Reverse Culture Shock

It’s real. When you’ve been away from your home country for a while, coming back feels just as strange as when you first arrived in your host country. Since I’ve been back, I’ve noticed several major differences from the United States and United Kingdom:

Everyone is much more talkative. This isn’t always a bad thing, it just catches me off guard a lot. I was in Target browsing in the home goods when a woman suddenly says, “You know, I often make small pillows out of placemats,” and it took me a hot minute before I realized she was speaking to me!

Everything is really spread out. Fresh off the plane, my parents took me out for ice cream in a shopping center when I realized how massive the parking space alone was. Such lots don’t really exist in many parts of the United Kingdom. Not to mention, many American cities are really big and spread out, where in England you have a lot of smaller towns. In the twenty odd miles it takes me to drive from my house to downtown, I could have easily driven through several English towns. Needless to say, I’m already sick of driving. Also, in England, shops and flats are built up about three or four stories while here, everything is built out, not up.

Everything is really big. Although this is somewhat of an American stereotype, it’s true. Especially our houses and cars are a lot bigger than that of our British counterparts. The only exception is beer bottles, they’re actually bigger in the United Kingdom, I feel like a giant when I drink now!

American humor. From commercials to movies, now that I’m back, the difference between British and American humor is apparent. American humor is more slap-stick and goofy while British humor is more ironic and based on awkward interactions. I’ve come to really appreciate British humor and now a lot of American humor seems rather juvenile to me.

Issues are far more polarized. In the United Kingdom, I find most people are pretty neutral when it comes to topics like politics and religion. However, in America, that couldn’t be more untrue. There are strong opinions coming from both sides of every issue and they are often extremely passionate and sometimes send harmful messages. Such attitudes are really overwhelming to me.

Although a lot of people don’t really consider the cultural differences between two similar countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, they’re definitely there.

What’s In My Scrapbook

During my study abroad experience, I cataloged my memories and experiences using a scrapbook. I’ve recently completed it and I love sharing it with people and reliving those precious moments. Here are some bits and pieces I put in my travel scrapbook for those considering to make their own:

I order my scrapbooks chronologically, so if you were to look in my scrapbook, my trip to New York would be first. For each destination, I have three components: what I call “bits and pieces,” text of what I did and personal photographs (4-10 depending on the length of the trip). My favorite parts are the bits and pieces, which include:

  • Postcards
  • Concert/ event tickets
  • Transport tickets
  • Museum tickets/ maps
  • City maps
  • Attraction pamphlets
  • Business cards (restaurants, hostels, etc.)
  • Wristbands
  • Receipts (for an especially good meal)

Basically, I keep everything I collect on a trip and sort through it once I get home and decide what would look best in my scrapbook. I also cut down the maps and other thick documents to the front page so my scrapbook doesn’t get too thick. I love my scrapbook, my only regret is not holding out for a bigger one as I would have liked all my adventures to be in one big scrapbook rather than two smaller ones.

… And Back Again

Tomorrow is the day. After ten exciting months of living and traveling abroad, I’m coming back to the United States.

It’s very bittersweet. I’m excited to see my family, friends and dog, Bailey. However, I will miss England. I love Brighton and it will be difficult to say goodbye to my friends and Dan.

When I get home, we will be taking a family trip to southern California. After that, I hope to get a job over summer and get back on track for the new school year. Next year, I will be a School of Life Sciences mentor, Global Guide (be a resource for a small group of international students) and I also hope to work.

I look forward to having a productive school year so I can (hopefully) move back to Brighton once I’ve graduated. This place has really come to feel like home and I’m eager to return. I can promise this won’t be the last of my adventures!

A Day In Brighton

Anyone who’s talked to me about my time abroad knows I love living in Brighton. Whenever someone, local or not, comes to visit, I always know what to do. Here’s what a typical day out looks like for those who do visit:

First and foremost: food. There is a wide variety of different types of food, including a large vegetarian selection. A few of my favorite places are Food for Friends (vegetarian), Burgers and Cocktails, Wahaca (new Mexican restaurant), The Breakfast Club and Terre à Terre (vegetarian).

Another great spectacle is Brighton’s iconic seafront. It’s especially lovely this time of year. You can relax on the beach, wait until the tide comes out and walk along the sand, enjoy a cold treat and visit the world famous Brighton Pier. On the pier, you can play at the arcade, enjoy the rides and see a panoramic view of the seafront.

Additionally, The Royal Pavilion is worth a visit. The Royal Pavilion is a building inspired by Indian architecture and is Brighton’s most notable landmark. In the summer, it’s a lovely place to sit outside and listen to street music, eat and soak up the nice weather. In the winter months, an ice rink is constructed and you can skate in the shadow of the brilliant building and enjoy a hot beverage afterwards.

Lastly, Brighton is also known for its niche independent shops in an area called North Laine, which are worth checking out. There is also no shortage of unique bars, clubs and local gigs and other entertainment for all tastes.

Near Brighton, there is London, of course, and Eastbourne, a great hiking place to see the South Downs National Park, including the iconic Beachy Head.

There is so much to love in Brighton and I will miss it dearly. This place has felt like home for the last nine months and I hope to move back after graduation!

What I Will Miss Most About England

Public transit: I love being able to go anywhere at any time, whether it’s into town by train or to the other side of the country by MegaBus. No such transit system exists in most places of the United States, certainly not Arizona. It was a privilege to have such convenient travel options. Although, the consist train delays we’ve been experiencing lately definitely won’t be missed.

Travel: In addition to convenient traveling within the country, it was also easy and affordable to travel to other European countries. With the airport only half an hour away by train, budget flights for as little as $50 and quick flights to the mainland, it was easy to explore almost a dozen different countries and experience their cultures during my time here.

Food: The stereotype that English food is horrible isn’t totally true… if you know where to eat! I will miss my favorite restaurants and the wide range of home cooked vegetarian meal options.

Nights out: Although I’ve never properly been on a night out in the United States, I struggle to think it can compare. With niche bars and pubs and a club for all tastes, nights out will never be the same.

Local weather and landscape: Let’s face it, I lucked out coming to Brighton. My university is surrounded by rolling, green hills, but I’m mere miles away from the city center and seafront. Although most days here were overcast, I strongly prefer it to Arizona weather (which is meant to be well over 100°F when I get back). Plus, when the weather is nice, there’s nothing like laying out on the grass and soaking up the sun.

People: This is the most obvious one. I’ve made amazing friends here, many of which will undoubtedly last when I go back to the United States. I became close with so many more people than I anticipated and built strong relationships including a romantic one, everyone will be missed.

I can’t believe I go back in a week, I’m not ready!

Italy

Friday, 21 March: I arrived at my hostel in Venice in the early afternoon. For those who don’t know, the only way around Venice is either by foot or water bus; there are absolutely no place for vehicles bar the bus and car park immediately after the bridge. My hostel was on a island called Giudecca separate from the main cluster islands, so that left my options limited to the water bus. Although it’s slow and a bit pricey, riding the water bus is defiantly a neat experience. Once I got back to the main islands, I visited some main tourist locations like Piazza San Marco, bits of the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge, although it was disguised by scaffolding.

Saturday, 22 March: I took a walking tour in the morning. It was an interesting tour in that we didn’t hit the main attractions, but rather less known places with some history such as the smallest street, oldest bridge and several churches. After that, I took one final walk around the Grand Canal before heading out. That evening, I rented a car (thank goodness I know how to drive a manual transmission) and dove about forty minutes northwest to a venue in the middle of nowhere (hence the car rental) to see Enter Shikari. I saw them about a month ago in London with a crowd of about 10,000 people, but this venue had no more than 500 people. During the opening band, Modestep, the guitarist for Enter Shikari, Rory, was standing right behind me! A little later, the singer, Rou, and drummer, Rob, were hanging out at the merchandise booth. I got a few pictures and the two of them signed my ticket. Their set was amazing. Although it was the same songs they played last month, it was a totally different experience in a small venue. At one point, Rou brought an amplifier in the crowd and stood on it for a song while the crowd made a circle pit around him and during the last song, Rory came into the crowd and played and the crowd promptly lifted him up. Not to mention, they both were climbing on things throughout the set. After the set, I waited by the merchandise table, hoping to get the other two members to sign my ticket. The crowd was dying down and I assumed they went to bed, which I understand, it was a late show (it ended at about 12:30AM). On social media, Enter Shikari was running a contest: for everyday of the tour, they autographed a group photo (Polaroid) taken in front of the venue they were playing that night. Although I didn’t win, the winner didn’t show, so the merchandise manager gave me the Polaroid before I left. It was an amazing night, I’m thankful I got several signed items and got a chance to talk to Rou and Rob. After returning my car in the wee hours of the morning and waiting for the hourly night water bus, I was finally back at my hostel, at least for a few hours before I had to catch my train that morning.

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United States vs. United Kingdom: Student Housing

Welcome to another segment where I compare and contrast life in the United States and in the United Kingdom. After my exams, I compared the academic side of studying abroad by talking about my British university experience thus far (you can read about it here). Now, I will expand on life in the halls, at least at Arizona State and Sussex:

My first year of university, we were split up by our majors and put into dorms where almost everyone had a roommate. It is typical to share a bathroom with another pair of roommates of the same sex and have a co-ed floor. Most of the Arizona State residences didn’t have any sort of kitchen: my room came with a small fridge and microwave and in the common area, we had a larger fridge, microwave and washing up sink, but no way to make any proper meals. You were expected to get an on-campus meal plan, which consisted of a number of meals from eight a week to unlimited and an fixed allowance per semester for other restaurants on campus like Burger King, Starbucks, Papa John’s, Subway and Dominos. After your first year, you are expected to move off campus to a nearby apartment complex or house. There are at least half a dozen apartment complexes made especially for students within walking distance of campus and several dozen more within a few miles of campus, as well. In these apartments, you share a kitchen space with about one to four other people (almost always of your own sex) and have your own room and often your own bathroom (if not, you typically share it with one other person). If you can’t find a roommate, the apartment will give one to you and you don’t have to worry about paying for the extra room. The apartments are usually furnished and you can enjoy a wide range of remedies such as a computer room, game room, rooftop decks, balconies, a pool, a gym and more. The application process is easy, the down payments are minimal and people working for the apartment practically beg you to live there.

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My Top 5 European Destinations

One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve been asked is, “What has been your favorite place so far?,” to which, I usually reply, “Don’t open that door.” All the places I’ve been lucky enough to visit have been great in their own way, but I obviously do have favorites, so here they are as of now:

Nice, France

Nice is a change of pace from a lot of other European cities: there isn’t particularly a whole lot to do, but who needs to get out when you can lie on the beach in the year-round mild weather? Nice is characterized by its colorful buildings, blue water and amazing views from Castle Hill. Not to mention, it’s a short bus ride away from Monaco, a small country with a big personality, known for its casino and grand prix.

What to do: walk up Castle Hill, get lost in Old Town and hop on a bus to Monaco.

You can read about my time in Nice here.

Budapest, Hungary

I was pleasantly surprised with how much there is to do in Budapest and although I didn’t stay long enough to do everything I wanted, I hope you don’t make the same mistake I did. Budapest is relatively cheap compared to other countries, with a one-way public transit ticket costing about $1 and most full meals costing well under $10. The night life is buzzing thanks to its historical ruin bars and pubs. The two different sides of the city have their own unique identities worth exploring individually.

What to do: walking tour where you major highlights like the castle district, St. Stephen’s Basilica and Chain Bridge, visit a ruin bar in the Jewish quarter and take a dip in one of the thermal baths.

You can read about my time in Budapest here.

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Budapest, Hungary

Thursday, 11 February: On the train from the airport, I met two Americans who are also studying in England. We also happen to be staying at the same hostel, so that night, we went out to eat together at an affordable and critically acclaimed restaurant where I had beef goulash. After that, I turned in early to save energy for my busy day that was to come in the morning.

Friday, 12 February: I started my day with a walking tour of the city, where I saw several beautiful squares, St. Stephen’s Basilica, Chain Bridge and visited the castle district, which included a walk up Castle Hill to get stunning views of the city and hills, Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. Then, I visited Heroes’ Square and walked to the Széchenyi Thermal Bath, where I took a dip. It was an impressive structure with multiple pools both indoors and outdoors, but I think I preferred the outdoor baths as the cold weather made the water feel even nicer. After that, I met up with my Dublin-based friend Rachel and her boyfriend, Craig. I met them both when I visited Dublin in September and by some awesome twist of fate, we happened to be in Budapest at the same time. We went up to the top of the St. Stephen’s Basilica for an incredible panoramic view of the city. We then visited the Jewish quarter and went to a ruin bar, which can best be described as a ruined building transformed into a bar with mismatched accessories. It made for a really fun and interesting atmosphere.

Saturday, 13 February: Before I left for the airport for my afternoon flight, I took a rainy morning walk along the Danube to the Parliament building to see one last sight. Despite the weather, it was a nice, peaceful morning and good way to end my trip.

I loved Budapest and wish I had a bit more time here, but I’m glad I pushed through I did a lot for the short time I got in this wonderful city.

If you would like to see pictures of my journey, check out my album on Facebook here.