Sunday, 23 June 2013

Day tripping and settling in to assignnments

This week was not as packed with activities as last week, but the long day trips were very draining and I found myself going off to sleep as soon as my head touched the pillow and dreading having to get up in the morning. The major activities this week were visits to the National Railway museum, York, National Coal Mine, Bronte Parsonage/Haworth, Port Sunlight and Liverpool. I found the Railway museum to be pretty boring, but then again I'm not really that interested in trains. Maybe it would have helped if a guide took us around and told us the story of the most revolutionary trains. York was a really interesting place. It was amazing how it still had an ancient stone wall  and castles from centuries ago. The minster was huge and had the most intricate architecture I've ever seen, and I wouldn't even begin to know how such as thing would be built. The Shambles were interesting, they reminded me of Diagon Alley from Harry Potter in the way that the shops second storey would overhang  and were odd shapes, completely different to the cookie cutter houses that we would often see. But we saw all of this in 30mins pretty much and still had 3 hours to fill. So it would have been good to have a few other organised activities, instead of us just wondering around and getting lost with only the help of a very hard to read map to guide us.

Next up, the National Coal Mine. I was not expecting this to be interesting at all. I thought it was going to be similar to the railway museum, in the way that we would just be wandering around a museum about coal. However, I was pleasantly surprised as it turned out to be very interesting and enjoyable. I do wish somebody would have told me that we were going to be crawling on our hands and knees, otherwise I would have worn more appropriate footwear rather than just a pair of thongs! But going down into the mine was really great and getting the chance to see the terrible conditions that the early miners had to deal with and even the risky environment that miners have to deal with nowadays. I think what also made it so interesting was Steve, our guide. Because he had worked down in the mines, he was really knowledgeable and passionate about the industry and the personal stories he told us made listening and learning about mining interesting and enjoyable.

Now I didn't really know much about the Bronte sisters other than the fact that they were authors and wrote Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. But the way the parsonage was set up and the descriptions of the families interactions on the signs gave me goose bumps as I could imagine Emily sitting in the chair by the fire writing a book that would later become a classic. It was really cool to see actual books with their writing on it and to read about their lives. It made me really want to read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre! It was shocking to read about the deaths of so many people who barely made it to 30 years old, and then actually seeing the overcrowded graveyard. The town of Haworth though was so picturesque perched up on a hill with all of its quaint shops and cobblestoned streets and surrounding views of typical English countryside.

I was a bit disappointed by our trip to Port Sunlight and Liverpool. It didn't really seem worth the long bus ride just for a bus tour of Port Sunlight and free time in Liverpool. I feel like we should have done something else in Port Sunlight and some activities in Liverpool to make it worth the long trip. The bus tour of Port Sunlight did have some interesting aspects. Viewing all the different types of housing and learning about the beginnings of the town and Lever's ideologies about a perfect town. But I got disinterested and restless after being on the bus for 2 hours already and then being stuck on it for another hour for the tour, when we seemed to just be going in circles and stopping every 5mins for photos.

This week was more focussed on doing research and preparing for our group presentation. I had learnt a lot about group work from working on a project for Kyneton all semester with 7 other people, but this group work is a bit different as we only have under 2 weeks to complete our task. It has been tricky trying to figure out how to bring together 5 bits of research together into a coherent narrative for our presentation. It has also been tricky trying to figure out the best way to present it, especially because of the short amount of time we have to learnt the material we are to present. A significant improvement for this group compared to my group I was in for the Kyneton project is the conscious effort we have made to keep having regular meetings to keep each other updated and using them as motivation to have work done by the next meeting in order for the group to move forward.

I have been a little disappointed with the lack of interaction with the other international and summer school students, although I suppose the majority of students will be arriving later on.

I visited the Sheffield Botanical Gardens on the weekend and was surprised by how small they were. There were some interesting sections with unfamiliar plants and animals (squirrels!). It was also interesting to see the bear pit, were they used to keep bear for the entertainment for the visitors to the gardens.

I do wish we had gone on more relevant to the course, closer to Sheffield, fieldtrips. Such as a tour of the Don Valley and looking at where all the industry was and contrasting all the different suburbs/wedges of Sheffield.

Until next time,
- Alice Crellin (Bachelor of Urban, Rural and Environmental Planning)



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