Blogs

Farm dog
The local farm dog that accompanies visitors everywhere, what a lucky dog to have that view every day!

A Day in Skálanes

By Hope Finch

Today was the first full day at Skálanes, the day was spent conducting two geographical lab activities. These two activities were “Exercise 7 Reading and Landscape” and “Exercise 8 soil profiling”. The first exercise was conducted after breakfast from 10 am to 11 am around the Farm House. In order to successfully complete this exercise, we explored the surroundings of the Farmhouse and observed the topography and cultural features of the landscape. Immediately after venturing outside one of our LJMU colleagues was pooped on by one of the many aggressive arctic terns (a type of bird) native to Iceland. After exploring the field for a while, we needed to concentrate on one scene and create a field sketch. After the first exercise, everyone re-grouped to complete/add to our observations while enjoying homemade tomato soup and bread courtesy of the SCSU and LJMU students. In the farmhouse there was what seemed to be an unlimited source of tea. However, before long the Brits had ravished their supply of tea bags after not having their beloved refreshment for five very long days (don’t get between Brits and their tea). After eating we socialized for a while then went out into the field to conduct our second experiment “Soil profiling”. In this activity we conducted research in Skálanes, focusing on the soil. We conducted a localized geographical soil sampling test. By completing this exercise we learned the importance of testing soil before any action occurs on the land. This must happen due to the many inconsistencies within soil. Meaning, the soil could be too saturated in water, very dry, or hollow beneath the top soil. All these characteristics present an opportunity to study the environment and learn what the geographical location endured over a course of years. The soil we observed in Skálanes showed evidence of volcanic eruption, human disturbance, an abundance of organic matter, and a nutrient rich soil and glacier till identified 1 meter from the surface. Another interesting and rather strange test conducted in the field was the tasting of soil after Dr. Heidkamp convinced one of the more adventurous LJMU students to have a taste. In conclusion, we had a very enriching and comical day due to all the geographical activities conducted which included the understanding and importance of observation. After the trek through the swarm of Tarn we were back at the farmhouse for some relaxation and to wrap up the aluminum module started prior. A film chronicling the aluminum industry was presented, and a greater understanding of the politics and environmental history behind Alcoa was tied into the prior course module.

Striated Mountainside

By Sarah Gummo, Hope Finch, and Grace Skyrrow

I had legit chicken nuggets that were lamb. – Charlie Comstock

Here are a few important things that Dr. Heidkamp conveniently failed to mention when we signed up for this trip:

  1. We’d be fording frigid rivers on foot (at 1 am and with disastrous but hilarious results).
  2. We’d be surrounded by angry Arctic Terns who find pleasure in dive bombing and pecking unprotected heads.
  3. Iceland doesn’t believe in common roadside safety features such as guard rails.

Hope and Peter Drenched

Despite wet boots, sore heads, and mild strokes from straddling cliffs in our sweatbox vehicles, we have all enjoyed another beautiful day in Iceland. After departing from our beloved Berunes Hostel, we enjoyed a packed car ride past waterfalls, striated mountainsides, and through one extremely long tunnel, which has been the only bit of darkness experienced since our arrival on Sunday.

We were then given a guided tour through the Alcoa Aluminum Plant, which ended with our first giant meal of the trip at the plant’s canteen. We continued our drive after lunch, stopping at Karahnjukar Power Plant and Fljotsdalur Station briefly, before soaking at Laugarfell Hot Spring and eating soup and bread. Our final drive in the stinkmobiles ended, and we were left on the side of a winding gravel road to make a 3 km hike.

Hike to Skalanes

 

The trek to Skalanes is where things really got interesting, ending in near hypothermia (only if you ask Hope), drenched pants, and one great story.

We have arrived at Skalanes, with a heightened respect for beds and an awe-inspiring view.

Iceland

By Charlie Comstock & Alexa Gorlick

From Skaftafell National Park to Berunes

After awaking from the longest sleep we intend on getting on the trip, we immediately began to dissemble our twenty person tent, which was much easier than putting it together. We packed up the vans and were on the road by 9am.

Our first destination was Kviárjökull, a glacier that is home to some of the largest moraines in Europe! A moraine is a deposit of sediments that shows where a glacier once stood. Here we took part in a field lab, where we measured the size of lichen attached to the rocks, to discover approximately how old the moraines are.

After a few hours of driving we arrived at our next expedition, a glacial lagoon called, Jökulsárlón. Here we saw vivid blue waters, with blue icebergs floating in the distance. One of our schoolmates from LJMU, Liverpool was even daring enough to step in the frigid waters!

After this we then visited a beach called Hvalnes, where we took a quick break to stretch our legs and discovered round, smooth black rocks made up the shore of the beach.

Then we visited Djúpivogur, a small fishing village that has a population of about 350 people. The village consists of many young close-knit families that depend on the fishing and tourist industries to survive. We wanted to find out some firsthand information about the town, so we decided to talk to a couple of locals. Our first victim was not a local and happened to be a tourist from Sweden.

We enjoyed each other’s company as we walked back to the center of town. Upon saying our good-byes to each other she cheerfully let us know that we were “typical Americans and a little chatty.” After putting our money together at a local shop, we purchased pasta and sauce to make a family dinner in Berunes. We just arrived to the hostel, and we are so pleased with the accommodations. We can’t wait to spend the night in Berunes but it’s also dinner time here so we have to talk to you tomorrow!

By Steve Cardinal

Little Antartica

Today was a much better day, it’s truly amazing how much better you feel after three hours of much needed sleep!! The adventures we experienced today continued early at 7:30 am, and were just as high paced as yesterday.  But alas, we were still unequipped and unprepared, shocker right?! After eating a yogurt and an apple we walked to the Vatnajokull Glacier National Park ready to go on an average day of the mill Icelandic hike, but of course, our assumptions were oh so very wrong.  Right when we arrived to the front building, employees immediately began fitting us with crampons (a spiked iron shoe attachment), a harness and an ice axe.  After a bus ride with our new pals from Liverpool, we arrived at the foot of the Vatnajokull Glacier; the biggest glacier in Europe, which we were about to hike.  After meeting with our spunky guide from New Zealand, and reviewing the proper safety techniques, we strapped on our crampons and started our glacial trek not knowing that it would the most breath taking, all-inspiring endeavor of our young-adult lives.  Words can’t describe how describe how truly amazing this adventure was for all of us, after surviving this grueling, yet enriching experience, I believe a game of whiffle ball is in order to cap off such an indescribable day

P.S. Glacial stream water is super refreshing.

Students at Iceland

By Becca Hubley and Jacob Gant

Today, our study abroad group arrived at an airport in Iceland at 11:30pm, marking the first day of our two-and-a-half week trip. Rather than getting rest following our five hour flight, we started doing things immediately. We took a tour of the capital, Reykjavik, as well as the surrounding areas, explored the Blue Lagoon, visited and hiked two waterfalls, drove through a fishing village named Grindavik, visited a geothermal hot spot, walked around two black sand beaches, shopped in a few grocery stores, and met up with our English counterparts from Liverpool John Moores University. We did not sleep at all through these endeavors by the way. By evening, we all felt as though we had already been in Iceland for three solid days. Although it felt like the longest day our group had ever encountered, we also felt that it had already been one of the best days we’ve ever experienced in our lives.

Students at Iceland

Iceland is impossibly gorgeous and there were absolutely no words for the way it took our breath away. But.. nothing can prepare us for the ten-hour hike up a glacier that we face tomorrow.

Some Parting Shots from Great Britain

We pulled together some of our favorite pictures from our time in Liverpool, Chester and London to share with you. The Liverpool trip allowed us the opportunity to learn about John Moores University and the many programs they offer. We learned about the common interests we have with the students attending LJMU. Our research projects and on site presentations helped us to understand and share the characteristics of particular elements of life in Liverpool from many different perspectives. We learned that although we share a common language there are many different expressions that were both puzzling and enlightening for us.

We saw the success that Liverpool has undertaken in transforming itself into an  excellent destination for tourism and special events and we had the opportunity to experience a wide variety of foods, culture and recreational opportunities. We also learned about our fellow SCSU students by spending twelve days together in a foreign land, supporting each other in many ways.

Here are some of our memories:

And with that, we invite all of you to spend some time at Liverpool John Moores University in the years to come!

 

London Phone Booth

The London Bridge is…. actually in Arizona!

We were fortunate to have about 36 hours in London before flying home to JFK. The quickest way to take in the city in a limited amount of time was the big red double-decker tour bus. You can get on and off as many times as you like to visit all of the important sites in the city. Here are a few of the things we saw:

We were very happy to spend at least some time in London, a much bigger and busier place than Liverpool. Definitely deserves a return trip!

 

Students walking on Abbey Road
Abbey Road Owls style

For anyone old enough to have a vinyl record album, the name Liverpool brings to mind the Fab Four, the Beatles, and the impact they and other British Invasion groups had on popular culture in the second half of the 20th century.

For those of us on the trip, although we couldn’t all name the four Beatles, we had heard of them from our grandparents and the occasional appearance of Paul McCartney on tv.

What we learned on the trip is the importance the Beatles had in bringing Liverpool out of the industrial era and into the 21st century as a cultural, event and tourism center for Great Britain. Although current Liverpool students listen to much the same music as American students, they all have a keen awareness of the role the Beatles played in Liverpool.

From visiting the Beatles Museum we learned that the group first played music that they call “skiffle” which was American folk music including instruments like the banjo. They were conscious of the folk traditions of the US and added their own interpretation to the music. But what made a bigger impression was the music of black artists from the US south and cities like Chicago and Memphis that made its way to the Liverpool shores via the influx of black American soldiers during World War II. The Blues and Gospel music and something called rock and roll made the biggest influence on the Beatles as evidenced in their earliest recording of songs by black artists. What the Beatles, and groups like the Rolling Stones, did was to introduce white America to the music of people like Little Richard, Chuck Berry and others who did not find a way to the mainstream audiences in America due to the segregationist attitudes in the US through the 1960’s.

Dr. deLisle tried to help us understand the influence of the Beatles by saying that if Taylor Swift, Beyonce,  Adele and Chris (Ed) Sheeran formed a band they still would not match the impact of the Beatles on American musical culture.

For one of our group members, Jim Russo, who graduated in 2015 and had participated in last year’s trip to Rome, his main motivation for joining the trip was to learn more about the Beatles and to see, hear and feel their presence in Liverpool.

Here is an excerpt from his journal:

I have been a Beatles fan since I was about six years old. I studied their entire history, and knew every song at a very young age. Ever since I can remember I have wanted to visit Liverpool, where The Beatles were born and became famous. I visited at Mathews Street, site of the Cavern Club, where The Beatles played their very first gigs together. I went to the Beatles Museum twice! Before I left for this trip, I told myself that I would try and experience as much as I could while I was in Liverpool. Who knows when I will be back? Being the obsessive fan that I am, I “googled”, where some very important people related to the band were buried around Liverpool. I found out that their manager, Brian Epstein, was buried in Everton Cemetery, just a few miles down the road from Mathews Street, where the Cavern is located. The visit became quite an adventure getting bogged down in the mud in the cemetery in a hired cab. It all worked out and I even found a second hand store where I was able to buy some 45 rpm records of Beatles songs that were never released in the US.

A final connection to the Beatles took place in our last days spent in London. At Jim’s urging we made an early morning trip to Abbey Road, the recording studio for the Beatles and the site of an iconic album cover that were looking forward to re-enacting.

For the group, learning about the Beatles was an unexpected and very fun part of the trip!

Our group was the guest of John Moores University at the Annual Grand National horse race at Aintree. It is a week of horse races, charity events and high fashion. It is a combination of the Kentucky Derby and a high school prom. Average citizens put on their best clothes and parade around the grounds usually with a pint of beer or glass of wine in hand. The races are exciting to watch and we did win a few quid on the races. But the greatest entertainment is watching the slow erosion of the crowd after a day of drinking in the afternoon sun. The local train authority actually hands out free flip flops to the women so that they can free themselves from their four inch stiletto heels in order to safely make it back to town on the trains.

As always, the faculty from LJMU were very wonderful hosts and provided us with a unique look at social life in Liverpool.

races-2
Betting takes place on everything – not just the horses!
races-3
A Soucer reading the race form and planning the bets!
The races are followed on the huge video screens.
The races are followed on the huge video screens.