A Weekend in St. Andrews

When I moved to England, I knew one person in the hemisphere. Harris has been down to visit Lancaster, we went to Copenhagen last fall, but I hadn’t managed to make it up to St. Andrews until November. Wrapping up an incredibly busy week, I took a quick 3.5 hour trip up and across the UK to enjoy a weekend off.

Priorities are food, no matter where I am. Highlights included some tacos (not the best, not the worst, but you take what you can get over here) and some incredible ice cream.

   

  

Because we’re the kind of students who don’t really have time off, Harris had to run off for most of Saturday so I took advantage of a new city to explore. Beaches are a little different when you’re wearing 4 layers and a wool coat, but still pretty. I don’t know anything about golf, but I can say I’ve stomped on the Old Course, a must do in the Home of Golf.

   

And because my life is a bit non-stop, I took a few hours out to work through my to do list in an incredible coffee shop I would really like to transport to Lancaster. My life is really just this view, changing ever so slightly.

  

 Saturday also happened to be Bonfire night, so I was dragged out to West Sands (the aforementioned beach that happens to be right on the Old Course) for some fireworks. I will own up and say I gave up early, after losing the feeling in my hands, face, and feet. I’m just not meant for freezing weather and ocean wind.

Scotland is gorgeous, and the weekend was a great break from the chaos of uni life.

 

Alex

A Weekend in London

I’ve had “write London blog post” on my to-do list since I was on the train home, about two weeks ago. Like many things on the to-do list, it fell to the bottom and has been ignored for about two weeks. I figure it’s all about priorities .

During the first week of term (the second week I was here) I had the chance to go down to London for an Amnesty International + Channel 4 conference for student media. It was really cool opportunity to talk to some incredible journalists who work on Channel 4’s ‘Unreported World’ series, and some of the researchers for Amnesty.

While the event was just a Friday afternoon, I got to spend the rest of the weekend (because if I’m going that far, why not) enjoying London with one of my absolute favourites, Bethan. Since Bethan has decided graduating and moving away from Lancaster was an acceptable thing to do, I hadn’t seen her since I left for the summer, and now just anxiously await her visits to Lancaster.
Bethan’s lovely family allowed me to crash her mum’s birthday dinner on Friday night, which was generally delicious and a great time.

Saturday we headed into London for food (very important) and some planned art viewing before going to a show that evening.

  
(Very good Greek food at ‘The Real Greek’)

While food happened (priorities) we managed to distract ourselves with wonderful food and conversation for so long that we didn’t have time for art. Sad, but not the end of the world.

Wondering around the city doesn’t really lose it’s magic for me, so I followed Bethan like a lost puppy and stared at lots of pretty buildings for a while. We then managed to make our way to the theatre where the show was, with only a bit of time walking in the pouring rain.

  
A glass of wine and a bit of very needed drying off later, we headed upstairs to the theatre and saw “Buzz: the musical”, an incredible show put on by 9 recent graduates about a woman’s journey after a nasty breakup. It was historical, relatable, and generally hilarious. We left with cute merchandise and a need for that soundtrack.

  
We wrapped up our Saturday with more food, of course. As Bethan knows how much I love Mexican food (and how much I miss it) we had dinner at Wahaca, a delicious and adorable temporary restaurant in Southbank. Food is always best shared, so we did it all tapas style and honestly, I’m still craving those tacos.

  
Sunday started off slow, but with a 3+ hour train ride ahead of me, I sadly said goodbye to Bethan after some really good mac & cheese for lunch.

  

Did being gone all weekend mean I was tired for the busy week ahead? Did I miss my very first Buddhism lecture on Friday? Was it really, really great? Yes, yes, and yes. Thank you Bethan for a wonderful weekend, I’ll at least take to you Whaletail when you come up to Lancaster next.

Arkansas {Hot Springs & Little Rock}

When you want to take a weekend trip, don’t want to pay ridiculous American flight costs, and want to go somewhere new, you take a trip to Arkansas. Seriously, we’re running out of states within decent driving distance from Austin.

Since sadly nursing students don’t get a real  summer, Morgan and I chose to take advantage of her less-than-2-weeks-off break and take a sister weekend. And when she vetoed New Orleans because of humidity, Arkansas was our best bet.

Everyone suggested we stop in Hot Springs, so we settled on a night there before heading up to Little Rock. However, no

However, no road trip is complete without a Nation meet up, and JP was nice enough to take a detour from his trip back to school for dinner and some great suggestions about what to do on our trip.


Unfortunately, the weather decided to fight us and our Night/Day in Hot Springs was rainy. And while we did hide from the rain with some amazing pancakes at a shop from the 1940s and good coffee, nothing stops Morgan when she wants to hike.



Coffee at Kollective, taking on the rain.    

After drying off a little, we drove out to Little Rock for the rest of our time. Still dealing with bad weather, we opted for some more indoor activities, specifically food and the Clinton Presidental Library, then more food. You can never go wrong with more food.

Lunch at The Root 
  
Luckily, our second day in LR had much better weather. It was a Sunday, so we hit up a wonderful Farmer’s Market before grabbing some incredible brunch. Then it was back to more hiking, though luckily much drier hiking this time around.


  
We wrapped up with another nice dinner and a walk across the aptly named “Big Dam Bridge” with one incredible sunset.


 Our drive home kicked off a little earlier than usual, as to make it back across state lines and into Dallas for lunch with our Uncle.


 It’s not often you get to travel with just your sister, so this was a pretty special trip, despite bad weather and more. Being two busy students with very different schedules (and locations) really limits the time we can spend together, and with Mo’s graduation coming up, that time will be even more difficult to come by. So here’s to sisters and adventures.

 

Alex

 

Madrid

There should a better string of words here to describe what Madrid was, what I did, and all the things I loved. And hopefully in the coming months I’ll get it together and do that. But until then, here are just some photos of the city that I fell head over heels for in April.

** warning, I spent a lot of time in art muesems

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Lisbon

It’s honestly been over a month since this trip, but it fell in the middle of the travel hurricane that was March-April and nothing was posted. I’m not going to write a lot about what we did, but it really was an a wonderful trip.

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Brussels 

Brussels is a very pretty city. Well, what I saw of the city in the 24 hours I spent there. I can very much attest to the inside of the Charleroi airport being decent, though not the best. 

 

Though it was an incredibly fast trip, it was a great trip. I went to Brussels to attend the TRACE Conference held at the Ministry of Justice.  In the past year as TR:ust Project Leader, I’ve been so lucky to travel as well as attend a number of talks. TRACE was an amazing way to end the year, and my time as Project Leader. 

   
 
The city was beautiful, and definitely one to go back to, if only for some waffles. For now, I’ll just eat the excessive amount of chocolate I brought home. 
Alex 

NUS Conference in Brighton

  I thought I left student government back in high school, but it seems not completely so. This past week I attended the National Union of Students (NUS) conference in Brighton. As someone who is not particularly involved in our students union (LUSU) it was a headfirst dive into UK student government.

I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I have attended enough conferences to feel prepared for the most part. And one of the first things I realized was that Girls State and Girls Nation have made any sort of event that discusses policy and uses parliamentary procedure so much easier. Amendments, parts, motions, its all easy to follow if you spend enough time practicing government. The second thing that I realized is that when they say “Union” they mean it in the workers union way that in the US we wouldn’t. Sometimes I forget that the ‘liberal’ side of the UK is farther left than anything in the US. It was interesting to watch how politics (not just student politics) impacted the discourse of the event and the actions that the NUS takes.

One of the, in my opinion odd, things that UK Student Unions do is instead of students holding the officer positions, the position is a full time job held by students taking a year off of their degree, or after they graduate. While some offices are held by ‘part-time officers’ the major ones, i.e. President, and the VP’s of various areas, are ‘Full Time Officers’ or FTOs. This of course applies to the NUS national officers, many of whom are years out of university. This led to one of the main arguments that rose up over the course of the conference and will be fought over in what is turning into a major division of universities and unions across the country. Students feel that the NUS is not representing them well, as its political, its leaders are detached from the reality of students, and students have little influence on the issues the NUS takes up over the year. With a number of Student Unions (SU’s) and student groups calling to split from the NUS, it will be interesting in the coming weeks and months to see if the division between local unions and the national body grows, or dies off as students get caught in the rush of exams and end of term. That itself may be a key argument behind staying in the NUS, and a major point behind FTOs.

What was probably the major point of division in the conference was the election of a new president, which seemingly tore the organization apart. Malia Bouattia, the president-elect and first Black Muslim president of the organization became a divisive figure in a storm of accusations of anti-Semitism, the usual racism and islamaphobia, and her more extreme approach than current president and main opponent, Megan Dunn. Going into the conference with no background knowledge of either candidate, the media and discussion around the candidates was overwhelming, and difficult to sort. And as much as SU’s threat to leave may tear the NUS apart, it seems just as likely that internal division between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ factions may be the bigger threat to the organization.

The highlight of the conference was the success of a motion for a full time Trans office and an autonomous Trans campaign to better support students across the country who have been under represented in not just major campaigns, but with the LGBTQ+ liberation campaign. The motion passed in a nearly unanimous vote, an amazing moment of unity in a conference that had felt divided and tense from the beginning.

Though I plan to stay fairly un-involved in Student Politics, the conference was definitely  an incredible learning experience. It highlighted a couple of major things for me. 1) Our student body is so disconnected from bigger issues and campaigns. Despite the response from so many other university’s students about being connected to the NUS, I think we got maybe one tweet about it? 2) We spend time bemoaning “LUSU” with no understanding of the structure, or what we mean. 3) UK politics will forever confuse me, and I have no desire to get involved. And 4) Brighton is really pretty.

Alex