Exploring new places solo

If you, like Hedyieh from Colorado State University, are coming from outside of Europe to join the Study Abroad Programme at Reading, you’ll find Reading an ideal base for exploring the Continent, either with friends or solo…

Now this is not for everyone, but I wish it could be. If the fear of being alone or traveling alone scares you and bothers you more than it benefits you I do not suggest you travel alone BUT if you are just making excuses, stop making them. There are many different types of traveling: going with your family, going with friends to a party destination, going with friends to sight see, small group travels, large group travels, solo, etc. All of these types should be experienced if possible because you learn something different with each way of traveling and it helps make you a better individual overall.

Traveling completely solo was something I had never done before. I have travelled alone to meet friends or go to camp but I have never just travelled to a destination alone and stay alone. My first trip was to Paris and I was completely hesitant on whether or not I should do it because all the friends I was supposed to travel with could not make it to the trip. That fear was the only thing that was holding me back.

After a week of thinking I knew that if I did not make it to France I would highly regret it and at the end of the term I did not know if there would be time to squeeze in France, so I just went for it. I was in Amsterdam with a friend the weekend before visiting Paris which was perfect.

Once Monday came around I caught an 8 hour bus ride from Amsterdam to Paris and it went by so quickly. I was super nervous about so many things from navigating alone, to eating alone, and to having my evenings alone. I have always had friends to lean on and join at hostels when making more friends, almost like a safety cushion, I was nervous that I was not going to be able to make friends on my own and that I would look silly or desperate approaching strangers at the hostel. All of these nerves are normal and good, the best way to get over them is by just being yourself and going for everything you want. You have already arrived and booked the trip so why not do more.

Since I arrived into France at an awkward time, there was just enough room for me to see one place before the sun completely set, I quickly made it to the metro station and chose to see the Eiffel Tower. It was absolutely stunning in person. I could not believe something I see in pictures and learn about was finally in front of me, I was in awe. I made it back to my hostel by dinner time and I was able to chat amongst a few people which was not so bad for the first day.

On the second day I really experienced traveling alone. I had to eat breakfast and lunch alone, the thought of that made me so anxious but then I realized so many people around me were doing the same and no one was watching. Sight seeing alone was also nerve racking at first but slowly everything came together. When you travel alone you really get time to think, travel at your pace, and just dive into peace and quiet.

The third day was absolutely perfect. I woke up early to get into the Louvre near opening time. Going alone was the best choice I made because I ended up spending 6 hours inside, doing everything at my pace. If I were with people I do not know how it would have all happened. Afterwards I walked down the Seine to the Notre Dame and I finally got a message from my stomach telling me it was hungry. Lunch was perfect. I walked down the Seine with a baguette in one hand and a liter of Prosecco in the other. It was so beautiful and quiet and the sun was out shining down on Paris.

I got to make my way back to the Louvre through the gardens and down the Champs Elysees and I finally reached the Arc de Triumph. As the sun set I was smiling and soaking up all the incredible time I got for myself in the 3 days. I do not know if it was because no one was around influencing my thoughts or if I never put in time for myself like I just did but everything fell into place. I really appreciated myself and my capabilities. I learned the city within 48 hours, never got lost, never got robbed, and learned to accept that it’s okay to be alone, it’s actually really healthy to do so once in awhile.

We can get so caught up in our daily routine and get sucked into this bubble we never noticed. Traveling really wakes you up from all the closed curtains and traveling alone challenges you as an individual to think. You think about what you are doing with your life, you think about what you want out of life, you think about everything you are seeing and experiencing. It is like doing a puzzle on your own and you finally see the big picture instead of each piece alone.

So if you are reading this and you run into a weekend or a few days where no one can travel with you, it’s okay you should still go! Do not skip out on a trip because no one else can come with you, go for you! Bring a book and a journal or camera and just indulge in everything you do!! Be safe, be smart, and be cautious!!

 

Making (simulated) millions at ICMA!

In March 2017, Dan from University of Mary Washington joined us for our Study Abroad Programme Trading Room Challenge at the on-campus ICMA Centre. Read on to learn more…

When most people talk about their study abroad they talk about the places they travelled to and the sites they got to see but a great experiences from my time at the University of Reading was participating in a trading room simulation at the IMCA Centre at the University of Reading Henley Business School. The IMCA trading room is a fully functioning and equipped trading room capable of simulating the real life market and training finance students at the Henley Business School. I personally am a Business major and was super excited to see what a trading simulation would be like.

Going into the simulation I had very little experience in a trading environment but never the less couldn’t wait to give it a shot. When I got there all the participants were seated and briefly explained the rules and how the simulation would work. I remember the teacher explaining the controls saying it normally takes students over a year of classes and training to get to the trading room but you all are going to learn in 15 minutes.

The simulation worked like this. We all had a starting amount of money and no stocks. We could choose from a limited number of stocks such as Google and Morgan Stanley to buy and sell. Every 15 seconds there would be a ‘call’ from another bank asking for a buying and selling price, and based off what you enter the bank either buys or sells stocks from you. The entire market was influenced by simulated news events. There was a contest amongst the group for who could make the most money and who could make the least money.

So, after very little explanation the simulation started and we were off. The whole hour long simulation passed in a blur. It seemed to only take around 5 minutes. The entire room was dead quiet except for the sound of frantic clicking and typing.

Looking back the trading room simulation was an amazing experience. As a Business major it was cool to experience how stock trading works in a real time environment. Study abroad is not just about the experiences you know you will have by traveling and experiencing new things. It is also about the small unexpected experiences you have along the way that you will always remember.

NB: The Erasmus & Study Abroad Office would like to thank Dr Michael Smith of the ICMA Centre for facilitating this event for Study Abroad Programme students.

Exploring far and wide in Enhancement Week…

Taylor from the University of Georgia used her Week 6 in February 2017 to venture to the Republic of Ireland and Scotland. How will you use yours? Taylor will likely give you some ideas!

At the University of Reading, Week 6 is known as Enhancement Week. Enhancement Week aka ‘Opportunities Week’ gives students time and hosts events to develop their study skills, personal goals, and employability. I choose to spend that week going on my first trip outside of England since arriving. Some of my friends chose to travel to Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy. I chose to start a little closer to Reading in Ireland and Scotland. Many people find they get the most out of a trip traveling solo, but I am a people’s person. I was able to find another study abroad student from Missouri to join me, Laura. Although Laura and I do not have much in common, it was nice to have a travel buddy. We made four major stops: Dublin, Glasgow, Isle of Skye, and Edinburgh. The total trip lasted for eleven days, so I’ll do my best to condense all my adventures.

Our first stop, Dublin, Ireland, was for three days where we met up with another study abroad student from New Jersey named Terry. Our hostel, Barnacles Hostel Dublin, was in the center of the area known as Temple Bar. We spent our time seeing sights such as Christ Church Cathedral, the Guinness Factory, and the Dublin Zoo. The Guinness Factory is a must and I recommend saving your free beer that comes with your entry ticket for Guinness’ Gravity Bar. One night, we went on a pub tour where we went to Whelan’s Pub, the pub where P.S. I Love You was filmed!

Next stop was Glasgow, Scotland. We only spent a night there to meet up with our tour bus the next morning. That tour bus, Rabbie’s, would take me on an adventure I will never forget. Over the course of three days, Laura and I became friends with ten strangers. We drove through the Scottish Highlands stopping in Glencoe where the James Bond movie Skyfall was filmed, Fort William, and finally landing in Portree on the Isle of Skye where we would spend the next two nights.

From what I had seen that first day, Scotland was the most beautiful place I had ever seen, but I would still only be amazed the next two days. Day two we started in the Fairy Glenn. I felt as if I had walked onto the set of Lord of the Rings in the hobbit’s Shire. It was beautiful and magical. After, we stopped on the shores of Glendale and Staffin Bay Beach where we saw real fossilized dinosaur footprints.

Unfortunately, day three came and it was time to leave the Isle of Skye. We would catch a ride to Edinburgh, but on the way back we stopped for a tour at the Eilean Donan Castle and walked around the Loch Ness for lunch. My words do not do justice to the beauty I experienced in the North. If you ever get the chance to go, you will not regret it. The last five days, Laura and I would spend in Edinburgh. By this time, we were exhausted, but still wanted to see more. My favorite part of Edinburgh was the Zoo. It was incredibly open and interactive. I walked through a marsupial exhibit and stood two feet from a wallaby. All in all, I am forever grateful for this experience and look forward to more trips during my time abroad.

A myriad of experiences on Reading’s doorstep…

Cameron, who joined the University of Reading Study Abroad Programme from the University of Florida in January – June 2017, found there were so many experiences to be had within a short journey from Reading. Join him as he takes a trip to the British Museum in London…

One of the experiences that I have had during my time at the University of Reading was a trip I made to the British Museum in London. While I’m aware that museums are not exactly a great many people’s cup of tea, I for one love them. I think it comes from being someone that has always loved history. The British Museum is particularly interesting in that there are numerous artefacts from across the world that are on display. For one they have jewellery from Sumer that is close to five thousand years old, as well as sarcophagi from Ancient Egyptian tombs. Not to mention a rather impressive collection of Ancient Greek sculptures.

To me perhaps the most striking were the carvings on display from the Ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud. These carvings were actually part of the interior decoration of the royal palace and depict scenes from the daily life of the rulers of Assyria to their military conquests. Also, for anyone with an interest in medieval history like me, they have numerous artefacts from the Saxon and Viking period in England. This encompasses artefacts from the 7th century Sutton Hoo burials, including the ornate and famous helmet. In all honesty the British Museum is a must see for history buffs, but keep in mind that the place is huge and it would take most of a day to actually enjoy all of it.

Finally, if anyone is interested in visiting the Museum, it’s only a half-hour train ride from Reading to London, and a ticket for a train ride covering both the round trip to London and unlimited trips on the London Underground for a day costs only about £20.

Do you want a cuppa tea?

Well by all means sit back and relax with a cuppa as Sarah, studying abroad from the University of Mary Washington from January – June 2017, reflects on the British food and drink she encountered while here, and a whole lot more besides…

Yes, the Brits do drink tea as much as you think. It has only been a few weeks since I arrived at the University of Reading and I am loving every minute of it! Before I arrived in the United Kingdom, I had never been to the UK or mainland Europe. So when the University of Reading Erasmus & Study Abroad Office offered a trip to explore the sites within the UK I jumped on the chance to explore! One of my first trips within the United Kingdom was to the little village of Bourton on the Water and the Blenheim Palace!

Bourton on the Water is your quintessential English village with traditional cottages, elegant low bridges, and beautiful parkways. Here, I experienced my first full English breakfast at an English tea room!

I also got to tour Blenheim Palace! The Palace was built for the 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, in the 18th century. It is also the childhood home of Winston Churchill. The Palace was an incredible sight to see! The Palace was filled with decorative china and intricate portraits, paintings, and tapestries. There were also vast areas of gardens (including a waterfall) and land for grazing sheep.

This was an amazing first trip after getting settled into my accommodation in Windsor Hall. The best part about living in Windsor Hall is the close knit community of study abroad students. Being so close allows us to bond over our study abroad experiences and creates an amazing way to make new friendships. Living right outside of Park Eat also has its perks. Park Eat is truly the life of the campus. It is a place where people gather to watch sports games and highlights, meet up with friends after modules for food and drink, and prep for a fun night at the Union! I can’t wait to see what else awaits during the rest of my study abroad experience!

 

 

Creating friendships that last a lifetime…

For Michaela, from the University of Rhode Island, its the people she met at the University of Reading that made her Study Abroad Programme experience here a home away from home. Join her as she reflects on January – June 2017…

When you take part in a study abroad program, you sign up for more than what’s proposed in the name “Study Abroad’. Not only do you leave an academic system that you’ve already adjusted to, but you leave your old university home and respective social groups.

Coming from the University of Rhode Island, where the campus acts as a student city filled with familiar faces, I knew no one here. However, I soon realized that didn’t mean I was alone. Since the first day of orientation, I’ve met countless other international students which turned into a close group of friends. I’ve also become friends with my English flat mates, as well as the English flat mates of my international friends. With their help, I have created lifetime friends and experienced the social life they have to offer.

The Erasmus and study abroad team has helped expose me to new places around the UK and test the waters of exploration through the comfort of the University. The picturesque Whiteknights campus continuously gives me a friendly and safe atmosphere while its location gives easy access to England’s capital and a subsequent gateway to all over Europe.

In a time where everything is new and you’re forced to immerse yourself into a culture that is unique to your own, the University of Reading and its community has managed to make it a home away from home.

Reading: location, location, location and so much more…

Just what is it about Reading? Hedyieh from Colorado State University, who studied abroad with us from January – June 2017, tells us more…

I took a chance with Reading and chose this school out on a whim. I knew it was super close to London and that the academic program at the university was very good for many courses but little did I know how thankful I would be for Reading. With the 5 months I have had here, Reading has grown on me each day and I am so glad that this was the place I decided to make my home.

Lets start with academics. So many programs here in Reading are flourishing. I have been challenged studying for exams and essays due to the rigor my professors provided for me. I loved the practicals offered as well. I am a biomedical science major and neurobiology had a really cool practical. I have never dissected a brain and having that opportunity was incredible. Professors here are really passionate about their work and give as much information as they can throughout their lectures.

Location, location, location. Reading is the perfect place to be honest. It is a thirty minute train ride to London and nearly an hour or two to other cities and places like Oxford, Dover, Cambridge, Stonehenge, Bath, etc. It’s amazing! Besides London Stansted Airport the other three airports are super close and choosing any of them for a cheaper flight was perfect. While traveling Europe I never had a plane ride longer than two and a half hours which was so nice, England is so central. With so many friends who were also studying abroad I was able to go to London and back as often as I would like for a very reasonable price.

Living in Reading was perfect because it was not as expensive as living in London. What is there to do around here? Everything. Town center is awesome and its where my flatmates and I found ourselves with any downtime in Reading. You could walk or catch the 21 bus and get to town in fifteen minutes. Any home goods and groceries needed throughout the term were easily accessible and there was a variety of stores to choose from. Popular shopping stores and restaurants are everywhere. Bars, pubs, and clubs are open every night and provide an evening filled with dancing or cheering on a football team.

Reading has a small town vibe, it is not very big and most of it can be visited within a few hours but that is the best part of it. There is not a certain type of people living here, it is a big melting pot of diversity so every person you will see has a different style in clothing and you will run into people of all ages. Everyone here is so friendly and it is so nice having that kind of environment when going out or just spending a day in town with friends. I could not be more comfortable in this awesome town.

 

Reflecting on the distant (and not so distant!) past…

Join Dan from the University of Mary Washington (January – June 2017) as he reflects on his study abroad at Reading, as well as further back in time…

As my time studying abroad at the University of Reading draws to a close, when I look back and reflect on my experiences, one of my favorite aspects of studying abroad at the University of Reading was the guided trips put on by the study abroad office. The study abroad trips were wonderful because the study abroad office provides transportation and an itinerary of ideas of what to do. The study abroad trips consisted of many members of the study abroad program visiting some place in the United Kingdom all together. All of the trips were amazing because on my own I may not have ever found out about the places we visited and got to hang out with the rest of the study abroad group.

My favorite trip put on by the study abroad office was the trip to Stonehenge. Stonehenge to me is one of the must see places when visiting the United Kingdom. Coming from the United States, it blows my mind just how old the site is and how people from thousands of years about managed to move such large rocks.

The Stonehenge trip started out on a cloudy day with around forty members of the study abroad group waiting for the bus to arrive. The first thing I always enjoy about the trips is that you get to hang out with and talk to members of the study abroad group that you would not normally do so. Talking with other members of study abroad is honestly one of the best things about the whole experience because typically in my everyday life I interact with the same people. It is a fascinating experience to branch out and talk to people from other countries and cultures.

After getting on the bus it was around an hour journey to Stonehenge. I always enjoy the bus rides because I like to just look out the window and see the country side of a country I am not from. When we arrived at Stonehenge the bus dropped our group off at the visitor center and we all had the option of take shuttle or walk a little over ¾ of a mile to get to the rocks. I decided to walk. I think it is always important when visiting to see as much as possible because that is of course what I am study abroad to do.  To see new places and have new experience that I typically wouldn’t have in my everyday life. The walking path took me through beautiful landscape of green open fields filled with sheep with little patches of forest scattered here and there. The fields were also dotted with large mounds, which after reading several signs I found out were burial mounds from around the time after the completion of Stonehenge.

After walking a bit further I got my first sight of the famous monument that is Stonehenge. The first thing I noticed is how big the rocks actually were. All pictures I had seen don’t give credit to the scale of the actual thing.

That is something else that I learned while on my study abroad. You can watch videos of a place and see tons of pictures but you don’t ever fully experience a place until you are up close to it and get the feeling of the area around it. Stonehenge was an amazing place to visit. It is a great experience to see a place that I have heard people talk about all my life.

Study abroad is a great idea because you have experiences and create memories that you will have for the rest of your life.

How my study abroad adventure at Reading began…

Taylor from the University of Georgia studied abroad with us at Reading from January – June 2017. Here she reflects on her first few weeks at Reading…

The greatest part of studying abroad is making your own adventure. Here is the story of how mine began.

When I left home at the end of December, I first went to Germany to visit my best friend. I met her when she studied abroad in my American high school 7 years ago! Yes, we kept in touch. I spent an amazing week with her in Dortmund.

Eventually it was time for me to check into the University of Reading; I flew from Düsseldorf and landed in the London Stansted Airport. Little did I know just how difficult it would be to get from Stansted to the city of Reading. A bus, an Uber, a lot of recently converted pounds, and three hours later I arrived at Northcourt outside Benyon Hall. To my dismay it was 10:00pm at night. It appeared to be empty, but a nice security guard who shared my name, Mr. Taylor, kindly helped me check in and walked me to my building. I was exhausted, lonely, and completely bored unable to connect to wifi. I remember laying in bed that night thinking “what have I done”. Despite realizing I left my boyfriend and dog (you can see where my priorities are) for six months, I didn’t cry. I was hoping things would turn up and this would become one of the best decisions of my life. I was right, within that first week I met several friends who would quickly become my “family” here. They were also study abroad students from all over: America, Italy, Ukraine, Australia, and Turkey. These people have become my lifelines here. We travel together, party together, even have chill nights just watching movies in the common room.

My first week at the University of Reading I learned two important things. One, plan ahead especially when traveling, but don’t get discouraged when it takes longer than expected. Two, be outgoing, talk to everyone you meet and really get to know them. That is how you make friends that will last a lifetime.