Humanities & Social Sciences placements

Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences' students share their placement and year abroad experiences.

Porteños y parrillas

📥  2014-15, Politics, Languages & International Studies

Hola a todos.

Much has happened since last we met. Firstly, you’ll be pleased to hear that the girls arrived safe and sound to me standing there with too much luggage holding a home made airport sign reading ‘Litsie y Jessica Due’ (spitalian joke) and we headed to the hostel.

After settling in, the next task was for me and Lizzie to drop our suitcases with our host family. This involved the longest taxi drive ever, but with one of the friendliest drivers ever. We never actually asked his name, but he was a really interesting insight into the mind of a porteño. Firstly, the competitiveness of South Americans in general to convince you that their country is the best, because without a doubt their nation is the most ‘solidario’ and friendly. Saying that, he and all the argentines we have met thus far have been very friendly and have gone out of their way to help us poor foreigners. The joy of national pride of course is the desire to share the best parts of your country with visitors.

 Once we arrived at the house, we were there only 5 minutes as the kind taxi driver offered to wait for us whilst we went in. The area the family live in is called San Isidro. We were greeted at the front door by Maria, the mother, who called her two daughters down to meet us saying they ‘have been so excited to meet their older sisters’. It's not yet certain  whether we'll be staying with this family for certain, but hopefully once we return from our 2 weeks travel they’ll have decided. That’s another thing. ‘Mañana’ here, more often than not doesn’t actually mean mañana, a good lesson in going with the flow!

The next day we spent strolling around the city, in Microcentro where we were staying we watched the weekly meeting of the mothers of the ‘desaparecidos’ which we learnt about this year at uni. Despite the fact that it all happened so long ago, these mothers of the missing still meet every week, and after circling the square for around 10 minutes singing they stop and discuss current affairs and injustices; this weeks topic was Palestine. We also fell in love with an area of the city called Palermo which in the day is full of colourful houses, streets sheltered by kissing trees and funky cafes, and at night it's full of trendy bars.

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Thursday night was definitely the highlight so far. The tango night experience, organised by the tour we’re doing and it was outstanding. It began with a tango class, which involved learning a series of steps which we then practiced in pairs, taking turns with the men as - as always with dance, there were more females than males. Somehow me, Lizzie and Jessie were all asked to come up and perform before we could learn each next step - a highlight was Lizzie being told by the teacher in front of the whole class to lift her knee up to her boobs. Following that we were served a traditional 3 course meal - steak and red wine included of course! This was excellent and after the first course they dimmed the lights for a series of tango performances, in which our teacher featured.

The next morning I said goodbye to the girls and took a taxi to the docks and got my ferry to Uruguay. The Teuten family met me the other side and have been amazing whilst I’ve been here, making sure I see as much of Montevideo as possible. Highlights have been a bus tour through the city, trying a parrilla (Google it for jealousy to ensue), a walk along the coast this morning whilst (they genuinely unwaveringly still call it winter) it was 21 degrees in the sun outside, and also seeing an Italian production called Donka - an incredible mixture of music, dance, acrobatics and theatre based around thoughts on the life of Anton Chekhov.

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Tomorrow I fly to São Paulo and have a night there alone before the girls arrive the following morning. Wish me luck!

 

Bienvenido a mi blog

📥  2014-15, Politics, Languages & International Studies

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Greetings one and all and welcome to my blog. For those of you that don’t know, I study Spanish and ab. initio Italian with European Studies at the University of Bath, and as of today am starting my Year Abroad with 6 months in Buenos Aires, working in a school.

After a day and a half of traveling, I am finally in Buenos Aires!

The flight from Heathrow to Houston was good, full of films and fun and despite what most people have told me beforehand - United Airlines were pretty friendly and the service was about as good as it is on flights. Arriving at Houston I was reminded of the arduous process of security at US airports, but after I finally made my way through customs I found the fabulous Panda Express and chowed down.

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Not much to tell apart from that, I slept through pretty much the whole of the second flight which I’m sure will have done me good - waking up every once in a while from panicked passport/VISA related dreams.

Am currently sat at the airport waiting for Lizzie and Jessie to arrive, they’ll be here in 2 hours or so, until then I am left to procrastinate - may jazz up this blog a little!

 

Christmas Time, Mistletoe and Vodka

📥  2014-15, Psychology

I am currently writing this post sitting on a five-hour coach on my way to Ottawa from Toronto, making my way to Montreal for NYE and general tomfoolery. I am mostly blogging to take my mind off how hungry I am – who has two thumbs and forgot to bring a packed-lunch on a long-ass journey? *THIS girl*. I am also trying to distract myself from my increasing need for the loo. I saw someone use the onboard facilities and not come out for a while, so I will be avoiding that cubicle please and thank you kindly. Ahh the luxuries of travelling by bus.

Can someone please tell me what the secret to sleeping on a coach is? I am looking around and there are so many people successfully napping through this journey, all doing so in peculiar positions with pure ease. Some have opted for the “recline the chair and slump down until you’re practically on the floor” method, while others have gone for the simple “I am literally just going to sit here and close my eyes” technique. The girl sitting next to me has doubled up the use of her beanie by pulling it down over her face and using it as a sleeping mask – genius.

Unacceptable things to do on a coach: eat smelly food (and not share), lean over your side of the chairs into someone else’s personal space and chat obnoxiously on your phone. That’s what God invented texting for, people.

I set off on my 16-day winter holiday on Boxing Day after a very fruitful Christmas day. We do not have a working telly at the flat, which has not really been an issue but it did make me realise quite how much of Christmas day I usually spend in front of a screen. It really would not be Christmas without binge-watching xmas specials; thank god for Netflix, BBC iplayer and online streaming. Once again, the Muppets Christmas Carol warmed my cold hard heart and reminded me of the meaning of Christmas – bringing joy to others by providing a big fat turkey, taking the day off work and making sure to write a proper will so that when you die, neighbours don’t try to sell off your stuff.

Remember that turkey I went off to season? Well it turned out pretty well. Apparently I have been hiding my inner domestic goddess for a number of years, because I have to say I did a surprisingly excellent job with dinner. I spent most of the day in the kitchen preparing food and dancing to “8 Days of Christmas” (Destiny’s Child will always be my favourite celebrity attempt at jumping on the festive bandwagon and releasing an xmas single). Aside from wanting to vomit everywhere when I pulled the raw giblets (ridiculous name) and neck out of the turkey bum with a pair of forceps and burning all my digits every time I had to take the beast out of the oven to baste, cooking a Christmas dinner was actually thoroughly enjoyable. I even made a turkey stock gravy out of the scummy bits, even though all I wanted to do was get them as far away from me as possible. Just call me Nigella.

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   Witness the fitness

We had a complete abundance of food; all the mandatory sides and enough roast potatoes to bury a small village. Note to self: ten large potatoes for four people is probably a little unnecessary, as is a 50 x 40cm apple crumble. What we did not have, the single but fundamental failure of the day, was any wine. Unfortunately no one thought to check when the shop closed on Christmas Eve, so when Emma and Keyes returned home at 8pm bottle-less, it looked like Christmas was just about ruined. “Maybe other shops will be open!! Maybe next door has spare??” we exclaimed in genuine desperation. We reminded ourselves that it was not the end of the world – there was still quite a bit of vodka left over in various different bottles around the flat. It was a little bit of an unorthodox accompaniment but I hear that is how they do it in Russia.

Fun fact of the day: American pigs in blankets are not the same little pieces of heaven we love so much in Britain. Instead, their version is some sort of ugly hot dog/sausage roll hybrid. Just no.

Do not get me wrong, I am as big a fan of pastry as anyone, probably even more so. But if you are replacing my bacon with anything other than more bacon, we will be having some serious problems. I made sure to make the correct versions for dinner – let’s be honest, the meal is pointless without them. We also did not manage to find any Christmas crackers in the shops, so I made the best stand-ins I could out of cardboard roll and wrapping paper. No, they were not functioning, I’m not some sort of wizard.

So Christmas is over, bring on New Year’s Eve. This year has been a hoot; moving to America has been exciting and all but I will not forget that 2014 was the year I saw McBusted live (twice) and got 25 likes on an instagram post. Come at me, 2k15.

Happy New Year ya’ll!

 

‘Twas the Night before Christmas

📥  2014-15, Psychology

When all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a mouse,
The flatmates were hungover and in need of some care,
With hopes that pain relief soon would be there

You will have to excuse me, yesterday was my last official day of work at the lab for 2014 and I drank a little too much tonic water (no gin though, I follow the rules here). Fact of the day: American bacon is a poor hangover cure compared to our beloved back bacon. The fat to meat ratio is all off and crisps far too easily to be efficient in a muffin. It’s just not the same.

So I have been in Boston for over 4 months now and it is scary how quickly the time has gone by. I think I can say I am officially settled – I know where the closest post office is, what time the supermarkets close and which ones have taster stalls, which corner shop is most likely to give me quarters so I can do my laundry and I have found which store sells the cheapest pasta and cheese (fyi, it’s Trader Joe’s). I have only almost been run over by a car once – which is impressive, considering the blatant lack of interest Bostonians have for the highway code – and I now know not to cycle on roads that turn into dual-carriage ways (that was a slightly terrifying few seconds, followed by a rush of emotion that I still have the rest of my life to live).

Last weekend we threw our first party; another testament to how well we have settled into our new lives across the pond. People came, which is a nice sign that we have not completely failed at making friends over here and we were only threatened by the neighbours once (not because of any noise disturbances, I think the man was just angry he didn’t get an invite).

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 Tomorrow is Christmas day and it will be the first time in two decades that I won’t be spending it with family or cats. Beth has gone back to England and has been temporarily replaced by Emma’s boyfriend who is here for a couple of weeks. We are trying to make this as authentic a Chrimbo as we can, but it has been difficult since a few key things are missing over here – for example, Americans do not seem to do Advent Calendars or Christmas crackers and the dollar store ran out of tinsel.  We do, however, have a (fake) tree and there is a large collection of presents underneath it. 90% of those are for Emma and her boyf; Alex gets his on the 26th when his mum comes to visit so will actually be opening his presents on Boxing Day like God intended. I had three presents under the tree from an admirable contender for the greatest friend in the world. This seemed a little sad (my mother decided the dressing gown she sent me in September fulfilled any gift-giving duties for the rest of the year), so I wrapped up the snowboard I bought on Craigslist and put it with the other gifts. It’s pretty big so slightly overshadows anything anyone else has – sorry guys.

Not being home for Christmas will be weird and sad for a number of reasons, but I will definitely miss my mum’s cooking the most. I am apparently going to attempt to cook a proper Christmas dinner and roast a whole turkey for four people tomorrow. I imagine it will be just like roasting a chicken, but slightly bigger and easier to ruin. We shall see how that goes, especially since wine o’clock starts at breakfast (for those old enough to drink).

We even followed an old-fashioned Christmas tradition and went to see a ballet. Actually, it was more like festive burlesque; a show called The Slutcracker and possibly the most ridiculous but amazing thing I have ever witnessed. It closely followed the story of The Nutcracker, except the protagonist was a man dressed as a glittery pink sex toy instead of a child’s doll and Drosselmeyer was giving the recently-engaged Clara the gift of a better sex life. I think the message was “love yourself at Christmas” but I cannot be sure.

While I am very excited for Christmas, I am looking forward to the next day and following weeks even more, when I will be setting off for New York, Toronto and Montreal. I am effectively taking a holiday from my holiday. This past month has involved me trying to save up as much additional money I can for the trip, including not buying a bus pass for the month and walking to and from work every day instead. As well as saving $50, I also thought this would help make me fitter, but I stepped on the scales yesterday for the first time in months and have discovered a few extra Kg’s that were not there before. That could all be muscle though right? From the walking?

Anyway, I’m off to season a turkey.

Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!

 

Christmas time - home time!

📥  2014-15, Politics, Languages & International Studies

This is going to sound very repetitive because it’s what everyone says at this time of year. But I’ll still say it anyway- I  can’t believe it’s almost Christmas already!

Normally, I am already home enjoying my Mum’s cooking (mainly because I am not the one who has had to cook it) and sitting in a nice and toasty house instead of freezing to death because student houses are old and we are all too poor to have the heating on.

However, this year it’s a little different because of the year abroad. I’m still working and still in Italy so I haven’t quite got to that holiday feeling yet.  But it’s close, so close! Just two more days of work and four more days in Italy, then I’m off! The first time I will be home and actually home, not just in England (my last visit was to London to visit the boyfriend who is also doing a placement) for  FIVE WHOLE MONTHS. Now that’s an awfully long time to be away.

Naturally, I can’t wait.

So, in a way I’m probably extra excited this year for Christmas because not only do I get to do all the normal Christmas stuff like opening presents and eating obscene amounts of chocolate, I get to see my family and friends that I haven’t seen in absolutely forever. Oh and I also have two weeks off from work!

Two whole weeks not waking up to an alarm, two whole weeks to relax…although it will probably end being crazy busy, trying to fit in seeing everybody before I leave again.

I’m also quite looking forward to being bombarded by the over-the-top festiveness in the UK, because quite frankly, the Christmas spirit is lacking in Italy. Usually I moan when the shops think it’s ok to start selling Christmas stuff in November but here there was not one single Christmas light until at least the second week of December! Come on!  And I have heard zero Christmas songs, minus those which I’ve played myself on Youtube to get me into the Christmassy mood. Oh and the one I danced to in Zumba this week , Mariah Carey no less  (whilst being forced to wear a Santa hat). I felt pretty smug that I could sing along to all the words AND understand them, the beauty of English being the main language in popular culture.

So although I’m enjoying my time here, I would really quite like to be home right now.

On the plus side, tomorrow is the Christmas party at work.  I’m so glad that Italians follow this tradition as well (surprisingly there are many things they don’t, like sending Christmas cards), although I think it’ll be quite a quiet affair as it will be during the afternoon, in the office.  I’m hoping it will involve eating mountains of panettone (a traditional Italian Christmas cake) and sipping prosecco.

The meeting room where this little party will take place, has been filled with all kind of goodies for the past couple of weeks, ready for the festivities.  Boxes of panettone are stacked up with our names on and various bottles of bubbly are waiting in the corner, although most of these have now been sent to clients. Some were even sent champagne! Very lucky people indeed.

I had a nice little wrapping session preparing these, whacking on the Christmas tunes as I worked.  Other Christmas related tasks have been preparing Calendars to send to clients, with the pictures taken by my boss herself, which are amazing! I also had the honor of putting the Nativity together, which I took very seriously, spending ages getting it right. The “Presepe” as it is known in Italy seems to be a pretty important part of the Christmas decorations, my landlady even has elephants and lions in hers !(bit of a Noah’s ark thing going on there). It might even be more important than the tree, because we have the Nativity in the office but alas no tree. (I’m not sure though you’d have to check with an Italian on that).

We also received a visit from the priest, a very weird concept to get my head around. If someone religious came to your house in England you would probably tell them very quickly to go away, yet here was a priest coming into the place where I work and giving some kind of Christmas blessing (I didn’t really understand what he was saying, lots of religious words in Italian).  I guess Italy must be still be very religious after all.

And that concludes my Christmassy few weeks here in Temar.

I shall return in the new year, rested (I hope) and ready to start work again and face all the new challenges that await. I’m going to really try and make the most of everything because I will only be back for 3 more weeks before heading off to Vienna. I really can’t believe that, my time here is almost up already!

And I just know those 3 weeks will just fly by.

Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

More Tinsel than Tinsel Town

📥  2014-15, Psychology

Last weekend, Beth, Alex and I took a shockingly cheap bus to New York City for a reasonably inexpensive weekend. Boston and New York are so close (well, by USA standards) that it would almost be rude not to go and visit the Big Apple during the time of the year its lights shine brighter than ever.

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(Apparently the Empire State Building was lit up in red, white and blue because Wills and Kate were visiting… I personally think this looks more like the French flag but there you go)

The cost of our buses from Boston to New York came to a grand total of $9.50 each; cheaper than a one day off-peak travel card in London (even with an 18+ student Oyster Card). That is also cheaper than a 6-piece bargain bucket at KFC (the Colonel needs to look to Megabus and re-evaluate his stance on “bargain”), but both are likely to make you feel a little sick.

New York is famous for its shockingly spectacular festive decorations, but how great can they be, really? We have all seen Christmas lights before, I’ve even seen a few conifers in my time. What is the big deal? Actually, it turns out the hype is completely justified. The beautification of New York during the holiday season* is on a whole other scale; we saw massive trees at pretty much every tourist attraction, adorable markets filling up open spaces and hundreds of little light bulbs cascading down the walls of hotels I will probably never stay in and designer shops I will probably never seriously enter. Cartier was literally (not figuratively) wrapped up like a giant shimmering present. If we were not feeling the Christmas mood before the weekend, we certainly were once we got to Manhattan. Everything looked so pretty and inviting, I had the urge to throw my purse at almost every attraction shouting “TAKE MY MONEY”.

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Doing NYC on the cheap involved more than just using a bus company with a scary record for in-transit accidents; it also involved sacrificing some luxuries in order to save our cash for fun. The three of us stayed in a room in Bushwick that we found on Airbnb, walked almost everywhere to avoid paying for the subway, we only paid for two meals a day instead of three by resourcefully sleeping though breakfast (well, Alex and I did, Beth is a “morning person”) and further developed our appreciation of observational tourism. That is, watching other tourists do fun but expensive things, like ice skating at the outdoor rinks or eating at famous landmarks, whilst vicariously enjoying the activity.

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(Here are a lot of people I don’t know having loads of fun at the Rockefeller Plaza rink)

When it comes to eating, it is fantastically easy to survive in NYC on little moolah, thanks to the glorious population of cheap eateries. The last time we had proper curry was when we were back in England – cheap curry places in Boston just aren’t a thing apparently – and cravings led us to a beautiful place called Chandni – a “curry cafe” on 5th avenue with the most outrageously generous ratio of portion size to price. Alex described his experience as “shocking”, as he slumped in his chair, feeling disgusted at himself for eating a meal that could have feasibly fed a family of four. Post-consumption regrets aside, he enjoyed it at the time which is the main thing. That naan…

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(Arguably a more beautiful sight than the Christmas lights)

New York is one of the greatest cities in the world, but that is not because of the award-winning sky-scrapers, the fabulous selection of entertainment, that pretty large park in the middle of Manhattan or the mouthwateringly good shopping on offer. Nope, NYC is a cut above the rest because if you walk around for about 20 minutes you will see at least 3 signs that say “$1 cheese slice”. That’s $1 for a slice of an 18″ margherita, which is about 64p. And the pizza is good. You know you made a good decision by splashing out and ordering two as soon as you bite into the steaming crusty slice, trying not to look too much like a classless ragamuffin as you pull away slathers of hot cheese with your teeth and wipe off tomato sauce from the corners of your mouth. But the slice is so delicious and there are a whole lot of them behind the counter – being a lady can wait. I personally tested out a number of different establishments and can confirm that there is no detectable difference between a slice going for $1 and one going for $2. While the pricier joints are more common, it is definitely worth waiting till you find the cheaper ones – wise up people, that other dollar could get you DOUBLE the pizza.

In between visiting pizza places, we also did a bit of sightseeing. We enjoyed walking around Bryant Park’s Christmas markets, where I bought some churros and a couple of gifts for one lucky family member (feel free to fight over who you think it is, Broughs), meandered around Central Park and checked out another ice rink we had no intention of skating on, courageously fought off slow-moving tourists in Times Square and went to the Rockefeller Plaza where we saw an admirably large Christmas tree and some jovial dancing of Salvation Army volunteers, accompanied by the enthusiastic jingling of bells. Alex and I also visited the Central Park Zoo one afternoon – it is small but worthwhile and houses a number of rare and cute animals. I still don’t know how I feel about the Snow Leopard exhibition, though. This large and beautiful cat was just sat on a rock observing the punters observing it in an area that was large for the zoo, but minuscule compared to its natural habitat. Maybe my empathy came from the fact that I was wearing a fake snow leopard fur coat, explaining why I felt for a minute that the leopard and I were kindred spirits. Maybe it was the towering  sky-scraping cityscape behind it that made the whole thing feel a bit off. And maybe I am just missing my cats back home.

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Sad leopards aside, checking out how NYC does Christmas was a lovely way to spend the weekend. Well done New York, you completely lived up to my expectations, I would even say you surpassed them. You illuminated my heart with all that light (something I am lacking in somewhat at the moment, as all the bulbs in my bedroom have blown and I am currently using a rear bike light to navigate around after 4pm) and gave me that little push of spirit I needed to be able to start listening to Michael Bublé and Slade again. In fact, I had such a lovely weekend that I cannot wait for Boxing Day, when I will be rushing back with yet another dodgy bus company – I am told this one is even more unsafe than Megabus so that should be fun.

 

*What does that even mean, America? There are holidays all year round, this isn’t the only season for holidays. Baffling.

 

Crossing the Canadian Border

📥  2014-15, Psychology

As I have said before, one of my major aims this year is to see as much as I can in as many different places as I can get to. That, and to seek out various restaurants from Man V. Food. The variety of affordable long-distance peasant wagons (or “public transit”, as they are more commonly known here) in America makes travelling around pretty feasible – so long as you do not mind spending what feels like an eternity on the move. Before coming to Boston, I had barely scratched the North American surface. In previous years I have visited and loved New York, briefly spent some time in New Jersey and explored the rich wildlife of a North Carolina university campus. America is so massive that proportionally, that is probably about the same as going to the UK and only visiting Bristol, maybe also stopping of in Bradford-on-Avon (disclaimer: I have not based that on any mathematical proportions).

One weekend we found ourselves bored of watching Suits on Netflix and decided to entertain ourselves by booking a short holiday in Canada. Columbus Day, like Thanksgiving, is another one of those American national holidays with a slightly dodgy history. I’m not sure our mate Chris was as decent a chap as the holiday suggests, what with the slavery and killing, not forgetting the “New World” was already pretty ancient by then, but you are not likely going to catch me offering to work over the holidays for moral reasons. This particular holiday fell on a Monday, which meant we had the opportunity to use the long weekend (plus half the Friday we took off from work) to enjoy some city-hopping and visit Montreal (or Montréal if we’re being fancy) for a few days. This decision was definitely not driven by our desire to be legal drinkers again, nor did we spend two weeks talking about all the time we would be spending in pubs and bars. That would be pretty tragic.

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(On the road – the view was the best thing about travelling by bus. Well, that and the free wifi)

It took us ten hours on a Greyhound bus to get to Montreal. TEN hours. We were promised eight, but apparently the traffic slowed us down and by that point a couple of extra hours did not make much difference. The questionable ergonomic design of the seats had already sealed my back-ache fate and I still had enough pre-cooked pizza to keep me going. Our main concern was that we would get to the hostel too late and no longer be in the mood to go out on the Friday night, as that delay meant we arrived at 1.30am. In fact, we timed our arrival perfectly – what seemed like everyone from the hostel were just about to leave to go clubbing as we stepped through the door. No time to change, barely any time to learn a few names, off we went on a sort of boozy pilgrimage deep into Montreal’s nightlife. We soon found that the hostel we were staying at –Hostelo Montreal –  was just up the road from an area amusingly known as “Gay Village”, which was absolutely buzzing at the time due to some sort of “gay-benefit dance festival” going on. Free entry (compliments of the Hostelo) cheap drinks and the most enjoyable bump n grind hits at a club called Sky made for the night out we had been longing for since being re-branded as under age in Boston (apart from maybe that one room upstairs that I could have sworn was solely occupied by shirtless men dowsed in highlighter ink, dancing to unidentifiable electro music).

This may come as a surprise (mum), but we did not spend the whole weekend day drinking and clubbing. Ok, so we went clubbing every night, but we did no day drinking. When we were not chilling out in some sort of park, we were trying to be as touristy as we could in three days, on limited funds. It was at times a struggle, sure (some say hangovers and exploration do not mix, but I denounce that sort of can’t-do attitude), but the weather was perfect, the autumnal trees were glorious and there were plenty of interesting places to visit in walking distance from the Hostel (which I give top marks to, in case anyone is interested).

On our first day we decided to check out Mont-Royal; a tall hill standing behind one of the many parks you can find in the city. The forests covering the hill were beautiful with their rich orange, red and yellow leaves and the view from the (almost) top was breath-taking. We took a few breaks at various vantage points to look out over the whole city, spot significant landmarks and see sections temporarily dimmed by a passing cloud.

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Transport in Montreal is so expensive it’s almost nauseating. That was fine though, as walking was definitely the best way to take in the sights. Even if you are not looking for specific landmarks, you will come across a number of incredibly designed buildings. Architecture there is pretty fantastic; you could find a Gothic castle-like building in between a couple of normal-looking apartment blocks, or a huge Art Deco building standing alone off the side of a road. Some streets have a fantastic mixture of ancient but huge structures and modern cloud-reaching office blocks, while others display some impressive street art.

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We dedicated a whole day to checking out “Old Montreal” (or Vieux-Montréal, if you’re fancy) and suddenly found ourselves transported to a village centre in France. This area is so lovely I almost squealed. Minus a science museum and the odd convenience store, Old Montreal is absolutely a step back in time, thanks to the well-preserved but disused train tracks, horse-drawn carts and archaic buildings. We aimlessly wondered down streets with cute little shops and cafés and dawdled in a square with more cobbles and francophones than Covent Garden.

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(When you can’t find your car keys)

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 (Did I mention it was Autumn?)

On the last day, we walked from the hostel to the site of the 1976 Olympic Stadium. Google Maps made this look like a fifteen minute stroll, when in actual fact it took us over an hour to get there on foot (a single bus ticket was something like $3 and I had already thrown most of my money at crêpes, tequila shots and a Chinese buffet). Everything looks so much closer together on a phone screen and everyone knows Google Map estimations are for people who don’t do walking. Admittedly, I momentarily forgot I am one of those people.

We went to see the impressively futuristic stadium structure and had a vague plan to buy tickets for at least one of the tourist attractions in the area, including a biodome, a botanical garden, an insectarium and a planetarium. You could also take a ride up in the stadium’s tower – awfully exciting! However we quickly realised that, unsurprisingly, every one of those things cost an unjustifiable amount of money, money we were very rapidly running out of. So instead of picking one and buying a ticket, we ended up doing what I like to call ‘budget tourism’ and surveyed the lobby and gift shop of each attraction. In some of them we did actually see a few interesting things, in others we just used the loo…

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(A to-scale model of the biodome – almost as good as actually going in)

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(A shocking model planet in the lobby of the planetarium)

Although we did not indulge in pricey sightseeing that day, I did not feel remotely disappointed. The reason for this was because I was still on such a massive emotional high from the night before. Now, I am not about to admit that my main reason for going to Montreal was because, back in August, I read about an all-bacon bar opening there at some point in autumn. Nor am I going to admit that I looked up the distance of our hostel to said bacon bar multiple times before booking to affirm that it was within a reasonable travelling distance.

What I will say is that evening we went to Bar Brutus and a bar has never made me so happy. I am pretty sure I did not shut up about this place for three weeks prior and the entire time we were in Montreal. Before we even entered the bar, I knew I was about to walk into my own version of heaven. Barber’s poles with bacon rashers replacing the traditional blue, red and white stripes framed the wooden door, which was adorned with a piggy door-knocker. Immediately upon entry the smell hit us; a gloriously irresistible, smoky, calorific scent permeated the air, wafting from the on-site kitchen where they COOK THE BACON and filling the nostrils of every lucky punter. Never have I so willingly breathed in the air of a public toilet and I almost cried when I was washing my hands andSnoop Dogg started playing. This bar had everything; bacon-flavoured beer, bacon garnishing, bacon infused vodka and gin, bacon shots, bacon on every bar snack and the beautiful partnership of JT and the D-O-double-G coming from the DJ booth. Also known as perfection.

Montreal10

(I got a “Pork Soda”, while Beth opted for a pint of bacon beer)

I am not intending to make this blog a travel guide, but if you do go to Montreal (whoever “you” are) and believe yourself to be a fellow bacon lover, you absolutely have to go to Bar Brutus. Not only was this a highlight of the trip for me, I could go as far as saying that it was a highlight of my life…

Some other very enjoyable things occurred while we were away. Columbus Day also conveniently takes place on the same day as Canadian Thanksgiving. I still have absolutely no idea what that celebrates, but knowing the Canadians it is going to be something lovely and joyful. We were treated to an amazing Thanksgiving meal at the hostel with the other guests, for a mere $5. This was a big deal as it was our first Thanksgiving meal of any type, so we were giddy with happiness to see the huge turkey come out of the oven, the massive pot of mashed potato travel around the tables and the presentation of pumpkin pie. To me, pumpkin always seemed like a bit of a useless vegetable, other than for Halloween mutilation purposes. However, that pie proved that anything can be improved with the right amount of sugar and pastry. My endless compliments to the chef.

On our last night, we had a second Thanksgiving meal at the flat of a friend of mine from university. It had been quite a long time since I had seen her last, so getting to have a face-to-face catch up was so lovely – the meal was an extra bonus. She and her friends put together an incredible dinner with turkey, cranberry sauce, roast potatoes and butternut squash soup, which kind of puts our American Thanksgiving attempt to shame (although I must once again stress that it was achieved largely under the influence and was therefore a phenomenally good effort).

As the saying goes, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings. By the end of the meal we all felt like the aforemetionned chubby mademoiselle, singing our praises to the vaious chefs. Eventually we had to leave and head back to the bus station, to cross back over the border and resume our lives in Boston. Getting into Canada is no big deal, getting back into America is a different experience. While you wait at customs to be grilled by border control to enter the States, you cannot help but feel a strange pang of unfounded guilty consciousness. I reminded myself that I am not, in fact, a drug smuggler or an illegal immigrant, before it was my turn to be asked numerous unnecessarily personal questions by an officer.

After seven and a half hours on a bus, we arrived back in Boston. Crashing through the front door at 8am left us with just enough time for the fastest of showers and breakfasts before we had to leave for work. That Tuesday was probably the darkest day of placement yet, but it was definitely worth it for the most excellent weekend away. Three days are never going to be enough to get the feel of a whole city and you feel like a bit of a phoney when you stay at a hostel with people who have been travelling for months, but the long weekend and Montreal’s “closeness” to Boston was an opportunity we were very willing to take, at the sacrifice of one day of exhaustion.

Since I did not have the chance to go to the cat café there or eat poutine, two very essential Montreal experiences, I will be heading back there for the New Year. I think I also left some of my heart in Bar Brutus and would like to get that back (I am worried that I may never love again).

Montreal11


More and better quality photos can be found at https://broughtrotting.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/crossing-the-canadian-border/

 

Graduate Recruitment Events

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📥  2014-15, Social & Policy Sciences

Law Fair Stand

One thing I love about my job is that there are so many different aspects to it – as I previously mentioned in my last blog. This month I have been helping the Graduate Recruitment team and have attended law fairs on their behalf, representing HR. I have had the opportunity to travel to different places and meet people interested and wanting to know more about the firm.

HR first got an email at the end of summer asking for volunteers to help at their recruitment events. I saw one titled ‘Champagne and Chocolate’ in Bristol and jumped at the chance – can you blame me?!  As well as this event I attended the Law Fair at Birmingham University and I helped organise The London Law Fair held at the Law Society.

It was really interesting coming from a different perspective and I learnt a lot. Making a good impression is important for the both the person on the stall and also the person on the other side – it works both ways. I took note of any people who I thought stood out and would be a good candidate to watch out for, however it was frustrating when people pushed their CVs at me – I was there to tell them about the firm not check their application form!

It has taught me in the future how to act and behave at these kind of events as a student rather than an employer. It was so frustrating talking to people who had no idea about who we were and who clearly were just at the stall for the freebies. When I next attend the Bath Careers Fair I will go prepared, taking questions about companies I am interested in with the aim to learn a bit more about the company that isn’t available on their website.

It was exhausting speaking solidly for hours and answering the same questions but it was also really fun. The travel was also a downside as on one occasion I didn’t get in until 11.15pm and then had work the next day.  However overall these were very minor details. I really enjoyed getting to grips with the different role and trainee schemes available and learning in more detail about the place I work. I also got to meet different people within the firm as I worked alongside trainees, associates and partners who I may otherwise not have had contact with.

Tiffany’s Tips

- Research – make sure you read up and prepare for difficult answers so you don’t flounder in front of strangers!

- Email the others helping on the stand and ask for their mobile numbers so you can check when and where you are meeting and so that they can contact you if they are running late

- Take a water bottle and cough sweets – talking for hours at a time really affects your throat and you don’t want to end up croaking!

 

The Holiday Season is Upon Us

📥  2014-15, Psychology

Firstly, I would like to give thanks for the five day weekend I have just enjoyed. Thank you, whoever “you” are. I am still unsure about that one…

The beginning of the “holiday season” is apparently the time America feels it is appropriate to start playing Christmas music and covering their cities and homes in festive lighting. We went to see the lighting of Boston’s biggest Christmas tree (also the largest one in New England, according to someone) at Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Not only is Faneuil Hall, or “The Cradle of Liberty”, part of what is known as The Freedom Trail and is therefore another touchy British independence landmark, but it is also the site of a packed food market where you can buy a sandwich the size of your head. To me, nothing says “Christmas” better than a collection of tasters, so we spent an hour or so “tasting” what we could as we shameless walked up and down the row of stalls.

Fanueil

 

Fanueil2

(A bit early Santa… It was only the 22nd of November)

At some point, we stopped eating and found a spot to watch the tree lighting. This involved enduring (possibly too harsh a word, but it was damn cold) a display of various pre-lighting entertainment, including music, dance and an appearance from none other than McLovin (apparently Christopher Charles Mintz-Plasse’s dad is from Boston or something). The jazz band and the short preview from Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker was great, but I do not think “Rudolph the Musical” is quite my bag. After about an hour of this, broken up by advert breaks because it was being filmed live and America loves ads, the lights finally went on. Not only were they switch on, but they were lit up to the music of “Hallelujah”. Very ceremonious, very very surreal.


I thought I understood Thanksgiving – a national holiday for families to get together, humble-brag, forget about the awkward pilgrim/Native American elephant in the room and eat immense amounts of food – until I saw pictures of the New York Thanksgiving Day parade. It looked like the whole show was dedicated to the giant, inflatable children's characters moving down the streets. Why was Thomas the Tank Engine there? Are we thanking the Power Rangers for all the good they do? What are we even celebrating??

From what I have come to understand, Thanksgiving for a lot of people is used as an excellent excuse to get off work for a few days, eat questionable amounts of food and maybe spend time with important family members. It is also an excuse to hold a number of pre-Thanksgiving meals or parties, where you do almost exactly the same things as you do on Thanksgiving, but with friends instead of relatives. We went to two such meals and did one ourselves in the space of eight days; it has been excellent. I rapidly reached the stage of food-induced regret at the first one, brought on mainly by someone’s contribution of a baked brie (hardly my fault). At the second I over-ate once again, but I drank far less wine so the space was there. So was the sweet potato casserole (baked sweet potato with marshmallows on top – I was told this is a traditional savoury side dish).

Both of these parties were what is known as a “Potluck” here. Before Buzzfeed clarified what that was for me, I thought it sounded like some sort of stressful lucky dip. What it is, is a dinner party where everyone brings a different dish. What it isn’t, is a ruthless competition to get the winning plate, where you would only be allowed to eat what you picked with your eyes closed. If you got the potluck, you would be dining on the good stuff – turkey, stuffing, some sort of pie, but if you were potunlucky you would be stuck with bread as your main dish with a side of parsnip. I feel like it is time to shake things up and introduce a new tradition.

So what did we, a handful of culinarily incompetent British people, bring with us? Obviously a collection of Yorkshire puddings. The logic was, if we somehow managed to mess them up no one would know because no one would have even heard of them before. Somehow they turned out delicious, if not a little asymmetrical, and what’s more, I know for a fact that at least one person other than us ate them = an overwhelming success.

Yorkshire puddings

(Alex, flatmate no. 2, with a sieve-full of Yorkshire puds; the national measurement and also we didn’t have a spare bowl)

Actual Thanksgiving (the 27th November) was more like a drinksgiving. While Beth (flatmate no.3) spent her day with a surrogate family, the rest of us decided to do something a little special for ourselves at the flat (apparently it is very difficult to find a random family willing to feed three extra mouths). Emma, Alex and I started the day on a diet of crêpes and wine, before later moving onto more wine* and a three-course meal for dinner. Is the “holiday miracle” only reserved for Christmas? Because I feel like the fact that no one got food poisoning was pretty miraculous, especially since I barely remember cooking.

Of course, this was not our first experience of Thanksgiving, oh no. We went to Canada for the weekend in October and accidentally coincided our trip with Canadian Thanksgiving, so pumpkin pie and mashed potato novices we are not. But that is a whole other story…


 

 

*Put in for literary effect – I did not consume any wine, because that would have been illegal and I am a law-abiding citizen.

 

Blame it on the A-A-A-A-A-Age Act of 1984

📥  2014-15, Psychology

“What is the biggest difference between Boston and where you are from” is a question I am often asked. Usually I reply with something uninspiring like “the weather” or “they drive on the wrong side of the road”. Boston actually has quite a lot in common with my home town of London. They both have buildings, busy roads, lots of people, things to do, banks… Both are pretty well-established cities. The honest answer I would like to give each time is “I can buy a drink back home”. However, most of the people who ask me this question are parents who have brought their children to the lab for an experiment and I leave out that reply to avoid giving off the wrong impression (that’s right, lemme have your kid to run some tests on, then GIVE ME A DAMN DRINK).

Coming to America as a twenty year-old after living in the UK (actually, after living almost anywhere else in the world) has felt like I have jumped back three years. Suddenly I am right back where I was as a seventeen year-old sixth form student; the bars, pubs and clubs are all there, I even know people going to them, but the law has forbidden my access until my next birthday in July.

17-again

 

When you tell people here who are over twenty-one that you have come from England and are only twenty, they give you a unwanted look of shameless pity. “That SUCKS” repeated someone at a party recently. “No, that really SUCKS”, as if we needed reminding. And you know what, it does suck. All of a sudden I have been excluded from the club of legal drinkers; a club which condones day-drinking if it is a lovely day and especially if it is an appalling day. A club that understands the importance of having your daily five fruit and vegetables, even if they are in cocktail form. It is a club that I could not wait to join before my eighteenth birthday, but have since habituated myself to over the last few years.

So I am over it, you know? Alcohol is fun, but it is not new. I worked at a bar during the summer holidays and I know how to pronounce curaçao. I have gone from the typical British student way of life (that famously mature way English people drink that the rest of Europe really admires), to having to apologise for not being able to join in on certain plans because “sorry, I’m only twenty“. Sometimes I even feel guilty about my age, as if that big black “X” security always insists on marking my hand with at gigs implies I am some sort of leper. No more putting my hands up for my favourite bands in case, god forbid, a stranger sees and realises I am a YOUTH.

Something I did not think about before I got here was the prospect of going out on dates (I know, I’m such a heartthrob so it really should have been my first concern). Tinder has been a nightmare – and has also been abandoned. What do you do if you want to meet up with someone you have matched? You can’t go to a bar, so it would have to be a… sober blind date? Without alcohol? IS THAT EVEN A THING?

It has been a shocking reminder of the lack of decent places to hang out at in your spare time if you are considered underage. Yes, the Museum of Fine Art is great, but I can hardly sit down there for four hours straight and move only for loo breaks without being judged. Now it is getting colder, there are even fewer spots to waste time at since going outside is apparently going to be out of the question soon (a “polar vortex” is supposed to hit, such fun). As a group of frustrated underage Brits, we tried very hard to entertain ourselves in law-abiding ways – we went kayaking, ate at many a restaurant and watched a Baseball game entirely sober (not recommended). Meal tax on top of having to tip 20% has put a stop to our weekly dining clubs; you are effectively paying for another meal by the time you get the check, ruling out restaurants as hang-out spots. Kayaking down the Charles River was excellent, but anyone would be a fool to attempt such a dangerous mission in winter.

kayaking

 

kayaking 2

(Here we are having loads of wholesome sober fun)

kayaking 3

 

Massachusetts is very hot on the drinking law, which makes it tricky to beat the system – though of course this is not something I have been trying because I am a law abiding citizen and buying alcohol under-age would be illegal. Before the Drinking Age Act of 1984, a twenty year-old could legally buy and enjoy an alcoholic refreshment. I am not totally hot on American legal history, but I think it had something to do with Congress trying find a new way to get back at students for having too much fun during the best years of their lives. Miserably jealous sods. I have certainly not found ways to get alcohol, nor do I look forward to Friday evening Happy Hour at home. Because that would be illegal and I am a law-abiding citizen.

Some fun facts about Massachusetts:

At eighteen, you are legally considered an adult. This means you can

  • Vote
  • Get called to be on jury service
  • Own a gun
  • Get hitched
  • Go to war
  • Use your phone while driving a car*

So basically, between eighteen and twenty you can get married but cannot have any alcohol at your wedding. Is there even any point of a wedding without a free bar? You can also kill some folks in battle or give a verdict on the future of a person’s life in court, but you cannot have a pint afterwards to help take the edge off? Seems a little unfair. Can I trade in my Second Amendment right for the right to drink cider? I am worried I may develop scurvy as I am not getting my usual dosage of Vitamin C at Happy Hour on Fridays.

While being unable to waltz up to bars like I used to has been nothing shy of a hassle, I have come to accept my place among the youth of this country. I am going to be twenty for almost the entirety of my stay here and there is not a lot I can do about it.

But I do love a challenge.

 

*This really gets me, since the 1984 Act was put into place to reduce fatalities from driving and using a phone while driving ain’t all that different from driving under the influence (Bath Psychology students who also had to write that essay, I’m looking at you).