Archive | February, 2016

A Bit About Bait

27 Feb

Ethan Morris, a graduate student in the public history program, is the first MTSU student to participate in the study abroad program at Northumbria University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England!


A Bit About Bait

I enjoy trying a new restaurant and thought I would conclude my February posts with short descriptions of a few of my Newcastle favorites. I begin most mornings by walking five minutes to the Caffé Nero on St. Mary’s Place. The staff knows my regular order of black coffee and, occasionally, raspberry porridge. The store boasts a wonderful view of the Church of St. Thomas the Martyr, which lies just across the street (and has an interesting backstory if you care to do a little research). If I’m inclined to take a longer walk, I would likely visit the Riverside Café on 1 Queen Street. The shop reminds me of mom-and-pop stores in the States, and it seemed comically appropriate to hear both Randy Travis and Barry Manilow on the radio during my first visit. For those of you watching your wallets, a good cup of black coffee, no matter where you go, will cost about £1.75. If, however, you’re hard up but need a cup, you can get coffee for £1 at the Lit and Phil.

For lunch, I would recommend the Hippo House on Collingwood Street. You’ll need to use a GPS on your first visit because the store has no distinguishing marks. From all appearances, the store is a camera shop and actually was once—in 1915. The owners discovered this bit of history during a renovation several months ago and decided, for the sake of heritage, to leave the shop with its original facade. The Hippo House serves sandwiches for around £3 and caters primarily to office workers who drop in to pick up their bait, or take-away lunch. I would suggest their Monte Cristo with salad greens on seed bread. Another excellent lunch spot is Wi-Fri, a diner in the Grainger Market, where you can order an enormous plate of fish and chips for a little over £5. If you aren’t too full after your visit to Wi-Fri, walk about fifty feet to Oliver’s and pick up a piece of caramel shortbread to take-away. I promise you won’t regret it.

The dinner options vary. I would suggest the Herb Garden on Westgate Road. The restaurant serves gourmet pizzas, vegetarian dishes, seafood, calzones, and assorted meat platters. You can easily spend £20 here, but, if you order a take-away “lunch” just before 5 pm, you can slide out with a dinner pizza for a cheap £5. Not far from the Herb Garden, beside the Hippo House in fact, is the Coop Chicken House. While it may sound like a terrible name for a supposedly “fine-dining” experience, the Coop serves quality food at a good price. For £10, you can get half of a rotisserie chicken, a bowl of skin-on fries, and a plate of ratatouille or roasted corn. After dinner (because of course you’ll want dessert), visit Di Marco on Grey Street. Hand’s down the best pastry shop in town, it serves any number of hot drinks and cakes. Be prepared, however, good portions of the menu are in Italian. So feel free to point if you don’t know exactly what something is. After all, when it’s at Di Marco, you can’t really go wrong.

Caffé NeroCaffé Nero

The Riverside Café

You can faintly see the glowing “OPEN” sign of the Riverside Café, located in an old section of town, directly under the Tyne Bridge.

-Ethan Morris, Public History Graduate Student



20 Feb

Ethan Morris, a graduate student in the public history program, is the first MTSU student to participate in the study abroad program at Northumbria University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England!



I’m scared of packing, and decisions about whether to pack four shirts or five can easily keep me up at night. Needless to say, packing for a five-month trip to England consumed a considerable amount of my time. Of all the items that I packed, the most important in my opinion would be money. Most of you will travel to England on a Tier Four General Student Visa. It’s the only visa that allows exchange students to work. Regrettably, the visa will not allow you to earn money while working. The money you have when you arrive in Newcastle is all the money you will have until you return to the States five months later. You’ll want to try new foods, visit faraway places, ride the metro, and buy a few things for friends back home, and the worst thing that could happen is you run out of cash. In this post, I will talk a bit about British currency and how to get the most for your money.

The American dollar looses value in the United Kingdom. Currently, one British pound (£) is equal to $1.45. Two months ago, the conversion rate stood at $1.60 to £1. As the conversion rate will likely change by the time you arrive, watch the going rates on (the British government’s preferred exchange rate website). Adapting to the deflated value of the American dollar will take some time. Don’t be sucked into buying things for seemingly low prices. Remember a £25 pair of pants is not $25, its $36. Look for coupons, watch the clearance rack, and wait for the price to go down. Frequent places like TK Maxx (the European branch of America’s TJ Maxx), Poundland (a British version of Dollar General), and Boot’s Pharmacy. English pharmacies are similar to the American pharmacies of thirty or forty years ago. For example, most Geordies will pick up a workday lunch at Boot’s (a sandwich, side, and drink for £3.29). Although it may seem odd to a twenty-something-year-old American, British pharmacies serve excellent food.

Alongside the conversion rate, be aware that the British love coins. In America, we keep pennies, nickels, and dimes for luck and then throw them into fountains or put them in parking meters. We rarely use them. In England, the British spend their pence (what Americans call cents). There are one, two, five, ten, twenty, and fifty pence coins. There are also one and two pound coins. As the British government does not issue any bank notes (what Americans call bills) lower than five pounds, and as most British purchases (especially meals) are lower than five pounds, you’ll find lots of Brits transacting in coins. You also might find it interesting that the singular for pence is penny, the likely origin for calling our one cent piece a penny.

Lastly, the English have all but converted to chipped cards (a supposedly more secure means of transaction). In the States, banks are just beginning to issue chipped credit or debit cards. As such, most Americans still carry around cards with magnetic strips, and you will likely come to England with cards with magnetic strips. Be aware, however, that some British businesses won’t accept a card with only a magnetic strip. As such, its advisable to get a chipped card before you come over. Rest assured, however, if you do have a debit card with only a magnetic strip and want to pull out money from an ATM, Lloyd’s Bank’s ATMs read both chip and magnetic strip (and, as an added bonus, don’t charge processing fees).


Top row, from left to right—one, two, five, ten, twenty, and fifty pence. Bottom row, from left to right—one and two pounds. Do you notice any patterns to help you differentiate the coins? And yes, all coins and notes have a picture of the Queen!

-Ethan Morris, Public History Graduate Student

“A Waak Around Toon”

12 Feb

Ethan Morris, a graduate student in the public history program, is the first MTSU student to participate in the study abroad program at Northumbria University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England!

“A Waak Around Toon”

Most of us are accustomed to jumping in our cars and going wherever we want to go, and we rarely consider the distances we cover. This semester, I left my keys in America and bought a good pair of boots in England. I’ll admit there are other ways to travel besides walking, but these can be expensive (in the case of multiple metro tickets) or unpredictable (such as riding with a friend). Without exception, the cheapest and most liberating form of travel is walking. On foot, most people will be limited to visiting places within a two- or three-mile radius. In my case, this radius restricts me to Newcastle proper. So where should you or I visit? There are a number of places to go in Newcastle, but I’ll highlight three of my favorites.

The Great North Museum, also known as the Hancock Museum, provides a useful introduction to the city. For example, before coming to England, I did not know what a magpie was. The magpie serves as the mascot for Newcastle United, the city’s popular football (or soccer) team. A magpie is a fairly large black and white bird, and Newcastle United’s striped uniforms likely mimic the bird’s plumage. All of this dawned on me during a walk through the Hancock’s wildlife exhibits. The museum’s other exhibits, especially those on Hadrian’s Wall, will let visitors in on other important facts that are considered common knowledge in Northumberland. Furthermore, the Hancock is free to the public and a short five-minute walk from Northumbria University’s campus.

DSCN7929 (The Hancock Museum)

Once you begin to settle into life in Newcastle, you may find yourself frequenting the city’s Literary and Philosophical Society, commonly known as the Lit and Phil. The society formed in 1793 as a “conversation club,” and its current members certainly fulfill their predecessors’ intent. People gather every morning to drink coffee and tea and discuss the news, a book, politics, science, math, or a recent trip. Be careful, however; if you get too close to a conversation, you’ll get roped in. Everyone is extremely friendly. The Lit and Phil also organizes (mostly free) concerts and lectures fairly regularly. I’ve attended two lectures in the past few weeks, the first on French literature in World War I and the second on problems within higher education. Student membership is an affordable £40. Members can borrow up to six books at a time (many books are over 150 years old) and access the society’s wi-fi. Moreover, members get to study, read, and chat in a magnificent library built in 1825. Don’t be surprised if it’s love at first sight.

IMG_1715IMG_1719 (Lit and Phil)

Geordies are extremely laid back, and weekend afternoons are reserved for relaxation. There is no better place to relax or take a stroll than Leazes Park. Opened in 1873 and improved shortly after Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1893, it retains much of its turn of the century charm, complete with a terrace, statues, and colorful bandstand. In the summers, the dock opens and locals can rent boats to row around the park’s lake. There are flower gardens, tennis courts, open fields, a number of paved trails, and (believe it or not) grazing land for locals’ farm animals!

IMG_1788(Leazes Park)

-Ethan Morris, Public History Graduate Student



English 101

5 Feb

Ethan Morris, a graduate student in the public history program, is the first MTSU student to participate in the study abroad program at Northumbria University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England! Throughout the semester he will be guest blogging and letting us know about his experience! Below is his first blog post and some pictures of Newcastle!


English 101

I never expected that language would prove to be such a difficultly. In the English county of Northumberland, the locals seem to speak another language. The common phrase, “ye deed canny is oot,” baffled me until a local explained it meant “your as dead nice as anything.” Folks from the area around the Tyne and Wear Rivers (of which Newcastle is the center) speak in a dialect known as Geordie. Geordie is one of more than seven distinct dialects spoken by the people of Northumberland. To an American, each dialect might sound slightly Scottish. Indeed, Northumberland is so far north that I’ve heard it described as the southernmost region of Scotland. The consolation of learning these “foreign languages,” however, is that the locals will give you a helping hand. There are quite a few non-native Geordies from other regions of Britain who remember the struggles of learning the dialect for the first time.

Learning a new vocabulary will be something to get used to in England. As many of you probably know, American fries are British chips, and our biscuits are their scones. There is a different academic language as well. While in the States, a Master’s student is called a graduate student, in England, he is called a postgraduate. University is usually abbreviated “uni,” Departments are known as Faculties, professors are referred to as tutors, and classes are known as modules. One other vocabulary fact that may startle is that the British do not use the term public history. When I mentioned the term “public historian” to a colleague, she admitted after reflection, “I guess that’s what I am. I just never used the term.” As such, there are no university-level public history programs. Master’s programs in cultural management, events management, or museum studies are much more common. Given that my degree does not exist in England (at least in name), I am taking one course with the Cultural Management Faculty and another course with the History Faculty. Together, these two classes resemble a typical semester in MTSU’s Public History Program. Even more surprising perhaps, are museum apprenticeships. In 2005, in order to get more young people in the museum field, the British government encouraged city councils to offer vocational training to socially- or economically-marginalized workers, aged 16-25. Apprentices work for little pay (£2.50 or $3.60 an hour) at a museum for one year, finish with a certificate, and then go on to apply for museum jobs anywhere in the nation. While an apprentice’s certificate is not as highly-regarded as a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, many apprentices find work in English museums. Bede’s World, the museum where I work, employs three or four former apprentices. Most of the administrators, however, have a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.

Both the British and American people speak English. Yet, there are different dialects, vocabularies, and colloquialisms that make the English of the two nations seem dissimilar. So dissimilar in fact, that (although Northumbria requires English-proficiency among exchange students) Northumbria’s faculty still feels it necessary to introduce newly-arrived students to academic British vocabulary. From my little experience, I’m not sure a non-native can ever pass “English 101.”

-Ethan Morris, Public History Graduate Student


The lake at Leazes Park.IMG_1742


A view from the top of Newcastle’s Castle, looking northward toward St. Nicholas’ Cathedral.DSCN7445


Newcastle’s Castle’s Keep.



A view from the Swing Bridge, looking down the Tyne River at the Tyne Bridge and Gateshead Millennium Bridge (a pedestrian bridge).IMG_1673

Stay tuned for more updates from Ethan!!