Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!

Is that not the perfect Shakespeare quote for my blog title – WIN! This weekend Malorie and I set off on a whirlwind adventure to Warwick, Stratford-Upon-Avon and Oxford. Despite the early start, we set off in full spirits on Saturday morning.

Warwick is this gorgeous little typical British town. It’s most well-known for Warwick Castle, the prettiest and best maintained castle I’ve seen over here. All the rooms were fully furnished with wax figures (that looked a little too realistic) and there were period actors everywhere. I feel like visiting Warwick Castle is their school excursion equivalent of us going to a museum or the botanical gardens. It was so gorgeous and I’m jealous that I didn’t get to visit a castle when I was growing up.

After spending a few hours being entertained and climbing up two of the castle towers we headed to St Mary’s Church, where all the Earls of Warwick are buried. We also went down into the crypt and climbed up the tower. I’m going to be having nightmares about stone spiral staircases for weeks!

Warwick is just such a lovely place and our B&B owners were too cute for words. Though we basically did everything on offer in Warwick in a day, it was a really nice place to visit and the castle was really incredible.

After a breakfast of homemade pancakes we headed to Stratford-upon-Avon, the home of Shakespeare! We visited Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Nash’s House, the site of New Place and Hall’s Croft. We also saw the outside of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (Shakespeare’s wife, not the actress) and Mary Arden’s. Our final location was fittingly Shakespeare’s Grave. Pretty incredible to visit locations where the great playwright himself once lived.

Our final place of interest was Oxford. There were bikes everywhere, potentially more bikes than people, and around every corner was a place where Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, J.R. Tolkien or one of many Prime Ministers and Presidents had studied, lived and socialised. We went into Christ Church, an amazing college with the Dining Hall used in the filming of Harry Potter. We also visited part of the Bodleian Library, the biggest library in the world and the oldest lecture hall, the Divinity School, where scholars used to stand on a podium and argue their thesis before the days of mass produced paper. This lecture room was also the hospital wing in Harry Potter.

We visited “Alice’s Shop” where the young Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, used to buy her barley sweets. It was so cut and I’ve never seen so much beautiful Alice, White Rabbit and Mad Hatter merchandise. It was so hard not to buy everything on display! We walked around most of the colleges, visited Oxford Park where we ate pancakes and watch some cricket and bought the obligatory Oxford t-shirts.

I had such an amazing weekend and now it’s down to a huge week performing in four dance concerts. The Leeds University Union Dance Show is a huge production with performances from all 15 or so dance clubs. Somewhere in between all those concerts I need to get cracking on my essays before we head off to Spain on Sunday!

It is a truth universally acknowledged…

For anyone who doesn’t understand the title of this post, it’s from Pride and Prejudice. But we’ll get to the relevance of Jane Austen soon.

True to form, we’ve had an epic few days here in Leeds. Just to reassure QUT, I am actually getting some uni work done over here. I promise! Now back to the more exciting stories about student life and travelling.

Last Thursday was St Patrick’s day. My hall mates and I had a great time dressing up in green and dancing up a storm.

On Friday, it was Andrea and Chris’ cartoon themed birthday. There were some pretty amazing costumes including the Flinstones, various superheros, Disney characters, etc. Christina, Malorie and I went as the Powerpuff Girls. We then continued onto Fruity, the best Friday night destination on campus hands down.

Saturday, it was off to Bath. All my friends that had been before could not stop raving about how beautiful it is in Bath. But you really have to experience it first hand to understand just how gorgeous it is! We started off with a visit to the Jane Austen Centre where we learnt a lot about Jane Austen’s life, family and books. As Austen fans, Christina and I got really excited about seeing the places she lived and even the gift shop, with every Jane Austen souvenir you could ever want!

We followed this with a visit to the Assembly Rooms, where the upper class went to socialise in Austen’s day.

Then it was time for our walking tour of Bath including the Roman Baths, Bath Abbey, the Royal Crescent and the Circus. I have decided I need to become a squillionaire so that, one day, I can buy a holiday house in Bath.

On Sunday we made our way to Stonehenge. We had these great audio guides that shared a lot of the history on the area but also gave us some of the weird theories on how Stonehenge came to be.

I also enjoyed trying to make my QUT cube work into a photo of Stonehenge. I had the cube sitting on top but it looked like it was a UFO crushing Stonehenge, I think the one I’ve put here looks much better!!

We continued on to Avebury, the oldest stone circle in Britain and got to hug and pose with the rocks. Our inner five year olds got the better of us and before long everyone was climbing on the rocks. It was so much fun!

So yet another amazing weekend. Now it’s back to that study that I was talking about. I have already got the feedback for a “practice essay” I wrote for Journalism Ethics and I’m waiting to get my feedback for our innovation poster and portfolio from last week. There is a statistics “practice exam” on Wednesday and eight weeks of content to revise. Lucky it’s a practice and I’ll know it all by the real exam!

We are the champions my friends!

About three weeks ago, I contacted the captain of the cheerleading squad here at Leeds Uni. I’d been doing competitive cheerleading for two years back in Brisbane with Q Cheer and was suffering from severe withdrawal. Anyone that has done cheerleading can tell you just how much is involved. It takes a lot of athleticism, includes elements of gymnastics, dance and acrobatics and is highly addictive.

My friend Chloe came and joined the Leeds Celtics when she was on exchange last year and spoke so highly of the team. I really wanted to just go along to one of their trainings, do a warm up, watch them stunt and maybe stunt a bit myself. A few days later, they told me they were putting together an “All Girl” squad for the upcoming University Nationals competition. I was invited to join the squad, jumped at the chance and got into the trainings a few days later.

Over the course of just two weeks, we managed to pull together a routine that would normally take months. Not only had I never met anyone on the team, but half the group were from the Pom squad and had never stunted before in their lives. That we learnt the whole thing in five trainings is amazing enough, but the fact that we pulled off a near perfect routine at the competition is just incredible!

The University Nationals competition was so much fun and gave us the chance to watch all the teams from unis across the UK. I had the best time hanging out with all my new found cheer friends and was so excited just to be in a Leeds Celtics uniform.

Here are some photos from during our All Girl routine. I’m the one flipping through the air/on top of the pyramid/at the back in a lib (for the uninitiated, standing on one leg on top of the bases hands)

At the end of the day, Leeds Celtics were named GRAND CHAMPIONS!! This prize was the result of all the points from the Co-ed team, the All Girl team, the Co-ed group stunt, All Girl group stunt and Hip Hop team.

Even though we only trained together for two weeks, I feel such an attachment to all the amazing people in the team and I’m really sad that it was all over so quickly.  I am incredibly proud of what we achieved and it was such an honour to be a part of the Celtics… THE BEST UNIVERSITY SQUAD IN THE UK!!!

Scotland the Brave

Firstly, I just want to apologise for neglecting my blog. Things have been insanely busy and I have not had a spare second. It’s been a while so I’ll write this blog about my Scotland adventures and my next one will be about my cheerleading adventures 🙂

So, last weekend I went back to Scotland to visit my amazing friend Dom! On Saturday, we did the typical tourist day in Edinburgh, starting off at Edinburgh castle.

It’s quite cool because it’s not really one building. Inside the main castle walls, it’s more like a little village with separate buildings.

It was pretty incredible seeing the Honours of Scotland (the Scottish crown jewels) and the family tree complete with Macbeth! Not going to lie, we had a huge Shakespeare nerd moment taking photos of that. We saw inside the dining hall, the living quarters and even the vaults where they kept prisoners of war.

We then continued along the Royal Mile, though Dom commented that it should really be dubbed the Tourist Mile for the sheer number of souvenir shops. We took a detour, as self-professed Harry Potter nerds, to Greyfriars Graveyard where J.K.Rowling got the inspiration for a lot of the character names. We saw the headstones of McGonagall, Baird, Moodie and Tom Riddell (who most people know as Voldemort) We also saw the school that inspired Hogwarts with four towers being the idea behind the four houses.

After returning to the Muggle world, we headed to Grassmarket where there were heaps of cool stores and nice little places to hang out. If we had had more time, we would’ve had a proper look around but we were tourists on a mission to conquer Edinburgh!

So we continued on to Hollyrood Palace, the Queen’s official residence when in Scotland. I wish I had a holiday house that looked like this…

The next day, having been successful in completing most of the main tourist spots in Edinburgh, we headed off to Loch Ness!!! The highlands are so pretty and words can’t really do it justice, so I’m just going to post lots of pictures here 🙂

I had such an incredible weekend and just fell in love with Scotland all over again. Thanks to all the busking bagpipers and historical impersonators without whom my experience would not have been complete. We didn’t manage to catch a glimpse of Nessie the Loch Ness Monster but the dream is still alive!

“Reading Week” aka Mid-Semester Break

The week just gone was mid-semester break at Dalhousie University, or as the professors call it “Reading Week” (obviously hoping to inspire some actual reading to get done.. which of course it didn’t!)
A few weeks ago, the 3 New Zealand girls and 1 Australian girl whom I live with and myself decided we would like a change from the bipolar weather of Halifax, and went into the travel agent with the request for ‘somewhere warm’. We ended up booking a very reasonably priced all-inclusive package at a resort on Grand Bahama Island, in the Bahamas (if that wasn’t obvious from the island title!). All I can say is WOW!
What a world away from snowy Canada.. so amazing that you can jump on a plane in snowy Halifax (-16 degrees that day) and a few hours later arrive in a tropical paradise (23 degrees).

On the bus from the airport we got our first taste of Bahamian people- they are the loveliest and friendliest people, most of whom call all women “baby girl” and who do everything at 2 speeds- sloooooowlyyyy and stop!
But after hectic mid term exams for all the girls except me (but my hectic stress sessions for the upcoming 100% exams) we were more than happy to slow it all down.
The bus driver sung us a couple of hilarious Bahamian songs and on the bus we met a group of 4 other student who were coincidentally also from Dal, 3 boys and girl.
We ended up hanging out with them for much of the week, which was awesome as we have expanded our group of friends in Halifax as well.

During the week we also met a couple of really nice families from Boston and New York state, who have invited us to come stay with them once the semester ends- score! The families taught us how to sail on the resort’s little hoby cats and we spent the rest of the week sunbaking, swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, playing beach volleyball and generally eating and drinking too much (all inclusive buffets and bars are not conducive to staying in shape.. everyone came home a good few kilos heavier than they left!)

One of the days we hired a car and drove around the island, visiting the National Park (where there were amazing water filled caves) and Port Lucaya (the main touristy area/ city centre), as well as just driving around and looking at local areas.

I also had a near-death experience with a falling coconut to make the day more exciting! Luckily I didnt need to use my health insurance but it sure was close!
*Note to anyone visiting- don’t sit under coconut trees!*

Mid week we borrowed bicycles from the resort and rode the 5 miles into Port Lucaya and another night we attended a Bahamian ‘Fish Fry’ on the beach.

It was nice to have a real mixture of people to hang out with, some old, some young, some children, and from all walks of life.

All in all it was an amazing trip and such a nice break from the harsh winter of Canada.

Returning home was a cold shock to the system and getting back into the swing of study has been a bit rough, but it makes it easier talking to those at home who are in week 1 and also struggling to get into routines, whilst battling it out in the extreme heat..
Even though I was only in the sunshine 2 days ago (the temperature was a comfortable 23 degrees or so everyday), it feels like a lifetime ago, and walking to ‘school’ today in -2 (but feeling like -16 with wind chill) felt more like home than 33 degrees would..
As we stepped out of the airport into the chilly Halifax air yesterday we all caught ourselves calling this city home.. It definitely has become our home and we will all be devastated to leave.. it was so nice to get back to Fenwick Tower and catch up with the other exchange students and hear about their adventures over the week!

On a more exciting note, the travelling continues next week with 4 of us (including me) from Fenwick heading off to Cancun for a 4 day taste of American spring break.. as we were checking out of our resort in the Bahamas about 600 US spring breakers were checking in so I can only imagine the chaos poor little Freeport is currently experiencing!

If the stories are true I think we are in for one wild long weekend!

Until then though, its head down, bum up, and I am in lockdown in the library to get all my reading done so that I dont fall behind!

I really encourage anyone on exchange to make the most of their exchange city’s proximity to other countries.. it is much cheaper to see them from this end than to go all the way from Australia! All the hard work i endured in the months leading up to this exchange is being converted from dollars to experiences and while I may go home with an empty bank account I will definitely be going home rich in memories of my travels and the friends and contacts we are making around the world!