Easter Holiday and quick update (1 map, no pictures)

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February 28th 2012
Published: February 28th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

I continue to be amazed at the little things that can be different between the US and UK. Living here for about 5 months, (plus 5 months in 2007), I feel I've learned many of the terms and phrases: "Are you all right?" meaning "How are you?", "brolly" for "umbrella", "hair bobble" for "hair tie" or "hair elastic"... etc.

But yesterday, when I was preparing picture cards for a therapy task, I had trouble finding the picture that went with the word "CARAVAN". So I asked someone (not a coursemate, not someone I'd ever met, but I didn't have much of a choice and she was really nice about it), and it turns out that what the Brits call "caravan" we call "trailer."

(Brits, etc.: This is what a caravan is to me.)

Or this one, which just kills me: 3-ring binders. Instead of little push tabs at the top and bottom to open and close the rings, they have this little mechanism with a wheel and a lever. And you can't just pull the rings apart like you can with our binders, because the mechanism will break and everyone who uses that binder will know you broke it and they won't believe you when you play the "different country" card because 3-ring binders are the MOST RANDOM CULTURE DIFFERENCE EVER and they'll assume you're just an idiot.

Ahem. At least that's what I'm assuming would happen. Of course I wouldn't know. Anyway.

Easter Holiday/Spring Break is approaching, and much as I have complained about the Christmas-before-exams setup, I cannot complain about the 4 week break we have between mid-March and mid-April.

Found a coupon (called "voucher" here) for a day trip, found a massively discounted adventure tour, and have finished planning/booking everything I need.

Here's where I'll be going:

Red arrows indicate March 16th-23rd. Visiting Julia in Edinburgh for the weekend. Friday night there is a special kind of dance event called a "ceilidh" (pronounced "kay-lee", I'm half-convinced the 'd' is only there for strategic Scrabble purposes) and then on Monday morning I leave with a bus tour through a company called MacBackpackers, which plans tours for the young and adventurous. Massive discounts for March trips, and I get to see a bunch of places that would be impossibly difficult by public transport alone. Very excited.

Green arrows indicate April 1st-8th. Going on a day trip from London to see Stonehenge (!!!) and Bath, again massively discounted, which is fantastic (thank you Groupon). Then to Cork, Ireland to stay with a coursemate for few days and see the southern Irish countryside.

Overall a decent break, I think. So if you don't hear from me for a few weeks before then, it's just that I'm saving my money. And trying to survive clinic.

Another unexpected culture difference for those who are interested: grades/marks. Maybe this was just Hamilton (or my group of friends), but we never got competitive about grades in undergrad. We wanted to know that people were happy with their grades, in that we generally cared about their well-being, but there was never that "I got __, what'd YOU get?" culture that you saw in Middle/High school sometimes. Possibly because most of my friends were in different classes and had different majors, but there was never a competition for highest GPA or any of that. Which I was grateful for.

Here, now that we're getting our marks back from Semester 1, there's more of that going on then I'm used to. This might be a culture difference or a simple result of the fact that many people on the course are friends. But the little that I know about the UK education system seems to lend itself more to grade-competition than the US system. Which is not at all what I would have predicted. I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on the matter - especially those of you who are currently in the US education/academia world in one capacity or another.


28th February 2012

I still am occasionally thrown by the "you alright?" question... I know what it means in the UK, but it's still sometimes funny to hear. I experienced a little of the grade comparing thing here... for the most part though, when we did talk about, it was more geared towards mutual congratulation/sympathy, as opposed to competition.

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