April 6, 2012, by Mark

Becoming of Age in America: Cake, Cabins & Guns.

Another two for one offering this week for reasons that will soon become clear. It has been an exceptionally busy two weeks with no two days being similar which I guess is what studying abroad is all about!

I shall go back to last Friday that seems an age ago, I was taken to my first ever polo match here at UVA. Considering I live in polo territory back in the U.K. I’m not quite sure how I’ve never been to a match before but there’s a first time for everything I guess. We are talking about the game that involves horses I might add and not the one played in water. I couldn’t tell you precisely what happened in the match as I’m not entirely sure myself but I can tell you the ‘Hoos’ (UVA) hammered the opposition 21-3! Good times.

Moving on as I warned in my last post, the legal drinking age here in the United States is 21 if you were not already aware of this. This therefore means that turning 21 is quite a big deal over here as I found out on Thursday, as it was my birthday. I soon found out big deal was an understatement, I should have guessed America the country that does everything on a grand scale would play host to a birthday of a similar nature.

I attended my early morning lecture like the true Nottingham ambassador that I am after which a friend surprised me with a home-baked Victoria sponge, not to mention the scones with all the works! A true British start to the day. Following this I took a leisurely lunch consisting of fish & chips followed by more cake. In the afternoon I indulged in my first legal beer (ever…). The evening correlated to the pattern of eating and drinking as I realise much of my birthday consisted of the latter two things.

After a lavish dinner I headed over to the station to greet my parents coming into town on an Amtrak train from Washington D.C. It was also my father’s birthday the same day so having said I would be able to meet them until the next day I surprised them at the station. My surprise however was slightly belittled when I was blown away that my parents had managed to conceal from me and succeed in flying over a lifetime close family friend, it really was an incredible surprise! Champagne, cocktails and yet more cake followed before I headed back to UVA to meet friends at the local bars to round off a brilliant 21st birthday.

I spent the weekend with my special visitors showing them around the UVA campus as well as the delights of Charlottesville. This included a guided tour of Wal-Mart, a superstore on the scale of your average airport and selling everything from bizarre chewing gum to guns all under one roof as you can see above. For the rest of the weekend we rented a Jeep and drove up into the Blue Ridge Mountains where a log cabinbuilt in 1901 awaited us. It really was a weekend of recovery from the intensity of American university life, especially with no signal or Internet to occupy one’s self with. We spent most of the weekend trekking through the mountains and exploring waterfalls, it really was a weekend of bliss.

In stark contrast to this beautiful weekend being at one with nature was last night. Now, one of the things I have missed dearly about Nottingham is it’s nightlife which is hard to beat I must say. However, UVA came close last night as a certain brand that shall remain nameless (it’s the equivalent of Lynx in America) threw one hell of a promotional party for free! Two artists, Chiddy Bang and Diplo made sure it was quite a night, one that closely rivalled Nottingham.









As the Nottingham term has come to a close my term has around a month left and has only increased it’s pace. The work is thick and fast but no day is the same as the last!

– Mark J Richardson

Posted in 2011-Mark