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November fifth is a holiday in the UK, particularly England. It is known as either Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night, and it has been celebrated since 1606. It commemorates the failure of what is known as the Gunpowder Plot in 1605. This was an attempt by several conspirators to blow up the House of Lords, killing everyone inside including King James I. They wanted to reinstate a Catholic ruler to the throne of England and Scotland. The conspiracy was thwarted when authorities found Guy Fawkes in the basement of the House of Lords with 36 barrels of gunpowder.

Since then, November fifth has been a major holiday for the country. It was originally celebrated by sermons and ringing bells, but has since evolved into a patriotic holiday much like the fourth of July, marked with firework displays all over the country. In Liverpool, the display was set off from barges on the waterfront, and I joined tens of thousands of others on both sides of the river to watch them. The official display lasted for about a half hour, but unofficial fireworks were going off all over the city for hours. Anywhere I looked I could see fireworks going off in rapid succession. Children carried sparklers and flashing lights through the streets. Overall, the city was in a great mood that day, and several days after. They had come together to celebrate, and it was great to be a part of.

Crowds gathered to see fireworks over the Mersey.
Crowds gathered to see fireworks over the Mersey.

Thanks to our membership in the LJMU International Society, we get the benefit of taking several free trips to locations throughout the UK. The first of these trips was to the northern city of York. Besides being the inspiration for “New York,” this city is full of history. Originally founded in the early first century, it is another reminder that English cities are much older than their United States counterparts.

York is just under two and a half hours away from Liverpool, to the Northeast. We travelled in a coach along with 40 other members of the International Society from all over the world. When the bus dropped us off, we were free to explore as we wished, and we had all day to do so. My flatmates and I set off on our own to discover what York had to offer.

As it turned out, York offered quite a bit. There was the architecture—gorgeous and intricate stone buildings from hundreds of years ago. In the center of the city towered the beautiful York Minster Cathedral, constructed between 1220 and 1472. Then there were “The Shambles,” a shopping district dating back to the 14th century. “The Shambles” resembled Diagon Alley from Harry Potter, with narrow streets and eclectic leaning buildings.

Aside from the historic architecture, there was also a good deal of natural beauty in York. In fact, one of the first sights we saw upon arriving was an exhibition showcasing many of the area’s native birds including owls and falcons. The city is home to two rivers, the Ouse and the Foss, and the bridges over them provided a great vantage point from which to view the tree lined riverbanks and the numerous rowers paddling along. Another great spot from which we could take in the natural and architectural sights was the city wall.

York, like many other medieval cities, was defended by a mighty stone wall surrounding it. Much of the wall remains from the 14th century when it was renovated. In fact, it has more wall than any other city in England. To end our day in York, we walked along a few miles of the wall, taking in the view of the city and the surrounding land. Unfortunately, by this late in the day, my camera had run out of battery so I couldn’t get any pictures, but it was a great perspective to see from. I felt immersed in the history of York as I walked along the same stretch of wall and looking at the same buildings that people have been walking along and seeing for hundreds of years.

The grandest of all, Buckingham Palace.

London is one of the world’s great cities, so it was a must for us to plan a trip down to see it while we’re here. On Friday night after we all had finished our classes, we took a two and a half hour train ride from Liverpool’s Lime Street Station to London’s Euston Station. From there, it was only a short walk to the hostel we were staying at. The great thing about studying in Europe is that if you take advantage of the public transportation and hostels, it is much more affordable to travel around than it is to travel from the United States, and the semester affords you plenty of opportunities to do so.

Despite the fact that Liverpool and London are both UK cities, they each have a completely unique character. Liverpool is a diverse port city, but London is the most diverse city in the world. Liverpool has a compact and easily navigable city center, while London has a larger land area than Los Angeles, and as many people as New York City. Liverpool has a history to be proud of, but London’s history is the history of the Western World; from its settlement by the Romans in the year 43 all the way up to today where it is still a center for culture, finance, and politics. We wanted to take in as much of this history as we possibly could in the 3 days we had available to us.

On Saturday morning, we woke bright and early to take advantage of the free walking tour that our hostel provided. This tour was entertaining, informative, and good exercise, as it lasted nearly 3 hours and covered all of the major tourist attractions in London. We saw several palaces including the grandest of them all, Buckingham Palace, home of her majesty the Queen. We also saw the Elizabeth Tower (home of Big Ben, which is actually the bell in the tower and not the tower or the clock itself), the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, King’s Cross Station (where Harry Potter departs for Hogwarts from platform 9 ¾), and the River Thames.

After the tour ended, we continued on our own to see the Shard (the tallest building in the UK), the Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, and the London Eye. All-in-all, it was a busy and interesting day, filled with equal parts history and beautiful architecture.

On Sunday, having seen all of the major attractions, we decided to venture into some other areas of town. First, we went to Camden Market, a massive area of open air vendors selling all kinds of goods from intricate lamps to sweatshirts to foods from all over the world. After we spent a couple of hours there, we set out to find Abbey Road, home of the studio where The Beatles recorded many albums and the famous crosswalk which graced the cover of one of those albums. This was a bit out of the way, but it allowed us the opportunity to take a double decker bus and see many of the more residential and less touristy parts of the city. It also allowed us a great vantage point from which to see some of the many sports and luxury cars that Londoners drive around—from Lamborghinis and Ferraris to Aston Martins and Rolls Royces.

Later that night, my flatmates took a train back to Liverpool, but I stayed for one more night to catch a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. This venue was by far the nicest I’ve ever been in, and it is another wonderful example of the gorgeous architecture that London has to offer. Before the show, I spent a few hours in the Kensington and Chelsea Library doing my reading for the next day’s classes, and another hour or so enjoying the view of a rainbow from Hyde Park. All in all, it was a perfect way to end a wonderful trip. In those three days, I realized that London lives up to its reputation as a great city, but I also realized how much I appreciate Liverpool. When I got off the train back in Liverpool in the relative quiet of the early morning, I at once felt comfortable and at home. The streets of Liverpool are familiar to me, and I feel like I belong there, away from the hustle and bustle of a 24-hour city like London.

Here I am on the Roman Walls!

October 15th, 2016

Greetings from York England!

Ever since I decided to study abroad, I made it a goal to take up as many opportunities as I can; my trip to York was no different. This trip to York was FREE through the International Society at LJMU! Everyone on the trip was from different countries & not only was it incredibly fascinating to hear everyone’s stories and perspectives, but we also got to travel somewhere new together!

I spent the day exploring the enchanting city that was home to Roman walls and castles, lopsided stores and alleyways, and the European birth city of chocolate! There were dozens of chocolate shops and it was quite common to see crowds at the store’s windowsill because you could see delicious fudge being handcrafted right before your eyes.

I wanted to experience the most of my seven hours in York so I started by enjoying a traditional York Pudding. It was absolutely delicious but I found that York Pudding is everything you will find at a Thanksgiving meal (turkey, gravy, potato, string beans, mushrooms, and stuffing) but meshed together in a giant pastry! I also ate some York chocolate and a KitKat bar since York is where the KitKat was invented.

Beyond chocolate, York is known as a very old medieval city with a rich and haunting history. (Fun fact: York is the most haunted city in England!) In the afternoon I did a “Dungeon Tour” of York where the tour group of approximately twenty people and I became “peasants.” Similar to a haunted house, we moved room to room and learned about the haunting history of York such as the black plague and the witch trials.

The Clifford’s Tower was my favorite part of the day. It was exactly what I imagined a castle to look like but to see and touch it in person was unforgettable. Fun history facts: the tower was built in 1086 by William the Conqueror. However, over the many, many years of tragic events, the tower has been burned down and rebuilt dozens of times but much of it stands tall today. The Clifford Tower sits in the middle of the Roman Walls that surround it. The original structure of the wall goes back to the Roman period but the Danish Vikings destroyed most of the wall when they invaded York in AD 866.  The wall was rebuilt in the 13th and 14th century and that is what is remaining today! (I love history!)

York was a beautiful city with so much to offer. I would definitely recommend going if you are in the UK! I took tons of videos and pictures but sadly I didn’t properly save them :(. Ironically, the only video that was saved is me throwing a coin into a wishing well on the roof of Clifford’s Tower…I should have wished to never lose my videos, haha! Oh well, luckily I sent some pictures to my mum!

Thanks for following me & my adventures, until next time!

Signing off,

AmErica in Liverpool

It has already been 19 days since I arrived in Liverpool, and with each passing day I feel more and more comfortable here. During my first week, I struggled with a brief bout of jet lag which saw me awake and asleep at all the wrong times, but I have long since conquered that. Overall, I have been able to adjust to life in a new city quite well.

During the first week I was here alone, so I explored the city by myself on foot. I was able to enjoy the great end-of-summer weather that there was in early September. I saw the waterfront and the Albert Dock, where I spent hours looking out across the River Mersey to the Wirral Peninsula on the other side and enjoying the breeze. I saw both of the huge cathedrals that the city is home to, the Metropolitan and the Anglican. I found my school, about a 15 minute walk from my residence accomodation. I found the Echo Arena. I found the Bombed Out Church from World War II. I found St. George’s Hall (which was used as a filming location for the upcoming Harry Potter spin-off) and dozens of other gorgeous buildings and landmarks.

As I explored the city, a wonderful thing began to happen. Rather than needing to use my phone as a map all of the time, I could recognize my location by sight and navigate through memory. It is an extrordinary thing to learn your way around in a new city, and it is one of the best ways to feel more at home in that city. Not feeling lost all of the time goes a long way toward not feeling out of place. Besides just learning the streets, there were a few other things which required getting used to. The money is different, they use many more coins here than in the U.S. They drive on the opposite side of the road, so I have to remember to look the opposite way when crossing the street. They use different terms, for example “Cheers” means thank you and they call courses “modules”, among many others. It is truly enjoyable to learn and adapt to these differences, and it gives me a great sense of appreciation for the culture of this place.

After a little over a week of living by myself, my flat-mates arrived. They are all fellow SCSU students, and they are all great people. Two of them, Erica Surgeary and Shannon O’Malley are also keeping blogs which you should check out as well. All of us get along great, and it is nice to have others in the same situation learning how to live in this great city together.

Our first major outing as a group was to a food festival in a local park. There were hundreds of stands with foods from all different cultures. I had the interesting opportunity to try a zebra burger which, somewhat surprisingly, was quite good. We have also gone to a pub in the city center to watch the Liverpool F.C. match versus Chelsea. There were hundreds of joyous Liverpool fans singing together as they defeated their competitors. This was a somewhat foreign environment for me personally as a Chelsea supporter, but it was impossible not to enjoy the electryfing environment.

The people here have been nothing but kind, welcoming, and helpful. I have already met and made friends with people from all over the UK, from Ireland, from the Netherlands, from Romania, from Hungary, from France, from Italy, from China, and from India, all come to study here in Liverpool. Indeed, Liverpool is a great student city. It is accessible, safe, cheap, and full of things to do. It is striking how similar we all are despite our different backgrounds, and the world feels just a little bit smaller for it.

Classes finally begin tomorrow, Monday the 26th of September, after a week of registration and introductory information. I am looking forward to studying Shakespeare, British literature, and fiction writing here at LJMU. I can’t wait to meet all of my professors and my classmates. Here’s to a good semester!

Chris Rowland

SCSU at Big Ben

October 7th – 9th, 2016

September 14th – 25th, 2016

I can’t believe it’s been just over a week since I arrived to my new home! Everyday I’ve been enriched by the beauty of the city, the dynamic culture, and of course, brilliant English accents. (cheers mate!) In my short time here I can already see that Liverpool is a dynamic city that is perfect for university students. There are tons of free museums, art galleries, and restaurants, a very lively nightlife, and countless of food options to choose from.

I had the best Indian food the other night!

This past week I’ve been exploring the city with my 5 other flatmates, all from SCSU. We live in the same flat but we each have our own room and toilet (that’s what they call a bathroom!). We share a large kitchen & living room space where we find ourselves each evening drinking tea and chatting about our daily adventures, telling old stories, and playing cards. We’ve also made good friends with our neighbors, especially the flat above ours who are all lads from England, Ireland, and Wales! Their accents are sometimes hard to understand, especially scousers; which are Liverpool natives that speak a different and fast pace style of English. I find myself saying “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?” too many times throughout the day, but everyone here is so genuine and kind that they don’t mind repeating themselves.

As seen in my video, I’ve taken the bus numerous times to get to IM Marsh campus at John Moores University (I’ll post more about LJMU next week). So don’t worry, I’m not just here on holiday (vacation) for four months. My modules (classes) don’t start until Monday, September 26th! However, I had “Induction Week”, which is similar to new student orientation. I’ve been enrolling in my Event Management courses and learning the ropes of what it means to be a Uni student in Liverpool.

One thing, of many many things, that has surprised me was that I was going to be with Event Management freshers (freshmen) during Induction Week. Just like me, they are new to the city. It was a relief that I wasn’t just a blue fish standing out of water, well, until I say something and people realize I am an American!

Surprisingly, the most frequent question I’ve been asked is if I’ve seen celebrities!

I’ve made friends with people from all over the UK and they tell me how much they love my accent; how crazy is that?! Sometimes I feel like a celebrity because anytime I speak, all eyes turn to the “American in the room” but it gets better then that… When anyone asks where in America I am from, I say New York (sadly no one really knows where Connecticut is)  their eyes light up and smile instantly. I’ve noticed their excitement is not about where I am from but it’s that I’ve simply seen New York City before!

The majority of my blog posts will be featured via video. If you’re viewing/reading this post as a Southern Owl or LJMU student, and are interested in the exchange program, I hope you keep following me on this adventure! You can also email me anytime at ericasurgeary@gmail.com if you have questions.

 

Well, that’s it for now mates, until next week, wish me luck on my first week of modules!

 

Signing off,

– AmErica n’ Liverpool.

 

Mark McRiley, SCSU student studying at Liverpool John Moores University

Mark McRiley, M.P.H. ’12, was intrigued by the bumper sticker. So instead of rushing inside to place his order, the Southern alumnus stood outside of the Connecticut Dunkin’ Donuts and waited for the car’s driver to explain why the phrase, “I Administered Narcan to an Honor Student,” was plastered on his car.

Narcan — a drug generically known as Naloxone — is an opioid antagonist, meaning it counters the effects of opiates, including heroin, morphine, and oxycodone. It is used when an overdose is known or suspected, potentially saving lives in the process. “I explained that I was a nurse and that I wanted the story,” says McRiley. “He told me that he worked at a high school and had given Narcan to one of the students who had overdosed.”

Many, including McRiley, would argue that such firsthand accounts are highly illuminating, providing important insights about the issues affecting a community — in this case, everything from the increased use of opiates in the U.S. to available treatments for those who are addicted.  In January — armed with a full scholarship — he began a doctoral program in public health at England’s Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), which recently launched a trans-Atlantic partnership with Southern.

“Liverpool John Moores University’s Public Health Department is so strongly focused on social services — homelessness, opiate addiction, alcohol addiction, violence against women . . . It is incredible for me to have the opportunity to work with them,” says McRiley.

His research will cut across the Atlantic, focusing on long-term opiate addiction among people living in both New Haven and Liverpool, England. He will use photovoice, a participatory research technique that employs cameras and other photographic techniques to explore issues through the eyes of community members — in this case, those addicted to opiates. “We’ll be able to compare the two [populations] to see what the major hurdles are,” he says. “What are the influences? What are the risks for a relapse? What are the difficulties related to methadone use over time? How are people being treated by the community?”

McRiley will be supported by faculty at both institutions — Gordon Hay (his lead advisor) and Conan Leavey, both from LJMU’s Centre for Public Health, as well as Jean Breny, chair of the Department of Public Health at Southern. Four undergraduates from Southern also have been studying at LJMU this spring. Countless more ultimately will benefit from the initiative, which will offer courses taught by faculty members at both universities, in addition to more opportunities for students from SCSU and LJMU to travel abroad for study, research, and field work.

“I’m receiving a 100 percent scholarship — which is three years of tuition and essentially enough money to pay for my housing,” says McRiley. “I feel unbelievably lucky and extremely honored . . . to have the opportunity to work so intently on my own research. Who gets to do that?”

IMG_0578[4]smallThe experience promises to be life-changing personally and professionally, building on McRiley’s diverse resume, which includes experience in the film and television industry, nursing, international aid, teaching, and public health. “I grew up in LA, where everybody is supposed to be in the entertainment industry,” says McRiley, who took photography courses at City College. He found work in the industry, first in craft services and later as an emergency medical technician (EMT).  He worked on more than 30 Hollywood films and television shows, including “Van Helsing,” “Rush Hour” (I and II), “Roseanne,” and “The Family Man.” But while the projects were high profile, McRiley came to find the work unsatisfying.

“I realized I wasn’t using my brain. . . . I needed to go back to school,” he says. McRiley moved to New York City, and enrolled at the College of New Rochelle to study nursing. One of only a few men in the nursing program, he earned his B.S. in 2005 and soon become a critical care nurse at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

When Hurricane Katrina hit, McRiley traveled to New Orleans with a group of doctors who set up a makeshift clinic at the Cajundome where about 7,000 displaced people were living. “I learned so much,” says McRiley, “but I came back totally changed. As a nurse dedicated to giving aid . . . this is where you want to be.”

With thoughts of working in international aid, McRiley enrolled in Southern’s graduate program in public health. For his master’s thesis, he researched the relationship between post-earthquake housing and health in Léogâne, Haiti. The city, located near the epicenter of the quake, had been devastated and many residents were still living in tents provided as emergency shelter. McRiley traveled to Haiti four times for his research. Using photovoice methodology, he gave 23 Haitian nursing students cameras to explore the issue. They then met as a community to discuss their images. “I would record their responses in Creole,” he explains, “asking them to tell me what I was looking at and why the photo was taken.”

Their issues included pollution, roaming livestock, garbage, lack of water, poor sanitation, and more. Armed with about 500 photos and their accompanying narratives, McRiley wrote his thesis. He met a few others working on similar projects, and together they connected with local city stakeholders. “Low and behold, one year later the trash was gone, the center of town was clean . . . water and electric infrastructure came through. . . .  It was terrific,” says McRiley, whose work was recognized with the 2012 Scholarship and Service Award from Southern’s Department of Public Health.

“The advantage of the photovoice methodology is that you are not just handing somebody a 50-page report. You are handing them 50 photographs that are taken by the people [most affected],” he says.  The researcher notes that today’s “selfie” culture is a tremendous boon for his upcoming research on opiate addiction. “I can collect through Instagram, Facebook, direct text, email. . . . My intention is to gather significantly more information than I have ever gathered before,” he says.

He and his doctoral advisors fully understand the potential power of such testimony. McRiley’s goals include creating a documentary on addiction. Looking further ahead, he envisions returning to Haiti — and again standing at the front of a college classroom. “I love everything about teaching,” says McRiley, who was an instructor in Southern’s Department of Public Health. Having resigned from that position and his 10-year post with Yale-New Haven Hospital  —“two terrific jobs,” he says — he notes with awe the trajectory his life has taken. “When I left Los Angeles before I went to nursing school, I was a roller-blading bartender,” he says. “Fifteen years later, I am entering a Ph.D. program.”

In spring 2016, the first group of students will cross the Atlantic to study abroad under a new agreement formalized Dec. 3 by Southern and Liverpool John Moores University.

This “Trans-Atlantic Alliance” will offer students the chance to take classes in both New Haven and Liverpool, England, as well as benefit from dual-taught undergraduate and graduate-level programs, delivered by LJMU and SCSU faculty members through video link and guest lectures.

SCSU President Mary Papazian and Edward Harcourt, LJMU’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for External Engagement, formally signed the agreement in the foyer of Southern’s new science building.

“(LJMU) is an institution very much like ours,” Papazian told the New Haven Register. “This allows us to look at problems around sustainability, public health, health care management, business, creative writing from a variety of perspectives.”

Papazian predicted the partnership would be “a robust exchange, so many of our students have that chance to have that global experience.”

“It’s a great place, a safe place for our students to experience the world,” she said of the historic port city, home to the Beatles, the Cunard steamship line and Liverpool F.C., one of the world’s most well-known professional soccer clubs.

LJMU traces its roots back nearly 200 years to 1823 and the opening of the Liverpool Mechanics’ Institute. Over the decades, the institute merged with other institutions to become Liverpool Polytechnic; traditionally providing training, education and research to the maritime industry, before earning university status in 1992. Now ranked among the top 400 universities world-wide, LJMU offers 250 degree courses to 25,000 students drawn from more than 100 countries.

This spring, four SCSU undergraduates with academic interests in business, wellness, geography and global health will be leaving for Liverpool to study abroad for a semester. They include senior Shayne O’Brien (pictured with President Papazian and Pro-Vice-Chancellor Harcourt), who plans a career as a glaciologist. Additionally, Mark McRiley, a graduate student from public health, also will be attending LJMU in 2016 to earn his Ph.D. on full scholarship. Several students from LJMU are also expected to be attending Southern.

Liverpool John Moores University visit

Harcourt told the Register that the Alliance was a “game-changer for both institutions.

“We’re very similar, very connected to our local regions,” he said. “What we looked for is aligning comparable interests and strengths.”

Liverpool also has smaller-scale partnerships with colleges in China and Malaysia, Harcourt said, but with Southern, “the big prize longer-term is, could we get to the point where we’re presenting a joint prospectus of master’s programs,” which would be unique and enticing to students in overseas markets.

On the home front, several academic departments have hosted classes or colleagues from Liverpool via videoconference or in person. In November, the nursing departments from the respective institutions participated in a symposium in which Assistant Professor Christine Denhup presented her research on parental bereavement following the death of a child, an area of mutual interest for both groups.

In late November, John Morrissey, senior lecturer in environmental geography, natural sciences and psychology at LJMU, spoke about “Enabling Sustainability Transitions in the Coastal Zone,” during Southern’s Department of Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences’ Geography Awareness Week.

And in October, the visit of former Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent for the Dr. Joseph Panza Sport Management Lecture was broadcast live to LJMU so that sport management students there could participate and ask questions of the speaker.

More collaborations are forthcoming. During the most recent visit of the LJMU delegation, Tim Nichol, dean of the Liverpool Business School, met with SCSU School of Business colleagues (below) to discuss a wide range of potential initiatives. These include collaborative research and teaching, an MBA program in comparative healthcare offered by both institutions and a shared DBA that could be offered internationally.

Liverpool John Moores University visit

James Tait, professor of science education and environmental studies, is proposing a doctoral research project examining evidence of prehistoric hurricanes in the marshes of Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Conn., with a goal of plotting how the intensity of these storms have changed over thousands of years.

Tait has done extensive work researching and proposing solutions to beach erosion along Connecticut’s Long Island Sound shoreline in the wake of recent hurricanes. With SCSU geography colleague Elyse Zavar and faculty from LJMU, Tait recently visited Formby Point, home of the United Kingdom’s largest collection of sand dunes, an area that faces similar issues in the wake of violent storms.