Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The End is Nigh

Hey Guys

Another update from Austin, Texas! We've got one month left here, and time is really flying way too fast!

It has been an absolutely manic semester so far. As part of my course I've been able to work with a Capital Punishment Clinic run by the Law School, which has been the experience of a lifetime without a doubt. The clinic screens and selects convicted criminals on death row who have compelling arguments for innocence or bad legal representation, and then assign students to work alongside lawyers investigating and researching their cases. With no idea what to expect, we went along to the first class and were immediately assigned to a man who was scheduled to be executed on the 4th of April! Working on his case was unbelievably eye-opening to the criminal justice system here in Texas, and getting to meet him and others at Texas's death made you really wonder whether taking a life like this could ever be justified. Long story short, we managed to stay his execution 8 hours before he was scheduled to be executed - see the news report at http://articles.cnn.com/2011-04-05/justice/texas.scotus.inmate_1_sodium-thiopental-new-execution-protocol-first-execution?_s=PM:CRIME (Maurie Levin was the lawyer we were working with on the case!)

But it hasn't been all work. Living next to New Mexico we thought it would be silly to pass off the opportunity to go skiing/snowboading in the Rockies, so a while back we headed off for a weekend to an amazing little place called Sipapu, staying in a little log cabin there and enjoying the snow. For Spring Break, we drove from Austin to Key West - the last island in the string of little islands off Florida, a 1600 mile journey in total! On the trip we stayed in New Orleans and Miami, both great places well worth visiting! The French Quarter in New Orleans was something out of Europe, with great food, music and nightlife. Miami was similarly European, in fact felt a bit like Monaco with all the Ferraris and Lamborghinis and rich French people. Sadly I managed to get full blown Vertigo while in Key West, rendering me unable to walk in a straight line at all! Luckily one of the girls on the trip also got insured on our rental car, so we weren't stranded, but it could have been a lot worse!

Last weekend though I experienced a proper Texan weekend when my friend from Texas A&M invited me out to stay on his cousin's ranch. It was an awesome weekend of fishing, jumping off cliffs and hunting from the back of outrageously massive trucks, and almost reminded me of my home country of Zimbabwe!

Its been great fun out here. We haven't got long left though, so certainly will be looking to make the most of the last couple weeks. This weekend we are going to try out a water-park which supposedly has the best rides in the US! Should be good..!

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Spring Break!

The month of March welcomed the traditional student holiday which one calls Spring Break. The dates of my Spring Break at UF fortunately coincided with the dates of Mardi Gras and of course, we decided to take full advantage of this. New Orleans was pretty chaotic with hundreds of people wearing fancy dress and drinking freely! Parades occurred in the day and night where marching bands and floats would enthusiastically move down the roads whilst throwing beads to onlookers. Some people took the beads very seriously and their necks were engrossed with hundreds of beads, however for me I had far too many painful experiences of being ambushed with beads that soon I began to dodge them! Most parties started in the morning and carried on late into the night and the streets were constantly filled with street entertainment. Aside from Mardi Gras, New Orleans provided some delightful Creole food and also beautiful buildings and shops in the French Quarter and I would love to go back and explore all the unique shops.

For the second half of our Spring Break we headed over to Panama City Beach in Florida for some traditional Spring Break action i.e. beach in the day and partying all night. Most of the clubs had ridiculous entry prices which we couldn't justify paying for so watch out for that and there are plenty of other places which are cheaper! Just because it is Spring Break, people believe they can rip people off! This was a fun experience but it was just like any other holiday in a place like Malia and Zante but still all in all a great Spring Break and a week to remember!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Howdy y'all

My stereotypical Southern title to this post is due to my visit to Texas during the last weekend in February. I went to Austin for a weekend to experience some Southern culture. Austin is renowned for its live music (hosting SXSW music festival), chilled out nature and just generally cool people. During the weekend I didn't meet one unhappy person! The general consensus among the people of Austin is to keep Austin weird and indeed it is like no other place I have been to so far. They have a pink State Capitol, live music every night of the week and drafthouse cinemas where you can be served food whilst watching a movie. Although it is a bit different to your typical Texan place, I still witnessed many men walking around in cowboy hats, shirts, jeans and boots!

Aside from Austin, February has left me wondering where the past few weeks have gone as they seem to have drifted by very quickly. At UF work has been the main agenda this month where many people have experienced mid terms. I still don't quite understand why they are called mid-terms when people generally have three lots of mid-terms so really they should be called third-terms! The other week, Gainesville hosted the arrival of a well known DJ called Steve Aoki. This was a massive event for small town Gainesville and a very enjoyable night for everyone.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Sigma Pi

It has been a hectic few weeks since my last post. At the end of last term after all the exams and parties were over I flew over to New Jersey on the East Coast to stay with an American friend who was on exchange at Nottingham when I was a fresher. It was a quick 3 day trip but we packed loads in, sampled the delight of Jersey's pasta pizza, had a cheeky dabble on the blackjack tables in Atlantic City's casinos (East Coast Vegas) and spent a morning in the Bronx and an afternoon in Manhattan two VERY different parts of NYC. After all that I flew back to London for Xmas and quickly found myself in Blackpool, quite the classy jet setter I know.
After the usual NYE antics I once again found myself back at Heathrow bound for Corvallis, and luckily only a 24 hour journey this time. My roommate went back to LA pretty early at the start of this term so I found myself with little reason to stay in the dorms so got myself 'rushing' a fraternity. This basically means when you go over to the frat house and get to know everyone if you are thinking about joining. Once you like them and they like you, you receive a bid to 'pledge' to the fraternity, (very long winded process I know, the frats aren't quite as simple as a bunch of guys in a house partying). When you pledge (which i have now done) you have a little ceremony which is a very cultish experience and pledge you life and soul away to the frat which in my case is called Sigma Pi. The whole process hasn't finished yet though, during my pledge ship I have to learn about the frat and its history before i can be fully initiated as a full member which wont happen for me until next term. Its a very fascinating incite into the Greek culture of American Unis, and of course great fun as well. After this I am off to an athletes and housewives party with a sorority (house full of 50 odd girls). More to follow.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

A new year brings a new semester!

Settling in to a new semester has been a lot more straightforward and less stressful this time around due to knowing the ropes at UF (also I luckily didn't have the worry of snow affecting my return flight!). We were warned that the weather was expected to get colder for January and February however we have been blessed so far with week long warm spells preparing us for the summer heat that will arrive in a few weeks.

Having been rather shocked with the quantity of workload I had to undertake last semester, I have chosen my modules wisely this semester ranging from modules on rock 'n' roll to ethical issues in American sport. Also, I have taken the opportunity to do an individual research module to allow me to do some useful research on my chosen dissertation topic as I have found my uni to be full of endless sources and articles.

Aside from work, so far this semester I have just been having fun getting to know the new exchange students. At UF in particular, we have a substantial amount of Australians which meant last week we celebrated Australian day - basically a day full of drink and BBQ's but a fun day none the less! Also, Tampa hosted Gasparilla 2011 last weekend. Gasparilla is a smaller version of Mardis Gras and a parade dedicated to pirates. It only lasts the one day but it is still atmospheric and a fun day out for whatever age you are!

America is currently football crazy with the Superbowl coming up this Sunday. Everywhere has superbowl themed events and food! The gymnastics season has also started at UF which is a very enjoyable event to see (however this may be due to me being a female!) and athletics will be starting up soon as well so although the football season may be over there are still lots of other sports to see!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Winter Update

With exams over, it feels apt to write another update here.

Every Canadian I meet seems to gain a certain amount of glee by informing me, ‘this isn’t the worst yet, wait till February,’ Now I think it is a sign of a particularly sadistic people that seem to enjoy the pain of others, yet the Canadians still present themselves as being like ‘America without the Americans.’ Just so you know, it gets so cold in Canada, that your tears freeze as they leave your eyes.

Work wise, it is worth stating two things about McGill. The quantity is harder, but the quality is not. To elaborate, there is more reading then Nottingham, quite a bit more actually. However, the quality of the work itself isn't harder. You just have subjects that are more broad. The harder thing to deal with is the second point, you have about a three day gap between the last day of term and final exams, meaning you really don't have time to do a lot of revision. So you can't slack on the reading during the term, or else you will have no hope for the exams.

The British Appreciation Society here is a good laugh, whilst I am abroad and want to meet predominantly Canadians, its nice to have a place where I can say 'mare' and people know what I mean. TO get my weekly dose of Canadian culture, I am going to see the habs (the Montreal Canadians - an Ice hockey team.) This city runs on hockey, so to get tickets is really fortunate.

So, that is all for now. I am sure I will update soon

Saturday, 15 January 2011


I'm back in Charleston after a lovely, but very busy, christmas holiday back in snowy old Leeds. Since i last blogged i managed to go back to New York to stay with family friends for thanksgiving and my 21st birthday (see pic above of the amazing ice rink in Central Park). It was amazing, mainly because i got to have an epic meal with a house full of Italian Americans, and because my family suprised me with a secret visit.
Anyhoo, this semester i have lots of fun trips planned. I'm going to DC next month with a friend from home who is studying at Wisconsin uni, and me and some friends from Nottingham are going to New Orleans for Mardi gras as it conveniently falls during spring break. I may also be going to south by south west festival in Texas to see my friends band, so lots is going on!
I really like my classes this semester. I'm doing a independent research study in preperation for my impending dissertation (joy), but i'm being supervised by a lady who works for the CIA which is pretty cool. I went out for dinner with a professor the other night to discuss this, and he indulged me and Matt with lots of red wine and told us tales of his travels which was enlightening to say the least.
Despite the work load, and there is a lot of it, there is plenty of time to have fun. I went out last night with a group of friends to a kareoke bar, and tomorrow night we are 'tailgating' the basketball game. Still loving Charleston, i think i might stay forever.