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I absolutely loved Dr. Suess growing up. I even found inspiration in the timeless “Oh! The Places You’ll Go” for my graduation speech in my senior year of high school, which now seems so long ago. It was only natural, then, for me to relate to yet another one of his simple, yet powerful quotes. Now that I’m finally home and getting back into the crazy busy, but crazy fun life of an overinvolved Georgia Tech student, I’ve realized that I am appreciating the little things about America so much more than I ever was before my summer abroad. It’s true, sometimes you have to roam to finally realize there’s no place like home.
Let’s quickly recap my final weeks in Oxford…
My two favorite memories of my last few weeks in Oxford could not be more different; one was attending a seminar hosted by a Nobel Prize winner regarding Advances in Sustainable Energy, and the other was attending a European dupstep concert with my friends. Both events were unlike any other I had ever been too. The seminar was surprisingly easy to follow-I thought for sure I would not understand the majority of the conversation. I found myself recognizing the vocabulary of the speaker and actually comprehending the arguments and explanations regarding the issue of Alternative Energy. I was surprised at the shades of grey concerning the issue. While I was not completely unaware of the dangers and hazards surrounding development of such alternative energy, I never thought of the potential for negative implications with much consideration, so the discussion definitely opened my mind. It was interesting to learn about the different issues about development, to say the least. The concert was also incredibly interesting. Like I said, I had never been to events similar to these. Turns out the Justin Timberlake concert I went to back in the day wasn’t like this concert at all (who would’ve thought). I’m pretty positive my friends and I were the only people out of all 62,000 people in attendance not wearing rain boots. Everyone else must have gotten the memo that the concert venue was muddy…but us. Nonetheless, the concert was a lot of fun, and was certainly a night to be remembered.
I visited London two different weekends: once to visit the city and see all the sights without the Olympics crowds, and a second time to attend the Games. During my first weekend, my friends and I experienced London like true tourists and went to the London Eye, BigBen, Harrods, and a musical. It started raining (shocker) while we were on the Eye, but it made the view even more beautiful. The raindrops on the windows and grey skies added to the landscape and made for some exceptional pictures. My favorite part about London was by far seeing the musical, The Lion King. I had never seen a musical before that, so it was a whole new experience. Although I already knew the story like the back of my hand (The Lion King is one of my all time favorite movies), the musical kept me guessing and was surprising. Instead of wondering about the plot development, I was wondering how the producers would be able to demonstrate the plot development. Needless to say, I loved it. Definitely one of the best memories of the trip as a whole. One things for sure-I’ll be making many a trip to the Fox Theatre in Atlanta in the fall!
My second trip to London was for the sole purpose of attending the Olympics. Going to London to see the Olympics was the perfect way to end my Oxford experience. The atmosphere of the Games was indescribable. The competitive but friendly environment was cool; I expected much more animosity than I actually encountered, especially during events. I attended the morning matches of beach volleyball and was surprised by all the different flags I saw spectators sporting in the arena. There were spectators from many countries, but that didn’t stop them from cheering for teams from countries that were not their own. Not only were the actual competitions of the games fun, but the other aspects surrounding the games were enjoyable as well. The underground metro maintained its efficiency, even with all the people trying to utilize it, and restaurants were quick to get customers in and out. London did a great job acting as host to the Games!
While it’s true I missed things about America like free refills, the availability of ketchup and ice cubes, Chick Fil A, and easy access to WiFi, there was one thing I missed substantially more: my family. Now that I’m back at home, I’ve come to the understanding that home isn’t just where you were born or where you grew up or even where you currently live, it’s where your family and loved ones are. No amount of free refills, ketchup, ice cubes, Chick Fil A, or even Wifi availability would have made Europe feel more like home; only my family could have filled that void. Europe did more than teach me about ancient art and architecture, different cultures, and how to travel and be independent-it taught me to appreciate what I used to take for granted and considered ‘a little thing’: my family and loved ones. Indeed, sometimes you have to roam to find there’s no place like home.
All the best,
Time Flies July 16, 2012Posted by kmorrisey3 in Travel Log.
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It’s hard to believe I have less than three weeks left at Oxford. I feel like I’ve been here forever, but nonetheless it’s weird to think I’ll be back studying at Georgia Tech in a month! As painfully cliché as this sounds, time really does fly when you’re having fun!
Barcelona was my very first independent international trip. By the end of the weekend, I was wishing I had my group leaders back! I definitely took the immense amount of planning they must have had to undertake to plan our itinerary for granted. At least I can say I learned from my mistakes. Here is just five things I learned from my weekend in Barcelona:
- Paella is my new favorite food.
- You will be smacked with a 60 pound fee to print your boarding pass if you don’t arrive to the airport with it already printed.
- Loading your hotel room is, in fact, illegal in Spain.
- Never assume your flight will depart on time and purchase bus tickets accordingly-you will miss your bus.
- Sangria can be significantly more expensive than actual food.
For the past 3 weeks, I’ve been studying at Worcester College, which is a part of the University of Oxford. As a collegiate university, Oxford’s structure can be confusing to those unfamiliar with it. The university is actually a federation, and it comprises over forty self-governing colleges and halls (Worcester being one of them), along with a central administration headed by the Vice-Chancellor. Each college is responsible for organizing the teaching of undergraduate students. While I’ve been learning much in the classroom, I’ve been learning just as much out of the classroom. The city of Oxford has much more to offer than just first rate academics. The city is rich with tradition and history (not to mention amazing food). King James Castle is just one of the historical monuments in the city. About two hours from Oxford is the city of Salisbury, which is where you can find Stonehenge. I visited the mysterious artform on a rainy Friday the 13th, which added to the enigmatic atmosphere of the place. At first the rain was light and bearable, but, much to my friends and my dismay, it soon started to pour. One thing I’ve learned from traveling this summer is flexibility. Instead of letting the rain ruin our pictures, we took some silly ones.
Needless to say, the past few weeks have been a whirlwind. I was crazy to think things would slow down when I got to Oxford! I’ve found myself studying in the same pub J.K. Rowling wrote part of the famed Harry Potter series, attending a lecture held by a Nobel Prize winner on Alternative Energy, and watching the Olympic Torch being handed off less than 10 feet in front of me.
On July 6, I traveled to my homeland: Ireland! My family has some Celtic heritage, so I, of course, was interested in visiting Ireland. I saw my family crest and learned about the history of my descendants. Here’s my crest and motto:
Much like England, it was rainy and cold the whole weekend. To say I miss the sun is quite an understatement! Nonetheless, we enjoyed every second of our visit to Dublin. After a relatively quick flight, we had some traditional Irish breakfast of Guinness toast, sausage, and porridge. After exploring the city and unpacking in our hotel room, my friends and I settled in at a popular local pub with live music called Foleys. Foleys quickly became my favorite restaurant in all of Europe. The food was exceptional and the atmosphere of the pub was unparalled. The music was an equal balance of Irish folk tunes and American classics that energized the pub, bringing people to their feet dancing, stomping, and clapping to the beat. The man performing the live music stole my heart with his cover of my song, Brown Eyed Girl. I wish I could upload one of the multiple videos I took of his performance!
The next day, I went on a 13 hour tour to the Cliffs of Moher. Follow this link to a webpage I wrote in html in my Computer Science class to learn more about my tour: http://coweb.cc.gatech.edu/cs1315/uploads/5761/HW5-KNM.html.
It is definitely going to feel strange to be back in America and be surrounded by modern architecture and culture again. I’ve taken to doing my homework and studying (and typing these blogs) in local cafes and pubs (my favorite is actually the same pub J.K Rowling and C.S Lewis have come for inspiration, which is where I currently am). I don’t know how I’ll be able to study in the CULC in August but it’ll be here before I know it!
Until next time,
You Say “Goodbye” and I Say “Hello” June 25, 2012Posted by kmorrisey3 in Travel Log.
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Much has happened since my last blog post. I said goodbye to traveling, and hello to England. The sentiments of Oxford Group 3 were downcast, at best, at the realization of the end of travel, but I was excited. No doubt I’ll miss the exhilaration and fast pace of constant travel, but I am beyond ready to slow down and unpack in my dormitory at Oxford. (Not to mention finally wash my clothes in an actual washing machine). Let’s review my final weeks abroad and my first in England.
Brugge, Brussels, Ghent, Belgium
We arrived in the land of waffles, chocolate, and beer (aka Belgium) late at night on June 15. The ten long bus ride from Luzern made my bed in our hotel in Ghent even more inviting-not that I slept in it too much anyway. In true Group 3 fashion, most of that first night was spent exploring our new city, taking pictures, and visiting local pubs. We made sure to be back with enough time to get an almost healthy amount of sleep before our trip the next day to Brugge. (here’s aother photo of the absolutely BREATHTAKING sunset I lost sleep over in Luzern-definitely worth it)
I know I’ve said this multiple times about many cities but….I think Brugge is my favorite city!! We took a bike tour led by one of our group leaders, Derek, to see the city and the countryside. What a sight we must have been, all ~35 of us riding through the cobblestoned streets in such a long line! Brugge had a simple beauty to it; the city was incredibly quaint and traditional, and the countryside looked like it belonged in a scene from Pride & Prejudice (all my Jane Austen fans out there know what I’m talking about). My favorite spot was a rolling hillside with antiquated windmill perched atop it, seen here:
We also spent a day in both Brussels and Ghent, which were much less quaint and cultured as Brugge. Brussels and Ghent were fairly large and modern. We visited some museums and cathedrals, but it was the food that stole the show in these cities. I had my best meal at a local eatery in Ghent: a steaming bowl of mussels. Cooked in white wine, the mussels were perfect! I split a dish with my friend Melissa, but even with two mouths we barely made a dent in the huge bowl of delicious seafood.
My banana nut waffle, apparently a Belgium classic, from Brussels was another trip favorite. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat a Belgium waffle in America again-they simply don’t compare to the original!
“Il n’y a que deux endroits au monde où l’on puisse vivre heureux: chez soi et à Paris”
(There are only two places in the world where we can live happy: at home and in Paris.)
I’m not sure if Hemingway has ever been more wrong. I hate to say it as much as I hate that it’s true, but I simply did not like Paris. Paris, to my dismay, was nothing like I imagined. Instead of romantic images of streets lined with charming cafes and bright lights, I saw graffiti-covered concrete buildings and dirty alleyways. Perhaps my expectations were too high, or my mood was hampered by my final exams looming ahead, but regardless, I couldn’t get over the fact that my perfect idea of Paris wasn’t fulfilled. My experience at The Louvre contributed to this pessimistic sentiment. The Louvre, like I expected and was warned of, was incredibly crowded. It was even more crowded than The Sistine Chapel-I didn’t think that was possible! It was a bit comical to see the crowd surrounding the Mona Lisa. After seeing so much art throughout my travels, I wasn’t impressed by the renowned portrait. However, I visited the Eiffel Tower my final night in Paris, and was AMAZED. The view of the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night was one of the best sights I saw throughout my travels. With the drizzle of the rain that night, the Eiffel Tower almost appeared as it was a diamond, glistening and sparkling in the dark. The graffiti-covered concrete buildings and dirty alleyways will soon be forgotten, but I will never forget the instant the thousands of lights illuminated the Tower. Maybe Hemingway was right after all.
I’m finally all settled in my little dorm here in Gloucester House at Worcester College (it’s actually a lot larger than the apartment I’ll be living in at Tech!). I can’t wait to get started with my classes and meet everyone in the other travel groups! I’ll be traveling to Barcelona, Spain next weekend, but for the time being I’ll be exploring the campus of Worcester College, my new home for the next 6 weeks.
Goodbye traveling, Hello Oxford!
We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Blog June 15, 2012Posted by kmorrisey3 in Travel Log.
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Hello from Luzern, Switzerland! I just completed my travels throughout Italy, visiting the cities of Venice, Florence, and Rome and have come to this conclusion: we’re gonna need a bigger blog. I simply do not know how I can possibly record all of my experiences in Italy! Bear with me as I try to describe the indescribable.
Once again, I had to pay for my over-packing habit in the floating city of Venice. Because of the unique format of the city, cars are not permitted. We exited our fairly spacious coach and had to take a water bus into the city of Venice. Then we had to lug our suitcases up two steep bridges and through about 15 minutes of cobble-stoned streets. The sight of our 50 odd person caravan struggling through the streets of Venice must have been quite comical to the locals and fellow tourists alike. I’m starting to develop a strategy for pulling my suitcase through the cobblestones (not sure whether or not I should be proud of this). Our hotel was…interesting, to say the least. It was situated in a legitimate alleyway and was incredibly small. It made me appreciate the nicer hotels we were fortunate enough to stay in! But I didn’t travel all the way to Venice to stay in my hotel-it was the city I was there for, and what a city it turned out to be. The atmosphere of Venice alone was incredible. It was strange to walk everywhere and not see any automated mode of transportation. There was a bridge around every turn, it seemed like, and every building had an artistic and rustic quality to it. Group 3’s first activity of Venice was a walking tour to observe and learn the history of the architecture of the city. The first thing I noticed about Venice that set it apart from the other cities we’ve visited was the vast number of people walking around. I’d bet there were significantly more tourists in Venice than there were in all of the other cities combined. It actually reminded me of a much more authentic and artsy version of DisneyWorld. Overall, the architecture of the city was an eclectic mix of Islamic, Byzantine, and Baroque influenced structures. Over the course of our stay in Venice, we visited the San Marco Cathedral, the Galleria de Accademia, the Scrovegni Chapel, the city of Padova, and the Villa Rotunda. The Scrovegni Chapel was my favorite sight, and was built in roughly 1300 by the commission of the rich nobleman Enrico Scrovegni. The entire chapel is covered in frescoes by the respected painter, Giotto. I was amazed by the frescoes in the chapel, to say the very least. Giotto replicated scenes of the lives of the Virgin Mary’s parents and of Jesus on either side of the chapel with slabs of marble below the paintings. The painted marble slabs were the most impressive aspects of the chapel; Giotto perfected the balance of harsh vs. soft and rough vs. smooth in the color, luminosity, and texture of the marble pieces.
To celebrate our last night in Venice, a couple of us in Group 3 decided to take a ride on a gondola. Our group leader, Derek, even tagged along. It was incredible! We went during dusk-one of our best decisions. Not only did we escape the heat, we were able to enjoy the city all lit up. The reflections of light on the water from the bridges and other buildings added to the authenticity of the city and made all the difference in our ride. We listened to Italian music while our driver (?) steered us through the canal. The whole experience was straight out of a movie.
Our next stop on our journey through Italy was Florence. Here we were all reminded of the “study” portion of our “study abroad” program; our art and music midterms were given on our second day. Naturally, we stayed up late and studied the night away the night prior to our exams. Our studies didn’t end after our midterms-after a quick lunch break we were back in the city, touring the Galleria Palatina for the rest of the day. Our group leaders and professors wanted to reward our group for being extremely well behaved and rearranged our schedule so we had Saturday, our final day in Florence, free! A couple of my girl friends and I decided to take advantage of this free day and plan our own little excursion to Cinque Terre. Cinque Terra is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riveria. “The Five Lands” is composed of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. These charming coastal cities were incredibly authentic-there is a complete lack of visible corporate development. Paths, trains, and boats connect the five villages, but there are hiking trails that also connect each village for the more adventurous. Initially, our plan was to take the more adventurous route and to hike through the villages…however, a critical portion of the trail was destroyed by a recent mudslide so we had to take the bus (darn.. ). We explored 2 of the villages and stopped to eat at a local pizzeria, where we met some students from Purdue University. We found out that one of them is actually from the same hometown as my parents-small world! While taking a quick dip in the sea, we saw some other people with whom we had something in common…our professors! It turns out our professors and group leaders took the day off to make a trip to Cinque Terra as well. Perhaps they had ulterior motives for giving us the day off…
I LOVED ROME. I don’t know how else to begin my description of my final stop in Italy. I could go on and on about what I loved about Rome, but to spare us both the time, I’m going to focus on two of my favorite places in the city: the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain. As we walked around the massive Colosseum, all I could think about was the impossibility of its construction with the lack of modern technology. I was shocked when I hear my art professor, Dr. J, say that the Colosseum held roughly 50,000 people-the capacity of good old Bobby Dodd Stadium- in its prime. When we walked inside, my mind shifted to one of my favorite movies, Gladiator. I absolutely love that movie, but it doesn’t do the Colosseum justice. It’s simply impossible to understand the scale of the enormous structure until you experience it for yourself.
The Trevi Fountain, the largest Baroque fountain in the city, was also a sight I enjoyed. I visited the fountain twice, once during the day and once at night. The view of the fountain at night was incredible. The way the light illuminated the sculptures and bounced off the water was striking. The fountain is one of the most famous fountains in the world, iconic for its beauty and coin-throwing. A traditional legend holds that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome. An estimated 3,000 euros are thrown into a fountain each day, which is used to subsidize a supermarket reserved for Rome’s needy. I, of course, threw a coin. Now, when do I come back?!?
As for now, I’m about to unwillingly leave Luzern, Switzerland. I haven’t even been here for 20 hours and I’m in love with this city. I’ve never seen a more beautiful horizon, especially during the sunrise this morning. I decided to not make the mistake I made in Budapest and miss my second opportunity to watch the sunrise from a beautiful view, so I forwent sleep and went to a sea-front park to watch the sunrise. I’d rather not waste the little time I have in this city on sleep. I’ve got a ~12 hour bus ride to Belgium ahead of me to take care of that anyway!
Until next time,
First Impressions June 4, 2012Posted by kmorrisey3 in Travel Log.
Tags: Budapest, Kelliann Morrisey, Oxford 2012, Prague, Venice, Vienna
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Today marks the beginning of my third week abroad. It’s strange to think it’s only been 14 days! I feel like I’ve already become a world traveler! So far, Oxford Group 3 has visited Budapest, Hungary, Prague, Czech Republic, and Vienna, Italy. Currently we are in Venice, Italy and next on the itinerary is Florence, Italy. To say I’ve been having the time of my life would be an understatement. The experiences I’ve already gained in the short amount of time I’ve been abroad is remarkable. In just two short weeks, I’ve attended 3 concertos (an instrumental performance centered on contrast between soloists and a string-dominated orchestra), 1 opera, 1 ballet, 6 churches, 9 museums, and other numerous historic monuments. A couple of things I’ve noticed about Europe…
- Bread, meat, and cheese are a part of nearly every dish-especially for breakfast. Nutella is nearly as abundant!
- NOTHING is free. Water and public restrooms included.
- Wifi is hard to come by…explaining my lack of blog posts thus far!
Budapest was Group 3’s first stop on our trek across Europe. It was absolutely beautiful-clique, I know. Upon my arrival in Budapest, I quickly realized two things: 1) I was definitely no longer in America, and, the more painful realization, 2) I had packed way too much (shocker)! We had to carry our suitcases up and down a few staircases in the city of Pest (Buda and Pest are actually two main cities that are separated by the Danube river-I had no clue either!) to get to our hotel. Taneisha and Derek, our group leaders, weren’t kidding when they said to practice carrying our suitcases up three flights of stairs before we came on the trip. The ornate architecture of the city of Pest distracted me from the weight of my suitcase as we trudged through cobblestone streets and down into underground tunnels to get to our hotel. The city’s architecture was very strange to me; it is nothing like the architecture of American cities. Throughout our stay in Budapest, we visited multiple museums, cathedrals, historic monuments, and, of course, local pubs. One of my favorite tours in Budapest was our visit to St. Stephen’s Basilica. I was overwhelmed by the amount of detail in the interior and exterior of the building. European architecture is just so different than what you see in America-the history here is so rich!
Another tour I enjoyed was our tour of Castle Hill. The Castle Hill area was just precious. It’s a picturesque blend of cobblestone streets, quaint restaurants, and historic monuments. The most impressive part of Castle Hill was the view atop it. A couple people in our group watched the sunrise from atop Castle Hill one night. I decided to get some sleep instead of trek up the hill early in the morning-a decision I’ve regretted ever since. Who needs sleep, anyway?
Prague, Czech Republic
I was sad to leave Budapest (and their incredibly weak currency, the Florin), but excited to be in Prague! Unfortunately, our trip to our second city was rough. We got little lost, and then held up at a gas station, but our hilarious and amazing bus driver, Baloo, got us to Prague safely, and that’s all that matters, right? (I’m trying to not stress about things this trip…..mission impossible, but I’m trying) Our welcome dinner in Prague was DELICIOUS. The caprese salad was so fresh, and my chicken dish was cooked and marinated to perfection. But even that delicious meal doesn’t compare to the new dish I discovered in Prague….KEBABS! Kebabs are kind of like European burritos, made from skewered and slow roasted meat, fresh veggies, and a creamy ranch like sauce. I can already tell I will miss those in America! I saw my first opera in Prague called Tosca. Tosca is a melodramatic piece set in June 1800 in Rome, a time when the leadership of Rome was threatened by Napoleon’s invasion of Italy. This opera centers on the main character, Tosca, a famous female singer, Mario Cavaradossi, a talented painter and Tosca’s lover, Scarpia, the police chief and main antagonist, and Cesare Angelotti, the imprisoned former consol of the former Roman Republic. Angelotti escapes imprisonment and seeks refuge from Cavaradossi, his longtime friend, causing a chain of events which end tragically in torture, murder, and suicide. Initially, I didn’t think I would like Tosca, but I made sure to keep an open mind throughout the performance. I was pleasantly surprised by the opera; it was fairly enjoyable! I’m definitely coming to appreciate art and music through my experiences on this trip.
Prague was definitely too short of a trip. I wish I could’ve spent more time there! I was eager to move on to Vienna, though. Our first day in Vienna was crazy busy-we only had 3 hours of free time to eat dinner, change, and get ready for a concert later. After our classes and tours for the day, my friend Mary and I decided to skip dinner and shop (shocking). There is literally an H&M every 3 blocks, so we just had to stop in one. We shopped for a little (I only got a pair of shoes, mom and dad! …..and two dresses…..and a shirt….hehe) and decided to explore the city for an hour and then walk back to our hotel. BAD IDEA. Mary and I got so hopelessly lost. With every turn we took, we just walked deeper and deeper into the city and away from our hotel. To make matters worse, it started pouring-not just raining casually-POURING. Our map, of course, got wet and ripped. We asked many locals and eventually found the underground metro, where we discovered the routes to take us back to our hotel. We had to switch routes so many times; we had unknowingly and unintentionally wandered so far! The good news is we made it back to the hotel safely. There is no better feeling than getting lost in a completely unknown place and finding your way back. I felt so empowered and independent! It was definitely a learning experience. The bad news? Well, by the time we arrived at our hotel, we were supposed to be ready and at the concert hall for our second concert, a Mozart Concerto featuring the premier violinist, Anne-Sophie Mutter. I’m not sure how we did it, but Mary and I changed into our business casual and got back downstairs to the lobby at the same time as our professors/group leaders. We walked with them to the concert and all was well. It was definitely a success.
I’m currently in Venice, and loving every second! I can’t wait to write about the rest of my experiences in Italy! Ciao!!
Kelliann, World Traveler.