Harlaxton 2.0

Well, it’s long overdue, but I’ve finally started a new blog: http://TheNomadicLife.weebly.com

In short, it’s about the traveling life. The beautiful, inspiring, lonesome, and I-wouldn’t-want-it-any-other-way traveling life.  Feel free to bookmark the new website and follow along if you wish. I think for now, I will be retiring The Ones Who Do. Thanks to everyone who followed along. I hope you continue your journey with me at my new blog site!

Farewell Harlaxton, Hello New Adventures

I’m all packed up and ready for my departure tomorrow morning from Harlaxton.  It sure has been an incredible six months.  I feel I’ve grown professionally and personally from this internship and have been positively influenced by wonderful colleagues, students and the overall environment—both at Harlaxton and in the UK as a whole.  I am truly blessed with the opportunities I have had in my life and am very grateful for yet another memorable and inspiring chapter.

I spent the past several weeks putting together a new promotional video for the College, which has gotten high praise from students, faculty and administration. (A bit of a relief after putting so much time and energy into it): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4X6zIQUPF7M

While I leave Harlaxton with mixed emotions and some sadness, I have much to look forward to, including eight weeks of travel in Europe before returning to Portland where a new job awaits me.  Tomorrow I head to Madrid where I will meet one of my childhood friends, Bridget.  We have 11 days planned in Spain, including Madrid, Granada, Cordoba, Seville and Barcelona.  I have never been to Spain so am looking forward to a new cultural experience and am very excited for tapas, sun and heat!

Bridget and I fly back to the UK and head to Scotland for T in the Park music festival just north of Edinburgh.  Last year it rained the entire festival, but I’m hopeful the weather will be better this year.  There are tons of musicians and bands I’m looking forward to seeing so think it will be a great weekend regardless.  Bridget then returns to the States while I stay in Scotland for a few more days to go to the Inveraray Highland Games, said to have started in 1563.  There will be Highland dancing, piping, and field and track events.

After Scotland, I then meet up with my Harlaxton coworkers/friends, Ben and Anke, for 12 days of traveling in Slovenia (Ljubljana), Austria (Salzburg), and Germany (Munich, Nuremberg, and Ulm where Anke is from).  I’m looking forward to seeing castles, caves, the Alps, quaint historic towns, and hiking.  It will be hard saying bye to Ben and Anke, but know I will see them again… perhaps in Portland?

On July 30, I will then make my way back to Scotland and spend 3 more weeks in Edinburgh.  The world’s largest arts festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, takes place August 2-26.  I love Scotland so much and am excited to get to know Edinburgh even better during the festival time.  I have been to Scotland three times in the past six weeks and adore it more and more with each visit.

En route back to Portland, I will spend four days in Reykjavik and explore parts of Iceland.  I think this will be a very different, remote and surreal experience.  The population of the entire country is just over 300,000 people.  Friends of mine who have been there say it feels like being on the moon (or at least what they think that would be like).

I return home on Friday August 23, just in time for my new job that starts August 27.  It is a 12-month AmeriCorps position as Program Coordinator for Carpe Mundi (www.carpemundi.org), a “non-profit community development organization supporting low income, at-risk, and first-generation Portland students”.  Carpe Mundi provides students with academic and personal support, as well as experiential and international learning opportunities.  Students in the program meet monthly for group meetings and then go on a three month service-learning study abroad program in the spring.  My job will include advising students and recruitment, as well as grant writing and other administrative duties.  Again, I am extremely blessed and excited for this opportunity.  Here is a short, 2-minute video featuring a few of the students and Hansell, the Executive Director and my future supervisor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MV15-Z4bxnU

Summer Programs and Ireland

Time continues to fly by… another month has come and gone.  The spring semester is long over and all those students who I developed great relationships with the past few months have left (but will stay connected through Facebook).  Several Harlaxton summer groups are here which means my work duties have shifted and I’m now primarily helping with ‘Programmes and Events’.  I have mainly been putting together itineraries, welcome packs and briefing notes for each summer group.  These are faculty-led programs from various U.S. universities, averaging roughly 20 students per group, who stay at Harlaxton from one to five weeks.  Harlaxton essentially provides the bedrooms, classroom space, and transportation for various field trips, but the group’s faculty leaders do all the teaching and student support.  There are about 16 groups in total this summer.

I have also been doing some initial research for future summer groups and coming up with suggested itineraries based on what those faculty members want to study while in the UK.  For example, a group coming in 2015 wants to design a course based around John Locke and Karl Marx while another is interested in studying the British Legal System.  It’s been fun looking up possible field trips and tours for these groups and getting exposure to the earlier stages of program planning.  I have also done a few airport pick-ups (was up at 4:30 am this morning for one) to greet summer groups upon their arrival and escort them to Harlaxon from the airport.

Now that my weekday evenings are more free (since the student government and leadership groups I was working with over the semester are no longer here), and because the weather has gotten warmer, I have been doing more things in the local area with my coworkers–who are now also my close friends.  We have gone to local village festivals, street markets, bowling, and have had regular movie and game nights.  While my social circle is much smaller than it usually is when living in Portland, it has been really great getting to know these few people who I work and live with so closely.  We even have plans to travel together in July after my internship ends (to Ljubljana in Slovenia, Salzburg and Germany)!

I will leave you with an Irish Blessing and pictures from my independent Ireland trip that I took last month.  I spent a week touring the country from April 18-25 where I spent nights in Dublin, Cork, Dingle, Galway and Inis Mór (the Aran Islands) with day trips to Northern Ireland’s coastline and Connemara.  I didn’t stay long in any one place, but instead got just a taste for what Ireland has to offer: beautiful scenery, friendly people, welcoming pubs, lively music, lots of sheep, and lucky for me I experienced sunny and warm weather.  Believe me, I will be back.

May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.

~Irish Blessing

Malta

I had my first vacation and time away from Harlaxton to Malta in mid-March (wow, I can’t believe how fast the past month has gone!).  It was a wonderful 5 days away to unwind with much needed sun and warmth.  I met some other solo travelers at the hostel I stayed at so it was nice to meet some fellow, like-minded adventurers.  It sure is great to take advantage of my location and enjoy the perks of living in Europe where it is so easy and inexpensive to get to other parts of this diverse continent.

Malta is a remote island nation (one of the world’s smallest and is the most densely populated country worldwide).  It is situated in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya.  It gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and has two official languages: Maltese and English.  Maltese is strongly influenced by Arabic so it was really exciting that I could understand some of the words and phrases having studied Moroccan Arabic.  I won’t say much more and instead will let the photos do the talking, but to sum it up, it was a complete joy to explore!

The Lake District

Today marks the halfway point for my internship at Harlaxton College.  While time is going by fast, I think about all that I have done during the past three months and then it still feels like I have a long way to go (and that is a very good thing!).  There are only three weeks left for the Spring 2013 semester students.  I have been hearing mixed feelings from them; some are ready to go home while others want to hide in their rooms and never leave.  After they depart, staff and faculty have a week long break (I’ll be going to Ireland) before the summer school groups start arriving–over 1,000 students in total throughout the summer will be coming to Harlaxton!  Groups of various ages and sizes, studying a variety of topics and from different parts of the United States, will be here ranging from a couple of nights to several weeks from late-April to mid-August.  There is a lot of work to be done to start preparing for their arrivals which I am starting to help with, such as putting together the rooming lists for each group and designing their itinerary brochures.

A couple weeks ago, I went on my last weekend trip as a Courier (at least for this semester’s group) to the Lake District (March 7-10).  There were 70 students on the trip plus my coworker, Ben (Dean of Students), who was also a Courier.  Feedback from the Fall 2012 semester indicated that this was one of the most popular and loved trips organized by the College so there was a lot of anticipation and excitement getting there.  We left Thursday after classes expecting to arrive to Hawkshead by 11pm.  Several factors (mainly a not-so-good bus driver) made us over 2 hours late so we didn’t get the students checked into their hostel rooms until after 1am.  Most had a good attitude about it, but some seemed a bit annoyed.

Friday was a free day.  Most people went for hikes (including Ben and I), some students rented mountain bikes which they raved about, and others just slept in and poked around the village center where there were several cute shops, cafes and pubs.

Friday was also Ben’s birthday so I attempted to throw him a surprise party with all of the students in the evening at the hostel.  Earlier that afternoon, I found a bakery in Hawkshead that had a GIANT cake that could feed 70 people.  The baker had made it for an event the following day, but was willing to sell it to me and make another one.  It was almost a successful surprise except that Ben returned to the hostel an hour before I had told students to meet for the party, so not many students were there when he walked in.  Also, the receptionist at the hostel gave it away right before he walked into the dining area, telling me right in front of him that she put a knife and forks in the room. Oh well, I think he still felt special and appreciated it.  The rest of the students quickly showed up as soon as they heard there was a chocolate-strawberry cake and the whole thing was devoured in about 30 minutes.  Ben and I went out to dinner with a group of about 12 students that night which was a lot of fun, and nice to get to know more of them who I hadn’t talked to much before.

On Saturday, students had the option of signing up for a variety of activities including kayaking, gorge scrambling, rock climbing or mountain trekking.  I signed up for kayaking in the morning.  It was beautiful to be on the lake with mountains all around, although the weather was absolutely FREEZING making it hard for some people to fully enjoy the peaceful scenery.  But all in all, I think everyone had a great time (once they got over the frigid water temperature).

We had to change our route on Sunday getting back to Harlaxton due to snow in the mountains.  Of course, this is the worst spring England has seen in 50 years (it briefly snowed again yesterday).  Just my luck.

York, Cambridge & Nottingham

I have been going on so many trips the past couple of weeks that it’s hard to keep up with my blog.  This post is mostly pictures from the past few trips I have been on…

York (March 1):  So far, this is my favorite place I have been to in the UK!  I went as the Courier for a day trip with about 50 students and faculty members.  I spent my time wandering around the cobbled streets and old castle walls that go around the perimeter of the city center.  I stopped for coffee at an adorable and well-known tea house (Bettys), stumbled upon a cute outdoor market, and had a delicious lunch at a Mexican influenced vegetarian restaurant.  I also visited Clifford’s Tower, York Minster and the Yorkshire Museum Gardens.  I just loved the feel of the city as well as the friendly people and left thinking I must come back again to spend more time there.  I can even see myself living in York temporarily, if only getting a job in the UK was that easy.

Cambridge (March 2-3):  For the first weekend I had off from work and away from Harlaxton in what felt like months (but was really only 3 weeks), I went to Cambridge where I have two American friends studying.  One is getting his PhD in Art History and the other (who I haven’t seen in four years!) is getting his Master’s degree in History.  Cambridge is another really nice city and I enjoyed my time with friends exploring the area and seeing many of the colleges that are part of Cambridge University.  It was still too cold for me to try ‘punting’ down the river, so I will have to go back again once the weather gets warmer.

Nottingham (March 6):  Harlaxton College organized an afternoon trip for students and visiting U.S. faculty to visit the University of Nottingham in order to get a better look at an English university.  We had a few hours to explore the campus, talk to current students, and go on a tour of the university’s Student Union led by a member of their Student Government.  I also spent some time at the university’s galleries and museum exhibitions, walked around the lake on campus and went on the Student Union tour, which happens to be housed in the “Portland Building”(!).

Bath

February 22-24, I was the Courier for a weekend trip to Bath, which also included many stops and excursions in the surrounding county of Somerset.  There were a total of 56 people on the trip (51 students, 4 faculty and myself).  While the weather was grey and much colder than in North Wales the weekend before, we all still had a great time and I again enjoyed getting to know more students better, as well as gain confidence and develop as a trip leader.

We left Harlaxton Friday morning and had a smooth 4-hour bus ride to Bath, arriving in the early afternoon.  We all did a tour of the Roman Baths and then had a few hours of free time to explore the city before we could check-in to our hostel.  I wandered around and visited Bath Abbey, some smaller churches, an art gallery, the Circus, Royal Crescent, Royal Victoria Park, Queen Square, and ate a famous Sally Lunn bun (which was basically a loaf of bread).  Bath has a very unique, old Roman feel to it.  Quite a few English people I have met say it’s one of their favorite places in the UK.  I especially enjoyed strolling around at night and viewing the city while walking to and from the hostel, located up on a hill about 1 mile from the city center.

A group of students who I’ve gotten to know through Student Government invited me out to dinner with them to get real Tex-Mex style burritos (I have found this is something almost all Americans crave when traveling abroad).  They had read about this restaurant which serves “authentic burritos passed on from Mexico via San Francisco to the UK.”  It was so delicious and my first time in this country I actually thought the food was truly spicy!

On Saturday, there was a day trip which included a visit to Wells Cathedral, described as “the most poetic of the English Cathedrals” (and poetic it was).  The town of Wells itself has a very quaint and charming feel to it as well.  We then went to see the remains and ruins of Glastonbury Abbey where we had an extremely entertaining tour led by a “monk” who even got us to skip.  Glastonbury is a hippie-ish town that had a farmer’s market going on while we were there and lots of vegetarian cafés–I would have loved to spend more time there, but there was too much to do!  In the afternoon, we visited Avebury, the oldest stone ring that is known to be in existence anywhere in the world.  This Neolithic henge monument contains three stone circles around the village of Avebury.  It was especially cool that we got to go up and touch the stones.  I again was invited out to dinner with a group of students that night to get Thai food (yummy).

On Sunday, we saw Stonehenge (very impressive!) and stopped in Salisbury to see yet another cathedral; this one seemed to be more dark and eerie than some of the others which I liked.  This is also where one of the four original copies of Magna Carta is housed (I have now seen two of them, the other at Lincoln Castle).  I discovered the deliciousness of a cheese and onion pasty before heading back “home.”  We arrived back at Harlaxton in time for dinner.  Another safe, successful and fun trip!