjoyed this for the most part. To me, cooking dinner is a relaxing, but still productive, way finish a long day of classes and studying. The challenge comes from having to plan out a week of food on a budget. This is clearly a very good skill to have especially having only one more year until graduation. My way of dealing with this challenge has worked out very so far. I make sure I get the nutrition I need, but also try to keep the meals simple. Especially being in London, I want to make sure I have money to go out and experience the city. By keeping my meals cheap and simple in my flat, I have the money to go out to eat or grab a few drinks with my friends, and not feel guilty for spending too much money.

Which brings me to my last topic I would like to discuss at this half way point in the semester. Again, I have been very fortunate to make several new friends while in London. Many of them also attend small liberal arts colleges in the States so I hope to keep in touch after the semester ends. Before I continue, I want point out that I have had this conversation with a number of study abroad students... The struggle is experiencing so many amazing places without the people closest to you.

Italy with Elaina
As amazing as the people I've met are, I have still only known them for under two months. It is a weird way to see a new part of the world. Not with your best friends or family, but with people you have just met. This became especially obvious when I travelled to Italy to see Elaina.

Although I label them as 'struggles' I really do appreciate the necessity to step outside my comfort zone. I can't wait to look back at the end of my semester and see if I still have the same struggles, how I continued to deal with them, and if any new one arise.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Hi Everyone!

This post is going to be a little different than the first post. The reason for this is that I am currently in Italy! I have a week off from classes at SOAS so I'm taking advantage of the fact that it is very easy to travel around Europe. I flew into Pisa where I met another CMC student currently studying abroad in Siena, Elaina Faust.

There is not much to do in the Pisa, besides the tower, so it was perfect for a half day before we took the train to Florence. Florence is an amazing city with so much to do. Elaina and I filled our weekend going to the Uffizi museum where we saw some of the most impressive renaissance art including Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" painting. After that, we scaled the countless stairs of the Duomo where we got a beautiful view of Florence and the surrounding countryside. No day is complete without Gelato and classic Italian meal of pasta.

Today we went to the Accademia and saw Michelangelo's David. The sculpture is honestly unbelievable. I have seen countless pictures of the sculpture in my life, but none are able to capture the size and detail of the piece. First off, it is 5.17 meters (16.96 feet) which is impressive in its own right. However, what makes the sculpture so amazing is the detail. When you look closely at his hands and neck you can see the veins exactly where you would expect, especially after just having slain Goliath. Unlike many sculptures, Michelangelo carved detailed eyes as well. It really puts every other sculpture I have ever seen to shame.

Following the Michelangelo theme, we then hopped on a bus to visit the Piazza di Michelangelo. This is probably the best view of Florence, and we were lucky to have such a beautiful day to enjoy it. Below you will see many pictures we took here.

Apologies for not writing about my experiences in London, but I had to take the opportunity to talk about such an amazing weekend in Italy.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Hi Everyone!

A lot has happened in the two weeks since my last post. The amount of different things to do in London continues to amaze me. I am beginning to settle in with my classes and starting to get to know my classmates. Outside of class, I have joined the Football club, the Squash club and the Hummus Society. These have been great ways to meet full time students. Many of the Londoners have only heard American accents in movies so they seem very excited to meet someone who actually speaks like that. I have gotten some weird questions about America like, What is KoolAid? Do you own a gun? and my personal favorite, "Can you say water?" (just so they can laugh at accent).

Other than the accent, there have also been some confusion with terminology. I was laughed at by a bartender when I asked where I could find the restroom. He replied with "Sorry mate, this is a pub not a hotel." I guess its true that you don't take a nap there. From that moment I have always asked where the toilets are, and if you want to avoid the embarrassment of some bartender laughing at you then ask for the toilets or gents/ladies. I'm sure this won't be only cultural mess-up while I'm here, but it is funny to look back on.

Lastly, I would just like to defend America's weight reputation. There are two McDonald's within eyesight of each other down near King's Cross. 'nough said. They do all seem newer than the ones I've been to America, but other than that they are very similar.

I'll talk to everyone soon!
Nick Pounding a 3000 year old Statue

Tower Bridge

Globe Theater 
Tower of London with Lindsey, Elena and Jen

Tower of London

Classic Beheading at the Tower of London


Tower Bridge from the Tower of London

Tower of London