Susie Blair spent Spring semester 2013 studying abroad in London with CAPA International Education. Below she tells us about her favorite course “Writing the City”, her adventures to the East End, where to find the best pizza in Ealing and why she returned to the States feeling prepared to face obstacles in her professional career.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background. SUSIE BLAIR: I’m a born and bred Massachusetts resident and I go to school at Northeastern University in Boston, where I study Journalism. I studied abroad with CAPA International Education in London in Spring of 2013, which was my third year of college.
CW: Why did you choose to study abroad in London specifically? Think back to the moment you arrived and share your first impressions of your host city. SB: I’ve always been an anglophile – that is, I’m obsessed with British culture. I love living in a metropolitan environment but I’ve never lived in a city as huge as London and thought a study abroad experience was the perfect opportunity to do so. My first impression of the city was how insanely polite everyone was! At the airport, on the train, and on the sidewalks, so many people offered to help me with my huge suitcase – something that would have never have happened in Boston.
CW: What has surprised you most and why? How did your view of the city change from the time you arrived to the time you left? SB: Before I left, friends and family were constantly warning me about how expensive a city London is. However, after spending a while there, I learned how to live cheaply – where to eat, shop, and go out to save money but still enjoy myself. London is as affordable as you want it to be if you make the effort!
CW: Tell us the story of a memorable interaction you’ve had with a local. SB: I randomly got into a conversation with someone at my favorite Irish-style pub about Boston. Turns out, Irish people often go to Boston before they visit any other city in America because of its rich Irish culture. We talked about places I see almost every day back home. It was a surreal coincidence.
CW: Talk a bit about CAPA academics. What were your favorite classes and why? SB: My favorite class was my creative writing course called “Writing the City.” Since I’m majoring in Journalism, my writing is pretty strictly non-fiction, so I took this course to see if I could stretch myself to write more creatively. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed myself and learned a lot about how journalism and creative writing both differ and overlap. We also took great field trips for inspiration that exposed me to parts of the city I probably wouldn’t have sought out on my own.
CW: Did you participate in any MyEducation events? What did you learn about your host city from your experience and how did it tie in to what you learned in class? SB: The MyEducation events taught me about how culturally diverse London is. I took several to the East End, which is the most interesting place in the city, in my opinion. So many different Asian and European cultures are represented and there’s such a great history of social justice and activism there. There’s a lot more to the culture of London than just the royalty, which I discovered during MyEducation trips.
CW: Close your eyes and think back to your time in London. When you hear each of the following, what first comes to mind? SB: Taste: Tea! I’m a self-professed coffee addict, but tea is so much more commonplace than coffee in the United Kingdom. Soon, I found myself choosing tea with a bit of milk over coffee. Smell: The underground has a kind of distinct musky smell that’s a bit startling at first but now I sort of miss it. Sight: I know its cliché, but it really is Big Ben! As soon as you exit Westminster Tube Station, there’s a fantastic view of the Tower that made me swoon every time. Texture: Lots of woolen clothes that kept me warm during chilly, rainy days. Sound: The birds that lived in the tree outside my window in Ealing that woke me up with their pretty chirping every morning.
CW: How have you felt since you returned to the US? Have you felt any sort of reverse culture shock? Talk about re-adapting to life back home. SB: I found myself saying things with a sort of weird accent when I first got back – I guess my American accent merged with the English ones I was hearing. My friend said I sounded Canadian! I also found myself saying things like “flat” instead of “apartment” and “queue” instead of “line.” As far as re-adapting goes, I miss how polite people are in London compared to Boston – and how much more reliable the public transportation is!
CW: What skills did you learn while abroad that will help you in your future career? SB: I learned how to be self-sufficient and independent. I don’t feel like I need much direction anymore and can figure out most things on my own. I learned how to navigate and live in an entirely new city, so I feel prepared to face other obstacles in my professional career, too.
CW: Share your favorite restaurant in London. Also, what was your favorite London discovery that other students should be sure not to miss? Why? SB: Santa Maria has the absolute best pizza in Ealing – maybe even London. My favorite discovery was the fact that so many stores give student discounts and restaurants (cafes, mainly) charge you less to eat in than to take your food out!
Elizabeth made the most of her time studying abroad in London, earning a Record of Achievement award this semester. She will return to the States with a wealth of new experiences behind her, some of which she talks about below. She also talks about the changes she has seen in herself over the past few months and a connection she made with Nigerian poet Inua Ellams who came to speak at CAPA.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself. ELIZABETH ADEWALE: My name is Elizabeth Adewale, a senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I am studying abroad in London. I’m an English and Psychology major, Afro-American Studies minor. I love the cinema! Watching movies is a hobby for me. I also enjoy cleaning, reading, and writing; when I can, I love to act. Purple is my favorite color, and I am a huge fan of Leonardo DiCaprio.
CW: Which MyEducation event has been most memorable for you and why? How has your participation in this event changed your understanding of the city? EA: The most memorable MyEducation event for me was the Innua Ellams performance. At first I wasn’t going to go, but I decided to because, first of all, I love poetry and I just enjoy it when authors read their works! There’s something so fantastic about it; it gives me hope that one day I’ll be able to read my work in front of an audience that appreciates it. Secondly, he is Nigerian! Like Mr. Ellams, I am Nigerian as well. I moved to America when I was very young. I was immersed into this new culture, tradition and world. Ever since I’ve been in America, which is home to me, I rarely hear anything good about Nigeria or Nigerians for that matter. So, it was really refreshing to have met a real life successful Nigerian! After his reading, I was able to chat with him and told him just how encouraging it is know that Nigerians can be successful. He’s a role model to me now, and I will certainly let my friends and family members know about him!
My participation in the event has certainly expanded my interest in the city. Ellams talked about how he started the midnight run, and I hope to be a participant in the one coming up in December. I only have a couple of weeks left in London and I will love to discover some parts of London that I haven’t yet. Ever since the event, I now have the full awareness that London doesn’t sleep! I have been going to places that are not close to my residential area, and simply getting lost in the city. It’s definitely refreshing!
CW: What were your first impressions of your host city? How have these changed over the course of the semester? EA: Before coming to London, I had a feeling of attachment to it—not just London, but the UK as a whole. This is partly because the British colonized Nigeria—and I felt as if I will feel at home. This is true! I love London and I do feel comfortable and at home. My first impression was awe! I have always wanted to come to London, and when I finally arrived, I was just crying and screaming because it was a dream come true for me. Everything from the people, to the fashion, to the food fascinated me! And the accent! I love the accent. If anything, the accent only heightened my amazement with London. I kept saying I love it here! I want to live here for the rest of my life! I don’t want to leave!
But, after being here for a few months, I must say that I don’t see myself living in London for the rest of my life anymore. I still don’t want to leave, but I can’t live here forever because I think I would start to hate it. As much as I love London, I find that it is a very fast-paced environment, and I need calmness in my life. I don’t want to live a hectic life. Another thing is that there isn’t a lot of space in London; I just need my space. I hate feeling blocked in, and I have felt that a few times in my time here. I still love the accent, and I feel like if I stay here for too long, my fascinated might turn into annoyance; I just don’t want that.
At the end of the day, though, my heart will always long for London. That’s just a fact!
CW: What changes have you seen in yourself since you began your study abroad program? What has your experience taught you about yourself and the world around you? EA: I am a really shy person; I’m that person who will stay quiet in a big crowd of people—but once I get to know someone I open up to them. As much as I was really excited to come to London, I knew that I might have trouble making friends and whatnot. So, one of the things I told myself was to break out of my shell; to try to make new friends. So far, thankfully, I have accomplished that. With that being said, I have learned that I have a lot more confidence than I thought I had. I have also learned that I am open to new ideas; I’m more flexible than I thought I was. It’s not a bad thing at all to be spontaneous, or go out of your comfort zone once in a while. I used to be kind of scared of the world around me—the environment and circumstances—but being here has kind of alleviated that fear. It’s okay to have reservations, but fear will only hinder new experiences and memories to be made. Also, I have learned that the world is beautiful! It’s waiting to be explored.
This is a picture of one of the beauties I’ve discovered around me! Kensington Gardens.
CW: How do you imagine that your experience abroad will change the way you approach your environment back home? How do you think it will change the way you approach your studies? EA: I think this experience will certainly move me to explore and know more about my environment back home. My love for London, and the fact that I am here temporarily, really pushed to want to learn about this great, beautiful city! When I return home, I think my love for America is general will certainly be re-affirmed! I will make it a mission to learn about where I live, be it Boston, Amherst, or Lynn; I will start with Massachusetts and just begin an incredible journey of learning and falling in love with home!
In regards to my studies, I think this experience will help to focus more. What I mean is that I have had to really work to increase my attention span. Being in classes for more than three hours requires a lot of focus, and I appreciate the fact that I have experienced this. At first I was getting aggravated that I couldn’t keep myself interested in class. Now I believe I can. Classes back home are not as long so I think I will be able to focus and ultimately learn more in classes.
CW: When you think of London, what first comes to mind when you hear the following: EA: Sight: Oxford Street at night. Red. Sound: American music. Smell: Cigarettes. Taste: Fish and chips. Texture: Roughly smooth.
CW: Tell us a bit about your internship that you completed while studying abroad, your duties and accomplishments. How will this experience help you in your future career? EA: I intern at Hornsey School for Girls. My duties and responsibilities are to go classes with students and explain, clarify, and provide support for them. That is the basic explanation of what I do at my internship. As for accomplishments, I believe that if the students learn, then I have accomplished something there—it’s about the students, not about me at all. If they accomplish their targeted levels, then I think I have accomplished something as well.
I truly appreciate my experience at this internship. It was supposed to be a psychology internship, to help me decide what it is I want to do as a career. Now I can say that I want to be a counselor. One of my responsibilities is to hold one-to-one sessions with the students. This gives them an opportunity to off-load anything that is on their minds. I found that I enjoyed and grew more while doing that particular aspect of my job. When I applied to the internship program, I honestly didn’t really know what it is I wanted to do with my life, but this experience has made me decide that I want to be a Counselor, specializing in Marriage Counseling—this is to work more on the preventative side of parenting, so that children do not grow up in sub par family environments.
CW: How do you imagine your internship experience will have impacted the way you think, study, work and/or live when you return home? EA: As great as my internship is, I have had to learn and grow personally, unwillingly. I work with students who have some behavioral issues, which affects their learning and adjustment to their academics. So, I had to not only be assertive and professional, but empathetic as well. Now, I have learned that I need to be sympathetic when talking with people; especially when dealing with children. At the same time, I need to be able to keep their minds focused and make sure they learn what they need to. Also, I think this internship experience will help shape my focus in my studies. Now I will do more research beyond what is required in my classes. I will treat the children around me with more care. I believe every day is an opportunity to grow, and I am willing to learn from children! They are so innocent and knowledgeable, and we sometimes forget that they know so much more than we can imagine. Perhaps one of the biggest changes I have seen in myself since this internship is doing my best and leaving the rest. I am an over achiever, and I used to have this feeling that my own definition of progress and result is what matters. Now I really just look at the things from the perspective of whoever I’m taking to, or trying to help; so if they think they are making progress, that is all that matters. I do my best; as long as I put my best into helping them, then I am content. I really appreciate this! I won’t change it at all.
CW: What were the biggest challenges you faced in adapting to your host country? Most rewarding moment? EA: The biggest challenge I have had is taking care of myself, in terms of buying groceries, working out my own finances, topping-up my phone—which is paying phone bills. It has been difficult, but I have accepted the fact that it is part of growing up and becoming a woman. I don’t particularly like it, but I do appreciate it. In retrospect, I think it has been rewarding growing up; I would say that is the most rewarding thing for me. I am growing spiritually, personally, intellectually, academically, socially. This experience overall has been great and I won’t change it for anything!
CW: Tell us a story of a memorable interaction you’ve had with a local and why it left an impression on you. EA: I have met a lot of people here, and I appreciate that. One memorable encounter was when I went to Engage, an event held every Wednesday night, hosted by the Hillsong London church. After my first month of living here, I noticed that Londoners do not really talk to each other—I was not expecting that. So, I went to one of the Engage nights and I guess I was not expecting anyone to talk to me. But this guy was just so forward and we struck up a conversation. When he noticed my accent, he started telling me all he knew about America and Boston, which was not much. The reason that was memorable for me was because he broke the stereotype I had come to associate with the Brits. I found that he was from London—he loves London and doesn’t want to leave. It’s nice to know that. He also recommended places for me to go: London Eye, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, etc—I have been to these places, which makes me proud of myself. His love for his city definitely made me appreciate the city more.
Whether you’re studying abroad in Dublin or popping up from London for a weekend visit, Andy’s suggestions below might come in handy. His top picks include museums, galleries and other sights plus places to eat, drink and even sleep if you’re just staying a night or two.
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The National Gallery of Art. This museum was recently renovated and features a plethora of Irish masterpieces, as well as works of Monet, Caravaggio and other European greats. It’s not far from bustling Grafton Street.
Guinness Brewery and Gravity Bar. The Brewery is a 20 minute walk from the city center. The tour ticket takes you through the history of the brand, as well as the brewing process through its multiple floors of stout-beer goodness. It also includes a pint of the black stuff once you reach the top! Alternatively, you can opt to redeem your drink voucher at one of their stations, where you can learn how to pour your own pint.
National Museum. A solid, free museum housed in an old military barracks. It contains artifacts, art, historical pieces, and natural history from all throughout the Irish ages. It’s also not far from the Jameson Distillery and Guinness brewery, so you could easily make a day of it.
Jameson Distillery. If you’re a whiskey lover, this is the place for you. While they don’t still distill the whiskey here anymore, the guided tour allows you to sample some traditional Irish whiskey. Be sure to raise your hand when asked for volunteers – you won’t be disappointed!
Queen of Tarts. Probably the cutest place in the city, if I had to channel my feminine side. Head here for breakfast, as you’re guaranteed one of the best biscuits you’ve ever had. They also have great egg dishes for a bigger brunch.
Avoca. Tucked in the basement of a housewares-slash-fashion store, this is a place that all modernistas are sure to love. The main attraction is down the staircase though, where you can pop in and enjoy everything from a wide array of fresh salads, super-food wraps, and fresh, thickly sliced sandwiches.
Epicurean Food Hall. If you’re looking for a break from traditional Irish food, this is your one stop shop. Filled with everything from Italian sandwiches to a bowl of curry, this place is packed at lunch with locals and tourists alike.
The Bakery. Situated down a side street in Temple Bar, this place is legit. Some of the freshest sandwiches I have ever had came from here, and make for a great picnic on the coast, or even for a quick bite to eat. It comes complete with a friendly staff is easy on your wallet.
The Market Bar. In addition to the beautiful interior, this place has some of the best tapas I’ve ever had in the city. Patatas bravas, chorizo salad, and chicken skewers are some of our favorites, and the small portions are generous, making them great to share. Make it before 19:00 and get in on their happy hour, which includes food & drink specials.
Temple Bar. Not only the most famous bar in the city, but also the most famous party district. Tourists and locals alike flock to this vibrant street where dozens of pubs and live music can be found. Hit up Temple Bar and you’re guaranteed a good time.
The Celt. The Celt’s claim to fame is that it’s one of the most authentically Irish pubs in Dublin. Located just off O’Connell street, this place is safely tucked away from the tourist hoards and is just filled with locals and great trad music.
The Brazen Head. This authentic Irish pub claims to be the oldest pub in the city. There’s live music every night, and it is also great for a cozy dinner in the evening. Try the Guinness Stew and you’ll be full for a week!
The Oak. This bar has one of the most beautiful interiors around. Have you heard of the famous Lusitania ship? Well, this place is decked out with Mauritania’s (the sister ship) original oak.
The Palace. This one is located at the other end of Temple Bar from the Porter House. It’s non-descript and full of old-time locals. If you’re looking for a chill time, stop in here.
Abbey Court. Located on the other side of the River Liffey from Temple Bar, this up and coming hostel is pulling out all the stops. With a solid communal kitchen, a newly opened “shebeen” speakeasy bar, and numerous large bunk rooms, this hostel is turning out to be one of the hottest spots in the city. From €15 a night, you’ll have 24 hr reception, free wifi, laundry, bunk rooms sleeping up to 25, a public kitchen, great storage, technology charging stations, a private bar and food discounts at nearby restaurants.
Barnacles Temple Bar Hostel. Literally located next door to the famous Temple Bar, this has long been the place to stay in Dublin. It’s a small hostel with a great staff that guarantees a wonderful time in the city. It books up early, so make sure to reserve your spot ahead of time to join in on the party! From €10 a night, you’ll have free wifi, free breakfast and a common room. There are bunks and small private rooms available.
At least mine is. If yours isn’t, then you must be lucky or lying.
Although we all experience memorable, even magical moments from time to time, the cold, hard, inescapable truth is that day-to-day life is plagued by routine, dullness and mediocrity.
If I were to recount a typical day in my life, it would be… well… pretty typical. I wouldn’t enjoy telling the story and you wouldn’t enjoy hearing it. It’s a lose/lose situation.
What I will do instead is present a compilation of some of the more memorable moments of my CAPA related travel over the past few months, condensed into one fictitious day. The moments themselves are based on true events, however the sequencing and timeline is the stuff of fairytales. Think of it as ‘Kieran’s Greatest Hits’.
6:59 am (EDT)
It’s a beautiful fall morning in Boston and I’m heading to Chicago for some campus visits. Upon arrival at the airport, I check my suitcase and embark on my usual futile endeavor of attempting to use a UK driver’s license to go through security. The TSA agent looks as though I’ve handed her a dead rat and asks if I have a passport instead. I plead with her that it is in fact an acceptable form of government issued ID and that if she’d just consult her manual, she’ll find it listed, but she doesn’t want to hear it and neither do the passengers behind me. Reluctantly, I reach into my bag and pull out my passport. I concede this one, but silently vow to stand my ground and cause a ‘monumental fuss’ next time.
I’m sitting on the plane waiting to take off. Across the aisle from me, in an attempt to prevent her young son from becoming restless and agitated, a doting mother asks him what noise the big plane will make when it goes up into the sky. ‘BOOM!!’ the child responds loudly and aggressively, mimicking a large explosion with his hands. The mother laughs nervously, while the nearby passengers gasp in horror. Predictions of impending disasters never go down well, even when they come from a three year old.
Just in front of the mother and child, is a man working on his laptop. His document is titled ‘Letter to Jack December 2011’, yet he appears to be only half way through the second paragraph and it’s now October 2013. I start to form an image in my head of Jack running excitedly to the mailbox every day over the past 22 months to see if his letter has arrived and the look of perpetual disappointment on his face when he finds nothing but bills and junk mail. I don’t make a habit of looking at other people’s personal correspondence, but in these situations, when you are placed in such close proximity to a bunch of strangers, you always end up seeing and hearing more than you bargained for.
9:57 am (CDT)
Thankfully the plane makes all the right noises and arrives in Chicago on schedule.
Whenever I land at any airport, I am utterly convinced that my luggage has been lost. For the record, my luggage never has been lost (yet) but I still go through this mental ritual anytime I disembark from a plane. As I begin the ominous and anxious walk to O’Hare baggage claim this morning, I tell myself that after so many years of good fortune, this will be ‘the one’, and I start to formulate intricate contingency plans in my head that include buying underwear from Walmart. By the time I get to the baggage carousel, I have well and truly resigned myself to the fate that lies ahead and prepare to watch on in despair as everyone else’s luggage arrives and mine doesn’t. But then… just as I expect my suitcase NOT to appear, it miraculously does the exact opposite. The emotional rollercoaster that I’m on takes a turn for the better and a huge wave of relief washes over me. I leave the airport with a spring in my step, celebrating yet another victory over travel hiccups.
I’m in a shuttle on my way to the rental car facility. I’m the only passenger. The driver is friendly and strikes up conversation immediately. When he hears my accent, he asks me whether I’m from Scotland or the UK? I ponder the question for a moment. Had Scotland in fact become an independent sovereign state since I had moved to the US? I know they have a referendum coming up, but I thought that was next year. I explain to him that I’m from England but live and work in Boston and he seems satisfied, if a bit confused by my answer. He then proceeds to tell me that I sound like Simon Cowell.
12:07 pm (CDT)
I arrive on campus in time for a presentation on CAPA’s Global Cities Programs in London and Sydney. The person responsible for arranging my presentation and promoting it to students shows me the email that she sent around campus. The subject heading reads:
‘Come meet the next James Bond and learn about study abroad opportunities in London and Sydney’
‘James Bond?’ I ask
‘Yes, I thought that if I told all the students that we have a suave, sophisticated and ruthless English gentleman visiting campus to give a presentation, they would be much more likely to attend’ my colleague answers.
Her ploy worked; the classroom is packed. Judging by the looks on students’ faces, I can tell they think I must be the warm up act rather than the headliner. I break the difficult news and inform them that they are in fact the victims of false advertising.
Thankfully, I get things back on track by talking about CAPA’s excellent Global Cities programs in London and Sydney. By the end of my presentation, the students have come to terms with the fact that I am not James Bond and are vaguely excited by the prospect of international internships, which by my estimation, is a pretty good result.
2:45 pm (CDT)
After lunch, I move onto a string of brief classroom visits, again to talk about CAPA’s Global Cities Programs. Two of my visits are in public speaking classes where my every syllable is critiqued. I’m told that although I am an engaging speaker and make good use of my notes, I use too many ‘ummms’ and should replace these with pauses. If you’ve ever tried to do this, you’ll know that it’s a lot easier said than done.
At the end of my final visit, a student who has been sitting in the front row approaches me as everyone else is filtering out of class. He has a look of sheer excitement on his face. Could it be that my inspirational spiel has won him over? I start to feel giddy as he gets closer and begin to mentally prepare myself for the multitude of study abroad related questions that he’s bound to ask me. Much to my surprise, his enthusiasm has nothing to do with international learning opportunities and he simply wants to tell me that he likes my shoes. ‘They’re awesome, where did you get them?’ he asks. I explain that I bought them at a well-known British footwear retailer called Jones Bootmaker. In an attempt to salvage something from a thoroughly awkward exchange, I tell him that if he studies abroad in London, he can look just like me. Unfortunately, this increases the awkwardness exponentially.
Photo:Chili’s Quesadilla Explosion Salad by Jenn Vargas
6:27 pm (CDT)
After a long day of travelling and talking, I’m pretty tired and hungry. I quickly check into my hotel and then stumble across a Chili’s nearby. I head inside, get seated and peruse the menu. After some careful deliberation, I opt for the Quesadilla Explosion Salad. Such is my placid Englishness, that when the waitress comes to take my order, I am both unwilling and unable to say the word ‘explosion’. It’s like an inner voice telling me that such a word should be reserved for appropriate situations… i.e. actual explosions and NOT benign food items. Instead, I ask for the Quesadilla Salad, omitting the unnecessary descriptive term, while pointing to its official title on the menu. I assume that this visual prompt alongside the absence of similarly named items will prevent any confusion in regards to what I want, but this assumption turns out to be wrong. ‘Do you want the Quesadilla Explosion Salad?’ the waitress asks me in an attempt to clarify. The way she puts so much oomph into the word ‘explosion’ makes me feel like I am being scolded for my simplified and shortsighted interpretation of the menu. I give a firm nod, without saying anything. She then asks me what I want to drink, to which I respond ‘water’ three times. I end up with a root beer.
7:31 pm (CDT)
I return to the hotel to begin preparing for the following day, which involves a big study abroad fair and a couple of meetings. I walk through the lobby and step into the elevator realizing that I cannot, for the life of me, remember which room I am in. Such was my desperation to get to Chili’s, that I paid no attention to my surroundings during check-in. Is it 202, 203, 302, 303? Or maybe its 102 or 103? Did I even take the elevator to get to my room? I spend a good 5-10 minutes trying, but ultimately failing to retrace my steps. I search my pockets desperately, but realize that the one item that can help me (the card holder which has my room number written on it) is, unfortunately, in my room… wherever that is. Eventually I give up and approach the front desk like a lost lamb. I show my card and put on my best ‘I’m a guest here and in no way am I trying to gain unauthorized access to the rooms’ voice and it seems to do the trick. The receptionist takes pity on me and confirms that I am in fact in Room 728. I express my gratitude, explaining that I’ve stayed in many hotels lately, all of which look the same… such is the nature of my glamorous life, man of mystery etc. This is a lie. This is my first trip for several weeks. There are no excuses.
Before you study abroad in Sydney, enjoy some of our reading recommendations below. You might want to keep a book aside to take with you on the plane. There’s also a list of blogs in the sidebar with ongoing stories of life in the city.
1. IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY (OR DOWN UNDER) BY BILL BRYSON. Popular travel writer Bill Bryson traveled around Australia and wrote this book about his experience. Equal parts funny and informative, In a Sunburned Country is peppered with interesting stories about Australia as Bill explores famous landmarks and encounters some memorable Australians. In Britain, this book is titled Down Under, but is otherwise exactly the same!
Image from amazon.co.uk
2. THE HAPPIEST REFUGEE BY ANH DO. This is the autobiography of Anh Do, a well-known Australian comedian who arrived in Australia as a Vietnamese refugee at just three years of age. This book details the journey his family took and their subsequent experiences in Sydney. A bestseller in Australia, it has won several awards including Australian Book of the Year in 2011.
Image from amazon.com.au
3. THE BROKEN SHORE BY PETER TEMPLE.The Broken Shore is a great contemporary Australian detective novel. It won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger award, which is the most prestigious crime-writing prize in the world! The novel opens with the discovery of the death of a wealthy local benefactor. Policeman Joe Cashin, a former Melbournian homicide detective, is drawn away from managing the local country town’s police station to focus on solving the mystery.
Image from amazon.com.au
4. LOOKING FOR ALIBRANDI BY MELINA MARCHETTA. This novel explores life at an Australian private school when you’re an Italian girl on a scholarship in among privileged girls from rich families. Melina Marchetta paints a vivid picture of multicultural Australia and what it means to be ‘Australian’. A coming-of-age story that is funny, easy to relate to and interesting to read. The movie based on the book is also excellent!
Image from amazon.com.au
5. THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS BY M. L. STEDMAN. Set in Western Australia after World War 1, The Light Between Oceans explores the lives of lighthouse keeper Tom and his wife Isabel. Alone on the island of Janus, one night they find a newborn baby in a rowboat that has washed ashore. With Isabel unable to have children, they decide to pass the baby off as their own, but this decision has major far-reaching consequences. A bestseller all over the world and a feature on the New York Times bestseller list, a film based on the novel is in the works.
Image from amazon.com.au
6. AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND ON A SHOESTRING BY LONELY PLANET. Keen to travel Australia and New Zealand on the cheap? This book is for you. The advantage of this guide is that you get an overview of not only Australia, but nearby New Zealand as well. Packed with suggestions, maps, facts, tips and even a little history, this travel guide is a good way to get a picture of what attractions are available in both countries.
Image from amazon.co.uk
7. SEVEN LITTLE AUSTRALIANS BY ETHEL TURNER. This story is well-known among Australian readers. Set in the beautiful bush just outside Sydney in the 1880s, it follows the lives of the seven Woolcot children: Meg, Pip, Judy, Nell, Bunty, Baby and the General. The children are mischievous and forthright, doing what they can to assert themselves while also gaining favour with their strict father and their ineffectual stepmother. Seven Little Australians is full of love, particularly the love the characters have for each other.
Image from amazon.co.uk
8. MY PLACE BY SALLY MORGAN. An autobiography written by Aboriginal Australian artist Sally Morgan, My Place explores Sally’s childhood and slow realization that her family was Aboriginal. In a quest to determine her true identity, Sally convinces her Aboriginal relatives to recount their stories. Although a long read, My Place provides insight into what it was like to be Aboriginal in Australia from 1920 through to the 1980s.
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9. THE THORN BIRDS BY COLLEEN MCCULLOUGH. Set on a sheep station in the Australian outback, this novel follows the journey of Meggie Cleary and her family as she grows up and learns to assert her independence. Well-known as an epic romance, The Thorn Birds was adapted into a television miniseries that was very popular in the US in the 1980s.
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10. A FORTUNATE LIFE BY ALBERT FACEY. This autobiography was never intended for commercial printing by the author – as a result, Albert Facey’s thoughts and feelings are confrontingly real and honest. Published in 1981 when Albert was 88 years old, A Fortunate Life details the many aspects of Albert’s life, including his experiences in World War One and his return to Australian civilian life.
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Leave us a comment and let us know your favorite book that’s about (or set in) Sydney. There are many, many more!
Patrick Scally studied abroad in Florence last Spring and, through his CAPA International Education classes, unleashed his inner Michelangelo, developed meaningful friendships and explored his new city. Below he talks about the Italian language, the importance of exploring through taste and smell and what it was like to return home to the US after a semester abroad.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background. PATRICK SCALLY: My name’s Patrick Scally and I grew up all over the world but my family settled in Colorado Springs, CO. I’m a senior at Indiana University majoring in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. I studied abroad in Florence with CAPA International Education during the Spring of 2013.
CW: Why did you choose to study abroad in Florence specifically? Think back to the moment you arrived and share your first impressions of your host city. PS: I chose Florence because I had taken three semesters of Italian and needed to travel abroad to Italy to complete my studies. CAPA was the perfect fit because it had the classes I needed along with all the amenities I wanted. I remember stepping off the plane in Florence and even though it was raining, I don’t think I had ever been more excited. Two CAPA employees were at the airport, helped us find a cab, and the next thing we knew we were flying through the streets of Florence on our way to our new apartments. The cab may have been a little terrifying, but seeing my new apartment was the best experience ever. I’ve never been more excited; it was a lot to take in, but it was amazing.
CW: What surprised you most and why? How did your view of the city change from the time you arrived to the time you left? PS: When we first came to Florence it was overwhelming, but as we began to see the city and experience everything. The city really showed everything it truly had to offer. Perhaps one of the best feelings was as we lived in Florence for longer and longer we really began to know the city. We had our favorite places to go, shops and restaurants where the people knew us, and the best places to go for a drink after class or grab a snack.
CW: One worry for students heading to Italy is the language barrier. What was your level of Italian like before you arrived? Do you feel that the language was an issue for you? If so, how did you overcome this barrier? PS: I had taken three semesters prior to my trip, but I was still worried about the language barrier. When I got to Italy though I realized how easy it was to pick up Italian just by normal interactions with people. I also realized how willing people were to help if I just TRIED to speak Italian to them. Florence is also a very global city where many people speak and understand English if you really do need help.
CW: Talk a bit about CAPA academics. What were your favorite classes and why? Did you participate in any MyEducation events? PS: I took Photojournalism, Italian Cinema, Italian 4, Watercolour, and Political and Economic History of Europe in the 20th Century. All of my classes counted for credits at my university and were super helpful to my major. Professors at CAPA are awesome, but none are better than Jamie who teaches watercolour. I had never thought I would be able to paint at all, but Jamie brought out the true Michelangelo in me, or so I like to think.
CW: Close your eyes and think back to your time in Florence. When you hear each of the following, what first comes to mind? PS: Taste: The number 7 from Antico Noe sandwich shop, YUMMMMM! Smell: A great bottle of Tuscan red wine shared with friends while watching sunset at Piazza Michelangelo. Sight: The marketplace when everyone is bartering for fresh fruits and vegetables. Texture: Trying on leather jackets at one of the many leather stalls. Sound: Opening the windows to the apartment and hearing church bells, people yelling, the zipping of Vespas, and the sounds of the city.
CW: How have you felt since you returned to the US? Talk about re-adapting to life back home. PS: I did not have reverse culture shock, but I have intensely missed Florence and the friends I’ve made there. The friends I made in Florence are some of the most intense and strong friendships I’ve ever had even though we’d only known each other a couple months. We’ve already made plans to visit each other and hopefully visit Florence again together!
CW: What skills did you learn while abroad that will help you in your future career? PS: I would love to work abroad in my career and traveling really taught me how to adapt in a new place. I really learned what I need to do to move somewhere I’d never been, make all new friends, and live completely on my own. I really found my sense of adventure and wanderlust in Italy and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
CW: Share your favorite restaurant in Florence. Also, what was your favorite Florence discovery that other students should be sure not to miss? Why? PS: My favorite restaurant in Florence would have to be Aqua al 2. Insanely expensive, but insanely delicious; everyone should try their steak sampler before they leave. A religious experience for sure. The one thing, which I have said before, that everyone MUST do while in Florence is get a bottle of wine, a couple friends, and some gelato and hike up to the Piazza Michelangelo at sunset for the best views of the city and an absolute Italian experience. Explore as many restaurants and food stands as possible because your taste buds don’t forget!
We may live in an era of jet travel between global cities, but the train, in its high-speed form, is making a comeback – led by China. If things go according to plan, that very familiar to me one hour and a bit flight between the global cities of San Francisco and LA will, at some point in the future, face competition from bullet trains using Chinese technology.
The use of flights to bring closer some key cities has actually declined. Who can forget those supersonic flights on Concord that whisked celebrities, politicians and business executives between London and New York – breakfast in the former, business lunch in the latter!
However, those days are gone. I never got to fly on Concord, but I did experience the two longest non-stop flights in the world, connecting the global city of Singapore with LAX, then with New York – 22 hours non-stop on a specially fitted out Airbus A340-500 with limited seating to keep weight down. A couple of months ago, Singapore Airlines operated the last of these flights – another end of an era as the economics of high passenger volume, but not so long a range, Airbus A380s drive flights operating out of Singapore’s Changi International Airport.
Photo: Singapore Airlines A380 in London – passenger capacity wins over range by Colin Speakman
Yet China, which already boasts the biggest network of high-speed trains in the world, recently announced new lines to be built including one that will eventually connect global Beijing with Asia’s world city of Hong Kong directly. However, it gets better than that with the prospect that London to Beijing could actually be done all by train! See the new rail developments in Istanbul (below) for a clue on how this could work.
Of course some Global Cities are much closer, so we have the Eurostar connecting London and Paris or Brussels, and the Italian Eurostar connecting Florence and Rome. The advantages of traveling from the center of one city to the center of another are clear and save so much time over heading to airports inevitably farther out with longer check-in times, stricter baggage limitations and potential flight delays, that put tightly-timed business meetings at risk. It’s no contest for me when going from London to Paris on business for a day. Breakfast on the 7am Eurostar, late morning lunch meeting, a full afternoon of business, dinner near Gare du Nord and back on the 9pm train, taking advantage of London being an hour behind Paris.
Photo: China G train speeds through local station by Colin Speakman
Back to China, where much of the population does not fly anywhere due to cost and unfamiliarity, another phenomenon has been the replacing of ordinary trains by high-speed trains. When I first traveled between Shanghai and Nanjing by train in 2003, that journey took four and a half hours. By the time I was living in Nanjing in 2008, it was down to two hours on a new D train and, by the time I was living in Shanghai and the World Expo was on in 2010, the journey took 73 minutes on a G train. The Chinese government made sure that just before the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China on July 1, 2011, the first G trains between Beijing and Shanghai were running – cutting an 11 hour train journey down to 4 hours 55 minutes at its fastest. Next week, CAPA Beijing students take that very train with me – exciting!
Photo:London trains are vital for commuters by Colin Speakman
So how do trains work today in connecting CAPA’s Global Cities? “All aboard?” Let’s find out!
This is where China’s high speed trains began. In the Beijing Olympic year of 2008, China launched its first high-speed train service to link Beijing with the neighboring Municipality of Tianjin. The track accommodates 350km per hour service and initially some ran at that, but to manage electricity costs better, they now run at around 300km per hour. This was at best a 2-hour journey before these trains, but reduced to just 30 minutes by the new D trains. The service launched on August 1, and I tested it out a few days later – the excitement was palpable from all on board and Tianjin subsequently became a regular day excursion for CAPA students. A brand new station was built – Beijing South, which now connects Beijing with many parts of China, including the global city of Shanghai. Trains are departing to one place or another every five to ten minutes in daytime. One can feel the buzz; where are all these people going?
Photo:CAPA students arrive at Tianjin Train Station from Beijing by Colin Speakman
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
The Argentine railway network was once one of the most extensive in South America, but the building of highways reduced train demand. Yet Buenos Aires boasts the second most extensive metropolitan rail system in the Americas behind New York, with nearly 260 stations serving around 445 million commuters annually in Greater Buenos Aires region. The famous Retiro Station is the busiest. High speed links are a work in progress with plans that were first announced in 2006 to link the three largest cities in Argentina: Buenos Aires, Rosario and Cordoba. Trains running at up to 300km per hour are planned. China comes into this, as it is expected to be a source of funding. In 2010, China came forward with US $10 billion towards railway infrastructure projects in Argentina to promote trade between the two countries. Globalization at work!
Ireland is famous for its relaxing pace of life: If I was in a hurry to get there, I wouldn’t start from here. It is not a large country and so high speed trains are not usually associated with the Emerald Isle. However, like in Shanghai, but nowhere near as fast, getting into town quickly from Dublin airport is useful. In 2011, the Dublin DART rail service (which passes through the historic Dublin Connolly Railway Station) announced plans (service not yet complete) to extend to the airport to take a journey time of 25 mins versus up to one hour if in heavy road traffic. It all helps when arriving in a global city. Inland, there are plans to introduce a fast express business train in 2014 between Dublin and another major city, Cork. The service would compete with road journeys that are taking just under three hours and the plan is that the express rail would take around two hours but also be more relaxing, with wi-fi on the train. Speeds might not reach much above 160km per hour. That sounds like a suitable plan. We need to watch this space.
Trains are very important in Italy and I have enjoyed riding quite a few. Italy is the home of the development of the “Pendolino”, the tilting train that can make best use of conventional tracks. In Italy it is not always plain riding as right now some Italians are upset about plans to connect Turin in Italy with Lyon in France by a high speed train which involves tunneling through the Alps. However, few can be upset by the smooth and very useful Italian Eurostar service connecting the global cities of Florence and Rome. These cities saw the first high speed train service in Italy opened in 1977 with a top speed of 200km per hour. Subsequently faster ETR trains hit 300km an hour on this ‘Direttissima’ line in 1989, with normal speeds at 250km per hour. I have taken this journey and it is a restful one of less than one and a half hours with good service and very nice views of the countryside. That center to center service means we can “let the train take the strain”.
One of this global city’s many claims to fame is that it straddles two continents, Asia and Europe, with road crossings of the Bosphorus Straits by famous bridges. So it was pretty exciting when on October 29 this year, a train link was opened in Istanbul by a 13.6km tunnel (the Marmaray railway tunnel) connecting Asia with Europe under the Bosphorus. It was four years behind completion schedule as a result of archaeological finds along the way. Continuing globalization links, Japan invested US $10 billion towards the US $4 billion cost of the project. Imagine the possibilities… Ultimately, one could travel by train from London, into mainland Europe, all the way to Istanbul, across to Asia and on eventually to Beijing. Why not? Remember the Silk Road? It will take work, but watch this space.
Trains connecting London with mainland Europe are not new. However, in the old days, the key to it was to take the “boat train” across the English Channel. All that changed when the famous Channel Tunnel was opened on May 6, 1994. What a project with passenger and freight trains and ones where cars could be loaded onto trains! The journey began at Waterloo International in the heart of London through to Ashford in Kent and under the water (we never saw any fish!) to Calais and on to Paris or Brussels. I did both routes and with American students. In those days, the track was faster on the French side, but with suitable timing ahead of the London Olympics, a faster track was laid through Stratford (Olympic area) and into London’s St. Pancras Station. The UK has not adopted the euro, but somehow the rest of the EU seems closer these days.
Photo:Eurostar at St. Pancras, London by Tanya Hart
This global mega-city is a model of transport efficiency, with the Shanghai Hongqiao Transport Hub at its heart. On the fringes of Puxi, Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station stands proudly right next to the International Airport of the same name and a huge road transport interchange that can whisk travelers around Shanghai by ring roads and to its other international airport in Pudong. High speed trains, topping out at around 300km an hour, connect with so many places, including nearby Hangzhou and Suzhou, the former capital Nanjing and much more. In the very center of Shanghai is the fastest train – a Maglev (magnetic levitation train) – that travels at 431 km an hour to speed travelers between Pudong International Airport and downtown Pudong side in seven minutes (figure on 45 minutes by taxi). That’s some time saving! Then again, Shanghai is notoriously a fast paced city!
Photo: High Speed trains ready to depart at Shanghai Hongqiao by Colin Speakman
Sydney, as the largest city in Australia, has an extensive network of passenger and freight railways. The metro-suburban railway interfaces with a central underground system. A new company with an appropriate name, Sydney Trains, took over operation of passenger services in Sydney in July this year. T2 is an important line as it brings people into the global city from the international airport. Sydney Central Station is a grand edifice reflecting its historical position as the departure point of many of Australia’s great long distance trains. It is fair to say that today long distance train travel is out of fashion because discounted flights cost less than standard long haul train fares (the reverse of in China). Australia bucks the trend of revival of railways in global cities and local experts blame this on the ‘are we there yet?” syndrome. However, for those with time the Sydney to Melbourne route, under NSW Trains, maintains one day and one overnight (sleeper) train every day each way between these two important cities. If on the day train, one can see around ten changes of scenery and topography. Speed is not everything!
Dublin is a modern, bustling capital that manages to retain that friendly charm the Irish are so famous for. Though some Dubliners you meet may seem unsentimental towards their home city, it’s clear through their garrulous personalities that their love for their town runs as deep as the Lakes of Killarney, with their pride for their country unmatched. So come and try to find your own personal four leaf clover hidden in the many nooks and crannies of the city, and maybe you too will be able to capture the luck of the Irish!
A BRIEF HISTORY
Dublin got its start as a Viking settlement in the 9th century and was named after a dark pool that formed at the crux of two rivers (Dubh: black, linn: pool). The city eventually became the second largest city of the British Empire in the 1600s and 1700s. After the devastating famine and London’s colonial tactics, Dublin slid into decline throughout the 19th century. The Easter Rising in 1916 damaged many buildings throughout the city, and was regarded generally as a failure. The bloody Irish Civil War followed, pitting brothers against brothers, and eventually brought around the Irish Free State in 1922. Thanks to investments in education and infrastructure, Ireland entered a period of unprecedented economic growth in the 1990s that earned it the nickname the “Celtic Tiger.” The good times didn’t last forever though, as the economic crisis hit the island particularly hard. Today, you’ll find a city awakening once more from its slumber and ready to welcome you with open arms.
WHERE’S THE CRAIC?
Traditional Irish music, or ‘Trad’ as it’s called, is a mainstay of Ireland’s living culture. Bars pack up nightly with customers eager to watch an eclectic band of musicians that perform not for money, but for their free pint of Guinness and sheer love of playing their instruments. The better the party scene at the bar, the better the “craic”, or entertainment. You’ll find that the Irish—both young and old alike—know just about every word of every song the musicians play, which is actually quite impressive considering the number of songs performed in a night. While the urge may hit you to clap along to the beat, don’t, as these jigs can go on for ten, fifteen or even twenty minutes. Locals will explain that you’ll never be able to clap that long, and when you get tired and stop clapping, it sucks the wind out of the performance. Instead, tap your foot along to the beat, and let out an occasional yelp whenever the moment feels good.
WHO IS ST. PATRICK?
Little is known about the patron saint of Ireland, but he is thought to have lived during the 2nd half of the 5th Century. Only two authentic letters from him survive, from which come the only known details of his life. Supposedly, he was captured from Britain by Irish raiders at the age of 16 and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After his return, he decided upon entering the ministry of Church, later returning to Ireland as an ordained bishop in the north and west of the island. By the seventh century, he had come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland due to his work as a missionary and his success in spreading the Christian faith to the island.
GUINNESS: A HISTORY
Arthur Guinness brewed his first ale at St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin in 1759. On December 31st of that year, he signed a 9,000 year lease at about $100 per year for the brewery lands. Ten years later on May 16, 1769 Guinness exported his unique ale for the first time, in which six and a half barrels were shipped to England. Today, the company exports over $3 billion in worth annually of the “black stuff” we all know and love.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO KEY STATS
Currency Ireland Uses the Euro (€); 1 USD=0.77 EUR
Population 1.273 million
Language Irish, English
Oldest Pub The Brazen Head
Must Know Famous Irishmen Bono, Oscar Wilde, Colin Farrell, James Joyce
National Dish Irish Stew
Movies to Watch Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan, PS I Love You, Once, The One That Shakes the Barley