Monday, October 19, 2009

Aaaaaaand David Beckham!

I'm not a huge sports fan. I played softball for ten years when I was in elementary and middle school, and moved on to volleyball in high school, but I couldn't tell you much about the Ravens or the Redskins - watching sports has just never been that entertaining to me.

But put David Beckham on a soccer pitch, and everything changes.

Those chiseled cheekbones, the six-pack that the Armani ads display......OK, before I get too distracted, let's explain: on October 14, England played Belarus in a World Cup qualifying match at Wembley Stadium. I was lucky enough to attend, with some fellow study abroad students from Japan and America, for the low price of £29 - roughly $48 American.

Kickoff was at 8:30, so my friend Yuko and I left our dorm at 5:30. As we walked through King's Cross with several people dressed for the game walking beside us, businessmen and women in suits were pouring out of the station after their workday finished. We got onto the platform to catch the Metropolitan Line train towards Uxbridge - although as it turned out, all Metropolitan Line trains were stopping at Wembley. We waited through one train for the second one to come along, since the first was too crowded. When we finally got to the Wembley tube stop, we met up with Serena, a fellow study abroad student from California. After we picked up our tickets we went into the Stadium Shop. It was the same kind of thing you would find in an American stadium: ridiculously priced items with team logos printed on them and a thirty-minute queue for the cashier. I got a bumper sticker for my family's car and an England flag, for under £5.

As we made our way to our seats, we passed the concession stands - where they were not serving alcohol. Apparently this is a fairly recent development, as there were signs everywhere apologizing for the inconvenience. Looking at the prices of the food, I decided to pass. It was stadium pricing, but it was ridiculous nonetheless. One hot dog would cost you £6 - about $10.

We got to our seats, which were almost at the top of the stadium. As it got nearer to kickoff, the stands started filling up quickly, and during the game it was reported that 79,000 people had attended. When the game finally did start, everyone around us leaned forward in their seat anxiously. When the ball was in play, there were moments of almost complete silence as the spectator’s eyes never left the pitch. The first goal was scored by England within 10 minutes, and after that it was England’s game and the crowd relaxed a slightly.

Then, after more than 70 minutes of the game had passed…David Beckham came onto the field. The crowd went crazy. The screams of the fans seemed to be mostly feminine, but there was definitely some cheering for the player from men in the audience as well. My friend Serena got some beautiful pictures of Beckham warming up to go in.

He didn’t do much, but he jetted around as quick as a shot on the field. He was easily the most agile player. At the end of the match, it was announced that he had been named “Man of the Match” – a fact that got made fun of in the papers the next day. One headline even claimed it was like “Obama getting the Nobel Peace Prize after eight months in office.”

More updates coming soon! Future topics will include:

  • Travelling within the UK
  • Going to the cinema
  • Food

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The First Week of Class - Finished!

My first week of classes is over! They went pretty smoothly. I wasn't late to any of them, and I like all of my professors. Let's go down the list, shall we?

Creative Writing - Looooove it! I have a 500-word assignment due Tuesday, and I have no idea what I'm going to write about. We have to describe an event that happens in less than one day, so I'm thinking of describing the fall that sprained both of my ankles, but I'm just not feeling it. I'd like to do something that has more emotion, less action. We'll see how it goes, though. My professor is American; I didn't ask where she's from. Her name is Carolyn Hart, and she's written some novels.

Making of Britain - This is a very large class with a very diverse group of people. The professor has a very soothing voice; I almost fell asleep during the first class. His accent is very cultured British.

Nineteenth Century Fiction - My professor for this one is really nice. We're reading Sense and Sensibility now, and after that will be Great Expectations and She, by Rider Haggard. I was a little intimidated to take the class at first, but the way the professor lectures makes me really excited to read the novels, and I'm trying to look at them in a different light. I think I've been too intimidated to read Jane Austen in the past, which is why I could never get myself to do it. That, and I confused her and Jane Eyre for the longest time.

Studying Broadcast Media - This was the class I was most nervous about, since it's an Intermediate level, which means most people in the class are in their second year, although it doesn't make sense that I would be nervous, as a junior. Anyway it's turned out to be the easiest so far. It's pretty straightforward stuff; today we went over the definition of "Broadcasting" and what Media Studies actually is.

There's a lot of reading for all of my classes, but I think it's manageable. I've only had to buy the three books for Nineteenth Century Fiction, a book called "Seeing Things" by John Ellis for Broadcast Media, and Supplemental Reading Packs for three of the classes, which were about 5 GBP each. A good semester as far as textbooks go. (For that reason alone, I love being an English major.)

Today after my class I went grocery shopping (I've been eating healthy over here - a small Ben & Jerry's is about $7, totally not worth it) and bought some eggs, nuts, frozen dinners, and fruit. I walked back to Nido from Chapel Market and decided that it was so nice out, I wanted to go to a park. My roommate, Holly, and Meghan and Cait, two girls I've become friends with, came with me, and we went to Kensington Gardens and took tons of pictures. I saw Royal Albert Hall, the Albert Memorial (which is gorgeous and incredibly detailed), and the Flower Walk. We went out to dinner at a pub near the park, and I had fish and chips for the first time since I've been here.

The differences between America and England have been small but noticeable. Maybe it's just because I'm living in the city, but everyone dresses up to go out; you never ever see anyone in sweats and a tshirt, unless they're on a football team or something. People are very polite over here; there's lots of "please and thank you, thank you so much, I really appreciate it," and people actually really do seem to appreciate niceness.

Busy day tomorrow! I've already got plenty of homework, and we'll finally be visiting Big Ben! Cheers!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Academic Exhaustion

Phew! After going over Blackboard and saving everything that needs to be printed tomorrow to a flash drive, I'm actually terribly exhausted! There has to be an easier way to organize my schoolwork. Unfortunately, I haven't found it yet. But when I do, you'll be the first to know, I promise.

Studying is the last thing I want to do over here. I'd much rather explore my current city. I'm positive that I could find something to do every day without having to do any schoolwork. My conscience would probably get in the way eventually if I were to skip my classes in order to go sightseeing...darn that moral compass.

Today I had my class in Nineteenth Century Fiction. So far I like all of my professors, and this one was no exception. She asked me a question, and when I didn't know the answer, she said, "Don't you hate when we do that? We ask you for the answer and you're stuck there saying uuhhhmmm," and proceeded to answer the question for me. She wasn't mean about it, though.

Thankfully there hasn't been anything too difficult as far as final exams go in my classes. I'll have to push to finish on time, since most students will have an extra 3 weeks to complete their assignments. That leaves all my attention on Europe when I am done, though, which will be good.

I have several articles/posts that I have yet to publish on here, and they'll go up in due time. (Due time hopefully meaning SOON!) Until then, I think it's time for a well-deserved TFLN break. Cheers!