Brandon Gomez ’14

With the New Year well underway and a new term beginning at York Uni, another chapter in my year abroad begins. But before jumping to what’s coming up or recent events, a recap of some major events last term is in order.

A while back Bridget Schelzi and I were fortunate enough to attend a York International Student Reception at the Lord Mayor’s Mansion House. Students from all over the world met to learn about the history of York, converse with one another over tea and biscuits, and see a part of the city few do. Overall the evening was a great highlight to my first term. Below is a picture from the reception!

Several weeks after the reception, we organized our own International Charlie Brown 2012 Thanksgiving. It ended up being a success despite the absence of the holiday in the UK. The four Holy Cross students, and our collected friends including other American, French, British, Swiss and Moroccan students joined in celebrating the meaning of Thanksgiving. Giving thanks for having the opportunity to meet one another and share in this yearlong experience together.

For many it was their first exposure to the holiday. Each person brought something to contribute toward our Thanksgiving feast, including the traditional foods like turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc. I personally made (following my mother’s recipe of course) Italian sausage and egg stuffing.

As we ate, I started to think about my own past Thanksgiving dinners with family and friends around the table. This was an all-together new and exciting experience full of memories with new people. We were sharing a staple of the American fall season with new friends from all over the world! Watching the American football game and making hand-turkey drawings (something very few had ever heard of)!

I came abroad to York…to bridge the gap between American and British culture. But I never anticipated how many other cultures I would connect with. And what simpler way than with holiday food and a true Charlie Brown Thanksgiving!

With the highlights of last term covered and exams now complete, I can jump to more recent events. In another post I will tell you all about my surprise trip back home for Christmas as well as my Holiday in Paris and London!

A wonderful English Halloween. To be honest Halloween creeped up on me. Not having a TV to watch the 13 nights of Halloween or all the classics, such as Halloweentown or Hocus Pocus was strange. But none the less, I went out to celebrate the holiday. Costumes included a Chinese Take-Away container, two pumpkins, a pirate, and myself as Peter Pan.

Michael Jackson’s thriller could be heard on every street corner and it was a great night! Here are some snapshots from our night:

A Pirate and Crazy Peter Pan

Following Halloween is a traditional British Holiday known as Bon-Fire night. Something not commonly celebrated back home in the states. If you have seen the movie V for Vendetta then you are familiar with the background story. If not here is a link: http://www.bonfirenight.net. Celebrated on November 5th, the night is filled with fireworks and bonfires as the sunsets. But as an added bit of information, Guy Fawkes was born in York!! So naturally we went to his birthplace (now a pub/hotel) and spent some time there before heading back to campus. Again…here are some snapshots from our night out:

Fireworks on Campus Guy Fawkes InnBirthplace

But now we are quickly moving into another holiday…Thanksgiving! And in an attempt to stay two steps ahead of Charlie Brown, we are organizing a full feast for not only the American students, but the other international students as well. Picture and more details to come after tomorrow night!

Wow, time really does fly when you’re not paying attention. I’ve been at York for 5 weeks and it feels like only yesterday I was shown my room and rummaging the surrounding area for food. There is too much to recap in just one entry but we’re going to have to touch on the key points.

1)   I was cast as a Shark in York University’s production of West Side Story!!!

2)   For Halloween I felt it was only appropriate to dress up as Peter Pan (when in England?)

3)   My flight to Paris is officially booked for New Years!

4)   My first paper is officially completed and handed in!

5)   I’m pretty sure I found Diagon Alley

Instead of trying to continue on like this, recapping every detail of the last month I can sum it up in a few short words.

It has been amazing!

I continue to meet new people every day. With week 5 of modules half way to a close, I can say I am finding my rhythm in the UK system.

Now, I do want to apologize because I blame myself for getting caught up in the rush of things and not taking the time to document each event in more detail. But I’ll be sure to cover the big events in some later posts (i.e. Halloween, Bon fire night, course details, etc) in individual posts. So please continue to read on!

A Swiss, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Singaporean, and American walk in to a house. While this may sound like the beginning of a bad joke, it is in reality the next 8 ½ months for me. This is the geographical breakdown of my housemates. And identifying our countries of origin only grazes the surface of our cultural differences. I have never experienced diversity like this, and I can already tell I am growing. We’ve exchanged country holidays, card games, recipes, and much more!

Heading Off

When I left my family at the airport to enter security, I had only a vague idea of what my experience would be. I never anticipated it to begin so rapidly and learn so much in just my first week. Ali and I began our adventure together at JFK Airport and met with Matt and Bridget at the University.

The past 8 days have been filled with fascinating conversations over minute details starting at the most fundamental, like pronouncing an unfamiliar word, and ending with in depth discussion of our countries education systems. There seems to always be something to talk about!

More generally, getting settled in has been a slow moving process, but it has finally sped up as I am feeling more comfortable. I have begun exploring the city, discovering amazing relics, delicious foods, and tea shops. Here are some pictures of what I have seen so far:

Central Hall

Orientation Dinner

Diagon Alley?

Tea, Crumpets, and Scones

And we can’t forget the York Minster:

Oliver Twist Hat

Clearly I’ve been fortunate to visit many different locations, but some settling in details continue to give me challenges, such as getting a phone, opening a bank account, organizing courses that begin next Monday. However, as I go to department meetings the academic system is becoming clearer. The transition from our small liberal arts college to a large University has been a positive experience. I have come to appreciate Holy Cross’s close knit community, but simultaneously I’m glad to have a change of pace for the year!

There really is too much to tell! But for now rest assured that all is well. And that in 8 1/2 months this first week will merely be a blur in a year of experiences.

This final weekend at home has been filled with seasonal family outings, gourmet Italian dinners, and the slowly progressing ordeal of packing a year worth of belongings into three suitcases. I searched for the best way to pack and asked everyone for his or her wise words of wisdom.  No one gave me a more straightforward answer than my former high school AP English teacher from Notre Dame High School (West Haven). She said, “You don’t.”

And with that gem of advice I went home and began prioritizing, labeling, and weeding through my belongings one by one until we came to this end result…

I’M PACKED!

Thanks to a patient mother, a strategic brother, and a ton of faith! Now…I did cheat a little and opt to pay $60 for an additional suitcase, but whether I pay shipping to mail it via FedEx/UPS or pay at the airport it has to be sent! So, I decided to pay now and ensure that I have all my necessities.

As for the family outings, my mother, brother, and I went to a local orchard for lunch and some seasonal treats. Tis’ the season for Pumpkin Pie, FreshProduce, and Apple Cider Donuts!

I’m glad to share these moments with my family before heading off. It reminds me that amidst the stress and chaos there is still time for our annual traditions (another perk of not leaving until October). Not to mention, my mother has adhered to the Italian tradition of serving massive amounts of food. I think she feels the need to overstuff me for the coming year, as if there will be no food in England.

However, I’m not complaining! She has taught me everything I know about cooking, and continues to do so as I am getting ready to leave.

Two nights ago, the lesson was home made Chicken Soup! One meal I am glad to have in my arsenal of recipes while in England this winter. And today, I made meatballs and sauce with rigatoni for dinner. Which will also come in handy when I need a quality home cooked Italian dish!

Homemade Soup                 Meatballs and Sauce

With the weekend coming to a close I am finalizing plans for my plane ride to Manchester on Tuesday. Until then, I’m going to enjoy every last minute I have with family and stuff myself with delicious food. When you hear from me next I will be across the pond beginning my adventures.

So my flight is booked, clothes are in the process of being packed (sort of), classes are being organized, visa is approved, and even with all this done I still have 2 weeks until I leave! Which gives me a lot of time to just sit…and wait.

For those who do not know, the University of York does not begin orientation for international students until October 3rd. While other Study Abroad students have been at their universities and programs for as long as 2-4 weeks, I have been home. Waiting this long to go abroad has caused me a great deal of anxiety (the good kind), but it has also been a blessing in disguise. I’ve spent extra time with family, navigated the UK Border Agency website in order to obtain my Visa, and worked an extra month to earn some money for next year. But as I said, I’ve also had a lot of down time to reflect and plan for my year in York. And here are the thoughts of a restless Holy Cross student waiting to going abroad:

Thought Number 1: I was fortunate enough to be hired as a summer-time cashier at a local grocery store. And I believe everyone needs to work in a grocery store during his or her life. Seriously! It’s practically a right of passage. The people I’ve met have been great. I have had helpful co-workers and supervisors.  I even met a couple that lives in York, England as they visited family here in the states!!! What are the odds? Even the occasional disgruntled customer coming through my cash register line was an experience worth having. I just count my blessing to have found a job on such short notice and for only the summer. Everyone has shared his or her support and best wishes for my upcoming year abroad.

Thought Number 2: There is no better feeling than hearing the words…”Your Visa has been approved!” While working and organizing the details of the year ahead, I successfully pulled through my Visa Application. Even with a couple bumps along my Visa journey, it all worked out. To any student wanting to go abroad next year…the biggest piece of advice I have is stay organized, make a time chart of when everything is due, and it will work out.

WARNING: SERIOUS AND REFLECTIVE MOMENT AHEAD

Thought/Life Lesson 3: “Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away, and going away means forgetting.” – Peter Pan

Yes, I did read the well-known story of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie this summer; I am going to England after all. But this quote strikes me as I start to “say goodbye” to friends and family before leaving them for just under 9 months. I have spent some time thinking about everyone at Holy Cross (classmates, friends, professors) and all the events, theatre performances, and opportunities I will be missing next year. But as I read this quote I remember that I am not saying goodbye for good and I will never forget my first 2 years on the hill. Going abroad isn’t taking away from my Holy Cross experience, but rather becoming a part of it. No matter how far I go, I am always going to come home; whether that is in East Haven, CT where I was born and raised or 1 College Street where I continue to define the person I want to be for the rest of my life.

After this year flies by all too quickly … and I know it will … I get to come home and be a better, wiser, and open-minded individual ready for one final year on the hill.

Well this is it…I’m soon going to embark on a 9-month journey and I hope you are all ready for the ride. Many more pictures to come once I arrive in York, and many great adventures I look forward to sharing.

After all…it was Peter Pan who said, “To live will be an awfully great adventure.”

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Brandon Gomez '14

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