Thursday, May 25, 2017

We're Home!

Our study abroad group returned from our tour of Edinburgh, Scotland; London, England; and Cardiff, Wales, on Tuesday, May 23. Except for one pair of nursing students, the group was made up of students who did not know each other before the trip, but they all had a few things in common:  they were excited to travel outside of the country, they were ready to experience new things, and they were looking forward to broadening their horizons. We returned home with wonderful experiences and the kind of close friendships that are established during travel and adventures. It’s safe to say that the trip was a success on all fronts.

Here are some reflections from a couple of grateful (and weary) students:

"This trip has truly opened my eyes to all the differences between cultures and people of the world. We have learned so much rich history, which often links to U.S. history, during our entire time in Edinburgh, London and Wales. This trip has made me a more confident person with not being afraid to try new things (like Haggis and a Falafel), and knowing that using public transportation to get around an unfamiliar area is not as difficult or scary as it may seem. Nine times out of ten, there is a very friendly person I can ask if I need anything. I plan to use all that I have learned in my career as a registered nurse. This trip will helped me to take a small peek into another country's life and lifestyles. Despite different cultures, histories, or cuisine, we are all humans. I can go into any situation open-minded and ready to help any person at any time. Thank you to all of our incredible tour guides, our awesome travel companions, and advisor Linda Duffy for pushing us out of our comfort zones. Lastly, thank you to Western Technical College for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! I will always keep this awesome experience in mind when I become afraid throughout my life to help me remember that we did this, together, and can get through any situation that comes along."
--Andrea K Hanson

"Growing up on a small dairy farm, I never thought I would ever get the opportunity to travel overseas, but I'm thankful I did. The trip was amazing! There is so much history to be found around every corner—from a small pub with a local legend to a large museum with a collection from all over the world. Not only were the scenery and history amazing, but so were all of the people we met along the way, from the wonderful Edinburgh taxi driver to our amazing tour guide, Lewis, and all of the folks in between. A special shout out to my roommates who made this trip even more memorable and to their thoughtful kindness along the way! I'll never forget the old stone streets of Edinburgh and lush city parks of London. Thank you so much to everyone who worked to make this trip possible!"
--Sarah McKittrick

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Our Last Day

Today is our last day in London and the last day of our Study Abroad adventure. It was especially sunny with the highest temperature we have had so far, a whopping 75 degrees. We started our day by taking the Tube to Green Park. From there, we headed to Covent Gardens, looking at the high end shops in the St. James area along the way. We arrived at Covent Gardens where our tour guide, Lewis, let us try some of the local tea time treats. We were then free to explore London until our dinner meet up time. Our group decided to explore Covent Gardens, a covered area with many shops. We took our time shopping in the Jubilee Market. The market is similar to a flea market with stalls filled with trinkets, antiques, and collectibles.

After some time spent shopping, we took the Tube to Piccadilly Circus so we could walk to St. James church. In their courtyard was a food festival with many ethnic food stalls. As soon as we had eaten our fill we stopped at the local bookstore before continuing to the London Eye. We stood in line for 15 minutes before stepping into the viewing decks. It took about 30 minutes to come full circle. The view was spectacular with the sun shining on everything below. When we completed our ride we took our time to sit in the park below the Eye, wanting to soak up the beautiful weather on the last day of our trip.

We walked to Westminster Abbey before continuing to Buckingham Palace. As we were lounging on the lawn, one of our people (who had gone to get more pictures of the Palace) saw the Queen as she was being driven home in her motor-carriage. We took the Tube to dinner and experienced the crowded atmosphere of rush hour. We were treated to fish and chips at Admiral's and celebrated the birthday of one of our group members. After taking the Tube back to the hotel, all three school groups gathered together to share what we learned and our favorite memories on the trip, as well as thank Lewis for the amazing job he did to ensure we had an excellent time. While we are sad that our adventure has come to a close, we know that the memories that we have gained on this trip will last us a lifetime.

Tomorrow will be an exceptionally long day, as we head for London's Heathrow Airport at 5 am, before boarding our plane for the 8 hour flight to Chicago and another hour plane ride back to La Crosse.

Written by Janessa Kuderer and Kayla Brooks


Monday, May 22, 2017

Trip to Bath and Stonehenge

Today was a beautiful day. We were picked up at our hotel by a charter bus (including a private guide) that took us the two short hours to Bath. On our way to Bath, we traveled through the countryside, and the tour guide gave us a brief history of Bath and the surrounding area. Once we arrived in Bath we were amazed to find how symmetrical and elegant was the city and even every building. All the buildings were also made of limestone from the area. We learned the natural light yellow/honey color had to be restored by thorough cleanings after the Industrial Revolution when the pollution had turned the buildings black.

After taking a short bus tour through the city of Bath, we got the opportunity to stop at the amazing Roman Baths. At the Roman Baths, we got to tour the site, see the breathtaking view of the hot springs, go through a museum about the springs, and try the hot spring water. After seeing the Roman Baths, we got some free time to explore the city. Some of our group tried traditional pasties or scones with clotted cream.

Next, we boarded the bus for a short drive to Stonehenge. On the way to Stonehenge our tour guide informed us about all the mysterious stories about how Stonehenge came to exist. Once at Stonehenge, we followed a marked path around the stones and used a self-guided audio machine to learn more about this structure from thousands of years ago.

We then headed back into London and had dinner at Mother Mash near the famous Canary Street in the Soho area. We were served a traditional meal of "pies and mash," which was basically a chicken potpie over mashed potatoes with a rich gravy. The meal reminded us of comfort food that we have back in the United States. After dinner, a short Tube ride brought us back to the hotel. We opted for an early night in after getting treats from the gourmet, 24-hour bakery across the street from our hotel.

Through outings like the ones we had today, we are getting more comfortable navigating the streets of London. We are also continuing to learn how to travel on the Tube and bus systems. We are excited to spend our last day in London visiting Covent Gardens (and more), riding on the London Eye, and eating a final, traditional meal.

Written by Jamie Pesik and Jamie Turner

Saturday, May 20, 2017

From Bus to Train to Wales

Just a couple days before we venture home. We are now in Cardiff, Wales. Our travel consisted of a double decker bus ride from our hotel to the train station--a thrilling adventure for all--and a two-hour train ride from Paddington Station to Cardiff Central. The train ride to Cardiff featured beautiful views and also gave us a chance to rest up before exploring. We were most surprised by the many long tunnels that we went through. Upon arriving, we took out maps and planned our short visit to Cardiff.

The visit consisted of a nice, breezy walk to Cardiff Bay. It was a stunning view with boats and beautiful swans. After viewing the bay for a while, we hailed a taxi and were off to the Cardiff Market on St. Mary's street. There were many stores and restaurants. Arcades here are allies full of shops--not games. We were all amazed by one store in particular. It consisted of beautiful artwork by a local artist, and a few of us just had to make a purchase because it was too amazing to pass up.

Speaking of differences between cultures, we also learned first-hand that lemonade here is our Sprite. Also, our French fries are their chips. If you want actual chips, you should order crisps. We also enjoyed seeing the Welsh language around us since all of the signs in Cardiff were written in both Welsh and English.

After a train ride back to London (Wherein we got bumped up to first class!), we agreed that being in London has helped us get out of comfort zones when it comes to public transportation. To pay for the bus ride, we've learned to tap our oyster card on the pad. An oyster card is an equivalent to a prepaid transportation card. We also learned about the main bus lines that run near our hotel. We feel better prepared to explore London on our own, and between having used the Tube and the bus system during our stay, our worries of getting lost have decreased substantially.

We are all looking forward to visiting the Stonehenge and Bath (just outside of London) tomorrow. The views and learning opportunities will be vast, and we cannot wait to explore and gain more knowledge while studying abroad.

Written by Lisa Morris and McKayla Haldorson

Friday, May 19, 2017

We're in London!

It's hard to believe we are in London, England!

We got up to have a continental breakfast, which was so good - bread, cheeses, cereal, jam, pastries, yogurt, and fruit. We loaded up the bus and headed to Windsor Castle where the Queen lives! We had a lot of fun exploring and learning a lot of history, including stories of Henry VIII. Then we grabbed a quick lunch and were back on the road to visit the Tower of London. There we saw the Crown Jewels, got a glimpse of the Changing of the Guards, and explored St. George's Chapel. My favorite part about today was experiencing the history of Windsor Castle and learning about how the monarchy came to be! After our second group tour, our Western group (Western is traveling with a couple other Midwest colleges on this trip) ventured off on our own using the Tube - and we survived!
Written by Andrea Hanson

While at the Tower of London, it was incredible to see the differences in buildings between each time period. With a quick glace it was hard to notice differences since they did such an incredible job, but there were differences between the color of the stones, how the stones were laid out, and of course different building styles when you looked closely. It was also interesting to learn about how items/events earned their names, like how the British Order of the Garter gained its name through a mishap during some dancing at a celebration. This trip has been amazing so far! It is amazing to see how people are able to build upon the past and change to new situations they face. I am looking forward to seeing Wales and experiencing more diverse people and viewpoints than I would normally encounter. As a future nurse, I feel this is important to help me prepare for a career. The medical field is always changing and adapting with new information.
Written by Sarah Mckittrick

To London We Go

...And once more we are off! This time for London. We were all up bright and early to be on the bus by 7:30am this morning. The bus then took us to Waverley Train Station in Edinburgh where we boarded our train to London.

The ride was long, but worth it. Along the way we were able to see some beautiful sights. We were able to capture amazing pictures of the North Sea as well as some of the country side. We also passed quaint little towns such as Berwick Upon Tweed, Newcastle, and York.

During the time we were also able to reflect on our days in Edinburg. One member of our trip was brave enough to try Haggis, the national dish of Scotland, and enjoyed it. We also reflected on tips we had learned from traveling and the differences between Scottish and American culture.

After a four hour train ride, we arrived in London at King's Cross Station. From there we hopped on a bus and met our tour guide. On the tour we were able to see several sights in London. A few of the sights that we saw were St. Paul's Cathedral, Big Ben, and Westminster Abby. Unfortunately, we did get a little wet, but we were still eager to get off the bus to capture pictures of the different sights.

We are all tired from our long day, but excited for what lies ahead as tomorrow we are off to Winser castle and the Tower of London.

Written by Janessa Kurdere and Kayla Brooks 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Scotland Countryside - Day 3

We were able to start our adventure today (Wednesday) a little later so we could catch up on some much needed rest. At 9:45 a.m. sharp, we boarded the bus and headed out to Scotland’s countryside to the village of Glenkinchie where we toured a distillery. On our journey to Glenkinchie, we got to experience the narrow and winding roads and enjoy the endless rolling hills and beautiful fields of yellow oilseed rape.

During the Glenkinchie tour, we learned the whiskey making process and information about the history of the whiskey industry in Scotland. We also learned a lot of historical facts. After visiting the Glenkinchie Distillery, we ventured back into Edinburgh. Here we split into groups to experience the city for one last day.

During our exploration of Old Town and New Town, we learned more about their currency. We also continued to grow our knowledge of Scotland’s culture and history while interacting with the locals.

Later in the evening, a few group members took a short trip to the nearby fishing village of Queensferry where we got to experience the Forth Road Bridge and Firth of Forth coastline. It was interesting to visit a small, tight-nit community compared to the busy city life of Edinburgh. Our cab driver educated us on the three Forth Bridges and how they provide the main transportation across the Firth of Forth and connect the coastline of Edinburgh and Fife.

Tomorrow morning we are leaving bright and early at 7:30 a.m. to travel to London. We are excited for our train ride to London and the different landmarks we are going to visit. A few landmarks we are looking forward to seeing are Big Ben, Tower of London, and Windsor Castle. We will miss Scotland, but we are thankful for the opportunity to visit Scotland and learn about its history and culture.

Written by Jamie Turner and Jamie Pesik