After a Leave of Absence…

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Reader,

It had occurred to me that keeping a personal journal while in a foreign land would be a good idea, but then I thought: why keep it personal? All of my thoughts are my own, but they can be yours too. So then it was decided: I’ll make a blog.

If you’ve looked really into my blog, you’ll notice that I have some earlier posts from 2013. Those were for  my very first college course at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. I plan to leave them up for the sake of nostalgia. Read them if you like, and see if (or how much) I’ve grown since.

I plan on keeping this unfiltered, so there may or may not be non kid-friendly material at times. The things written will be the way that I experienced them: with no sugarcoating. On the same token, I won’t be going out of my way to be vulgar; I’m not that kind of person. In essence, the posts will be around a PG-13 rating.

In any case, my hope is to inform other people of the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of studying abroad and spending six months in a different country. I certainly hope that this helps, or is at least entertaining. Thank you for reading.

-Shane

Fun in London

Reader,

This previous weekend, my flatmates and I traveled to London for a little adventure. I guess I can just start off by saying that it was an incredible journey. We left on Friday afternoon around 4:30 to catch a bus to Colchester North Train Station. The bus ride was pretty much what all of us had been experiencing up to that point: vaguely uncomfortable, but inexplicably exciting. The train ride, I’ll admit, was something that I was looking forward to for a time. I can’t remember if I’ve ever ridden an above-ground train before this instance, so it was a new experience for myself and for some of the others with me. Although it was a short 45 minute ride from Colchester Station to Liverpool Street Station, it was a good experience.

We then had to take the “tube,” the UK subway system, from Liverpool Street to a station called Penge East. There were a few different trains between the two, but all in all, it was like any other subway experience that anybody has ever had: cramped, uncomfortable, and slightly smelly. We finally got to Penge East and made our way to camp. When I use the word ‘camp’ here, I mean a beautiful little home that we rented for the weekend. Set in a little suburb, this place was miles above any hostel out there, and  it only cost each person (out of ten people) £22 for the weekend. Although the flat was nice, the real fun would take place that night and the next day.

Around 10:30 pm, we all left for a night club called The Zoo located right in the heart of London. We arrived around eleven and didn’t leave until they kicked us out at around 3:30 the next morning. Needless to say, we had a few drinks and danced the night away. The club definitely lived up to it’s name; that is to say: there were a LOT of people in there. And in short, some of them looked like they belonged in the clubs namesake.

Continuing on with the journey, the next day we actually hit the city as tourists. We took the tube back to Liverpool Street and sort of wandered off from there. We saw most of the pertinent sights which you’ll find on my pictures page. Big Ben, the Tower of London, London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, etc. Be aware, though, this does not mean we saw everything. There is a followup trip planned for the spring so that we can better appreciate things, as it was pretty frigid out.

All in all, the trip wasn’t too terribly expensive, but my wallet did wince a few times at the prices of food in the city. I would recommend packing a light meal or a snack to save a little extra, but it’s really of no consequence. I do think that the most money spent was on the Oyster Card which is the thing you use to ride the tube.

One last thing to note: the people you travel with make the trip what it is. I’m lucky to have made so many good friends so quickly who were a joy to travel with. The group of friends, who I will write about another time, I traveled with were essentially the keystone to having a good time. That being said, pick your friends wisely.

-Shane

Setting Up Camp

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Reader,

It has almost been a week since I’ve left Pennsylvania and made my trip to Colchester, England. It is incredible how much I’ve done and experienced in that time. I’ve met so many people and seen so much in such a short period of time and I really hope the rest of my stay continues on this way.

To start from the beginning, I was very anxious about the trip as a whole; in fact, I still am. I was anxious about the plane ride, customs, and getting to the university, but after going through with the whole of it, it became clear to me that I was making a much bigger deal out of it than I should have. Even though it was the first time in my life that I’d ever traveled alone, everything worked out better than I had expected.

The plane ride here was no trouble, but that wasn’t exactly what I was worried about. The things that gave me the most trouble were customs and getting to the university after touching down in Heathrow. Customs turned out to be nothing short of a breeze. Some important things to know about it is that if you are staying for six months or less, you only need a short term student visa which you can get at the customs desk at the airport. The few things you need for it are a passport, proof of stay at the university (this will be mailed to you from the university), and proof that you can sustain yourself while staying (a parent’s pay stub or bank account will suffice). You can apply for it ahead of time, but it seems like a much larger hassle that way.

Once through customs, the next step had seemed the hardest for me: getting from the airport to Uni. Buses, trains, and taxis can be pretty confusing and expensive at times, but they don’t have to be. If you’re doing the Fall term, there will most likely be a specific coach from the airport to Essex. If not, you’ll have to get there on your own. It may seem a little daunting, but with a little planning it will be easy and straightforward. It is best to get a coach by National Express to Colchester town center and then nab a taxi from there to the university. Buy the bus ticket in advance and have it printed out and ready to go for easiest travel. A word of caution: delayed flights can happen and often do, so the best defense is buying the protection package that they offer. It’s only a little bit extra and it’s worth the peace of mind.

Once I arrived on campus, things seemed to even out so to speak. Most of my anxiety dispersed and I was mostly just tired. I went and got all of the necessary items from the designated areas and took my bags to my room. Luckily, I met a friend from the university that helped me find my way. One would think that a nap would be in order after a long travel, but that’s actually the last thing you’d want to do. It will make the jet lag even worse. Just try to stay up until it is actually time to sleep in England time. As for me, I went with my friend to one of the bars on campus and met some of her friends and got something to eat. We all stuck around for a few hours and chatted over a few drinks until about 8 p.m. I headed back to my room to unpack my things and set up my room. Then came some much needed sleep, as I was pretty exhausted.

That’s all for this post. Look for more posts describing my flat, my new friends, and my new adventures later on this week. Thank you for reading, and I hope you liked it. Feel free to leave any thoughts, questions, or comments you have for me or anyone else.

-Shane

Writing is Important? Says Who?

‘Bout That Time Again, Eh?

Well, Monday is rolling around again, and you know what that means. Here comes another pretentious and hardly entertaining blog post.

Wonderful.

Either way, I’m thinking that the subject matter of today’s blog will be writing in general. Writing is something I can easily relate to class because, well, it’s Foundations of College Writing; writing is in the name for the sake of a man named Pete. I have to wonder where that came from, but it’s irrelevant. Writing is something that’s beautiful and horrid at the same time. Writing can move an individual in so many ways. In all senses, it is one of the most perfect things in the world, and yet it is still so flawed. “Nsk38596, stop being so cryptic and weird and just get to the point.” As you wish: writing is a way to express yourself in a more permanent manner. Isn’t it true that if you tell someone to do something, there’s a chance they will, but if you write a note or something of the like, there’s a much better chance? Think about it: how is it that we’re so much better organized when we write things down?

In the beginning, regardless of what you believe, man didn’t just know how to write. Somewhere along the line, someone thought it would be a good idea to have a means of communication that wasn’t verbal or non-verbal (in this case, non-verbal refers to body language and the like). Farther down the line, books were made, most importantly, the Bible. I say most importantly because that piece of writing alone changed the course of history drastically. Imagine what the world would be like today if the Bible or the Torah or the Quran didn’t exist. What kind of functioning religions would there be if writing wasn’t a thing? As a humanist, it is my belief that religion can go either way; religion can be a great benefit, however it can also be a great detriment. For the sake of not being eaten alive, I won’t say which religions I think fit in which category. Do you think that life would be functionally different were it not for the Bible? Consider all of the Christianization that has taken place since its establishment. Different groups would control different continents and areas… Or would they? Would there be different groups, or could all of humanity have bonded together? Just kidding. That will never happen for as long as humans remain human. Whether or not you know it, every person is a little bit sociopathic. Groups and cliques (the term ‘tribes’ could possibly work better here) would form no matter what.

It is my belief that writing, for better or for worse, has contributed greatly to humankind and will continue to do so. I don’t want it to go away, and I don’t think it will, but a society like the one described in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 might not be too far off. I shudder to think about it. So, for the sake of my sanity and the world’s well-being, don’t stop writing. And remember: writing doesn’t just include the things you’re assigned in school and work, writing is so much more. When you write on your own terms, writing can actually be fun. Keep it in mind.

Write On,

Shane

The Despised and Feared

Greetings from the Dorm,

I’m going to be blunt right now and tell you that I really haven’t the slightest idea of what to write. I have literally sat in this wooden chair for the past hour and a half just kind of staring at the screen. Fortunately, this gave me an idea: I should write about a little thing called “Writer’s Block.” And I shall.

Writer’s block, for those fortunate souls who have never experienced it, is something individuals in the writing world despise. With a passion. Writer’s block is when it seems like your brain can’t think of anything and/or your hand just will not write anything. It is, admittedly, a very difficult thing to deal with as a writer of any magnitude. Whether you write a novel a week like Stephen King (of course, he did cocaine like a fiend for a number of his books) or an essay once a year, “the block” is still ridiculous. As far as the ‘condition’ goes, I’ve heard of many ways to fix it. It’s as if writer’s block is a cold and there are countless wives tales and remedies that I couldn’t begin to list them all. As such, I’ll just give a few.

The first and foremost method of curing writer’s block has always been (for me) just writing in pen or pencil the word “block” or words “writer’s block” over and over again until my mind is forced to think of something just to break up the monotony. I have used this method religiously and it has gotten me through several essays and papers, albeit with a very sore hand. Other common methods are: reread the entire thing (this is also helpful to catch any mistakes or even to do some early revision) and see if that sparks any prolific writing spurts, walk away for a little and give yourself some time to recuperate, or stare blankly at the screen (sometimes for hours) until you come up with something.

Some methods work well for certain people, others don’t work at all. Please, don’t quote me on these. Rather, I should say, use these methods at your own risk. I don’t want anyone waiting until the last minute on a paper thinking that with these “foolproof” methods, they’ll be able to crank it out no problem, and when it comes down to crunch time, they get the block and can’t break free of it, then blaming it on me. I can hear now, “Shane, you lying simpleton! How dare you give me false confidence and subsequently cause me to fail my paper? Noooooooo!” I doubt it would play out exactly like that; I feel like, as Dr. Martin so often says, “they’d be using their four-word vocabulary.”

So, some things to keep in mind: writer’s block is bad no matter who you are, there are many methods of disposing of it, and none of them are foolproof. Also, don’t get mad at me if they don’t work out.

Happy Writing,

Shane

My Not-So-Much-Awaited Second Blog

G’day Reader,

In the past week of Foundations of College Writing, which in actuality was only Wednesday and Friday, we covered two things: plagiarism and how to not do it, and ePortfolio. I am not able (or maybe not willing) to go into great detail about either, but I will do my best. At least you have the grand opportunity to hear my opinion. Oh joy.

On the subject of plagiarism: it is a terrible thing; thousands, if not millions plagiarize every day and most don’t even know it. I feel bad for both parties involved: those who are doing the dirty deed, and those who have the misfortune of writing something so powerful and moving that someone would feel compelled to relay that idea or quote to another person without giving credit to said writer. As the Spanish would say, “iAy, que pena!” Or as we Americans would so gracefully put it, “That sucks!” In any case, plagiarism is very inconsiderate regardless of situation, despite my sarcasm. Fundamentally, it is stealing. Consider the episode of Spongebob Squarepants where title character Spongebob and friend Patrick “steal” a balloon. Now that you’ve considered it, forget it completely. I highly doubt there will be a day similar to National Free Balloon Day except with famous pieces of writing.

Moving on.

Back to the subject of stealing: plagiarism is most definitely intellectual theft, plain and simple. It may not seem like such a big deal to some, and I may be one of those some, however it is serious (or so I’m told). It really doesn’t seem that bad to me simply because nobody has ever taken my quotes or ideas because, well, I don’t have very many! This is not to say that I don’t think or don’t speak/write, it is to say that I am no exemplar when it comes to those matters. If ever I become talented enough to be plagiarized from (is that even the right use of the word?!), I’m certain I will be offended. Maybe not offended enough to sue or make a big deal out of it, but the point is there indeed. What bugs me about the whole plagiarism thing is: everything you say or think has already been said or thought. 999 times out of 1000, the things we do are not original. Someone has already “been there, done that, and got the tee shirt” if you will. So this begs the question: is everything we do plagiarized? And if so, is it then necessary to cite every little detail? All I have to say to that is: Damn. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has thought about this (ß reinforcement of prior point) and I know I won’t be the last. If you, dear reader, are sitting there and thinking, “Wow, this guy makes a good point,” be aware: you just might be the first person to think that about me. Congratulations! You have not plagiarized. If, as you were reading this, thought, “Wow, this guy should stop writing right now,” be aware: you are definitely not the first person to think that about me. You have plagiarized. May you be struck down where you stand. So, in summation, plagiarism is bad and you should never do it. But if it does happen, rest assured: you won’t die. You may be kicked out of school or sued, but you will not be killed. In the words of my favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut, “So it goes.”

Although I haven’t said more than one word about it, I haven’t forgotten about good ol’ ePortfolio. Regrettably, I will not be writing about it seeing as how I got carried away with the above tangent.

Much Appreciated,

Shane

My Much Awaited Very First Blog

Hello Reader,

Today marks a very important day: this is my first blog ever in the history of (this) man. On the same page, this is my first college assignment in… well… ever. As the subject stands, I can’t say I’m excited to be back into the “grind” of school work again, however, I am happy to be doing something other than sitting around on my ass and playing Xbox (although I do enjoy it to a point).

I digress. The first couple days of move in were tough; let’s be honest, here. I’ll admit, I was a little scared, but at the same time, I was excited for the “new beginning” standing in front of me. I know that most, if not all of us were a little homesick in the first couple of days here in Bloomsburg University. The apprehension might have been palpable as I walked up to my dorm room. I didn’t know what to think about the aspect of living with two other people that I had never before met in a place I had never been in. It was a level of alienation that I had never felt before. Sure, the first time hanging out with a new friend can be similar, but not to this magnitude. Suffice it to say: we’ve all had practice, but not an adequate amount to prepare for something like this. Maybe I’m speaking too freely, but I do think the whole “college life” thing is something that will take a little getting used to. Agreed, there are certain individuals who are “so ready” to get out of their old town and move on to the rampant hedonism (it’s not that bad; rampant hedonism sounded good in the context) that is college life. I wasn’t exactly one of those guys.

As far as the intro to college life, that’s all for now. Classes, though, are a different concern. As far as professors go, I think I’ll do alright. I was advised to keep some of my more personal thoughts just that, personal, as this blog is public (as are all blogs) and therefore anyone can view what I post, including my professors and other important figures. I will not flatter myself by thinking that any of them, save the one who assigned this, will actually remotely care about this post, or any of the subsequent posts to follow. Nevertheless, I do think that my schedule is rather inappreciable. I’m thinking that I’m not the only one with an 8 a.m. class every day. I’m also hoping that I am the only one with an 8 a.m. class because it pretty much sucks. I would wish this upon no-one (and when I say no-one, I don’t mean the cyclopes from the Odyssey, I mean no other person). Maybe I’m just complaining, but that is just not something I want to deal with every day. Complaining or not, all awful blog posts must come to an end, and I think that two ‘o clock in the morning is a good time to do so.

Thanks for Reading, and Continue Doing So With Whatever Material You Can Get Your Hands On,

Shane Kunkel