Long time no see (figuratively of course!). So obviously as I’m sure you’ve guessed from the long gap between this blog post and the previous one, I may have gotten a bit (a LOT/ TON/ RIDICULOUS AMOUNT OF TIME) behind on these. So my way of making up for all that is by making this blog post a super jam packed edition, and hopefully we can get back on schedule (but let’s be real that most likely won’t happen!).
So, cast your mind back to the 29th of November 2016 (now that I’m actually writing this out I realise just how far behind I truly am 😳). Unfortunately, this hadn’t been a very good day, as seeing the amount of work I had to do for my English final paper was beginning to stress me out. Plus the class that I had for English that day didn’t really help, as the professor just intimidated me more and made me feel more pessimistic. On top of this, I gave a pretty poor performance on the presentation that happened today in the politics class (curse my fear of public speaking!). I think I was just having a really off day all around.
In the evening though I felt much better after a loud knock on our flat’s door put everything into perspective. I open the door and find a random woman standing there, turns out she was raising money for the children who wouldn’t be getting much this Christmas at all. I’m very lucky for the opportunities I’ve been given and for all the things that I do have, so of course I gave her some money as I knew it would be doing so good. Plus, in return I got two little candy canes. A win win all around, plus I felt much better about my day after doing that.
The 30th of November was a pretty bog standard Wednesday for me, other than the fact that I got a very well timed package to go and pick up. I could guess straight away by the shape of it what it was and was very excited to open it. Unfortunately, I had do some work at the library first and had to wait until I got home in the evening to open it. It was of course an Advent Calendar! As a bonus, there was a printed copy of my flight details for the 21st of December and a Christmas card from the fam. I was really worried that I wasn’t going to have an advent calendar for 2016, so I was really grateful for this!
Moving swiftly along to the 1st of December, a pretty chill day even with all the classes I had. After opening the first door of my advent calendar I set off to the library fairly early in the morning to meet up with Hollie to try and write some of our papers before the English class. I waited for her in the group study section of the library with the really comfy chairs. They were so comfy that when she got there we just stayed in the same place instead of moving to a better suited area. After we’d chatted for a while, Hollie’s two friends Freya and Jo came and joined us. Freya and Jo needed to plug their laptops into the sockets and due to the clunky adapters us Brits need here in the U.S., they couldn’t plug it underneath another charger in the same socket. So instead of pulling someone else’s charger out without them knowing, we had to move to the other side of the section we were in. I also failed to mention but these chairs were not only very comfy, but also on wheels! So instead of getting up and moving the chairs like normal people, we frantically wheeled our chairs over to the other side whilst sitting down in quite the amusing fashion. It probably looked like we were all insane, but it was fun!
Our conversations ranged from Hollie’s pathetic excuse for a coffee that was basically just hot milk, my accent; it’s tendencies to have little burst of Welshness on certain words and some interesting Welsh words, the importance of an advent calendar and the suggestive ways fruit can be used to describe… well… you know what I mean. I don’t know about the other 3 but I didn’t get much work done, but it’s fine as I did quite a bit of it the night before. When lunch time came around they tried to sneak me into the cafeteria again, but unfortunately I was stopped this time and had to retreat. There weren’t many people getting food at all so I couldn’t really slip past this time, but oh well.
I had quite the scare on the 2nd of December. After a very productive day in the library and finishing all my weekly papers and completing 6 pages for one of my final papers, I was feeling pretty proud of myself as I was getting up from my desk. As I was walking away however, a police officer came up to me from behind and asked if he could talk to me about something. I was very taken aback and wandered what he wanted to talk to me about! What it was, was that someone had vandalized one of the restrooms on the third floor of the library and written some inappropriate things in permanent marker that they couldn’t remove. Why was he telling me all of this you may be asking? Well it turns out the description a witness had given of the person who did this was “A skinny (thanks for the boost in self confidence police officer 😒) white male, wearing blue jeans and a dark coat’. Which just so happened to fit me and what I was wearing. Those of you who know me well probably can’t picture me vandalizing anything and probably find the idea very funny. Never in my entire life have I been questioned by a police officer or accused of committing a misdemeanour, so this was all quite a shock to me.
He asked me if I wanted to tell him anything about it, as if they couldn’t find out who did it by questioning, they’d have to use CCTV footage to identify who did it and take matters much further. I refuted anything and everything he might have been implying about my actions, and insisted that I had literally spent all my time I had been at the library at the one desk I had been working at, and had not moved for the entire time I was there. Nevertheless, he still took down all my details like where I lived and my phone number. I tried to stay calm throughout the whole thing, but I did suffer a brain fart when he was asking me where I lived and it took me a few second to remember the specifics, which probably seemed really suspicious. After that was done I was free to go, feeling a lot less confident about myself then when I first got up to leave.
The weekend of the 3rd and 4th were very uneventful and other than work the only thing I did was FaceTime home on the Sunday to sort out Christmas gifts ideas for the family and try to get a grasp on what classes to take in the Spring semester. I feel like a lot of the next few days will mainly consist of not much else other than going to the library and working on final papers, so I may skip some days.
On the 5th of December I awoke to everything being covered in snow. I don’t think I’ve ever woken up to snow before without anticipating it, it felt magical, like something out of a fairytale (Okay, yes that’s overstating it a bit but it was cool). In the evening when I was in the library (what a surprise! I was in the library again!) the fire alarm went off. AGAIN! At this point I think I must have some sort of weird connection with fire alarms, because I’ve lost count of how many I’ve been in this semester! It’s like a moth to a flame, but the flame is a fire alarm and the moth is a Steffan.
December the 6th marked the final U.S. city class, which at the time was really weird to think about. I really enjoyed that class and have certainly learnt a lot from the content and the professor. Now all I needed to do was pass the exam on the 20th (SPOILERS: I passed!). Now the 8th of December was my first final exam! (it was really a multiple choice quiz but let’s just call it an exam). I wasn’t going to make the same mistake I made with the last politics exam. This time I wasn’t going to answer all the questions that I didn’t need to. I think it went well as after he went over the answers I got all but one of them correct. That makes 1 final down and 4 to go! The 8th was also the turn of my final English and Politics classes. I’ll miss chatting with Hollie before our English classes and our shared feelings of anxiety every time we entered the class. Other than that, I wasn’t going to really miss that class at all! The politics class has been very interesting, and I feel very lucky to have taken it and to be in the U.S. the same year a presidential election was going on (even despite the shocking result).
The 9th of December was the day I FaceTimed my mum to go over all my travel details and get the transportation to the airport booked, after that was done my transportation from Albany all the way to Crosswell was taken care of! On the 10th of December I awoke with a sore throat but didn’t think much of it as I just wanted to get on and sort everything out work wise. Unfortunately, throughout the day my throat just got worse and by the time it came to go to sleep I was having some serious difficulty nodding off. To make matters worse, my roommate came back really late and really drunk! He just burst into the room really loudly whilst I was still in quite a bit of discomfort which was annoying. I woke up the next day feeling terrible, I was tired and ill. Of all the times I could have gotten ill, it just had to be during finals when I needed to be at my best! I was also in the library really early and for quite a while today, my feelings could be summed up in the GIF below.
Monday the 12th of December started with a white blanket of snow covering everything in sight and I loved it! I still find it funny how much I love it every time it snows whilst everyone else around me hates it! Today was special in two ways, not only was it the day my first essay was submitted for finals (all 10 pages of it!), but it was also the final class of the semester for me! I have seriously learnt so much from the Public History class, and it’s made me realise that there are plenty of job opportunities for things you like, you just have to look hard enough. I think I recovered from my sore throat somewhat today and I felt a little better as I continued to work through the mammoth manic month of finals!
The 13th of December was the day I picked up my final care package from home for 2016. Once gain it featured sweets/chocolate from the UK (some Christmas ones this time, mini Terry’s Chocolate Orange? Yes please!) and a card with a long note written in it (plus some very festive drawings on the envelope, good job mum! :D). It was all perfect for the final push needed until I could head home! This loving package inspired me to buy my family extra little add on gifts for Christmas, nothing too crazy, just a little pin/badge each. I got Geraint a ‘Team Instinct’ pin (Team Mystic is best team though), as that’s his team and he’d been messaging me a lot about Pokemon Go whilst I’ve been at Albany. I got dad 3 anti Brexit badges that go with his ‘48%’ t-shirt I got him (one of the badges says “Brexshit” and it’s hilarious!). Finally, I got my mum a pin of a little swallow, as there’s always swallows flying around our house (even making their nests on our house, one even made a nest in our shed once!), plus I think that’s one of her favourite birds.
On Wednesday I had to submit my final English paper (all 10 horrid pages of it!) and I was very glad to be done with it! Jumping to the 15th, and as I was doing my work, it dawned on me. This was my last week in America, for this semester and for 2016. It’s strange to think I’ve spent around a quarter of 2016 in America, it’s even weirder to think that I’m going to spend more of my time as a 20 year old in America than at home in the UK!
Friday the 16th of December was the day that the UAlbany dance society would be holding their end of year performance, why am I telling you this? Well it’s because my ever excitable friend Rikako was part of the society and would be performing in it! The evening didn’t get of to the best start on my behalf, as I missed the buss going from Freedom quad to the main campus, which is where the performance was being held in the performing arts centre. So I ended up power walking/running there and was very out of breath when I arrived. Once we’d all bought our tickets we sat down in the theater and I was able to catch up with the others, as I hadn’t seen them since the end of November!
The performance opened up with a group of girls dressed in army outfits doing a lot of moves that resembled the can can and then suddenly dropping down and all doing the splits! Rikako was in 3 of the performances and she was amazing in all of them! I was really impressed with her dancing skills and she looked like a natural up on stage, she’s very fun to watch as is always smiling and full of energy. Between about every 3 dances they’d take a break and the University’s acapella society group would come up on stage and perform. They were really good and were most certainly in sync with each other as a group. Plus their name was hilarious and only made me like them more! They were called ‘Pitch Please’! One of the routines they did was to ‘Wind it Up’, which made me nostalgic as this was one of the many songs that would wind up being played during various activities at our house in Swansea. At the end of the show we waited for Rikako to come out and congratulate her for a great performance. It had certainly put me in a better mood after a tough period of just writing essay after essay! (I’m currently writing this real time on the 8th of February, which just so happens to be Rikako’s Birthday! So if you’re reading this Rikako, Happy Birthday!!!)
My final paper was due on the 17th of December and it felt so good to be done writing papers for the year. I only had the online exam left now on the 2oth, so I ended up taking the rest of the day off. I didn’t care as the finish line was beginning to come into sight ad my Christmas in Crosswell awaited!
Now arrives the 20th of December and my final exam for 2016, it was an online exam so that was REALLY nice! Today was also Caitlin’s Birthday! So we all went out for food at ‘Dave and Busters’, a mix between a casual restaurant and an arcade. Food AND games!? A good combination in my book. I ended up going for some chicken thighs in some sort of honey roast sauce which tasted amazing. After food, we all went and played on some of the arcade machines and seeing as it was Caitlin’s birthday, she was treated to being able to play on quite a few of the machines for free! The rest of us had to pay for our goes on the machines by putting money onto a card (I still have money on my card so hopefully we end up going there again). There were tons of machines to choose from, although I think the best ones were the racing ones. They ranged from cars to bikes to even snowmobiles! Shooting, dancing and basketball hoops were also available on other machines if that was your type of thing. My personal favourite highlights of that evening were when one of the machines took your picture before racing and the shocked faces of surprise were hilarious. The other being when Rikako and Mijeon tried using the ‘Dance Dance Revolution’ machine, they were a bit obsessed with it after a while! It was a really fun evening, but there was a definite sense of melancholy as we were leaving. This was the last evening we would all spend together, as when Oda goes back home, she wouldn’t be coming back for the spring semester.
And so we arrive at the big day, the 21st of December! The day I fly back home!!! Today was going to be a LONG day, as I would be travelling pretty much for all of it. I got up very early this morning, as we’d all agreed to say goodbye to Oda one last time before her taxi arrived to take her to the airport. It took a while for her taxi to arrive at freedom and it was late by the time it got here. Once it did finally arrive, we all hugged her and said goodbye. It was a really sad feeling seeing the taxi drive off, and wondering when if/when we’d all see her again.
After I got back to my room to prepare to leave the reality of everything set in. I got really nervous and anxious thinking about how I was going to get all the way from my flat to JFK on my own. I decided to FaceTime home just to go over everything one last time. Due to the time difference my parents still hadn’t left for London yet, as they’s very kindly agreed to pick me up from Heathrow airport after staying there overnight.I had to print out my boarding pass and was stressed that I was going to have to rush all the way to the library to print it out. But luckily for me I hijacked my roommate’s printer (after much deliberation on getting it to actually work) and got the whole thing sorted.
The time had finally arrived to set off for home. I was only taking a small hand luggage sized suitcase and backpack home with me, as I didn’t really need to bring much home as I’d be coming back here in January anyway! I walked from my flat to Collins Circle, as the first part of my travels involved catching a bus from Albany to the bus station in New York City. I’d pre-bought all my tickets online, so it was only a matter of showing up on time. I thought it would be a good idea to get to Collins Circle around half an hour before the bus was scheduled to leave. When I got there, there was already a bus waiting. It didn’t have the logo of the bus company I’d booked with so I just waited a while to see what would happen. After seeing some people get on the bus I got very anxious and decided to take a page out of “worst case scenario Dad”‘s book and ask the guy checking the tickets what bus this was. Turns out it was my bus! So thank you dad! We may joke about your over cautiousness when it comes to things like this, but we know you only mean well and have our best interests at heart, and hey it served me well in this situation!
A 3-hour bus journey later and I was back in New York City for the 3rd time! Phase 2 of my trip back home involved navigating my way around the bus station to find where the airport bus shuttle goes from. But before I did that, I wanted to have a quick wonder around the city, seeing as it IS New York City. Plus, keep in mind that this would be New York City at Christmas. Being here at this time of the year I’m sure is on quite a few people’s bucket lists. So I feel very lucky to have been there (even if it was for a very short period of time) at the most wonderful time of the year. But before actually doing all that, I thought it would probably be best to find out where I got the shuttle bus from first.
Getting off the Albany bus, I found myself in a groggy underground corridor with several doors on either side that would take you on a different bus to wherever you needed to go. I had absolutely no idea where I was or where I should go, so I just ended up following some people up an escalator to another level. Here I spotted a digital sign with all of the bus times and routes on it. However, none of which mentioned an airport shuttle bus! I wasn’t panicking yet but I was certainly on the verge!
Now I’m going to be really horrid and end this entry here, mwahahah! Did I manage to find where I needed to go!? Would I have enough time to venture around New York City!? Will I ever get home!? Find out in the next instalment and thank you for reading!