Tag Archives: United Kingdom

Abroad Blog of the Week: Milk and Whisky

Since I’m American, I always think of an abroad blog being outside of the U.S. But if your Cambodian, Argentinean, or French, the U.S. is definitely a foreign country. So when I found Andy’s blog, Milk and Whisky, I thought it would be a great abroad blog of the week. Andy is a British college student who is studying at Ball State University in Indiana for the next year and pointing out the cultural differences along the way. He’s funny and opinionated and he has made me learn new things about my own culture.  I was able to catch up with Andy to ask him about his experiences so far in the middle of America.

How did you decide to study abroad at Ball State?

It’s not a terribly exciting story. Our university offered a study abroad program. I thought it might be fun. I’d always been kind of interested in going to America. A side effect of too many Hollywood movies. That and I knew I wouldn’t have the patience to study anywhere where English wasn’t a first language. I put down three colleges that did my course and I happened to get Ball State.

Did you watch the presidential debate last week? What did you think?

I watched long enough to get a feel of what was going on. I get tired of political debates because you simply don’t know who’s telling the truth. There’s no way of quickly checking whether what’s being said is actually correct. On a purely charismatic level, I thought Romney was better whereas Obama appeared hesitant.

What have been the most surprising differences between home and Indiana?

It’s not really the major differences that get you but the accumulation of small differences. That being said, the two most noticeable differences were in assessment and night life. When it comes to night life, Ball State has made me so glad to be British. I miss our students union and university bars.

The college does organise events but with a few exceptions, they’re pretty poor. I feel sorry for the RAs because I know how badly they want people to go but at the same time I’m rarely interested in what they have planned. If you want to have any fun around here you’ve got to go off campus and find a good house party.

I knew I was going to have frequent assessments before I came but I wasn’t aware of how difficult it would be to adapt to it. It’s good that it forces you to consistently study and you get a deeper knowledge of your subject as a result but at the same time I think the workload for some of my classes is unreasonable.

Will you give football another chance?

Maybe. Probably not college football, I don’t really enjoy standing on crowded bleachers for hours pretending to care about something I barely understand. I did watch an NFL game recently which wasn’t too bad. There was a lot of commercial breaks though. Like every fifteen minutes. It got a bit tiresome.

What do you love/hate about being a Brit in the U.S.?

The best thing about being here is the people I’ve met. I’ve made some great friends. Our university offers a friendship family program and their hospitality has been mind-blowing  Going sightseeing in New York. Taco Bell. Corn dogs. The library computers here have two monitors. Ask me when I’m back in England and I’m sure I’ll have a list that would run for pages, haha.

A few things have bothered me, mainly to do with the lifestyle shift. The night life I’ve already mentioned. Meal plans are a nuisance. It’s only real purpose is to restrict what, where and when you eat. I’m not at school any more. I can buy and cook my own food.

I’m also not a fan of room-sharing. I don’t have any problems with my roommate but I like having my own room. Room sharing doesn’t really serve any purpose (except for being a good excuse to squeeze more students into dorms) and it’s just an unnecessary nuisance.

What advice would you give to another student planning to study abroad in the U.S.?

Meet Americans, straight away and as soon as possible. They’ll know where to go, what to do. If you’re only hanging around with people from your home country, you’re wasting an opportunity.

Remember you’re not there for very long. Here’s one of your few chances to try things with no long-term implications. Make of that what you will.

Here’s Andy with two of his fellow study-abroaders from England tailgating before the football game. He’s in the middle holding the squirrel, his university’s mascot.

The Kettle Question

I’m a coffee addict. I get up every morning, turn on the coffee pot, and sip my two cups. My mother, on the other hand, is a tea junky. If I ever want to show her I care about her, I could just go make her a cup of tea and she would be thrilled. She taught me how to make tea at a young age. Get out a cup. Drop in the tea bag and fill with water. Microwave for 90 seconds.

I think I may have just heard gasps from across the pond.

I remember reading a post from one of my students last year who was studying in the U.K. She had put her tea cup in the microwave and all of her British roommates looked at her like she had a second head. They could not believe she was not using a kettle. On the other side, Andy from Milk and Whisky faced a dilemma when he first arrived in the U.S. and discovered Walmart does not sell electric kettles.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that the choice between using the microwave or the kettle is a reflection of our cultures. As Americans, using a microwave is an indication of our values of ingenuity and efficiency. While for the Brits, the kettle is a symbol of quality and tradition. I’m sure both sides would argue which way is better, but in the end, I think I each society will choose the way that reflects what is important to them.

For me, who is attempting to be global from home, I’ve decided to start using the kettle. I tried it for the first time about a week ago and was so excited to hear it whistle when it was ready. Although it took a while longer, I have to say it was a delicious cup of tea.

What do you use? Microwave or kettle?

Tea with Margaret Thatcher


Although I’ve watched a good number of films lately from around the globe, I haven’t been inspired to blog about any in a while. But this past week I watched the Iron Lady, and actually found myself writing down quotes from the movie (BTW, that is not a regular occurrence). Margaret Thatcher may be a controversial character in Britain’s history, but she definitely said some quotable statements during her tenure in British politics. As a woman with a great deal of responsibility on her shoulders, I think there are some lessons we can all take from her. So with a cup of tea in hand, here is what I have learned from the longest-serving British Prime Minister.

Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan.

These days without the structure of a full-time job, I think I find this advice from M.T. to be the most practical. At least I’ve made it practical and started making my checklist every morning. It’s made me contemplate my goals and write them down, even the little ones. (Today: learn 30 new words for the GRE.)

I do not know anyone who has got to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but it should get you close.

I am on the cusp of being a Millennial, a generation known for their access and ease with technology, but also regularly criticized for its characteristics of entitlement. Margaret’s quote was a good reminder that I cannot rest on the shoulders of others to accomplish my goals. It will take my own hard work and perseverance.

To wear your heart on your sleeve isn’t a very good plan; you should wear it inside, where it functions best.

As an emotional thinker, I can certainly benefit from this lesson.  If I can allow my heart and mind to function in unison, rather that allow my heart to run the show, my decisions and probably my outcomes would all be better.

Thank you, Margaret, for the tea and for the good advice.


Abroad Blog of the Week: Brilliant London

Just because the Olympics are over, doesn’t mean there isn’t more fun to be had in London. This Abroad Blog of the Week proves that is a fact. Ally of Brilliant London is an American expat who has made it her goal to discover London one photo and one day at a time. Her daily posts are easy reads and include pictures, history, and fun facts about various landmarks and events throughout the city. Some of my personal favorite posts were of the Diamond Jubilee. But what I like most about Brilliant London is the variety. You can find the famous tourist spots on her blog, but there is even more of the unknown, less-frequently visited diamonds in the rough. If you’re planning a trip to London, this is definitely a blog to reference. I was fortunate to virtually chat with Ally and get some further tips on exploring London. (Thanks, Ally!)

What made you decide to start Brilliant London?

As American expats, our time in London is limited, and knowing that we will be returning to the States within the next few years, I found myself determined not to miss anything. We are so fortunate to have this opportunity, and I don’t want to return home knowing that I didn’t take advantage of all that London has to offer. I decided that making a commitment to writing about one location a day would be a good goal, and after more than 150 posts, I have just begun to scratch the surface! I am learning so much, and all of my research has provided me with some excellent trivia and party conversation…’did you know that London actually averages less rainfall per year than New York City?’ or ‘did you know that The Queen has owned more than 30 Corgis during her reign?’ See? Isn’t that useful table talk?!

 London has been a busy place this summer. What has been your favorite event of the summer?

 I have to confess that I have been blogging from the States this summer as we like to come back and see our friends and family while school is out, however, London has been a busy place all year! What excellent timing we have had for our adventure! I was among the crowds lined up along the streets to watch Kate and William’s Royal Wedding Procession, and I was again up at the crack of dawn to wave to The Queen as she passed-by for her Diamond Jubilee Procession. Everything has been so festive in London from the hundreds of union flags strung-up along Oxford Street to the giant Olympic Rings hanging from Tower Bridge. I think my favorite event, though, would have to be attending the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace. I will never forget it!

On all your adventures through London do you prefer to go with friends/family or solo?

 We do a lot of exploring as a family, and I like to meet up with my friends for a good museum exhibit or theatre production, but I tend to head out on my own during the week to explore the city and take photos for Brilliant London. I map out a specific area, mark a few landmarks, and see where my camera takes me. I love when I find a hidden street or alley that just looks like the London we all picture from Charles Dickens or Sherlock Holmes, and I have taken thousands of photos since I started this project.

 Where do you get the best fish and chips?

 We love fish and chips! My favorite spot is fish! Kitchen in Borough Market. It is a traditional takeaway counter, and the atmosphere is fantastic! The kids like to watch them batter the fish behind the counter while we wait, and then we can wander around the market afterwards. A great day out!

 What advice would you give someone who is moving abroad to London?

 First of all, if it is your first time living abroad, cut yourself a break because the details of moving are huge and stressful! Once you get settled-in, though, it can be one of the best experiences of your life. Our family moved from the American suburbs, and we made some important decisions that we don’t regret. We live in the city, near an underground station, and we don’t have a car. London is a very easy city to get around without a car, and our children have become incredibly independent while living in the city. Our lifestyle has changed in the following ways: I grocery shop at the neighborhood market everyday, as our refrigerator is tiny; I do laundry everyday, as our washing machine is tiny; and we spend a lot of time out exploring the city as our house is tiny….are you beginning to get the picture? Other than the lack of space, it has been very easy to adjust from America. For me, London is all about the history, live theatre, museums, international foods, the parks, and the Royal Ceremonies. If you have the opportunity to live abroad in London, go for it, and explore, explore, explore! London is Brilliant!

London Calling!

Only 3 days until Opening Ceremonies! I was in the grocery store yesterday and saw this display. I couldn’t help but take some pictures and make one small purchase for Friday.

I just had to get the London Lollies to celebrate on Friday. Unfortunately we’ll be watching the Opening Ceremonies from LAX but at least we’ll do it in style!


Today I am pottering.  I didn’t even know what that was until yesterday, but now that I do, I want to potter all the time. I was reading the blog The Silent Soul and her list of “50 signs you are a grown up”.  It didn’t take me long to realize the list was not American, but rather British.  Here were the ones that gave it away:

  • 17. Taking trips to the local tip
  • 29. Spending weekend just ‘pottering’
  • 46. Having a ‘best’ crockery set

There were others too, but these three definitely stood out.  For all you Americans, the local tip seems to be the same as a dump or junk yard and a crockery set is a tea set.  But the one I love best is pottering.  According to my Google search, pottering is to occupy oneself in a desultory but pleasant manner, doing a number of small tasks. Isn’t this great?  I’m wondering if I could be a professional pottering-er.  If I were, here would be my favorite pottering tasks:

1. Make my to-do list (I can’t live without it!)

2. Send everyone I know a birthday card on their birthday (Because who doesn’t love to get mail)

Courtesy of Little Red Mail Box

3. Make gifts for all my friends’ new babies. (There are a lot of them these days!)

I actually made these. 🙂

4. Practice Italian. (Because it was my second major but it is severely lacking right now.)

5. Try a new international recipe every day. (Blog-worthy material)

These lettuce wraps were delicious.

What would you do if you could potter all the time?

Check out these sites for more on pottering:

My Jubilee Hat

I have to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the hype for Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee.  The Brits have truly gone over the top with the parade of boats, Union Jacks covering streets, pubs, and faces, and all kinds of Queen paraphernalia. Although many tout that the monarchy is old fashion and unneeded, I actually believe that it provides consistency, tradition, and unity.  It was only a year ago that the entire world turned their heads to London for the wedding of the century (yes, I did get up to watch it at like 5 a.m.) and now once again Britain draws our attention with the extravagant four-day celebration of the Queen’s 60-year rule.  The Jubilee truly has been everywhere – People did a spread on her diamonds, Traditional Home’s whole June issue was dedicated to British design, and Sunday Morning interviewed a gentleman who had been in the choir at Elizabeth’s coronation.

In the Queen’s address today, she said that she hoped these events would “brighten our lives.”  From the thousands of pictures, blogs, and Facebook posts, I’m pretty sure her hope has come true for many.

As the Jubilee celebration came to an end, I celebrated by donning an audacious hat, drinking a cup of Earl Grey, and wearing my Dorothy Perkins skinny jeans.  Long live the Queen!

Check out these wordpress blogs with posts and pictures from the Jubilee:

The Islington Blog – Diamond Jubilee weekend in tweet pics

The Pretty Things Project – Uey Loves: Jubilee Fever

Partie du Champagne – [London] Jubilee River Pageant

The Grio – How do black Britons feel about Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee?

The National Post – Britons rediscover their love for the dutiful Queeen