The Final Blog

It has been 1 month since I have been home. 1 month 1 day since I left a place I used to call home.  The dream that was my semester at Harlaxton has ended.  That chapter of this book is over, but there are many more chapters left to be written.

Yes, I feel sad that it’s over.  I am extremely grateful that it ever even happened!  Although I may not be living in a castle in the English countryside, I still have the friendships and memories that I made there.  And those friendships and memories will live forever.

Every time certain songs come on that remind me of Harlaxton, I get a feeling.  Every time I see posts on social media about the semester, every time hear words or phrases that marked and represented my time abroad, and many more triggers that I sense, I get a feeling.  A feeling of happiness and nostalgia, but also a feeling of sadness that it is over.  A reminder that I will never get to relive that dream.  I try not to think about it too much.  I try to keep myself busy and I am doing a great job at that.  But now I have come to a realize that when I do get filled with emotion, it only strengthens and reinforces my memories and time abroad.

I lived the best 4 months of my life at Harlaxton.  I’m not saying I enjoyed 100% of the entire semester, but I got really close!  Harlaxton has changed my life.  It has changed the way I see the world, it has given me different perspective, it has opened doors for me that I never even knew were there.  I have grown.  I have changed.

Being home now is great.  I am surrounded by people who love me!  Why should I be sad?  I am back with my friends and back to the great virtues Texas, and the United States, has to offer!  I’m so happy I get to eat all this good food I missed so much! Being home isn’t a bad thing.

Studying abroad changed my life, and I think it should be something EVERYONE does.  Unfortunately, that’s not likely.

If you’re reading this, thank you.  Thanks for caring enough to read about how I feel. I hope you enjoyed my blog!  I hope it inspired you to travel and step outside of your comfort zone.  Unfortunately, this is the end of this blog.

Please feel free to talk to me about this semester or if you want to study abroad too!

A Friend,

Afsar

 

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Dream

One of my favorite poems is Dreams by Langston Hughes.  I can say without a single doubt in my mind, this semester has been a dream.

‘Hold fast to dreams’

I will never forget my time at Harlaxton College for many reasons.  Yes, I lived in a castle in the English countryside, but I was surrounded by a group full of some of the most beautiful, genuine, and pure people I have ever met.  These people made my experience everything that it was.

I always thought it was corny at first when I heard about people crying leaving Harlaxton.  I wondered how people got so attached.  Living with these guys has made it all so special for me.  From the programs and activities the college ran, to the Meet-A-Family dinners, to the countless FIFA games, pizza orders, cab rides, flights, trains, hikes, soccer games, basketball games, late nights and everything else in between, these people earned an eternal spot in my heart.

Anytime you were at Harlaxton, you weren’t alone.  You had a friend in each and every student that went there.

This semester has been a dream.

‘Hold fast to dreams

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird

That cannot fly.’

I was a different me while studying abroad.  I pushed myself to leave my comfort zone whenever possible.  And I love myself for it.

As I write this on my flight back home to the U.S., I feel overcome with happiness knowing I made new friends, new family members.

I also realize that this dream is coming to end…But I’m not worried.  I will hold fast to this dream.  It isn’t dying, it will live in me forever.

Until next time,

Afsar

The Final Hours

3 more days here at Harlaxton.  I don’t want to think about leaving, so I’m just going to not think about it until I’m on the bus to the airport.  Currently sitting in the Junior Common room with a bunch of friends, brothers, playing FIFA, and talking about sports.  It’s these moments that I will miss the most.

I’m not going to get sentimental about Harlaxton or the semester until the next blog.

On Monday this week, we went our Meet-A-Family’s house for last time.  It was definitely a sad moment, but I got to see them on Tuesday, Thursday, and am going to see them again next Tuesday of next week.  It’s been a great semester with them, and Alyssa, Morgan, and I are just trying to prolong our goodbyes.

Tuesday, we had a Meet-A-Family reception where the choir and “orchestra” performed.  I was really impressed by how well the choir did.  Given that they had limited practiced, I am consistently blown away by the talent that surrounds me in this manor.

On Wednesday, I went to Nottingham with Kenzie and Catie to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.  The play was phenomenal and was the second-best play I’ve ever seen.  I’m debating on whether or not I want to read the book this summer.

Thursday was the valedictory convocation.  A formal goodbye from the faculty and staff.  Here we found out who won the house competition.  Unfortunately, Gregory, my house, got second place.  After the dinner, everyone went the Bistro because it was the last night it was open for the semester.

This Friday there were lambs at the manor.  The cutest little lambs, and one of them was born just the day before.  Time flew by Friday spending time with my friends, and before I knew it, I was watching Fantastic Beasts at night.

Yesterday, Saturday, we all went out into Grantham for one final time.  A very large portion of the school was out in the town.  It was cool being able to go out with all these guys one more time.

Today was spent doing RA room checks, watching movies, watching the NBA playoffs, and spending quality time with these beautiful people.  It’s going to be tough leaving them, but again, I’m not thinking about it (or trying not to).

Until next week,

Afsar

Costume Ball 2k17!

This week was the week of the costume ball.  I feel like it was the most anticipated night of the semester.  Without a doubt, it has been something the interns, people from prior semesters, and everyone else has been hyping up.  I lived up to the hype.

Lately, the weather has been doubtlessly dynamite.  A complete 180 from what it was like at the beginning of the year.  Naturally, this means people are going to spend more time outside and I love it! This last week, I’ve read and done homework outside in the Gardens 3 times and also played soccer and American football without the need of a jacket.  It’s days like these that remind me of the pleasantness that Texas has to offer.

On Friday we had a British Studies field trip to London.  We went to visit St. Paul’s cathedral, the National Gallery, and National Portrait Gallery.  From St. Paul’s, Claire, Matt, and I went to Shoreditch one last time.  I went and had Beigel Bake and Crosstown Donuts one last time.  We went to a number of vintage shops, a bookstore, the community gardens, the park, and I even picked up a great pair of glasses.  It was definitely time well spent.

Once Logan and Isaac were done with their tour of St. Paul’s, I met them up in Camden.  There we walked around through the various shops and eventually made it to the food “court”.  I had a burger that was featured on Hot Ones there and it was amazing.  From there we just chilled with everyone out and around Kings Cross.  It was a sad moment, leaving Kings Cross for my last time, but we were riding first class this time, so that definitely helped.

Saturday.  The day of the costume ball.  In the afternoon, I was going outside to the gardens with Logan and Isaac to read since the weather was so nice, but I met Austin, Blake, Nate, and Ashely and we started to play catch with the Frisbee.  It was a perfect day, and I was running around barefoot playing catch.  It was so pure, so perfect.

Once everyone was ready, we went out to take pictures in front of the Manor before the reception.  We got some really nice pictures since everyone was looking all nice dressed up in their 1920’s themed outfits.  Eventually we went up to the Great Hall for the reception gathering and through to the Long Gallery for dinner.  From dinner it was straight to the dance floor.  We were on the dance floor for a large proportion of 3 hours.  The dance was super fun, and I was looking like a fool, but fake it til you make it.  Dancing with everyone and random groups was a great thing.

Sunday, the day after, another beautiful day, a large amount of people were on the lawn outside the conservatory and gardens.  People were reading, hanging out, playing Frisbee, and most prominently playing Lap-Tag.

At 3:45, I left to play Volleyball in Spalding with the Volleyball team.  We lost, but it was still kinda fun.  Plus we got pizza for going!

This next week is the last week of classes before finals start.  I’m going to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time in Nottingham on Wednesday!

Until next week,

Afsar

Making the Most of What’s Left

As my time here at Haralaxton is winding down, I’m trying my best not to dwell on it too much.  Making the most of my time here during these final days, is my only objective.  Doing the things that I finally got the courage to do.  Leaving this semester with no regrets.

On Tuesday, the Harlaxton Players, the theater group/club, performed their plays they have working on all semester.  All the plays were absolutely wonderful.  The students are so talented!  I have so much respect for the UET students and all others who participated in the plays.  Shout out to them for their creativity!

On Wednesday, I took another trip to London to go to the Harry Potter Studio Tour!  This tour was something I had been looking forward to all semester, and I finally got to go!  It was a dream to see the behind the scenes of my favorite movie series of all time!  Seeing the real props and sets of Harry Potter was absolutely amazing.  Nostalgia took a hold of me throughout the tour, and it got me a little emotional to be honest.  I’m grateful I got to go and learn all about the creation of the movies!  Not to forget that I got to have Butterbeer there too!

On Thursday, some friends and I went into Grantham to see Beauty and Beast.  The movie was fantastic, but the theater itself was something else!  It was definitely the smallest theater I have ever been in.

Friday afternoon, Allie and I rode bikes from Harlaxton to a small town about 3 miles away  called Denton.  There we walked through a public footpaths, and then rode more til we saw signs for Belvoir Castle.  We began following those signs, but stopped when there was a tractor trail off to the side with a perfect English Countryside view.  We saw vast green fields, and yellow fields of Rapeseed, and also a small lake.  Naturally we decided to walk towards the flowers and the lake. It was really nice to spend time with her and talk in such a peaceful setting.

Saturday, I spent most of the day playing FIFA and watching the March Madness games.   We stayed until 4:30 watching UNC earn their spot in the National Championship.

And today Sunday, was spent doing homework and playing soccer and football outside with some of the guys.  It’s weekends like this I’ll never forget, and will miss the most when I will have to say goodbye to Harlaxton, and the wonderful people occupying it’s walls.

I know I didn’t post a Disney blog yet, but I’ll get there!

This week I didn’t travel anywhere, because I was on RA duty. Next week is the British Studies field trip to London!

Until next week,

Afsar

 

Spring Break! Kinda

This week was our second and final long weekend.  This means that this week we had class Monday to Wednesday only, instead of Monday to Thursday.  On Monday, I met with my Meet-A-Family, Tuesday went to London, and Wednesday went to Paris for the weekend!

I’ve been consistently going to my Meet-A-Family’s house for dinner about once a week.  It’s crazy to think that I will only see them 2 more times! The semester has really flown by.

On Tuesday, I went to the Ismaili Center in London for Navroz to celebrate the Muslim new year.  It was really cool to see the difference in the rituals and ceremonies between the U.S. and the UK.

On Wednesday, we left for Paris via the Chunnel (train that goes under the English Channel) into France. We arrived to our hostel in Paris and decided to go see the Eiffel Tower at night.  It is ridiculous how big and beautiful it is.  Truly breathtaking.  When it began to sparkle like it does every hour, I could not believe where I was.  I have this constant thought of being “just a kid from Texas”, whenever I go travel places.  This was definitely one of those moments.  We had crepes and just sat admiring the tower that night. A surreal moment.

 

Thursday, we left got on our Hop On, Hop Off bus and saw pretty much the whole city.  Seeing the Eiffel Tour, Notre Dame, and the other palaces, bridges, museums, and areas of Paris was amazing. We also went to the Lourve where we only got to spend 2 ½ hours; which is definitely not enough.  But I did see some of the works that I really wanted to see.  We also went to the Arc de Triumph and saw some fantastic views of the city.

On Thursday, Meg and I had made reservation for a Michelin Star restaurant called Au Trou Gascon.  It was absolutely amazing!  One of the best meals of my life. From smoked salmon, mackerel, monkfish, and everything else. You know the food is going to be good when the chef’s name is on the menu!

On Friday I took a trip to Disneyland Paris with Catie and Hannah.  This day was so great, it deserves a blog post of its own.

Saturday, a lot of the kids on the school trip took a trip to Versailles.  If I had to describe Versailles in one word, it would be ‘Extravagant’.  The gardens were so big and great.  All the busts of people and paintings on the ceilings, the walls, the architecture and all of it were great!

After Versailles, we went and had a fantastic steak dinner with crème brulee.  From there, we went to the Eiffel Tour one last time and crepes.  It was a great way to end our trip.

Paris was one of my favorite cities, and 3 or 4 days is not enough to explore the city.  I will be returning there in the future for sure!

Stay tuned for the Disneyland blog post later this week, probably Wednesday.  I will be staying on campus at the manor for the rest of the weekends, other than London one weekend.  Also this coming Wednesday I will be going to the Harry Potter Studio tour in London!

Until next week,

Afsar

Scotland

This week I played in my last game as a Harlaxton Lion basketball player, had a British Studies exam, and went to Edinburgh, Scotland.

After a long game, long season, the basketball team went into town to celebrate our efforts.  Although we didn’t bring home the championship cup or plate, we still played well and developed into better players.  It has been a phenomenal experience playing teams from nearby and nearby Grantham.  Talking to some of the players at the free throw line, and throughout the game was really fun.  Playing on a basketball team, playing organized basketball here in Europe during my semester abroad, really has fulfilled my expectations I had about recreation here.

Enough of that, I went to Scotland this weekend!

I was definitely one of the last people from Harlaxton to go visit Edinburgh.  We got there Friday night, and stayed in and ordered pizza while watching the March Madness game to late at night.  With a very few hours of sleep, we left our AirBnB at 4:30 AM to go climb a mountain!  Climbing to get to Arthur’s Seat in the dark, was an experience foreign to me, and one I will never forget. Being at he top, the entire city was in sight.

Edinburgh, is a really interesting city in the way it is set up. At the top of the hill, there is the Old Town, with old buildings, architecture, and historic sites.  Around it and down the hill, newer, more modern buildings are built.  I have heard a lot of students say that E

dinburgh is their favorite city they’ve visited and a place they could live in the future.  Although, I did really like the city, London has a special place in my heart.

Other than Arthur’s Seat, Isaac and I went to Camera Obscura, a cool optical illusion building.  We also went to the National Museum where we saw a bunch of cool things including Dolly the Sheep!

We ate at Oink and great hog roast restaurant and a place called Wings.  They were both really good, and a very hipster vibe to them, which I really dig.

On our way back to the manor, our trains were delayed by about 2 1/2 hours.  This really sucked, but I did get a lot of reading done.  I finally finished Meditations, Jane Eyre, and The Prophet this week, so I started Life of Pi this weekend.

Next weekend is another long weekend and I’ll be going to Paris!  Stay tuned for that!

Until next week,

Afsar

 

 

 

The Second Half

It is officially the second half of the semester and my time here in the UK.  I have experienced so much!  This weekend, I stayed at the manor and did very little.  We have a British Studies exam this coming Wednesday so I pretty much studied for that, played video games, and watched movies all weekend.

This past week we had a our first playoff game for the non-handicap championship and unfortunately lost.  But on the bright side, we have a handicap playoff game Wednesday, so that hopefully we can get a W.

Next weekend I will be going to Edinburgh, Scotland.

Until next week,

Afsar Sunesara

Barcelona!

This weekend I travelled out to Barcelona, Spain for a weekend that I’ll never forget.  Seeing FC Barcelona play live at Camp Nou, sleeping at the airport, and going to the beach are all memorable experiences that supplement what has already been an unforgettable semester.

Earlier this week I went and saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. That play was so great; I wrote a blog solely dedicated to it.

On Thursday, I played in my first ever organized volleyball game. We got on a bus and drove to Lincoln.  We lost all three of our games but it was a cool experience untheless.  I am particularly excited for this coming Wednesday because the Harlaxton basketball team has our first away game in London. Not only that, but it is a semifinal playoff game.  The team we are playing has a 5-point handicap against us, so beating them by 5 or more will be the goal. We’ve played this team before and I believe we can get the W.  Winning this game will mean we’ll be heading the finals!

Barcelona:

We got to Barcelona on Friday around 4 PM. We first checked into our hostel which was really nice and modern.  I would definitely recommend Meeting Point hostels to anyone visiting Barcelona.  From there we went straight to the beach, but since we weren’t accustomed to the language or the public transportation system there, it was kind of tough and we got to the beach with little sunlight remaining.  It was really windy but the views were worth it.  From there we went to a street called La Rambla where we walked around into the stores and got dinner at a Tapas restaurant.  Not knowing what tapas meant, we ordered our food and we’re surprised by the portions.  Regardless, the squid I got was really good!  We walked down La Rambla more after dinner and stopped by McDonald’s (guiltily) to fulfill our appetites.

Saturday was by far our busiest but most eventful day.  We woke up early and departed for Sagrada familia, a HUGE cathedral.  It’s still under construction and has been for 400 years I believe.  The inside was really beautiful with its large colorful stained glass and its modern architecture.  From there we head over to Parks around Parc Guell.  Here we got to climb up the hills for some amazing views of Barcelona.  After we left there, we got lunch and head over to the beach again to take advantage of the nice weather.  At the beach we saw some Italian guys throwing around an American football with some terrible form.  I went up to them and asked them if I could hop in their triangle to play catch.  They were blown away by my ability to throw the ball and asked if I would teach them. Of course I did and Nikil and I taught them how to play Jack Pot.  The Italian dudes were super friendly and playing with them at the beach was memorable.  It’s the simple things like that that make me happy.  After they had to leave Nikil, Logan, and I chilled at the beach for a bit since we got tickets to see FC Barcelona play. (We literally got these tickets 2 days before and were all ecstatic) Seeing Barcelona was surreal.  Seeing the greatest futbol player of all time play was unbelievable.  Messi scored twice, and the entire crowd bowed to him after each score. Seeing Neymar score was awesome too! Barcelona winning the game 5 nil was exactly what we wanted.  The FC Barcelona match was the highlight of my weekend.

Being dumb, we only booked one night at the hostel and said we’d sleep at the airport when we initially made our plans.  It would be ok if our fight was at 6 or 7, but it was at 9! We spent nearly 10 hours at the airport.  I needed to check in at the airport so we couldn’t even get to the gates until I did that.  But the check in desk didn’t open until 4:45 AM.  We slept in the ground by a pillar that had outlets to charge our phones until the security walked around waking up all the people sleeping at the airport at 4 AM.  From there we sat/slept in front the check in desks waiting for someone to occupy it.  Finally, at 4:45 AM, the Norwegian airlines workers opened up.  After checking in, 5 hours before my flight, we got to through security and into the area by the gates.  Online we had read that gate U was the best place to sleep.  And it was. It had long benches without armrests so we could lay down.  I knocked out at gate U for a solid 2 ½ hours.  You might be wondering why we slept at the airport, but literally EVERYONE who studies abroad does it. Anything to save some cash I guess.

From Barcelona we got to London where we allotted 8 hours to explore the city.  We of course went straight to Shoreditch where we went to beigel bake and had poutine from one of the many Street vendors.  I honestly love Shoreditch. I also had Jalebi here.  That filled my Indian sweet void that’s been there for a while.

Now, like many train rides from London, I’m writing this blog. I’m looking forward to sleeping tonight!

Until next week,

Afsar

 

The Cursed Child Experience

I am beyond blessed. After watching, experiencing, the Cursed Child play, I was left in a state brimming with emotions of all sorts of varieties.

Immediately after the show, I sat in my seat for about 10 minutes just taking in all that I had just seen.  But really it was more than just seeing for me, it was feeling. From the start of the play, I was engulfed in the show. I rarely get attached enough in movies or TV to feel strong emotions towards characters. Harry Potter is different though. As a kid, moving to the US, Harry Potter was one of the first, if not the first movie I ever saw in the theatres in America.  I felt a connection to the characters that was unparalleled by any other movie series. I was the same age as Harry, and his class.  I grew up with them.  

The nostalgia the play brought was powerful to say the least.  Waiting in line at the box office to get my tickets I was jittery and couldn’t stop smiling. Once I got my tickets and got into my seat, I couldn’t believe I was there.  The group in front of me, bought there tickets a year and a half in advance! Somehow I got tickets about 11 days prior.  Nostalgia took me over every time I saw Dumbledore, Snape, Professor McGonagall, Moaning Mrytle, Cedric Dighory, and many other characters.  I was shook.

At the end of the play, after I got up and was walking out of the theatre, I felt grateful for having been able to experience that. I was sad that it was over and that not everyone gets the chance to go. I wanted to cry, but I can’t cry (very frustrating). I felt like a kid, I felt fulfilled. But I also felt I was unworthy of it all.  I’m just a kid from Texas. What am I doing in London seeing a show that is completely booked. Blessed. Grateful.

Now the play.  The sound, stage, lighting, acting, and special effects, were ALL outstanding.  I really didn’t understand how they achieved some of the magic they performed on stage.  The fight scenes were amazing! The sound and lights and effects when the dementors or Voldemort appeared were chilling.  Also shout-out to the actors! ALL of them! Special shout-outs to those who played Draco, Scorpious, Albus, Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

I am so impressed with this play! I hope everyone gets to see it and they extend the dates and also add shows to NY.  I could go on forever, but this is a bonus blog.  I’m currently on my train back to Grantham, and have a test tomorrow which I haven’t studied for.
This play deserved a blog for its own.

Until Sunday,

Afsar