Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Barcelona Beginnings


My Year Abroad is officially under way and here is my first post from a very hot and sunny Spain (more on that later). Let's bring you up to speed.

So on the afternoon of Wednesday 31st August, I jetted off from Manchester Airport along with my life in  a 22KG suitcase to begin my year abroad with a slight detour- a long weekend in Barcelona!

I arrived mid-evening and it wasn't long until I was reunited with Lena, my girlfriend. We were in town to play in a Quidditch tournament (if you're confused by this, read my previous post) called Barcelona Moustaches Time 3. We both attended last year and had a pretty unforgettable time of it so it seemed like a great way to start my year abroad. But of course, we weren't just there for Quidditch. We spent the first two days seeing the sights of the city starting with the famous architectural skills of Antoni Gaudi on the Thursday. In the afternoon, we walked around Parc Guell before hiking up a nearby hill to reach 'the perfect lunch spot' as Lena described it. The top off the hill offered an amazing panoramic view of Barcelona and the surrounding hills, very much proving Lena right (apart from the fact the rock I sat on during lunch said 'Brexit' on it, too soon...)!  With its creative architecture and lush green gardens, I can certainly say Parc Guell is a must see when you come to Barcelona.

Austrian Gardens. Admission Fee- One Austrian

Top of the hill


Not cool

Next up was the second part of our Gaudi double bill. We headed into the city centre to see arguably the most famous landmark in the city- the Sagrada Familia. Although the outside is still under construction, the inside was certainly impressive with its tall ceiling and the vivid colours of the stained glass windows, especially whilst the sun was setting. I'd love to visit again when it's finally finished.

After a lot of walking on the Thursday, we decided to take things a bit easier on Friday. We met up with friends and headed to Barceloneta beach for the afternoon to enjoy the sea and relax. I even gained a special hair accessory (courtesy of Franky)!

Showing off the hair accessory that Franky bought for me at the beach. Photo Credit- Jack Lennard

In the evening, we joined up with the rest of my teammates from the Mighty and Amazing Quercs for a team meal. Afterwards, we headed to watch the Montjuic Magic Fountain light show, an impressive spectacle of light on the dancing water fountain accompanied by music. There shows pretty much every night throughout the summer months yet there was still a massive crowd, it was like going to a music concert!

Querc team meal. Photo Credit- Jack Lennard

Saturday arrived and it was time for the tournament to begin. The Quercs went into BMT3 as the two time reigning champions and were in search of an historic third title. We started well by winning all of our matches on the day against Spanish merc team- the Sparcs, hosts Barcelona Eagles and our great Scandinavian rivals the Norwegian Ridgebacks. After a successful first day, this is when things turned sour for me. It had been a very hot day and as a consequence I came down ill with Heat exhaustion in the evening. After seeking medical attention, I was advised to relax which therefore meant I had to rest up and miss out on playing our Quarter and Semi final matches of the tournament on Sunday. It was frustrating for me as I had really been looking forward to playing in the tournament for a long time however I felt much better later in the day and managed to join my teammates for the final versus European champions Titans Paris. We fought as hard as we could and enjoyed trying out some defensive seeking for a change however we weren't able to take a third title with the Titans winning convincingly in the end. For a team who only ever come together for tournaments, I felt we performed admirably against the best team Europe has to offer and I was pleased that I could help my teammates out on the pitch. Later at the after party, I had the chance to socialize including meeting some of my new teammates who I'll be playing with in Madrid and we all witnessed a very special (unofficial) wedding ceremony of two Eagles' players. A great way to round off the weekend.

The Mighty and Amazing Quercs- BMT3

The following day it was time to say goodbye to everyone, especially Lena which is never easy, before I got on a bus to Madrid. After a 7 hour journey, I arrived in Madrid before heading out to Alcalá to get my Erasmus year truly underway. Although on a Quidditch front this year's trip to Barcelona wasn't quite as enjoyable or successful as the previous year, it was still a great start to my year in Spain spent in great company. In my next post, I'll tell you all about my life here in Alcalá de Henares and what I've been upto in my first few weeks as an Erasmus student.

Spain- it's good to be back!



Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The Quidditch Talk

Viewers of this blog, if you are not already, you may want to sit down. Not sure how to tell you this but I have been diagnosed with a serious addiction. I am a Quidditch player.

This is actually quite a difficult post to write, where does one begin when talking about Quidditch? Well, if you have me on facebook or follow me on twitter, you will surely be fully aware that it is something that has slowly but surely completely taken over my life since I started Uni (a rather large contributing factor to the inactivity of this blog, sorry guys). I would like to share with you a quick crash course of everything there is to know about Quidditch and what I have done within the sport for the past two years.


First things first, WHAT exactly is Quidditch? The clue lies in the last sentence of the previous paragraph. Quidditch is a 7-a-side, full contact, mixed gender SPORT which takes inspiration from the fictional sport of the same name that featured in JK Rowling's Harry Potter series and applies the ideas behind it to make a functional game to be played by muggles (non-magical people a.k.a us). Quidditch combines elements of handball, rugby and dodgeball to create a sport that is fast paced, immensely tactical and physically demanding. It was invented by Xander Manshel and Alex Benepe while they were students at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, USA back in 2005 and has snow-balled ever since.

There are 3 types of balls used in the game: 1- The Quaffle. A slightly deflated volleyball, chasers and keepers throw this through the hoops at the end of the pitch to score a goal which is worth 10 points each time you score. 2. Bludgers. These are standard rubber dodgeballs and are used by the beaters. If an opponent hits you with a bludger, you are 'knocked out' of the game which means you have to dismount your broom, drop any ball you are carrying at the time and touch your team's hoops before you can continue playing. 3. The Snitch. Instead of a small golden flying ball, the snitch is a tennis ball encased in a sock which is attached by velcro to the shorts of a person called 'the snitch runner'. The snitch runner is an impartial official (yes, there are A LOT of referees in Quidditch!) who enters play on the 17th minute mark of a match. The seeker's job is to remove the sock from the back of the snitch runner's shorts whilst the snitch runner does anything possible (within reason) to avoid being caught. Once the snitch is caught, the game ends and the catching seeker gets their team an extra 30 points- cos 150 is ridiculous. Now, you're probably wondering whether there are brooms involved. If you were reading an earlier sentence of this paragraph correctly, then you'll know the answer to this questions is yes. Whilst all this carnage with multiple balls is happening, you must have a broom (commonly made out of PVC piping for practicality and safety reasons) between your legs at all times when on pitch in order to participate in a match. This may make it seem silly at first but the best way to think of it is as a handicap. All sports have one, whether it's having to a kick the ball in football or being only allowed to pass backwards in Rugby, Quidditch is no different.

Quidditch is unique in that it is the only mixed gendered full contact sport in the world. As long as your opponent is playing with the ball your position uses, you are allowed to be physical with them and even tackle them to the floor, whether they are a man or woman. Besides male and female (binary genders), Quidditch also recognises people who identify themselves as non-binary (neither male or female, there are many different variations of non-binary genders) or trans-sexual, creating a safe space for people who would otherwise be excluded from more mainstream sports. In fact, one of the key elements of the Quidditch rulebook is the 'Four Maximum Rule' which makes it so that no team can have more than four players on pitch at one time who identify as the same gender, therefore ensuring all teams are mixed. For this reason, it's often described as an inclusive sport with the idea being that no matter who you are in terms of identity or physicality, you can play and make a difference.

Still confused? Here's a useful video that explains how the game works-

If you liked that, here's some actual match footage-


So, HOW did I get dragged into this crazy world? For me, it's all thanks to Ollie Craig, a friend of my sister at University who I am now proud to call a friend of my own as well as a (now former) teammate and my vice-captain. In the autumn of 2013, I noticed him posting a variety of Quidditch-related things on facebook including pictures and a blog post about the first British Quidditch Cup. I couldn't help being intrigued by what I saw and simply had to find out more! When we met up in Lille (during his Year Abroad) a few months later, I asked him all about it. He gave me a brief explanation and I remember him tell me "It's a bit like Rugby, you might be good at it". Following that encounter, I knew that Quidditch was something I had to try out when I got to Uni. I'd spent many a night of procrastination scowering the internet for new and interesting sports I could try at Southampton and this seemed right up my street. What's more, I also met another Quidditch player during my time at Summer Camp. Further talking about it with her fueled my interest even more and while at camp, myself and my fellow Pool Program leaders actually ran Quidditch as one of our activities with a very basic (and water based) set of rules. When I arrived in Southampton in September 2014 for my fresher year of university, I attended my first taster session and from then on, it became a part of my life.


I have been playing Quidditch for Southampton Quidditch Club in Southampton, UK for the past two seasons and I will be joining Madrid Wolves Quidditch Team during my year abroad. These are not the only two Quidditch clubs in the world though! There are teams in countries across the globe (21 national teams attended this summer's IQA Quidditch World Cup in Germany). Go to the International Quidditch Association website ( to see if your country has an official national governing body (NGB). You can also do a google or facebook search too if you don't find anything. Still can't find any evidence of Quidditch where you live? Make your own team! There's plenty of help available online should you wish to do so.


The most obvious reason is the Harry Potter factor. The best-selling book series and subsequent film series played a large part of just about every child growing up during the early 2000's and I was no exception. As a keen sports fanatic, the parts about Quidditch were always my favourite so the idea of playing a real-life version of it was simply very appealing to me.

That was one of the things that first got me into the sport. However, there's a lot more to it than just that. A few months ago, someone on a Quidditch facebook forum asked the question- "Why is Quidditch important to you?" Below is my answer to that question which I feel perfectly sums up my feelings about the sport and WHY I do it.

'Quidditch has given me so much. Before I started playing, I felt a bit lost. Years of Swimming to a fairly high standard had burnt me out and I needed something new to inspire me, something I could be passionate about and if anyone sees me when I'm on that pitch, I've found exactly that. Quidditch has opened up a whole new world of opportunity for me. I've had the ability to compete at the highest levels of a sport once more, become a high-ranking match official (referee), I have been able to travel and make friends all across the globe in the name of sport, doing bits of coaching, get involved with Sports journalism- all of which have been dreams of mine at some stage earlier in my life and through Quidditch I have been able to make them into some sort of a reality (albeit without the financial reward and career opportunities that more lucrative sports provide). Quidditch has also made me a better sportsman and person in general. Although I can still get a bit caught in the heat of the moment, I am much more respectful of the opposition (mainly cos I tend to know some/most of the players I end up playing) and mindful of people's emotions. I am also more aware of alternative lifestyles and backgrounds ranging from people from less sporting/competitive backgrounds to people of different sexual orientations, to transgender people and non-binary gendered people (something I didn't know existed until I started playing!). It's been a real eye-opener all-round. Most importantly for me, I like to feel like I'm making a valuable contribution in whatever I do with my life and Quidditch allows me to do that. I feel great about myself and the friends I have made through this sport knowing that we are all contributing to the start of something special and I think it's going to be great in 15/20 years time to see what our efforts and enjoyment during these years have accomplished and how the sport will develop as a result of it. Quidditch is simply a very exciting sport to be a part of and I hope I can be a part of it for a long time'

Quidditch in pictures

Here are some picture highlights of my Quidditch career thus far...
my first taster session
celebrating a goal vs Oxford Quidlings at Southern Cup 2014- my first tournament

Starting a match for the Mighty and Amazing Quercs at Tournoi International de la Violette in Toulouse, January 2015

Me with the British Quidditch Cup after Southampton's victory in 2015
Southampton QC team huddle before the British Quidditch Cup 2015 Final
Winning Barcelona Moustaches Time 2 Tournament with the Mighty and Amazing Quercs

Catching a snitch at Valentines Cup 3

Head Refereeing a match at the 2016 British Quidditch Cup
Southampton QC team at the European Quidditch Cup 2016

Assistant Refereeing the IQA World Cup Final 2016 between Australia and the USA

Meeting Alex Benepe at the IQA Quidditch World Cup 2016
So there you have it. That's been my short guide to the sport of Quidditch. Believe it or not, this is only a small proportion of what I could tell you about Quidditch however I'll leave it there for now. Feel free to ask me any questions though! Hopefully you've enjoyed that and seen why I enjoy it so much. I did this post partly due to the fact I may well reference Quidditch in future posts throughout this year so this should help explain things when I do. Thanks for reading, now there's only one more thing left to say...




FOT 2016-2017: The re-birth

Yep, it's properly back this time.

I mean it, I truly do.

So last summer when I had a bit too much free time on my hands I made a blog post about my first year of uni and promised to write more. However, as it often does, life started getting busy again and alas, I either forgot/didn't have the time to blog. Yea, that happened. I would write another post about this past year for you to read however yet again, I'm pushed for time. Soz guys.

So let's instead focus on what this post (public service announcement) is all about. This is the return of Fraser On Tour- the blog you all knew and loved during my gap year in 2013 & 2014. I'm aware I may have received some new readers (Ower, if you're reading this, "welcome to my blog!") so if you are one of those said readers, feel free to look back at those posts if you want to further procrastinate from that important thing you're supposed to be doing right now.

This time around it's Year Abroad time. I'm now in my third year of uni study having completed two years at the University of Southampton and am now going on an Erasmus placement to study at the Universidad de Alcalá for the next 9 months. The University, as the name probably suggests, is located in Alcalá de Henares, a town situated about 30 minutes north east outside of Madrid.

Alcalá looking pretty

My adventure starts on Wednesday when I jet off to Barcelona and besides some logistical matters I need to sort out, I'm pretty excited to be going as you'd probably expect. After 2 years in Southampton, I'm ready for a change of scenery and a new challenge that I'm hoping will help me rekindle my passion for travel and language learning. Ever since leaving Mallorca 33 months ago, I knew I wanted to live in Spain again at some point in my life and I'm glad I get to discover a new location as nice as Alcalá with Madrid right on my doorstep to boot! Lots of new opportunities are ahead of me and I can't wait to get stuck in once more.

Blog-wise, I'm likely to be much busier than I was during my gap year and therefore I can't guarantee a weekly post like I used to deliver. However, I am aiming to give you a fortnightly offering at very least which should hopefully be satisfactory. Depending on how you view things, I've either been A) very waffly and could've written a shorter post. or B) Not provided enough detail. So I'm gonna stop now, will give you more insight into what I'm getting up to in my upcoming posts (will tell you about Barcelona soon...) and yea, see you soon.




Saturday, 29 August 2015

FOT is back! My first year as a language student at University

Hi,     Remember me?

That guy who used to post on here?

Well... I'm back!

For those who actually enjoyed reading 'Fraser On Tour!', I cordially apologise for the complete inactivity of the blog over this past year. My freshers year at University turned out to be a lot more busy and hectic than I'd really planned for and thus lead to FOT slipping further and further down my long list of priorities. To make amends, I intend to provide you all with a summary of everything I've managed to get up to over the past 12 months or so with the hope of being completely up to date in time for my return to Southampton in a few weeks time. There really is a lot for me to talk about and share with you and this will be the first of a few posts so I can do it all justice. Prepare yourself as I naively dip my toe back into the pool of words, random images and terrible jokes that is my blog.

Here goes nothing.

So last time I made a post telling you all about the end of my summer in the USA. That was on the eve of my freshers week and the next day I moved into my room in Connaught halls, my home from home for a year, to begin an awesome action-packed week. I must say, I do actually kind of enjoy meeting new people for the first time and doing the whole charade of asking generic get-to-know-you questions of which there were plenty of those and my halls' community feel created quite a welcoming atmosphere. Besides all the obligatory settling in stuff, as with pretty much all freshers' weeks, there were plenty of nigths out and partying. So I don't have to go into too much detail, here's some evidence of that.

Me with my block mates before Freshers Ball

Once all the excitement of freshers week had died down, it was time to get cracking with the actual reason why we all go to University: studying. Academically, my course has been enjoyable albeit difficult to adjust to. I have embarked on a course in BA Modern Languages which entails 4 years of studying including a year abroad in my third year. In the course, I study French and Spanish from Post A-Level standard as well as starting a new language from scratch (Accelerated* Portuguese) and an elective content module per semester (I chose a French history module during first semester and a module called Intercultural Communication in the Modern World during the second). Despite holding some degree of interest in each of the classes I was taking, I must admit that I really struggled to stay on top all them throughout the year. I'd describe it all as a great balancing act which can be especially difficult with languages when there's so much extra-curricular work to do to help improve them as skills as well as general studying. Having taken a year out of the studying environment, my work ethic had all but vanished. During my gap year, the only thing I had to do that was anything similar to academic work (besides my TEFL course which was very easy) was writing this blog which I could work on and post on at anytime I liked regardless of quality so going from having so little responsibility and then returning to homework, coursework deadlines and exams was particularly difficult for me. My first year's grades don't count towards my overall degree and all I needed was 40% in my assessments to pass the year which further encouraged my study apathy and made the distractions of nights out, sports and facebook all that more appealing. That all being said, I did manage to get to grips with everything in the end and managed to get the grades I needed to pass the year. I made plenty of mistakes and didn't study as well as I could've done but I've gone through that learning curve now and will be much better for it going into second year. More organised and prepared than before.

*=by Accelerated Portuguese, I mean I'm learning the language at a faster rate than I did with French or Spanish. In this first year, I've gone from being a complete beginner to roughly AS-level standard in the language. That's arguably a pretty big jump to take!

Besides frequenting the vast variety of clubs and bars that Southampton has to offer (mostly Jesters, SoBar and the Hobbit) I spent much of my first year busying myself with activities outside of my studies. First year is when you're supposed to try out new things and get involved with as many clubs and societies as you can before your course completely takes over your life and I definitely wanted to make sure I used this time to do just that. From all the amazing clubs and societies offered up at the Bunfight, I decided to commit to three sports teams for the year: Swimming, Touch Rugby and Quidditch. These clubs took up the majority of my spare time throughout the year (especially Quidditch, but I'll tell you all about that at another point in time) and have proved to be a great way for me to meet new people from across the University and further afield, stay in shape and make friends and let's be honest, drink a lot.

To summarise, my first year as a language student at University has been exactly as I described my course really- Enjoyable but difficult to adjust to. I really enjoy the university lifestyle and all the freedom that comes with it but it does come at a price, and I'm not referring to the £9000 tuition fees I'm paying a year to attend. Being a good student really revolves around handling all the extra independence granted to you and organising your time well. This ranges from doing the small everyday chores such as washing-up, cleaning and laundry to waking yourself up in the morning, cooking and motivating yourself to study- All things my parents especially helped me with during my GCSEs and A-Levels. At the end of the day, I still enjoy learning my three languages and having seen my sister graduate from Southampton with the same degree (and with first class honours!), I am much more determined now than I was a year ago to get my own degree but also to enjoy the experience along the way as much as I can. It's now the end of the summer and I am actually really excited to get back to Southampton. Going into second year, I am moving into a new house with some new people who I can't wait to meet, I'm starting a new part-time job as a Swimming instructor plus I am a freshers rep for my halls so there's plenty of new challenges and experiences lined up for the next 12 months. Let's hope it all turns out alright I suppose!

Well that's been some kind of summary of my year. Hope you've enjoyed it. I have at least another 2 posts lined up for you before term starts again so keep an eye out for those and I will do the best I can to deliver them to you.



Saturday, 20 September 2014

Back to Irregularity

Hey Everyone,

I'm happy to tell you that I'm back in the UK and well after a truly excellent summer in America. Currently I'm sat in the kitchen of my sister Imogen's new Uni house in Southampton before moving into my halls of residence tomorrow morning.

But how did I get to this position? What has happened between now and when I left Chicago?

Answer: This.

Just before noon on Sunday 14th September, my Uncle John took me to the Greyhound bus station in the centre of Chicago where we parted ways and I went to board my bus to Washington DC. Now before we could leave the 'Windy City', there were problems with the transmission on the first bus so we had to wait another hour for a new one which also didn't work then a little after that we finally had a functioning bus. 2 hours after we were supposed to have left. Once we were on the road things were going ok until we got to Toledo, OH when a drunk guy wandered onto the bus, unchecked for a ticket by the driver, and proceeded to try and smoke on the bus-breaking the law. The drunkard was escorted off the bus at our next stop and we continued onward to Cleveland, Ohio where we had to wait for 2 hours while the bus was given maintenance work. It was midnight by the time we arrived in Cleveland and by this point I became very restless, uncomfortable and anxious due to the unsettled nature of the journey so far which felt like absolute hell at the time. Back on the road at 2AM for another 2 hour stint to Pittsburgh, PA ,where the bus stopped for another hour, then we drove on through the Appalachian mountains into Maryland (we passed within 10 miles of camp at one point actually!) then onto Baltimore before arriving in DC just after 12PM. Over 24 hours since I'd left Chicago. I was so relieved to be off that bus after what was a long, tiring and hellish journey which I regard as probably one of my worst experiences all summer.

Not long after arriving in DC, I checked into my hostel to dump my bags and freshen up as well as have a quick nap before heading out for my evening activity. On my previous visit to DC, me and my camp friends had seen pretty much everything there was to see however there was one more thing left on my list. That evening I went out for a walk around the various memorials and monuments on the national mall. I started around 7PM so I could take in the sunset over the city before going on to see everything all lit up. Under the lights, all the monuments and memorials seemed that bit more impressive and I really enjoyed reading the various quotes written around them especially the Franklin D Roosevelt (my favourite US President) and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorials. I ended the night with a meal in the Hard Rock Café for one last burger before leaving the US. I still felt a bit ill from the bus ride but nonetheless it was a great way to spend my final night in the country.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Inside it

View over the Tidal Basin

FDR Memorial

MLK Memorial

Back at Lincoln

I had a slow start to the next day before boarding my 6:44PM flight from DC to Philadelphia (I got a great view of the sunset from my window seat as seen below) then boarding my flight from Philadelphia to Manchester an hour and a bit later. It was a very short flight home, only 6 hours, in which I spent my time watching the new 300 and X-Men films as well as Bad Neighbours and a bit of the new Amazing Spiderman film. All films I'd missed while travelling this year! I then arrived home back in Manchester just after 8AM where Mum met me at the airport to take me home. American summer = over
Gap Year = over
Bye bye DC! Bye Bye America!
In reference to the title, coming home this time has been a bit different cos I wasn't sticking around for very long. Since I've been back at the UK, all my energy and focus has gone into getting myself ready for University. My past 3 days have been all about shopping, tidying up my room at home and packing my life away to take off to my new home at University. It's been a frantic and stressful few days however amongst all the madness I did find time to finish my gap year collage. Basically, during this past year I've been collecting all sorts of pieces of crap from the places I've been (e.g. Tickets, Maps, leaflets etc.) so I thought instead of binning them, it would be a good idea to cut them up, add a few photos and make something that would act as the ultimate souvenir for my year of travelling. I'll attach a photo of it to the end of this post. I may not have really had time to see any of my friends from back home but I'm glad I got that done.

 So now I'm in Southampton on the eve of starting University life. I can't tell you how long I've been waiting for this moment. Ok, at least a year! I've always thought that University is an environment that I would thrive in so I guess now we'll see if that's the case.

Freshers 2014-Let's Do This!

Voila! My finished collage, should make for an excellent decoration for my wall in my new student room