Hi everyone! I got to see some other areas of England recently when my friend and I went on a bus tour to the Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Oxford. This tour was a great way to see all of these places because some of the locations would have been hard to travel to on our own.
First off was Windsor Castle, one of the queen’s many homes. Everyone knows about Buckingham palace, but apparently the queen doesn’t like to stay there and only visits when she needs to work. Windsor Castle is her favorite place to stay. The castle, in its original state, was built in the 11th century and is extremely rich with history because of this. Different monarchs had renovations done throughout the centuries and a fire destroyed over 100 rooms in 1992. The queen needed to raise money for the repairs so she started allowing tours in Buckingham palace to raise the money. We had a chance to tour the beautiful state apartments within the castle, which are used for hosting events. They were filled with priceless art and gorgeous architecture, but we unfortunately were not allowed to take pictures, so you’ll just have to Google them to see what I’m talking about. Windsor castle is also one of the only places you can actually get your picture taken with one of the royal guards, so of course I had to seize the opportunity!
(Me with a guard at the castle)
After this, we went to Stonehenge. The area around the stones is blocked off for preservation purposes, so you are not allowed to walk inside the stones, but you can walk around the edge. I was surprised that the stones were not bigger, honestly, but it was really cool to see this mysterious landmark. Some of the stones that these ancient people used were moved from thousands of miles away and the biggest one weighs 25 tons. The fact that we still have no idea why Stonehenge was constructed is so bizarre, especially when so much effort was put into its construction.
(Me at Stonehenge)
Our last stop was Oxford, where we took a walking tour of the university and town. The influence that this town has had on history is truly remarkable when you think about how many influential people were educated at the university. There were even some sites from the Harry Potter films on campus, which made me particularly excited. In the middle of our walking tour, a crazy thunderstorm broke out and our group had to flee back to the bus. The rain was a torrential downpour and it even started hailing on us! My friend and I had to share an umbrella so we both were pretty soaked when we got back on the bus, but the outlandish situation had us laughing our heads off.
(Me wearing a deerstalker hat at Oxford)
(Oxford in the sunshine)
(....and during the biblical storm)
So despite the rain (and hail), I had a wonderful time on the tour and I’m so happy I was able to see these amazing locations. I was also able to see Les Miserables in the West End a couple days ago. The show had some of the best singers I have ever heard in my life and a revolving stage. Apparently the stage makes 63 rotations each performance! The whole show was simply incredible. I am also heading to Paris this weekend and I couldn’t be more excited! More updates are soon to come!
Since one of the biggest aspects of my job as a Peace Corps volunteer is teaching basic business skills and encouraging small scale entreprenuership, I'm always on the hunt for fun or interesting ways to get villagers interested and involved. Though sometimes I put a lot of thought into how I'm going to present certain topics, other times it's just gotta happen organically.
What started out as a fun rainy day activity- baking with the women in my community- has actually become my most successful business class! Once or twice a month I host a women's Baking & Business class in which some of the local ladies and I bake cakes, cookie bars, sweet breads, etc., and as we wait for the sweets to bake, we talk about product costs, pricing margins, product development, and basic marketing.
Since only two or three families in my town have ovens and most still cook over an open fire, we too bake our desserts over an open fire in a McGyver type of makeshift oven. It's simple- a baking pan on top of an empty tuna can inside a larger pot with a lid- but it works.
I usually try to incorporate local ingredients into the products- and since there are bastante bananas, oranges, lemons, cocoa, coffee, and coconuts, it's not too hard. Needless to say, we're never short on taste testers :)
Though most of the women haven't started officially selling their sweets yet, I'm hopeful for the future. They have started baking on their own, and our store owner has pledged his support, so that when they are ready to sell, he'll be their first buyer.
These first two weeks in London have been an amazing experience! I have been working at my internship as an assistant publicist at Premier and I really like the work so far. My main job is to help the PR department promote the movies that are currently being released onto DVD and Bluray. This includes helping to organize promotional events, emailing media websites asking them to post articles about the movies, and brainstorming for new ideas on how to promote the films. I was really impressed with the big clients that we work with and I am so lucky to have this awesome opportunity.
I commute to work Monday through Thursday on the tube (I get Fridays off). It gets ridiculously busy and humid during rush hour but I feel like a true Londoner when I’m part of the crowd. The commute has also allowed me to learn the tube system fairly well, which makes my exploring on the weekends that much easier.
But it hasn’t been all work and no play! I’ve also been able to continue my exploration of this spectacular city. I visited Covent Garden and the Camden Lock markets and bought some awesome souvenirs. My friend and I also went to the British museum, which is full of Egyptian mummies, ancient Greek sculptures, and other amazing artefacts.
(Greek statue of Venus at the British museum)
We also went on a creepy tour that visited the various sites on the East End where Jack the Ripper murdered women in the late 1800s. This was both disturbing and fascinating because, to this day, no one knows who the infamous serial killer was. The investigation shaped modern police research significantly because Jack the Ripper was the first person to ever have a psychological profile created for criminal profiling techniques. Since I love psychology, I found this fact pretty cool.
I also was able to indulge in some of my love for British literary icons, including Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes and Harry Potter. Our group was able to attend a free play at the Globe Theatre, which is a modern replica of the Shakespeare’s original structure that stands in the same general area where the old one would have stood. We stood on the ground level like the peasants would have and it really made us feel like we had been transported into the 1600s. The play was Antony and Cleopatra, which I especially enjoyed because I had never read it before.
(Antony and Cleopatra at The Globe theatre)
I also was able to visit the fictional house of Sherlock Holmes at 221b Baker Street. This was the location of the detective’s home in the books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the real address was made into a museum due to the character’s fame.
(Me at 221b Baker Street)
What I was most excited about, however, was visiting Platform 9 ¾ from the Harry Potter books. King’s Cross train station set up a tribute to Harry Potter in the station by erecting a statue of a cart, filled with suitcases and a pet owl, in the process of going through the wall on the way to the Hogwarts Express train station. Harry Potter was definitely what made me want to visit London so badly when I was a kid and started my journey on this adventure, so it was incredible to see this in person. I was also able to book tickets for the movie studio tour in August and I can’t wait!
(Me at Platform 9 3/4)
There is still so much to do in this city and I am planning on visiting other cities in Europe as well while I am here, so I will have a lot more to tell in these next few weeks!
London is the land of excess and I love it! I’ve always enjoyed traveling to London ever since I visited for the first time last year, at the end of my brother’s AIFS program he attended there. It’s an amazing city, and after a few days in Paris, one of my favorites to visit. Everyone is nice, they say they enjoy your accents, call ‘blond women’ “uneducated sounding” (which cracks me up), and you get to see the best of the best in terms of everything. For example: You get to see the best home of the best empire builder since Napoleon, you get to see the best cars, the best suits, the best helicopters carrying the best princes of the best empire, and so forth. It just leads to an unforgettable experience that takes your breath away… and it does take your breath away due to the pollution in the air there.
Sadly, for this blog, I didn’t take too many pictures of my own to put up here about Kensington Palace (even though I casually strolled past the future King George Louis when I visited the palace), or the shops on High Street (even though Jimmy Fallon walked right by my group when we traveled there and some of the girls fainted), or Parliament (even though I saw no one of importance there), or the Glob Theatre (where one of my friends on this trip was swept off her feet and danced with an actor during a play), but I was able to catch a real beauty: A Maybach parked on the street corner.
Now, you may be wondering: Austin, this is London, why do you care so much about a car? And to that I would answer: It’s a $2 million dollar limo that people privately own…why wouldn’t I? When I saw it I immediately started to get an adrenaline rush just because I was looking at it. It was a spectacle for sure, as you can probably see in the picture I have here. If you just can't seem to fathom why this is such a big deal, check out this video and it should put everying back into perspective:
So yeah, I did a tiny freak out because of this car, but in all honesty, it’s only the second time I have ever seen one and both were in London. From that, I can only think that when people go to London, they put on and show off their best for the Queen; which is a pretty awesome consumer behavior insight.
So, I apologies for not having the quintessential London blog post, but hopefully you will watch some of these videos that I post and be blown away by the amazingness that is this Maybach. Although, if you do want to see the touristy stuff of London, check out some of the other blogs on this page. I know one has all the big stuff: Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, all that good stuff and you can see them and think as if you are looking at them on my blog. :P
I’ll let you guys know what I’m up to in Paris this coming weekend. Stay tuned. :)
In several hours, I will be heading to the airport. I finally finished packing but I am still a bundle of nervous energy. I doubt I will get any sleep tonight…
My name is Savannah Butler and I am studying abroad in Taiwan to learn Mandarin this summer. The month of July will be filled with classes every morning and immersion in Taiwanese culture in the evenings and weekends. I thought it might be fun to create a “wish-list” of things I want to do while I am there. Hopefully I can cross many of these items off in the next few weeks and share my memories with everyone reading.
Savannah’s Taiwan wish-list:
Visit a hot spring
Shilin Night Market
Visit Sun and Moon lake
Ride the High Speed Railway
Visit the Taipei Holiday Jade market
Visit a Buddhist temple and meditate
Scuba dive at Green Island
Go to a movie
I am sure I will find a ton of other things in Taipei itself (the university is a short trip away) and I will be sure to take lots of pictures. Wish me luck for my 20 hour flight. Taiwan, here I come!
So the weeks are flying by.. I currently only have less than two weeks left here in the gorgeous country of Ireland! But first, let me go back and talk about my last two weeks..
On the weekend of the 21st, I took a day trip with a few of my housemates to Cork and Blarney. What a gorgeous place! Cork reminded me a lot of Dublin, while the Blarney Castle was unlike anything I've ever seen before. It was huge! And all I could think was, "We have to climb to the top of that?!" I was terrified because me and heights don't do that well together.. Once at the top, this was where we were able to kiss the Blarney Stone! To kiss the stone you had to lean over backwards pretty far, looking down on the ground from very, very high up. Once I did it, I was so proud of myself because it meant I conquered one of my fears! :)
Kissing the Blarney Stone!
During the week, Morgan and I decided to visit the Guinness Storehouse! This was about a 15 minute walk from our house in Temple Bar and it was a sunny day in Ireland, which is very rare, let me tell you! So we definitely took advantage of the nice weather :) The storehouse was awesome! I learned a lot about the brewing process of Guinness and I even got to pour my own glass of it!
This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Paris, France with Morgan and one of our housemates, Gwendolyn. This was one of the most eye-opening, beautiful trips I've ever taken. The city was gorgeous and the Eiffel Tower left me speechless. We were even able to climb it, and what a view! We also got to see many other things while in Paris, namely: the Arc de Triomphe, The Louvre Museum, where the famous Mona Lisa is located, Notre Dame, the Orsay Museum, where work from Van Gogh is exhibited, and many other interesting and historical sights. I'm finding it difficult to convey the majesty of different sights that I've been seeing around Europe through words, so I'll let the pictures do the talking. Oh, and one last thing.. Of course we had to try snail (escargot) while we were there!
Me in front of Notre Dame!
The Orsay Museum!
Casual selfie with Mona, you know :)
These are all really great experiences and I am so blessed to be able to visit the places I have visited so far. I am so in love with my internship and the kids that I work with.. As I said before, I can see them growing, both physically and mentally, every day that I work with them. My boss and I are already talking about keeping in touch once I leave this beautiful country, so I cannot wait to hear how the kids are doing in a few years.
This coming weekend I am heading to Edinburgh, Scotland! I couldn't be more excited :) I'll let you know how it goes soon! Catch ya later :)
So remember how in my last blog I mentioned that applying for a visa is really stressful and difficult? Well, I discovered that the process of waiting for the visa is actually worse.
When I sent in my passport to the UK Consulate in New York City, I opted not to pay the additional fee of nearly $200 to expedite the process because I thought I had plenty of time. When I had not received the visa a week before my flight was scheduled, I started to get nervous. And little did I know, there is absolutely no way to contact the consulate. No direct email addresses, no phone numbers, nothing. I ended up calling the only service offered, which was an outsourced phone help line run in India, and they told me that there was nothing I could do and I might have to reschedule my flight. They also told me that the number of days the processing could take were unpredictable. I never got an email saying that my application was finished, and I was stressing over possibly being late to my program in London. Then, on the last possible day I received the passport and visa in the mail! I am so extremely, incredibly lucky.
But anyway, I ended up having a remarkably easy packing process. My suitcases were well under the weight limit and there is plenty of room for souvenirs. I discovered an awesome packing technique on Pinterest that really helped me. All you have to do is roll your clothes and then put them in a big Ziplock bag. This saves SO MUCH space in your suitcase!
The first couple days here have been a whirlwind (in a good way). Our group has been navigating the tube throughout London and seeing nearly all of the major sites, all while attempting to recover from jetlag! I have seen The London Eye, Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, 10 Downing Street, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus,Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge(including the crown jewels!) and the Tower of London all in a few short days! I definitely will be re-visiting these sites because I am absolutely in love with this city. We also were able to explore a few pubs and that was really fun too. Our internships start on Monday and I am excited to start working as well. I'm so thrilled to see what else lies in store for me here!
Inside the Tower of London
Big Ben and Parliament:
So the title really says it all.. I'm already one full month into my two month experience of Ireland and my feelings couldn't possibly be more mixed at this point. I just had to watch my good friends, Nubia and Maria, leave Ireland and head back to the states this past Saturday and it was an emotional wreck for us all! They only decided to stay for a month in Ireland, and they were regretting it as they left. They wished that they could stay here longer, and I almost wished that they cold take me home with them.. I was sad to see them go! Now that they are gone and I'm adjusting to their absence, however, I realize just how much more I have to see in Ireland and Europe in general. I am so glad I chose the two month program!
Now, let me rewind a bit and talk about my past two weeks. The first week of June led me into many nights out and fun with my roommates, as well as a trip to London, England! This place was gorgeous and I never wanted to leave.. It has always been my biggest dream to visit London, so this trip really proved to me that dreams can come true! :) I went with Morgan Zider and we did multiple tours and got to see many of the gorgeous buildings London has become famous for. I'll let the pictures do the talking there!
Me at Leavesden Studios, home of the official Harry Potter Studio (I'm a huge Harry Potter fan!)
This picture always amazes me because it looks so fake. <3
I'm touching the tip of Big Ben! :)
Morgan and I saying our goodbyes <3
The second week of June was a strange one indeed, because it was Nubia, Maria, and the rest of our housemates' last week in Ireland. This week was filled with adventures including all of us, enjoying each other's presence and the night life of Ireland before everyone headed off in different directions. Then, just this past Saturday, Morgan and I had the opportunity to visit Galway, one of the small fishing towns in Ireland. I fell in love with Galway immediately. And I finally got to purchase the claddagh ring I had always wanted, from the original claddagh ring shop! Once again, I will let the pictures do the talking because my words can't express the beauty of this place.
Lastly, my internship is going very well. I am learning new things about the Montessori way of teaching and my students each and every day. They are all so bright and intelligent, and I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to work with them every day. I cannot wait to get back into my classroom in the states and put what I've learned here into practice! I'll talk to you again soon! <3
“Hello my name is Austin and I’m a marketing major,” seems like an ordinary greeting for anyone until you combine it with a 60 second song, a banjo, and some good video editing! Hello, and welcome to the always fun, exciting, and most of all, entertaining, life of ME: Austin Summers. As said in the song, I’m a marketing major at Saint Vincent College and this summer, I will be studying Fashion Marketing and Merchandising abroad for 4 weeks in Europe; stopping at London, United Kingdom, Paris, France, Milan and Florence, Italy. I plan on keeping a detailed, but interesting, account of all that I see and do for your reading pleasure.
The goal with my blog is to make you laugh, cry, and show off the great opportunities that Saint Vincent College offers through my strange sense of humor. Honestly, if anything will give you a sense of what my blog is going to be like, just watch my YouTube video of my 60-second pitch below.
Thanks for reading this introduction of mine, I'll have another post talking about my course and what I plan to do while in all the great cities that I will be studying at next week. Set your email lists to AWESOME and prepare for a magical trip to funville!
So it has been three weeks since I've gotten home and I already miss Florence. I love being home but working every day and paying off my debts to my parents hasn't been all that much fun. However, I have really missed my family and friends and was lucky enough to see them all when I got home. It's nice knowing that everyone around me speaks English again, even though I'm not completely used to not hearing my favorite Italian word, "ciao," every five minutes.
I can't even explain how amazing these past four months have been. I started my first weekend in Europe snowboarding the Alps in Switzerland. I traveled 13 hours on a bus to visit the Czech Republic capital, Prague. I got to go to two of Spain's most popular city's Ibiza and Barcelona. Finally, to top it all off, I went on my spring break to Greece and got to see Corfu, Athens, and Santorini. The experience I was able to have was unbelievable and I will never forget my time abroad and the friends I made.
There are so many people to thank but on the top of my list would be my family and specifically, my parents and grandparents. If it weren't for them I would have never been able to experience everything I have seen. I couldn't have done it without them. I also want to thank Saint Vincent College and specifically Sara Hart for helping me with the process of studying abroad. The process was a long one, but completely worth it. I also want to thank Simon Stuchlik, SVC's digital marketing specialist, for allowing me to blog about everything that had happened these past four months.
The last thing I want to say is anyone that has the opportunity to study abroad, whether it be in Italy, Spain, South Africa, or anywhere in the world, take it. I promise you at the end of your experience you will feel the same way I do and be so happy that you have done it. Thank you for reading my blog and I hope you enjoyed reading it.