Letters, Thoughts & Rants

End of First Year

First year is coming to a close. People are packing up their rooms, saying goodbye, and leaving Swansea for the summer. I myself am leaving with an addiction to Starbucks, a newfound appreciation for folk music, and a feeling of nostalgia for the past year.

This has been the fastest yet most life changing year I’ve ever had. I can’t imagine my life before university and I can’t believe I have been away from home for so long. I’ve only been in the United States for a total of three weeks since September 2014. I have changed immensely while being here. I even look different. The Andie in September seems years younger than me right now, but I am still the same age as her, and last time I was home, I was her. (Preach time: age is really just a number. It’s all about experiences.) Before you leave, you wonder how much it will change you. There isn’t really an answer to that besides that it just does. Experiencing this year at uni has made me grow so much, and that combined with traveling has made me gain so much confidence in myself. It’s weird because I honestly can’t believe how brave I was deciding to live abroad. Obviously, I couldn’t fully grasp what I was getting myself into, but I’m glad for that. Right before I left, I was sad and a little scared to leave home. I knew I’d never be this young again and that life wasn’t so serious yet. However, looking at myself now, I am so much happier. I would have never gone out of my shell and tried new things if I didn’t leave home. I needed it. The thought of home now has evolved into something much more meaningful, even though I didn’t think it could ever expand any more.

Despite worries of homesickness, I didn’t get homesick at all this year until about April, which is an impressive amount of time without getting homesick if you ask me. I can understand why homesickness is so overwhelming now. It’s a hard thing to want to go back home when you’re so far away. It’s easy to start to dislike differences in culture and whatnot, but it’s a very bad habit to get into. I did find ways to help it a bit though. I took walks, listened to music, Skyped friends and family, watched Welsh slang YouTube videos, and I watched House Hunters International. Oddly enough, House Hunters International really helped. Most importantly though, I became friends with Leah from Canada. Having a fellow North American with whom you can share your struggles with and also share the excitement of being in another country with is really what helped me the most. Homesickness is an isolating feeling and people can never really understand it unless they leave home and experience it themselves, but it is something that you can get through. Overall though, it was a lot less of a problem than I thought it would be.

To answer everyones question: my favourite part was probably meeting all of the different people from different places with different accents. It’s cool to learn about people and culture and where everyone is from! And by the way, asking what someone’s favourite part was is a very broad question and it’s difficult to answer because you can’t just choose one favourite part out of a big life changing experience. 🙂

At this point it will be hard to revert back to US spelling and slang, but I am going to try to keep my UK side as well. Personally, I think it’s better. Heehee.

Seeing how much I’ve changed in just one year, I can’t imagine what I’ll be like at the end. It’s a bit overwhelming at times, but knowing how many friends I’ve made, how many places I’ve been, and how much I’ve grown as a person, I would never change my decision to come here. Plus now I only have two years left of university 😉

Knowing that in a few days I get to wake up in my own home and see my friends, my family, and my cat has brought many tears to my eyes.

I love you Wales, but I am ready for you, Minnesota! Bring on the humidity, stormy nights, and even the mosquitos!

Me in September

Me in September

Me in June!

Me in June!

Song of the day:

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Thoughts & Rants

“You Guys Bomb Everything”

Twice now I have had incidents where someone made a joke about America bombing everything. Both times happen to be when I was playing pool with an almost complete stranger.

The first time with someone who I had known for a few hours. I was playing pool and I missed a shot and moaned about it, and he says to me “calm down miss nuke”. I slightly glare at him and he says “don’t go bombing anything, okay?” while my other friend whispers in my ear “Japan!”.

The second time was again with someone who I had only known for about an hour. I meet some guys at another table and they realise I’m American and compliment my teeth (it happens a lot. Americans actually do have better teeth) and I brag about how I never had braces (as you do). They ask me about America and the girl I’m playing pool with randomly says to me “you guys bomb everything.” As I realise this is the second time this has happened to me in less than a month, I reply, very annoyed, “well you guys invade everything.”

I realise that the comments are sarcastic and joking, however the first one genuinely made it sound like I had something to do with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the second one was just like, really? You’re going to mention this right now? People either believe in the American dream and assume that everyone lives a perfect life, and other people criticise every aspect of the United States and believe everybody has a gun and we all shoot each other constantly. Both of these are equally frustrating. Part of me thinks that they’re still hurt that we left and created the Declaration of Independence.

I just needed a good rant about this. Thanks for staying with me to the end.

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Adventures

In Which I Eat Soup With the Elderly

On Wednesday my friend Leah and I decided to go to St. Mary’s, the catholic church in Swansea city centre (not to be confused with St. Mary’s of the Lake in White Bear Lake 😀 ) . We wanted to go mainly just to check it out, but also because it had been awhile since either of us had gone to church. We decided to see what it was like so we went to the lunchtime service at 12:45.

Just some interesting information: St. Mary’s church has been around since the 12th century, however it was destroyed in the Blitz in 1941 and wasn’t rebuilt until the late 1950s.

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Leah and I entered the church and it was completely empty, except for a few old folks drinking coffee and eating cake in a little makeshift cafe. After a few minutes of aimlessly walking around, we realised that the service wasn’t taking place there, but in the chapel in the back. We followed the signs and entered a small circular room with about 15 chairs circling around an altar. It was just me, Leah, and a bunch of elderly Welsh people. I’ve never been in a church that small or intimate but it yet it was comforting experience. It was actually nice saying the responses because it was something that I did basically every day in my childhood. It’s hard to forget things like that.

When we gave peace, everyone and the priest included, enthusiastically walked around to each other and shook hands. They were incredibly welcoming to Leah and I. During Eucharist a lady motioned for Leah and I to join everyone in a circle as the priest gave out the bread and wine. This was slightly uncomfortable for Leah and I because we couldn’t help but think of the germs that must’ve been on the wine glass. But whatever, we laughed about it (on the inside of course. I had repressed my church giggles this time, except for when the priest mentioned the prime banter he had earlier in the day with some school children).

After the service they all invited us to eat lunch with them in the room behind the chapel. This was the best part of the whole experience. We sat at a long table with the 15 other old Welsh people and ate chicken noodle soup, drank tea, and had dessert. We introduced ourselves to everyone and they immediately recognised that we were both North Americans. A few of them had been to Iowa and Illinois before and it was weird to think that they’ve been there before I have. One of them also saw Jimmy Carter at the Sainsbury’s in town once. He was there for the opening of the Dylan Thomas Centre. We talked about their grandchildren, university, the queen (who is having lunch with the priest in Cardiff next week!) and other elderly gossip. Leah and I both found it really easy to talk to them. I’ve never met a nicer or more welcoming group of people in my life. One of the reasons being that I’m sure they never see young people in church. Compared to America, the United Kingdom is very unreligious. People assume you’re agnostic or atheist before they assume that you’re Catholic or another religion. So for them to see two young people in church on a Wednesday afternoon must have been a shock. I think they were also excited just to see young people in general.

This is one of the best experiences I’ve had abroad so far. Talking to locals, especially elderly locals, is a great way to connect with a city. It not only is a way for you to learn about the city, but it’s comforting and good to have connections outside of university.

When we left they all wished us luck in our studies and invited us to come back. One woman even gave me the church schedule and showed me which times are best to attend. I hope to go back sometime soon. Leah is an exchange student so sadly she wouldn’t be able to accompany me, but maybe I can become BFFs with an old lady and go with her or something.

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Adventures

Piercings and Phones: An Erotic Friend Fiction

I told my friend Kate McCoshen, aka Hey Poofy (follow her blog here. do it. she’s wonderful), about when I went to the piercing shop and got my ear and belly button pierced, and how the tattoo guy hit on me. Kate asked if she could write an erotic friend fiction about it and so of course I said yes! This is nothing like how it happened, however merely inspired by it. Or was it? You’ll never know. Let your imagination run wild.


It was a cloudy day, much like any other day in the great country of Wales. A young American girl, Andie “innocent” Chapin set off to start her life in this country. She dreamed of culture, she dreamed of knowledge, she dreamed of friendship, but she never thought of finding love until this fateful day.

Andie wanted to be edgy, she didn’t want to be seen as some naive American, after all she even drank her tea with milk now-a-days. If that’s not European sophistication I really don’t know what is.

Her and a few of her good mates took a sensual stroll to the local tattoo and piercing shop. Obviously, the most sophisticated one they could find. As they opened the door a wind kept it open, but not just any wind. This wind had colors of lust and adoration that not even Pocahontas could paint with. There he was, the dim lights of the tattoo parlor seemed to all focus on him, which really is concerning because there were people getting tattoos at the time and like how well can a tattoo artist work with poor lighting I mean come on guys. His arms were covered in beautiful tattoos that were almost as beautiful as his chiseled jaw line.

Andie grew red as she realized her stare had lingered. Little did she know that he was still watching her, lust twinkling in his dark brown eyes.

“Hey” he started confidently breaking the sexual tension. Andie looked around the room confused. Could this god among men really be talking to her? Just an American girl?

“Oh, well hello there.” She was cool, she was collected. She was there to get a piercing, not meet the lust of her life. As she walked away, his stare continued to linger, as if she was the Bella to his Edward, the Hermione to his Ron, or the Kanye to his Kanye.

Finally it was time to get the piercing, the piercing to prove how mature she was. She was a woman now, and the world needed to know. He continued to flirt with her, holding his gaze. Flirting, ever so casually making her feel like the only girl in Wales, or at least that tattoo parlor.

Freshly pierced and ready to take on the world, when he swooped in and stopped her in her tracks.

“I need you to know, I wasn’t complete until I saw your face. I was lost without you Andie. Will you please be my American girl?” He slides her his number ever so smoothly, her friends giggling in the distance.

When she returned to her courters, her friends were distraught to discover that Andie had lost the mans number. Little did they know, she actually didn’t lose it, she threw the number away. Andie didn’t need a man to be happy, she was an independent woman. Plus his butt was only a solid 4/10 and she quite frankly knew that she could do better.

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Thoughts & Rants

How to Spot an American (in just 4 easy steps!)

Here are some helpful hints and tricks to make it easier for you to spot an American in your everyday life. The best part is, all you need to do is look at what they’re wearing. Let’s get started!

As Drake did, we will start from the bottom. Look at their shoes! Are they wearing…

A. Toms or Sperrys…friggin sperrys…

B. Really intense running shoes, probably bright pink or blue

C. Those tall pleather boots, brown or black.

Next, we will move on to their trousers (not pants lol I’m British now). Are they wearing…

A. American Eagle jeans. Just took at the butt pocket. It says it all.

B. Leggings or baggy sweatpants

C. Actual jeans. Like an actual pair of jeans. Probably medium wash.

It’s probably raining outside! Look at their jacket. Are they wearing…

A. An American college sweatshirt. Probably an east or west coast college. People in the midwest don’t seem to leave.

B. A Patagonia, Columbia, or North Face heavy duty rain jacket that someone would typically wear camping.

C. No jacket at all. They’re trying to beat the weather. They’ll soon find that they can’t.

One last step! Are they wearing…

A. One of those big ass backpacks that college students typically use. Probably again from a company that also makes camping gear. The backpack is most likely holding a water bottle and a carabiner.

B. All of the above

C. A and B

Now we’re here! If you’ve answered A, B, or C to any of the above questions, then they are definitely American. Good luck with that!

-I have gained all of this knowledge just by standing in the Starbucks line on campus. Day in and day out. I think when people think of Wales they immediately think camping and go straight to REI.

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Differences, Thoughts & Rants

The Struggles: A Collection of American Complaints and First World Problems

The other day I thought to myself “Aw, Menards. What a nice place.” Then I continued to reminisce about the aisles upon aisles of light fixtures, tools, carpets, windows, doors, old people. The hunting gear section and the large selection of knock-off candy and jolly ranchers. The harsh fluorescent lighting and the ever-present smell of wood and dirt. And then I took a step back. The daydream ended and I just realised that I got nostalgic for Menards. What even is that? You know you’re at a weird point in your life abroad when you start to miss Menards or even the hell on earth that is Joann Fabrics.

A few nights ago my friends and I walked to McDonalds. It was 8:30pm and raining, but we were hungry and hadn’t really left our rooms in about four days. On the forty minute walk to McDonalds I had to decide between choosing a burger or chicken nuggets. Once we arrived and after much thought, we walked up to the register and I ordered chicken nuggets. She asked what sauce I wanted and I said ‘honey’, completely and totally ready to dip back into my childhood when I used to eat chicken nuggets and honey all the time, the perfect savoury and sweet combination, and not have to worry about it going to my thighs. Tonight was the night to not worry about it going to my thighs. I had just walked two miles and I was going to walk another two miles back. That dream however was crushed. ‘Honey? What? We don’t do that here…’ my friend intervened. The thought of chicken nuggets with honey repelled everyone around me and yet again I was alone, honey-less, with only the taste of the heavenly meal in my memories. I ended up getting barbecue sauce. I love you barbecue sauce, but you’ll never be the honey to my chicken nuggets. Europe doesn’t know what they’re missing.

Also, McDonalds is trying this thing where they are doing a ‘great tastes around America’ and this week it was the Miami Burger which is described as ‘ beef patty with Sunblush tomato sauce, bacon, two slices of cheese, shredded lettuce, onions and cool mayo, in an oval sesame seed bun.’ How is that in any way Miami? I have yet to find out. Next week is the Texas BBQ burger. Now thats just stereotypical.

Seriously, just watch this video. They hate us. Or they love us. I can’t tell.

After I ordered my chicken nuggets, the woman at the till asked what kind of mcflurry I wanted. The options were smarties, galaxy, dairy milk, and crunchie. This is when I realised that smarties are something totally different here. Smarties here are small chocolate circle things. I haven’t tried them but they look like m&ms so lets just say that they’re basically m&ms.

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Smarties in the United States are different. Have you ever tried to describe what smarties are to someone who has no idea? It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to describe.

‘It’s small circle candy and it comes in different colours.’

‘Oh, so like m&ms?’

‘No its not chocolate. It’s powdery.’

‘So it’s just powder then?’

‘No it’s like powder but in circles that melts in your mouth…It comes in a small roll in plastic.. It doesn’t really taste like anything. It just tastes like…smarties.’

For all of you European readers, here is what I’m talking about. They aren’t even good, but somehow I still get excited when I get them. You don’t buy smarties, you get smarties. Either from your teacher, at a parade, or on halloween. Or if you buy one of the big packs that comes with dum dums, nerds, and laffy taffys. That’s it.

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On another sweet note, when I visited my dad he gave me a care package that my mom put together (thanks guys!) that came with hershey’s kisses. They don’t have those here, unless you go to an American candy store and buy it 50% above market price. But you’d think out of all of the candy and chocolate in America, hershey’s kisses would have made it across the pond by now. I mean if a crunch bar made it, why wouldn’t this? Somehow though, it’s not a thing here. But that gave me an exciting opportunity to force it down my friends throats! Just kidding, it wasn’t like that. Ha ha ha. Their reactions were priceless. Upon first inspection one of my friends goes ‘so I can eat this?’ and another one simply just stares at it in their hands, peering at it from every angle. A few other friends were amazed at the way you open it. “That’s some engineering, that is!” exclaiming about the little strip of paper that you open it with. I’m bad at describing things. Here’s a picture.

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They all enjoyed it though. Most of them said it tasted like Christmas chocolate. But does that imply cheap chocolate? Huh.

One more thought on chocolate, I just found out that galaxy chocolate and dove chocolate are the same thing. I just thought the states didn’t have galaxy, and the UK didn’t have dove, but now that I know that they’re the same thing, this changes everything! Dove chocolate became in a thing in the US in 1956, and was introduced to the land of brits in 1960 under the name ‘galaxy’. Not sure why they need a different name, but whatever. You’d think they’d be the ones with the Declaration of Independence because of the number of things that they changed the name of when they came across the pond. TJ Maxx/TK Maxx, Lays/Walkers, Hokey Pokey/Hokey Cokey, Axe/Lynx, even their Doritos flavours (nacho cheese/chili heatwave, cool ranch/cool original, they even have a tangy cheese flavour which I’m not sure if we have an equivalent to.). The struggle continues because our Three Musketeers is their Milky Way and our Milky Way is their Mars Bar. I could go on. For the longest time, I thought dove chocolate was from the same company that makes dove soap. I figured the soap company wanted to tailor to women’s needs even more and make a chocolate company, but I guess I was wrong the whole time. You really learn something new everyday.

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So this is a true American teenage problem. The United Kingdom does not seem to be a fan of Mexican food. They have a few Chipotles in London, and like two Taco Bells somewhere, but otherwise it is non-existent. I was lucky to have Chipotle (chip-ote-lay not chip-ot-el 😀 ) in London but sadly it was watery and I really don’t think a burrito bowl should be watery. I also had to explain to someone what a burrito was and how that was different from a taco. Then again, they know much more about Indian food than I do. At least Tesco sells Old El Paso stuff but like my friend Ceci from El Paso says, it’s not even Mexican food. She also says Chipotle isn’t Mexican food. But I don’t care, it’s still delicious.

Lately I genuinely consider myself to be 20 years old. I feel 20. I’m surrounded by mostly 20 year olds, some 19 and some 21, but either way they’re still all older than me. It’s strange that I’m only 18 right now, but I guess I should cherish it while I can. On the Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Mr. Moseby once said “how do you lose a women?” and the great Cody Martin replied “you forget to cherish her.” So I guess I’ll take Cody’s advice and cherish myself before I lose my young age. Ja feel?

To end this post on a light-hearted note something nice happened. It was Leah’s first time ever sending a letter in the mail (she’s 21. crazy, I know) and I was showing her how to do it. We just bought stamps and walked over to the post box and I said to her “before you put the letters in, you need to kiss them, otherwise they won’t get there” and without even blinking or saying anything, the guy next to us kissed his letter and put it in the post box. He knew I was kidding but he went along with it. It was amazing.

That’s all the ranting I have for now. Thanks for putting up with me ya’ll. (I’ve started saying y’all now. I didn’t think coming to the United Kingdom would do that to me. But it happened).

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