Sunday, October 13, 2013

Exchange year. Part I.

I've been organising and reorganising my files, images, written work, etc. in preparation for the hand in on Wednesday.  I am a little nervous about one of the things I'm waiting on - the book is here; my 3D printout is ready; I have one poster that needs printing; but the prototype I have been hoping for is starting to look like it's slipping away into that-would've-been-nice-land.  Which freakin' sucks.

I've been prodding, nudging and flat out asking over and over for help from various sources, but it's starting to look a little bleak.

To lighten my mood, I've decided to post some of the photos from my time in the USA... a few years ago.  They may very well be in the earlier posts of this blog, but I was also keeping them to one side to show the first year students in the hopes that they'd want to go and do something similar.  Because it's amazing.

If you are a first year student reading this because I've told you about it in some way - hello!  I hope you enjoy reading this and I hope you're up for thinking about going to The University of Central Missouri (UCM)* if they're still on UCLan's exchange programme.  It's amazing.

*"Where's that?"  I hear you ask.  Don't worry.  It happens a lot.  It's pretty much in the middle.  Point to the middle of a map of the USA and you're most probably at Kansas.  Go right one.  That's Missouri.

I should start with saying that I was dating a girl from Arkansas - the state below Missouri.  So my year is a little different as I went and stayed with her and her family for a week before driving up to the university to start the year.  We're now married, but that is another big story for another time.  Here is the first load of photos:

There's a military base down the road from my wife's town. Outside the gates is this huge artillery piece. It's good fun to climb on and pretend you're blowing things up. It's also pretty good for photos.

Towards her town are a couple of unused grain silos.  Also lovely photo opportunities.

Also, one of them is the biggest beer can in the world.  Fact.

Arkansas is about the size of the UK.  The whole state looks a lot like the Lake District.  It's beautiful.

On the way to Missouri, we pass through what were once hills.  Big hills.  They were blown up to make the roads.  It was still pretty impressive.

These were my digs.  Collegiate Station.  It was separate from the university's dorm system and it was right on the edge of the town; it took about 20 or 30 minutes to get to from the uni, but it was worth the walk.

One of my two roommates for the semester was Alexandra Kula.  She was a student from Poland.

My second roommate was Gemma Pilling.  A student from UCLan.  She ended up going back to UCLan a few weeks after starting at UCM because of the huge differences in her course, but because the term starts in mid-August in America, she got home in time for the full year at UCLan.

My wifey with a dog that I really didn't want.  It was the worst of three that we saw in the back of a truck in a car park.  I didn't take it.  Someone else did and it was just sat there waiting in the apartment when I got there.  It pooped all over the place.  Don't get dogs from car parks.  Especially if they're free.

The view from my landing.  A nice, big pool; a nice, big BBQ and a nice hot tub/jacuzzi.

Inside, one of two lovely inclusions in my stay at Collegiate Station; the gym.  I spend a few nights a week in here - mainly because I was a fair walk from town and it was just enjoyable.

The second lovely inclusion - a cinema room.  We didn't actually spend a whole lot of time here, but when we did it was always a great night.  Between this room and the gym was the lobby which included a pool table and a few rooms full of sofas.  Really nice place.

I didn't eat all of this; I only really bought it because of how big it was.  It was sold like this, too.  Not even the full thing.

The town is sat on a railway that goes from Mexico to Canada, so most of the trains that came through were cargo/freight trains.  Because the distance they were going was so big, the trains would be huge - it wouldn't make sense to send loads of smaller trains when you could send one huge one.  Trains passing through the town were commonly about a mile long.  A mile long.  Usually longer.

I did do some work, too.  I took a lot of photos of when I was out and about because the work was all sort of the same.  Illustration, graphic design, drawing classes, etc.  It's all similar.  This is a still life charcoal drawing and it's about as finished as it got.

Kansas City, MO. A lovely town with some of the most amazing architecture I've seen. Beautiful buildings.

One of my goals was to have cheesecake for breakfast.  Aim high and all that.  This particular piece cost me $8 and I didn't eat anything else for 6 hours.  So one of the best investments I've made.

Logo design for my illustration class.  We had to take two things we like and merge them into a logo that represents us.  I believe the bass/pencil combo was what I went with in the end.

The trees turn beautifully, so I wanted to catch that.  In the red here is Todd whose nickname for me was London.  Because I'm English and therefore from London, right?  To the right is Brian; a fantastic guy with whom I am still in touch with regularly.

Thunderstorm from my window.  Missouri is pretty flat.  So flat, in fact, that I one time watched a thunderstorm that was 45 minutes away.  I could see the lightning but couldn't hear the thunder or get soaked by the rain because it was so far away.

Sunrise from my window.  Towards the end of the year, when it was still dark when I got up, I was able to walk to uni under the most awesome sunrises I've seen.

The drive from my digs in Warrensburg, Missouri to Lavaca, Arkansas was 6 hours.  Two hours south, two hours west, two hours south.  Quite literally.  It was a nice drive but it was all pretty much the same.  Big, open road; occasional small town.  I think I made the trip with my wifey about once a month in my first semester.

Back down in Arkansas, we have some fascinating wildlife.  Cicadas are very loud, but I got so used to them that when I was back in England it took me a while to get used to them not making noise.  They're pretty big and can crack your windscreen if they hit it right.  Also, they don't have mouths.

The Brown Recluse.  One of the most dangerous spiders in the world.  Looks like a house spider, right?  Right!  I catch them with my hands back here in England.  I'll do that here, right?  Wrong.  Very wrong.  This is the only bug I will kill on sight.  With anything but my hands.

Tree frogs!  Before living in Arkansas for a year, I thought this was one of the most amazing things I'd seen.  I mean, it's still up there with really cool animals, but I have since found snakes, turtles and lizards that contend with this guy.

Sculpture 1 was an incredible class, but honestly I was only taking it so I could do Sculpture 2 and work with bronze casting.  One of the things we did was make (another) representation of us and something we held dear.  Up top there, I made a beetle because I wasn't familiar with how huge they were over there.  So I made an even bigger one for some artistic reason or another.  Good fun.  We went on to paper mache them, which I didn't really like, but I wouldn't have got and marks for the project if I hadn't done it right.  Below there's a little wire man.  Another project was to make plaster casts of fruit and carve them into various things.  One of the things I made was a toadstool with a tiny seat in the stalk on which this guy sat.  I was pretty happy with it.

One of the guys I met there was a man named John.  He was ex-military and instructed self defence classes and concealed-carry weapon classes.  He was a super nice guy and oversaw the gun range on a Monday night (UCM is one of only a handful of universities in the US that has a gun range on campus.  It was a lot of fun.  I fired a lot of firearms.)  I was friends with all the guys in John's house and one night when I was over, he brought out 'his baby'.  His wonderful, metal baby.  With various optical upgrades, grips, extensions and general manliness.  As a side note, the beard is at the stage where I knew it had to be cut right down, but I was shut in the art building for most of the hours of the day, so I didn't think I had the time.  Even though I obviously had the time to shave the rest of my head.


Another illustration project.  The first was to copy a gig poster that we found.  I found a poster by the fantastic Jay Ryan.  Go there and look at his work.  The second was a gig poster that we had to make ourselves.  I had a little Derek Hess influence here (go there and check out his stuff, too) and included the bands that I hold dear.  Nolo Episcopari, my dad's band when he was in college; Brontide, one of my little brother's bands (also check that out) and then The Jolly Clamdiggers - the name that my whole family goes by when we play little gigs.  We all play different instruments, so it works out well.

I love American football, so I was stoked to be able to go and see some college games.  I was one of a handful of international students left at the end of the first game of the season because most of the exchange students thought it would play through like a regular game of footy and be done in an hour and a half.  Very wrong.  Well, half right.  It takes about three hours.  I loved it.

I also love these guys - Relient K (once more, check them out).  I got to go and see them at a club in Kansas City, supported by a band called Barcelona - a band who I hadn't ever heard of before this gig.  But they were also wonderful and along with Relient K's 'Forget and Not Slow Down', Barcelona's 'Absolutes' became the CDs that soundtracked my year.

Last but not least for this update, one of the guys I met there was Phil - a student from Germany who now teaches in a uni in Florida.  He had a huge Cadillac and there was not one single time when I had a lift somewhere and did not fall asleep in it.  He also became a great friend that I still talk to a fair amount.  He was one of the first people to reach out to me and made me feel very much at home.

That's the end of the first lot.  As I said, the work in the classes was fairly similar from day to day, so I tried to document the ongoings of the later hours of the days.  I worked hard in class and I made sure I saw as much as I could out of class, met as many people as possible and spent some quality time building friendships with the people who live there.  I had gone there to work, so once the work for the day was out of the way, I made sure I made the most of being able to live in America.

It's a fantastic opportunity and I can't recommend it enough.  Hopefully there'll be something here or in the next few posts that will convince you, dear first year, to go to the International Office and apply to go and study abroad next year.

I'll have the rest of my posts done within the next two weeks.  For now, I've distracted myself enough from my Masters worries and probably should get back to them.


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