Category Archives: Travel

The Good, the Bad and the Exhausted

The winter holidays are toughest on me because the semester is winding up, thus creating more work for me in classes and my job/internship/etc. Plus the fact that Ellie an I are travelling fairly consistently and involving ourselves in activities that require me to be uber-social and you have a rough combination.

Thanksgiving was good this year, although I’m not so sure if I’ll be able to pull off the whole “Traditional Turkey Feast” again if Ellie is working–she gets out of work too late to have a very good Thanksgiving meal with my family. The work and stress that goes into the feat isn’t actually worth it in some ways. I love Ellie and have made Thanksgiving th last 2 years because it’s such a loved holiday for the both of us, but my family and her job make it VERY difficult to have anything resembling low-key. We’ll see about next year; I almost have her convinced that a Turducken is the way to go.

Friday we went down to NJ and MD to visit her family. As much as I love all of them, when set up against my introversion, anxiety and the stress of traveling, they can be a little more than overwhelming. But it was a good time and we’re looking forward to Christmas/New Year’s since she’s taking the wee in between off so the travel doesn’t have to be totally crammed into a few days; we’ll have the luxury of leisure for the trip, with the only commitment being a party in Northern NJ on New Year’s Eve. I can’t really complain, although I know I’ll be just as tired after the holidays as I am now. Luckily, I’ll have the benefit of only having internships to worry about for another week after we return 😀

After the New Year, it’s Wedding Planning time!!

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University of Oxford (Backdated)

Me at Oxford--Click for More Pics

After visiting this last school and having had interaction with SU Officers/Staff at many of them, I may need to tweak the topic of my paper. The SU offers so much more than just activities that it would be an incredibly one-sided paper. I knew from Pam’s reply to my outline that there would be differences, but I hadn’t realized just how different they would be. I wonder what kind of literature/research I can find on Campus Centers/Student Unions in the US? Unfortunately, probably not a whole lot, but I’ll see when I get back. I’m not entirely sure where I will take the paper, but I think I’ll stick with discussing Astin (maybe within the introduction instead of a section for him), then go into an in-depth review of Student Unions  in the UK, including the National org, and what they offer above and beyond just activities. Hopefully I’ll be able to find something to back-up my ideas that there is a lot of benefit in this kind of system, and then I can talk about what schools in the US can use to help enhance student learning and development.

On an unrelated note, I am interested in why all (?) of the schools had people from Career Services come to speak with us. I wonder if it has to do with the fact that higher education in the US is focused on the job market, so they think that’s what we would be most interested in. Or, it could be due to jobs becoming more important in England, so they want to get the word out there that they are focusing on it. It’s also amusing that they have all mentioned the increasing parental involvement in students’ lives—we are not alone in having to face the Millennial generation.

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University of Bath (Backdated)

Solis Minerva at the Roman Baths - Click to see more pics

It seems as though schools in the UK have not received the memo about not reading directly off of PowerPoint slides. We ran over at the last 2 schools, yet each presenter spoke about every line on almost every slide (Sabbatical Officers being the exception). I felt that, rather than say, “We have 1 full-time (FT) X, and 1 FT Y, and 3 part-time (PT) Z’s,” it would have been more time-conscious and kept our attention better to have said, “as you can see, we have a staff of X, made up of FT and PT people.” Then, should the presenter have felt the need to talk about the positions, fine, but I know that very few of us were paying attention for most of the presentation, especially after lunch. I feel like, because the presenters here (Kingston was better about time) took so much time, we were severely short-changed.

Barring that issue, Bath was great, and I am super happy we were finally given a campus tour, especially of a campus that’s so nice! I spoke with Mark during lunch, and saw that, like Andrew at Sheffield, he has a vision of student affairs as a philosophy of practice and career rather than as just a job. I attribute this to their affiliation with NASPA and AMOSSHE, and would have liked to know what, if any, affiliation there was at Kingston. I also wish we had been provided information about AMOSSHE, either by a school or as part of our pre-course reading. I think it would have been nice to know that, although small and on the newer side (as far as I can tell from the website), there was an organization within the UK that promoted student affairs (no matter how different that may be).

After the school visit, we went on the tour that would never end–it was supposed to be 2 hours, including 45 minutes in the Roman Baths. I feel bad for the tour guide because some of us went over, but she then took another hour and a half on top of the hour we were supposed to be with her. I was really happy that it included some of the locations important to Jane Austen’s life and novels though

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University of Kingston (Backdated)

No picture since we stopped in on our way from London to Bath. If you want to see my England pictures, click here.

This is another school that was similar to what I am familiar with when discussing an institute of higher education. Jayne was very pleasant and her résumé (CV in England) is rather impressive! Nadia and I were discussing after the visit that her career path so far shows her to be someone that goes in, cleans things up and moves onto the next project; she’s good at making “the machine” work smoothly but doesn’t seem to be the type that wants to hang around because she’d rather be actively making changes rather than maintaining the status quo. Although, it’s entirely possible she just hasn’t found the right fit for the long haul.

The staff she pulled together was impressive considering how new she was (or could be due to that newness, they don’t want to say “no” to the boss!), although it made for a very long day. And, a lot of the information was repetition of what we had already heard (I point back to previous comments about Career Services). I could tell we had lost a lot of interest, although it being the day after our London weekend could have had something to do with that as well. I wonder if there could be some means of making the 2nd Monday more similar to the 2st, with a low-key activity (like the tour of Bath) on that day to help with recovery. Although I know that could create a logistical nightmare as far as getting in school visits is concerned.

I have to admit that, although I got some good information about the SU, the staff member (not the SU President) was…abrasive. Not only was he obnoxious when he began speaking with us, but he was rather rude to Jayne as well. We all discussed this at length after the visit, so I know I’m not just imagining it. I was happy to have the opportunity to sit with TJ, the SU President, on the shuttle back to the main campus; we had a good conversation about what lead him to serving, especially a 2nd term. I look forward to being in contact with him about the SU and his role. I also look forward to looking into the National Union of Students, which is the overseeing organization for SU’s at individual schools. I had not heard about this organization before, and hope it will be beneficial to my paper.

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Weekend in London (Backdated)

Tower of London - Click to see more pics

I know we are not required to journal on days we do not have campus visits, but I feel that keeping some type of journal for the weekend was good for keeping me in habit and to get some thoughts down on paper. I am leaving it in this assignment because I feel that it was an important part of my personal learning experience.

Friday we just spent the 1st half of the day on the coach, and then I went on a mini-excursion by myself to see “Here Come the Girl Guides,” an exhibit for the 100th anniversary of Girl Guiding at the Museum of London – Docklands. I wish it hadn’t been A) so far from everything and B) a museum I had no interest in. But, it was all free and a beggar can’t be a chooser. Plus, I got a patch for my Girl Scout tote bag, which is wicked cool.

Saturday taught me one thing about myself: never travel with people I don’t know. Even with just 2 other people, we had a really difficult time trying to organize the day and wound up frustrated and I feel like most of the day was wasted due to picky eating habits, indecision and ridiculous desires to see/do things that can and are done back home. I learned that I am far more ambitious when I am on “vacation” than at home and need to be far better organized ahead of time when I am planning a trip. Not to say I didn’t have fun or that I didn’t very much enjoy what I did see (going on a bus tour was totally worth the money!), but I am left feeling slightly unsatisfied.

Sunday I left early to see Buckingham Palace, then I met back up with Nadia to visit the Tower of London, which was the #1 thing I wanted to see while I was there. I did go see the Crown Jewels–totally worth it, even though it took about an hour and a half from the time I got into line — totally worth it. I also went to the Household Calvary Museum, located at the Horse Guards building. I was fortunate enough to see a delayed Changing of the Guard there rather than just the regular inspection that usually happens at 4PM. So felt pretty satisfied with my weekend despite the frustration.

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