Thursday, April 25, 2013

Back in Newcastle.

I am finally back in Newcastle for a few weeks of doing final assessments for my classes. After, I will be  traveling some more before I head home. It's crazy how fast this experience has flown by. I have gone to a few different places in the area in the short time that I've been back in Newcastle. After I graduate, I will certainly be returning to Europe.

Alnwick Castle was the castle used for Harry Potter.

My friends and I from my field trip class had a lot of fun at Alnwick Castle.

My friend and I were pretending to fly, like in Harry Potter.
Alnwick Castle was beautiful.

Our field trip class also went to the Beamish Open Air Museum. The baby lambs were adorable.

Out to eat at the Baltic Six with my international friends.

Spending time with my Spanish roommates is always fun.

Part 3 of Spring Break: Scotland!

After visiting London with my parents, I took them to Newcastle briefly and then to Edinburgh, Scotland. Edinburgh is very nice, and we really enjoyed touring around. We had a fantastic tour around the city center, went to the Queen's Castle, and did some shopping. The train to Edinburgh from Newcastle and back was a beautiful ride.

The Edinburgh Castle was the first inspiration for what JK Rowling used as Hogwarts.
Victoria Street, Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful streets  in the city.
The Elephant House is where JK Rowling started writing Harry Potter.

Part 2 of Spring Break: London!

I know this is shocking, yet again I spent a substantial amount of time in London. This time, it was for a few weeks and the remainder of my break. I would seriously consider moving to London for a few years after school. It's still my favorite city.

My family came to visit me in London, and I enjoyed playing tour guide with them. They had a nice time in London as well. Although London can be quite expensive, there is so much to see and do.

I can't explain how beautiful Big Ben is in person.

Watching the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace was amazing.

This restaurant is called Cucina Asellina, it's very nice.

Kensington Palace was so nice, my Mom and I had afternoon tea at the Orangery.

The London Eye with the background of Big Ben, House of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey.

I've fallen in love with afternoon tea.

The Tower Bridge was magnificent.

This is the view from the top of the London Eye...priceless.
Windsor Castle was so nice, I love castles.
Did I mention that I love London?

Part 1 of Spring Break: Barcelona!

Things here have been very busy, so I will be splitting my spring break up into a few parts.

I went to Barcelona, Spain during the beginning of my spring break. I had an amazing time. Barcelona was beautiful; the weather was warm, the sightseeing was so nice, and the nightlife was very fun. The culture in Barcelona is slightly different, in that they wish to be independent of the rest of Spain. They speak their own form of Spanish called Catalan, which is a slight mixture between French and Spanish. It was so interesting experiencing their culture. We watched Flamenco dancing, had tapas and sangria, saw the Sagrada Familia and other tourist sights, visited the beach, shopped, etc. I would love to go back to Spain...someday I will.

Standing in front of the Sagrada Familia.

The fruit selection at Las Ramblas market was huge.

We enjoyed ordering different tapas which are basically small plates/appetizers.

The beach at Barcelona was beautiful, this is the group of international students that I traveled with.

The nightlife in Barcelona was unlike anything we had seen before.

The piers were so pretty with all of the boats.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The American (Even More) Abroad, Part 1 of 3: STOCKHOLM

So, as the title alludes to, this is the first post in a series of three that I will be writing over the course of the next week. Just a few days ago I returned back from a ten day trip traveling across the Baltic Sea, starting at Stockholm, stopping in Helsinki for a day, on to St. Petersburg for three days, and then once more a day in Helsinki, and finally four days in Stockholm. I started the trip taking a 14 hour night train from Luleå to Stockholm (on which I only slept for an hour) and then made my way with my group of exchange student friends to the ferry terminal at the harbor. We boarded the boat and then shipped off overnight to Helsinki. But I'll tell more about that part of the adventure in a later post as I mentioned before.

This post is all about Stockholm. However, I honestly don't know where to begin. I did so much in Stockholm that I can't recall everything at the moment. One thing that sticks out is that I stayed in a hostile for the first time, and I loved it! Such a stellar mix of culture, just like my experiences so far in Luleå with the other exchange students.

Most of the group I was with returned to Stockholm on another train, but my friend Tim (whom I've shared with you in a previous post) and I wanted to really see what the city had to offer. Also, we both share the same mentality about touring a new location: walk around, see what you see, and travel off the beaten path on occasion. You never quite know what you'll see or who you'll meet. That's one of the best parts of traveling at such a young age here in Europe; there are countless young travelers just as interested in exploring new things as you. Although I'm ultimately a tourist, I'm not confined to a secluded "on-holiday/vacation" paradigm. For example, after taking a free tour of Stockholm, of which the tour was comprised of mostly other students, Tim and I ended up having a coffee with two people from Canada and Australia. I can't remember their names, but in a way that's the best part. We all get along and can relate regardless. Besides, I'm terrible with names...

So, the pictures...

The first shot is from the top deck of the Viking Line ferry as we departed Stockholm. To the left in the photo is Gamla Stan ("Old Town" translated) and Strandvägen ("Beach Road") to the right. As you can tell from the photo that Stockholm is a very old city, founded in 1250. The buildings all around the city, not just Gamla Stan, accentuate the history of the area. Also, I have always loved seeing how old architecture is combined with modernistic styles that preserve the timepiece but also reinvigorate the building (or entire town) to be a useful space again. Stockholm does just that. The city even places ordinances on certain districts to maintain the architectural history and culture.

But to give you a better idea of what Gamla Stan is truly like, there's no better way than to walk in the narrow streets up close to all of the colorful facades. Fun fact: the narrowest named street in Gamla Stan is no wider than a meter. This accolade also hints to the rich history of the city. Although there seems to be a labyrinth of streets here, it is quite easy to find your way throughout the entire city. The districts are more or less broken down by islands. So, for example, Gamla Stan is a small island in the middle of the city, all on its own. So, no matter which way you walk, you'll always run into water. 

Next, Strandvägen. The most sought after place to live in Stockholm (and subsequently, the most expensive). It was reported that a woman waited over twenty years for an apartment on this street. And I'm not saying she was waiting for a certain apartment. No. She was willing to take ANY apartment on this street. Now, the lady is in her seventies, finally enjoying her small, hardwood-floored piece of paradise.

Later, walking ever further away from the city center, Tim and I arrived at the telecom tower, which is (supposedly) the highest structure in all of Scandinavia. The tower, more specifically named Kaknästornet, houses a restaurant at the top, providing a birds-eye view of the city in all 360 degrees. One thing that struck odd to me was the lack of a city skyline. But then I recalled that this isn't the US, where almost all of our cities tend to incorporate skyscrapers of some fashion. But, as mentioned previously, Stockholm takes pride in it's heritage. In a way, although the city is old, it's a breath of fresh air away from the metallic, rectangular protrusions we're all too familiar with.

Away from the cities and architecture, Tim and I were also very interested in Sweden's government. I mean, after all, Stockholm is the capital. We took a guided tour of the Parliament building. But we were quite intrigued with the whole government that we ended up returning to Parliament the next day to join the gallery and watch the politicians do their business. We were lucky the day we went because the agenda was filled with nothing but discussions on the national budget, something us Americans are sorely familiar with back at home.

Finally, since I'm drawing comparisons to the US government, the last photo here is of Sweden's "white house." Or, rather, "white apartment." Yes, the white building seen below, flanked but the government buildings on either side, is where the prime minister resides while holding office. Quite modest compared to the real White House.

Naturally I did many more activities throughout the city during the course of my four day stay, but I think you get a general idea of Stockholm. Things I didn't include were the palace, treasury, etc. since photography was not allowed inside the palace. I do want to note one thing while mentioning the palace. Security for all of these official buildings is very, very, very lax. I never had to go through security to go through the royal apartments in the palace (although I did go through a checkpoint to gain access into the Parliament building). Or, from the prime minister's residence, people are up close and personal to the building, unlike our president's home. After witnessing all of this, you really do understand how safe Sweden really is. I never feel nervous walking around anywhere in Sweden, even at night. It's a great feeling!

So, I'm going to wrap this post up. It's already long enough. Keep checking back this week for the next two entries in this series highlighting my trip across the Baltic Sea.

Finally, I want to dedicate this post and the rest of the posts in this series in the loving memory of a passed family friend, Faith Fearer, who died of natural causes right before my trip. I wanted to dedicate this to her for two reason: 1) it is the best way I know how to honor her passing, although it doesn't do much justice, but also 2) she always enjoyed reading my blog posts and told my mother how much she enjoyed them. So, with that being said, this one is for you Faith!

As always, if you have a good word, feel free to drop a comment below and keep checking back from more awesome adventure reports. Skål!

- Jonathan

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Engineering Abroad

Obviously, classes are really different here in New Zealand, as they are in every country, but I thought it would be interesting to compare the engineering program, classes and uni life at AUT to Clarkson. 

Well, I am only actually taking 2 engineering classes here at AUT; manufacturing technology and mechanical design and analysis. The biggest difference that I've noticed is the informality between students and professors and having almost no homework ever. At Clarkson, it is rare that a professor knows more than half of his students by name and class time is usually only for teaching with very few questions. At AUT, the professors know every student by name and have probably had them in class multiple times before. They start the class off with a casual conversation and joke around with the class throughout the lecture. Students interact and ask tons of questions during the lectures and it all has a very laid back atitude. 

The mechanical engineering curriculum here is focused more towards manufacturing and design heavy with hands on classes like solidworks and welding in the first year. I started taking private welding classes a few weeks ago with an awesome professor who offered to teach me in his free time since I didn't know how.

Although it does seem a lot less intense and my workload has decreased by about 90% since last semester, I am still happy to be going back to Clarkson to finish my degree. I feel like I will gain more getting a degree from Clarkson and I am grateful to be able to spend a semester seeing how mechanical engineering is taught differently in other countries. Also, AUT is a huge university and most kids are from Auckland and dont live in student housing which is a negative for me because it doesn't really have a university feel like Clarkson does being in a small town. 


I havent been doing much of anything besides planning for trips and booking flights and studying; not much to write about... But I'm going to Thailand on Saturday for 2 weeks and I am so excited and then I will have tons to tell you and lots of photos! 

Here are some photos from my Easter trip to Waiheke Island which consisted of eating tons of food, lying on the beach and visiting some beautiful wineries. 


 Me and some other AUTers before running the Queen Street Mile
 Onetangi Beach in Waiheke
 First sight of Waiheke island from the ferry
 The View from our hostel
We visited some beautiful wineries around the island