My Last 24 Hours in London

As I sit here reminiscing on the past 8 months, I’m filled with all types of emotions that I don’t really know how to describe. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences I could have ever asked for. Thinking about all I want to say right now is actually making me tear up. I have met so many wonderful people and have created memories that will last a lifetime. I know I’m being incredibly sappy but this truly has been the best opportunity I could have asked for.

Some come to Europe to study abroad with the mindset that the “study” part is put on the back burner. Coming to the London School of Economics, I was in for a shock because little did I know the intensity I was actually going to be putting myself through. I knew this was one of the top universities in the world, but I didn’t prepare myself for the stress and anxiety I have faced the past few weeks. However, all of the stress and tears was worth it because I can truly say I have had a world class education in just a few short months. I like to believe that I have grown so much intellectually, being taught by some of the most intelligent professors in the world. (Not to mention my Game Theory professor has met John Nash and revised some of his work.) This school has been much different than what I am used to back in the US. At Lehigh, I feel I have been coddled and babied because my final exams at home are worth approximately 30% of my final grade. Here, students work all year to attain a final exam mark which is the only form of assessment that actually matters. No one cares if you do your homework, or if you show up to class. You are expected to do that anyway because that’s what is necessary to attain a high exam mark. Thankfully, I believe my grades come back 50/50 where half is my exam mark, and half is my homework and class participation. These exams however are no joke. Students here are expected to learn a year’s worth of material, down to the last detail, to take a 3 hour exam that counts 100% of your grade. I couldn’t even imagine the stress I would be under if I was a real student here. I have studied harder and longer during these past 5 weeks than I ever have for anything in my life. I am very proud of myself because I believe I did well considering the amount of material I was expected to know for 5 exams within 2 weeks. I guess I have to wait until July to see how I actually did.

Despite all this, I have made so many friends that I really hope to keep in touch with. Everyone I met here was so welcoming and friendly. I really think this experience has made me more confident and outgoing because I was thrown into a foreign country forced to make friends and live on my own. I am just so thankful for everyone I have met these past 8 months whether they are from the US, UK or any other part of the world. I can’t even begin to describe how wonderful everyone has been to me, and the friends I have made here are really some of the best people I have ever met. I now have friends from various universities all over the US, and from all parts of the country. This will definitely make it easy if I ever want to travel through the US! I really do hope to keep in contact with the friends I have made here. We have shared so many experiences and memories together, and I don’t want these friendships to fade away.

Speaking of traveling, I have definitely done my fair share of traveling, and my bank account lived to tell the tale. I traveled to 10 countries, other than the UK, and a whopping 19 cities if I’m counting correctly. I am so grateful I was able to do this all while juggling my school work. All of my friends that I traveled with, thank you for sharing all the experiences we had with me. To those friends from home that I visited, thank you so so much for showing me around the cities you were also studying in. I am so grateful for having friends who were also studying throughout Europe where I just hopped over and visited for the weekend. I cannot even begin to describe the experiences I’ve had, from climbing to Arthur’s seat in Edinburgh, to drinking beer in Hofbrauhaus in Munich, to seeing the fireworks for New Year’s Eve in London, to seeing the Colosseum, and many more beautiful European cities. None of this would have been possible if not for the friends I’ve made, my wonderful boyfriend Joe, and my mom and sister who came to visit!

To add to my list of things I am thankful for, I am so appreciative of my family who has been so supportive of my time here, and made this whole experience possible. I definitely could not have made it through without their support and love. Also, thank you to my boyfriend Joe who has been the most patient person I have ever met. I am so very sorry I’ve been able to see you about 10 days in the last 8 months. I am so excited to see you in just a few days though! You have also been one of the most supportive people during my time here and I DEFINITELY could not have made it through without you and being able to call you to help me figure things out and to calm me down and let me know it’s all going to be okay. And to vent about everything that has ever happened here. You are a saint for putting up with me and my meltdowns this past year. Thank you also to everyone else who has made this possible, including Lehigh and the study abroad office, Arcadia and their wonderful orientation staff, and all my other friends and family back home and here. You all have truly made this experience more than worthwhile.

I will finally be returning back home in about 15 hours, which is so mind blowing. I can’t believe my 8 months here is already over. Most of my stuff is packed. I don’t think I’m ready just yet, but I do have to get home to start my new job that I’m very excited for. Life moves on, and new doors open as other ones close. I finally can say my dream of studying abroad has come to an end. After many months of happiness and stress and every other emotion you can think of, I am finally done. I am actually quite sad because I fell in love with London the moment I arrived. Aside from the incredibly random rain showers and the umbrellas I’ve broken, and the rude snotty attitudes, I really love this city and everything it has to offer. Europe is a wonderful place full of so much history. The history of the US doesn’t even come close to that of Europe. I have learned so much from traveling that I would not have learned from just reading a text book. I am definitely excited to go home though and be reunited with my friends and family. Although I love this city, I couldn’t move here because I miss everyone at home so much.

Here are some of my favorite pictures highlighting my time here, and the wonderful friends I have made.

My final Euro-trip!

Well I guess the title is pretty self-explanatory. A few weeks ago, two friends and I hopped over to Dublin for the weekend. When we planned this, we were quite caught up in the excitement of what was spring break, so we didn’t really think about the amount of time our final exams would consume. And unfortunately just a few days leading up to our trip I became sick where my tonsils became so large I could hardly swallow. I went to the doctor on that Wednesday before only for her to tell me that there was nothing she could do. So naturally it got worse so I rushed in on Friday morning just hours before we had to get to the airport. When the doctor looked at my tonsils and she heard I was going to Dublin, she advised me not to go because if they got any bigger I would be hospitalized and I would be paying a fortune because Ireland does not have universal healthcare. So, if that wasn’t enough to scare me.. Naturally however I still went because I didn’t want nearly $200 to go to waste. And as I expected, I didn’t actually end up in the hospital. I just stayed in both nights and went to bed early because what fun is drinking when you can’t even swallow? Thankfully the medicine kicked in fast so I was at least able to enjoy during the day.

What made matters worse was on Friday, we took National Express to the airport. It was supposed to take an hour and a half, and we were planning to have a little over an hour to catch our flight. Well, our bus ended up taking two and a half hours to get to the airport so we had 15 minutes to get through security and to our gate. We made it through security with 5 minutes to spare. I still don’t know how we made it, and thankfully our plane had been delayed about 10 minutes, but we arrived at our gate nearly about to collapse from exhaustion.

So, our first morning we decided what we wanted to do over breakfast. As we were talking, a guy who was alone came up to us and asked to sit with us. We figured why not, he looked pretty normal. We decided to go on the free walking tour (it was our last one!) and our new friend wanted to come along. We learned that he just got out of the military and was doing a trip around Europe by himself just because. It was actually pretty brave, planning what you are going to do and which country you are going to day by day. So after talking to him, we decided he was a pretty cool guy so we invited him to join us for the rest of the day. Also joining us on the tour was a guy from France who seemed to have the same idea of traveling Europe by himself. This kid however, was much less courteous because while we waited for the tour to start, it began to dump rain, and he decided to grab my umbrella and protect himself while I was getting soaked (while still being sick). He would get slightly annoyed when I pulled it away even though clearly he wasn’t invited under my umbrella. Bless his heart, he was very kind, but he just wasn’t someone we wanted to spend the rest of our day with. After devising a plan to escape, he told us he had other plans so we thankfully continued on our way.

Aside from our new “friends,” on the tour we got a quick overview of the city. We saw a majority of the main tourist attractions, including Trinity College, which had an arch that we dared not to go under because it was a legend that you would do poorly on your exams if you did walk through, Dublin Castle, Christ Church Cathedral, and the infamous Temple Bar which housed the restaurant and hotel owned by Bono.

Dublin had a lot of quirks and it was definitely a fun city, but I was certainly let down when there seemed to be a lack of Irish culture. We may have gone to the wrong parts, but I didn’t get that same feeling I’ve gotten from the other cities I’ve been to. However, I still enjoyed myself because later on our first day we went to the Guinness Brewery! It was a lot of fun to see how popular and how core the Guinness brand is to the city. I also thoroughly enjoyed my free pint!

Later that night I decided to go to bed early while my friends stayed up with our new friend. The next morning I was told the story of what happened that previous night. The three of them were sitting in the lounge hanging out, when all of a sudden our new friend stated “I am going to go use the bathroom.” Some 45 minutes later, he finally came back and then asked “Have you ever just trusted a fart a little too much?” This guy defecated in his pants. He proclaimed that he “had a good streak going there.” This stranger who we had just met that morning was telling my friends how he pooped his pants right in front of them.

So aside from all these stranger encounters we had, on Sunday, we decided to go to one of Dublin’s most famous prisons: Kilmainham Gaol. This jail housed thousands of Irish politicians and others who were influential in the development of what we know as Ireland today. It was strangely eerie to hear stories about brothers who were in the jail cells but didn’t know each other were there, and about a couple who got married just days before the husband was executed. I think this housed some of Dublin’s most important history as many were jailed and executed fighting for what they believed in.

Overall I had a good weekend with friends, but I definitely learned that I want to return to various other parts of Ireland to get a real taste of the Irish culture.

And now as I am smack in the middle of my final exams period, I am trying to enjoy what little time I have left as I am now down to the single digits countdown. It feels so bittersweet for my time to be ending here, but I am excited to see what this summer has in store for me. Traveling Europe has been one of the greatest experiences of my life and I am so glad I was able to experience it with the wonderful friends I’ve made here.

Spring Break: Part 2

As I sit here awaiting my imminent demise from my exams, I figured I should take some time to update with the other half of spring break. Priorities.

If you don’t want to read the whole thing, feel free to just look at the pictures since I picked out my favorites from the whole trip.

Picking up from where I left off last time, I met up with my friends in Munich for a second round. To my surprise, I was able to see many different things than from the first time! (Mostly because my girl friends weren’t too interested in seeing the BMW world.) We arrived early morning to quite a surprise: snow. It was a whopping 40 degrees and snowing in mid-April. How wonderful for a “spring break” trip. This unfortunate weather just seemed to follow us all over Europe. We didn’t let this stop us though, because we had a lot to see in a short amount of time. We, again, did a free walking tour which took up most of the day, and our energy. The second day we did much more sight-seeing, including just strolling around and coming across some beautiful parks. We also had seen on the map a little surfing man. We thought this was wrong, as it was still 40 and rainy. How could people be surfing in weather like that. We found the automated wave maker and sure enough, there were plenty of crazy guys surfing in nearly freezing weather. It was really fun to watch though, something so unrelated to Munich in such an odd place. After spending a good 15 minutes mesmerized by their dedication, we moved on to a beer garden in the English gardens. Here, we saw people sipping on liters of beer before noon. Delicious. Due to the freezing weather, we skipped the beer and went right for the giant pretzels which were bigger than my head. It was a really fun atmosphere that I wish I was able to enjoy more had it been warmer. We decided to head back and chose to have dinner at a beer hall. I think this was one of the best decisions we made the whole trip because I had a blast. Even though there was a Munich soccer match going on which led to hundreds of crazed drunk fans flooding the city, the Hofbrauhaus was rich in Munich culture as we downed our liters and ate sausages and potatoes. I don’t think we could have acted any more touristy, but I still had fun.

We chose the last day in Munich to do a little day trip outside the city. I will say this before I even start: this day trip was quite possibly my favorite adventure of the year so far. Even though the train ride was incredibly crowded and we had to stand for 2 hours, once we finally arrived in the town of Fussen where we then had to pick up a crowded bus to get to Hohenschwangau, it was more than worth it. Who knew this place was so popular. There were hundreds of people all going through this tiny town to an attraction so out of the way. We went to see Neuschwanstein Castle. I’ll give a little snapshot on why it’s so popular:

IMG_4451

Look familiar?

No? Let me try again.

Cinderella Castle

 

Many of Disney’s castles were based off of Neuschwanstein which was one of the main reasons we decided to go there. Aside from that however, it was a beautiful area that shouldn’t be missed on a trip to Munich. After doing research later, I found out that poor King Ludwig only really got to live like 200 days in this magnificent castle he built due to the combination of it taking so long and him dying shortly after it was completed. Quite unfortunate. Now, the castle is enjoyed by millions each year. This is quite a statistic, which is also partly terrifying once you cross the Marienbruke to get the best view of the castle. Marienbruke is essentially a tiny 3 foot wide steel bridge that is overlooking a creek and rocks some hundred feet below. Imagine trying to get in and out of this thing with thousands of tourists each day. It’s horrifying. But, we did it. This was definitely not for those who were afraid of heights, because I was even feeling quite frightened. The view from the bridge however made it worth every second of battling the crowds. In order to get up to Marienbruke however, you have essentially three options: bus, horse drawn carriage, and walking. We took the obvious route, to walk. We hiked up about an hour which wasn’t nearly as bad as it first looked. The views on our way up were also incredibly stunning. I couldn’t get enough of this place. I could really go on for days how gorgeous it was. But, long story short, we found another castle, Hohenschwangau castle which was set next to a beautiful lake overlooking the mountains. The Bavarian Alps definitely made their presence all day, and I may have went overboard on the pictures of them.

We somehow managed to knock out Salzburg in less than a day, which was incredibly stressful but also quite an adventure. Our main mission was The Sound of Music and Mozart because we didn’t really know what else there was to see. So, we narrowed our sights down to the Pavilion, Mirabell Gardens, Nonnberg Abbey, and the Mozart Bridge. Unfortunately our time was cut even shorter due to an impending storm that was headed our way. Again, the poor weather just wouldn’t quit. We did get to pack a lot into the day, including lunch right outside the Abbey while we played the Sound of Music soundtrack with confused tourists looking at us. With little time, we unfortunately didn’t get a chance to go into Mozart’s birthplace, but we did get to see it from the outside. We also wanted to take a trip to “the hills” but the easiest way to get there was to take public transport back into Germany because, to our surprise, “the hills” are not actually in Austria. They were in Germany on a man’s private property. Unfortunately we had to nix that in order to make our train to Vienna later that night.

Next stop was Vienna: the land of huge ornate buildings. This city unfortunately didn’t have a free walking tour, so we took a map and decided to do one ourselves. We knocked out a ton of sights within the first day, including the Opera House, churches, Sigmund Freud’s house, the Danube River, and many more! We really sharpened our map skills because we were solely navigating with a map and a compass we had on our phone. I really enjoyed it however because we were able to see a large portion of the city in just one day. One of the cathedrals we saw was infamous for its two towers. We were a little confused at first because we had only seen one. Apparently, the cathedral was never actually finished, and now because of its fame, it will be left that way. Later in the day, we set out to stand in line for standing room only tickets for the opera! We paid 4 euros to stand for like 3 hours, which we didn’t realize how tough it would be. We were able to see Ariadne of Naxos which was all in German, but there were little screens that had English subtitles thankfully, because otherwise we would have had no idea what was going on (as opposed to the very little we picked up with the subtitles). The next day we set out to see the Bellvedere palace. We later found out that it had belonged to royalty, but later was sold because the owners didn’t want it. I don’t know who wouldn’t want a place like this. It was stunning. The gardens were perfectly trimmed and so well-kept. The place seemed oddly empty at first, but then we remembered that it was Easter Sunday. Surprisingly, there was a decent amount open where we were still able to enjoy the city. I did also get a chance to try the famous chocolate cake called Sachertorte. It definitely was good, but I still don’t understand why it is so hyped up. It’s chocolate cake with an orange sort of jelly. That’s it. But, I did succumb to the tourist trap, so I guess it was my own fault. We had heard about Easter markets that were going on that day, since there really wasn’t much else to do. We were pleasantly surprised at the crowds and how ornate these markets were. There were thousands of hollowed out eggs that were hand painted so beautifully. I wanted so badly to bring some home, but they wouldn’t have made it in one piece. Easter night I attended a classical music concert at Schloss Schonbrunn, which we had bought tickets from street sellers dressed as Mozart. I’m really glad the tickets were legitimate because they were quite pricey for a small concert. It was a great end to the trip because this concert was a combination of classical musicians, opera singers, and ballet dancers. It was one of the best concerts I’ve seen in quite a while.

Spring Break, Part 1

Well I haven’t been keeping up with this nearly as much as I had hoped. So I’m just going to do two separate updates on the past like 6 weeks. Part 1: here we go..

For those who aren’t familiar with the UK system, I’ve actually been done my actual classes since late March. We then had a 5 week long break, and now I’m in the middle of review classes, where my exams don’t actually start until May 20. So that’s nearly 2 months since I’ve learned anything and yet I’m expected to remember everything from September to take exams over the course of a few weeks. We’ll see how that one goes. Regardless, the past few weeks have been such a great experience because I put down all of my books and just traveled. I don’t know if that was the best idea, but I’ll determine that on June 2 when I’m officially done.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been to 5 countries, including 2 with my mom and sister!

First stop: Lisbon, Portugal

So I’ll just throw this out there before I get into anything: every country I went to with my friends, we seemed to hit the worst weather of the season. It definitely started in Portugal. You would think at the end of March, Portugal would be a great spring break destination. Well, we got incredibly unlucky because the few days we were there, it was cold, windy, and quite unpleasant. But, we did get a ton of sightseeing in, and got a great workout on all the massive hills and cobblestones. When we arrived our first day, we ran into problems early on when we were trekking through an unknown city in the rain on slippery cobblestones uphill with all our bags. We eventually arrived sweaty messes to our hostel, and decided to grab some food. The hostel recommended some good local food that was relatively close, so we decided to try it out. Well, then came our next obstacle: none of us knew Portuguese. The recommended place had one English speaker that was incredibly busy, and they put a ton of bread and cheese on the table right in front of us. Word of advice to those traveling through Europe: the bread is not free. Don’t touch it or you will be charged per piece. So after that incredibly stressful meal, we decided to go on a, thankfully English speaking, free tour. My friends and I are suckers for the free tours because they really are the best thing in Europe. On this tour, we saw things such as the oldest book store in the world! I didn’t know we would stumble upon that! We also saw remnants of the city that was devastated in a huge earthquake in 1755. It was so unfortunate the stories our guide told us. The city was destroyed in a matter of hours. There are a select few places which still harbor the devastation, including a church that lost its roof, but the walls still remain. On a brighter note, our guide also brought us into a church that no one would look twice at from the outside. The inside however, so stunning. I’ve never seen a church covered in more gold in my life. I’m so glad he brought us in there, because it inspired us to go into many more churches that we never would have thought would be so beautiful. Aside from the churches and earthquake stories, we did get a chance to sit down and enjoy authentic Portuguese desserts. We tried custard pastries and bean pastries. These bean pastries were heavenly, and they were only made from beans. They were so sweet and delicious, and I’m still wondering how theres hardly any other ingredients in such a delicious masterpiece. We also tried a dessert-like liquor that is popular in Portugal, called Ginja. The Portuguese really know how to do dessert right. Later on the tour, we got to the coast and our guide pointed out something peculiar: in Lisbon, there is an exact copy of the San Franciso Bay bridge and the Christ the Redeemer statue which is famous to Rio. The next day we decided to venture up to a castle atop one of the hills which gave incredible views of the city, and housed peacocks! They were so beautiful, and I think all the tourists were more interested in the peacocks than the actual castle. One of our last days in Lisbon, we decided to take a long walk down the coast to see the large monument, Padrão dos Descobrimentos, or Monument to the Discoveries. It was one of the largest monuments I’ve ever seen. We continued along the coast to see the Belem Tower which was a sight in itself from the outside. Unfortunately we didn’t go in because it was a ridiculous entrance fee that we decided wasn’t worth it. After that day ended, we calculated we had walked a total of about 10 miles. Our last day, of course was raining, so we decided to take a trip to the Lisbon aquarium. I think we spent most of our time in the sea otter room watching them eat and steal each others food. Aside from all this, Lisbon is an incredibly quirky city that was still really great despite the cold and rainy weather!

So, my next trip lined up was with my mom and sister. Pretty exciting! I was really nervous for them getting here, but they did just fine! All in all, it seems like they enjoyed themselves! I know, I tired them out a lot. But they wanted to see a lot, so I packed all I could in! Their first few days we did generic sightseeing like my school, Westminster Abbey, and a general walk through all the main parts of central London. We also saw Wicked! It was a great show, even though Tori fell asleep a few times because I really wore them out. Being here for almost a year, I didn’t realize other people aren’t used to the extensive walking I have grown accustomed to. We also went to the Warner Brothers Making of Harry Potter exhibit! After, of course, we stopped at Kings Cross station and went to Platform 9 3/4! All year I had seen all my friends going to the studio and they came back with such great things to say. I was so excited we finally got to do this because it was well worth it. Even though we had to take the tube, train, and then a bus to get there, I had a great time. There were so many props from the movies, I felt like I was reliving my whole childhood. When we got into the last room, I’ll admit, I cried a little. I don’t know whether my mom and sister got as emotional, but I sure did. I won’t ruin the surprise directly for anyone that hasn’t gone yet, but it was really so cool to turn the corner and BOOM there it was. We also, as per Tori’s request, went on a “Rock and Roll Tour” where we sat on a little bus for about 3 hours and a tour guide showed us all around West London. I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it! The guide pointed out many areas that are now virtually unknown what they once were, but he did point out places such as Ringo’s current apartment, the rooftop where the Beatles played their last show, among many other really cool places that the average Londoner wouldn’t know at all. I’m sure Tori could tell you more about what we saw, since I didn’t really know half the bands he talked about, but I still got a lot of enjoyment out of it. We also stopped at Abbey Road. Word of advice, never go to Abbey Road during rush hour. You may actually get run over. Regardless, we got a few subpar pictures and got to walk across many times in our numerous attempts.

In their last few days in London, we did a run through of many big landmarks to take pictures because, well, we had a bit of a mishap with the previous pictures. I’ll get into that in a second.

First stop after London was Madrid! We visited a friend that we knew was living there, and she graciously showed us around and let us stay in her flat. Even though we only had 2 full days there, we packed quite a bit in! She showed us around the whole city and brought us to places typical tourists don’t usually go. We were so grateful to have great weather for the most part! Our second day we went to a market that was incredibly flooded with people. We got a lot of great deals, but unfortunately a thief stole my mom’s phone right from her pocket which put a damper on the day. I felt terrible because that was something I was trying so hard to prevent, as Joe’s stuff was stolen just a few months prior in Paris. But, these things happen, and unfortunately we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, we recovered and got ourselves together to later sort things out with the phone company. This is where most of our pictures disappeared unfortunately. We however recovered most of them our last few days in London. I’m just glad it wasn’t a wallet or someone getting physically hurt!

We packed our things after the two days in Madrid and flew over to Rome. I was really excited for Rome because I found out the bed and breakfast my mom booked was right next to the Vatican! That was something to look forward to. After a long and slightly confusing trek from the airport, we finally made it with some time to rest before yet another free tour. I really enjoy them and I try to find them in every city I go to. This one was a great overview of the city and our guide brought us to so many places including the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain! We knocked out a lot of the tourist things just in those few hours which was really convenient. The next day we decided to go to the Colosseum which was far more incredible than I imagined, even though it was covered in scaffolding. However, we continued through our day and went into many churches, including ones that housed a relic of Mary Magdalene’s foot, and the chains that were on Saint Peter. Rome is full of history and you can find so much just wandering around without a map. Our third and final day in Rome we were so excited to have tickets to see the Pope! We were apart of the papal audience, and to our surprise, he came around in the Pope-mobile and drove nearly 5 feet from us! It was a really great experience, especially hearing the translations into nearly 10 different languages. There were thousands and thousands of people there all for the same reason, and it was really a blessing to have been there on a Wednesday to experience that. Afterwards, battling through the illegal street vendors who scuttled away every time a cop showed up, we went to the Vatican Museum, which to our surprise wasn’t right near the Vatican. However, we saw incredible pieces of art including The School of Athens and the Sistine Chapel. I wanted to stay in those rooms all day. We raced through the rest of the museum because we didn’t really know what we were looking at, and stumbled upon an exhibit of Pope-mobiles from past decades and centuries. It was really fascinating to see the progression from horse drawn carriages to VW Beetles. Later that day we made our way back to the airport to head back to London. By this time my mom and sister were exhausted! So was I! I got stuck carting around their 50 pound suitcase because they didn’t know what they needed. It did work out however in the end. We made it safely back to London to wrap up the rest of their trip by seeing St. James Park, Hamley’s, and more souvenir shops than I’ve ever seen in my life. I still don’t know how they got it all home! I’m impressed! Apparently Tori ended up with over 10 t-shirts.

All in all, I think it was a very successful trip aside from some minor mishaps. I’m so glad they came and enjoyed themselves! I apologize if I missed anything in this writeup! It was already so long ago I can’t keep my trips straight! I’m glad I finally found the time to at least post about the first half. However, thank you Mom and Tori for coming! I hope you recovered alright!

As I wrap up Part 1, here are some pictures from our trip together. Part 2 coming soon..

Wanderlust: Barcelona, Copenhagen, Cologne

So it’s been about 2 months since I have updated this, and I feel incredibly terrible because I promised myself I would update after every trip, but now I have 3 to catch up on.. If you don’t want to read all of this, just look at the pictures. They’ll do just about the same.

First thing’s first, I’m incredibly excited that I have just a week and a half of classes left, and then spring break! This term flew by so quickly, and my time here in London is slowly diminishing. Nevertheless, I have tried my absolute hardest to make the best of every moment I can. It’s a daunting task to even just see all of London in a year, let alone Europe.

But, my first trip of the spring term was Barcelona! Planning just about a week ahead of time, a friend and I were up before sunrise to catch an 8am flight on Friday morning for a jam packed weekend of walking and eating. And we did get a little beach time in, only to have a creepy guy try to sell us coconuts. However, it was so fun to just get out of London and go somewhere completely different and just walk around and immerse yourself in a culture so new and exciting. Barcelona was just an all around fun and colorful city with so many quirky aspects. Did you know, the famous cathedral, Sagrada Familia began construction in 1882, but isn’t expected to be complete until 2026? I think the Spaniards need to cut out their siestas and get this thing moving. But, it was still an incredible sight to see. Unfortunately we didn’t end up going inside because the line was wrapped around the block. I’m pretty sure the outside was more exciting though. We did get a chance to go to Park Guell though, which was another Gaudi creation. Even though we basically climbed to the top of Barcelona on foot, the park gave some incredible views. Anyone planning to go to Barcelona, I highly recommend going here.

Another quirky part of this city was the Latin quarter. Here we found tons of small winding roads full of shops and antiques and food. What could be better. If there was a store we wanted to go in but figured we could find it later, we didn’t. I’m almost positive we didn’t hit the same street twice. We even walked through a movie set in a back alleyway.

On Sunday, we met up with a fellow Lehigh friend who is conveniently studying in Barcelona. She showed us even more of the city and the harbor that we didn’t get a chance to see previously.

However, for being mid January, it was pretty damn warm. We didn’t even bring coats and we could lay on the beach. It was heaven. I’m secretly jealous of you Arielle for having a beach and sunshine!

My next stop just a few weekends ago was Copenhagen! This was an incredibly spur of the moment trip, because all I did was ask another Lehigh friend if he was going to be around that weekend, and when he said yes, I book my flights and didn’t look back. The flights were incredibly cheap. The city however, was not. Should have read the fine print on that one. Denmark still is not on the Euro, so I had to convert a third currency: the Danish kroner. Mind you, the kroner is the exact opposite of the pound. Where the pound is about $1.67 for every pound, the kroner is about $0.17 for each kroner. So, I got pretty good at dividing by 5 at the end of the trip. I was incredibly thankful however that my friend from Lehigh blocked out his weekend just to show me around the city, since I traveled by myself. Friday night I experienced a little bit of the Copenhagen night life, but not too much since traveling always wipes me out. Saturday morning I was up and ready to go at around 9:30am. When I walked outside, there wasn’t a soul to be found. I guess Danish people aren’t morning people. I struggled to find people until I hit the Strøget. I still am unsure how to pronounce these crazy letters, even after my friend taught me about 80 times. However, the Strøget is the longest pedestrian walkway in Europe! So that was pretty neat since most of my paths around the city required me to go through it. I did get a chance to try a Danish pastry, and it was worth every penny of the roughly $5 it cost.

I then joined up with the free walking tour of the city. To all my European traveling friends, please please please go on these free tours. Most major cities provide them, and you only give a small donation at the end, but they are the best tours I have ever been on. I am a junkie for history and free things, so I guess it worked out pretty well. On this tour, we were able to see the royal palaces where I may or may not have seen the Queen of Denmark drive up, so I’m just going to say that I did, Nyhavn (the main canal and incredibly colorful walkway), and places where Hans Christian Andersen lived. So much of my childhood is attributed to this man, and I had no idea until I came to Europe. Go figure. I had no idea that the Little Mermaid was written by him. I presumed it was just a Disney creation since it was such a recent film. After the tour, my friend and I ventured to the north of the city to see the Little Mermaid Statue in the sculpture garden, or Den lille havfrue. I have no idea how to pronounce that one. But it was a surprisingly popular attraction, so most of my pictures include a few strangers’ heads. That day also turned out to be incredibly foggy which made for some really eerie pictures. Oh, and I jumped on a trampoline inside the sidewalk. Not many cities can brag about that one.

And last but not least was my most recent trip this past weekend to Cologne, Germany with two friends from my program. Another last minute trip, but it turned out to be incredibly fun and full of surprises. We arrived Friday night and came out of the Hauptbahnhof station flabbergasted at the beauty of the Cologne Cathedral right in front of us. In the night it was beautiful, and we were so excited to see what it looked like in the daylight. Once we arrived at our hostel, we ventured out for some authentic German food. I did not realize until we arrived at a restaurant that since Cologne is a slightly smaller, less touristy city, the locals would be much less willing to speak English. This made things a little difficult, but we managed, indulging in our schnitzel and fries. We also tried Cologne brewed beer that apparently is only distributed in Cologne. The next day we spent walking around the city and exploring. We found out you can climb one of the towers in the cathedral, so that’s exactly what we did. A grueling 530 spiral stairs later, we made it to the top and got incredible views of the city. After slowly and dizzily making our way back down, we hit some sort of protest with tons of children that we still do not know what it was for. After taking pictures of some signs, the best translation we got was “thank you, midwife.” Not entirely sure what they were rallying for, but we just walked away. We then made our way through many squares and small neighborhoods and passed through a plethora of churches. In one area we saw this one peculiar sign that said “Einbahnstrasse.” We figured it was some attraction, so we followed the signs that lead us in a complete circle. Little did we know at the time that Einbahnstrasse actually means one way. oops. We then walked along the river come dinnertime to find the renowned lock bridge of Cologne. I had no idea more than just Paris started this tradition. Surprisingly, this lock bridge was even more colorful than that of Paris. After we walked across the Rhine river and the bridge, we escalated 30 floors into the Triangle, which gave us even more beautiful views of the city as the sun was setting. By this time we were starving, so we entered the first restaurant that caught our eye. Naturally, we picked the place where the waiter would be the entertainment of the night. Before we even walked in, he was thrilled we were going to come in, and he pinched my friends cheek. We told him we were American, so he got a huge kick out of that and he was messing with us the rest of the night. To our surprise, he knew a lot of American football teams though. The next day we ventured out along the river and went to the Schokoladen Museum, or Chocolate Museum! Definitely a good choice because they gave out free samples and wafers dipped in melted Lindt chocolate. We were in heaven. It was really neat to see the actual process of chocolate, all the way from the cacao tree to the wrapping and packaging stage. We also learned how the hollow chocolates are made, which is pretty neat! Then with a gorgeous day in our hands and a few hours until we had to leave, we decided to walk north and find the Botanical Gardens. Along the way, we found a quirky modern art scultpure garden. The Botanical Gardens were beautiful since everything was just starting to bloom. Unfortunately we only got to see about a third since we had to race back downtown to get our stuff to get to the airport. All in all, it was a beautiful weekend in a not-so-touristy city which was very ideal after all the hustle and bustle of London.

Next stop: spring break!

Euro Trip!

As I sit here procrastinating my work for this new term, I figured I’d make one gigantic update from this past month.

This one is a bit lengthy, but I promise it’s mostly pictures!

I cannot believe that I have been so fortunate to do everything I have done this past month. I never thought I’d be able to say I’ve visited 7 countries in just the short time I’ve been here, 3 of which were just this month!

I began my Christmas break with a short stop to Milan to visit a friend who was kind enough to show me around the city. I picked a pretty convenient weekend because as soon as I arrived, he brought me to a private fashion event where I was able to mingle with local Italians and have authentic Italian cuisine and wine. The next day my friend gave me an extensive tour of the city where I saw the magnificent Duomo, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, and the Last Supper painting! Unfortunately I was not allowed to take pictures of the painting, but I did manage to get a few other snapshots along the way.

ImageImageImage

My next stop was good old New Jersey for a much needed break at home. I didn’t realize how much I missed home and the countryside until I actually arrived. It was a great feeling being able to drive my car again and not be stuck in city traffic. It was also great to see my family after 3 long months. Although short, I’m grateful I was able to come home to see everyone before I came back for another 6 long months.

On December 28th I made the 7 hour flight back to the UK, but this time with someone very special: Joe! I am so incredibly grateful that he could come back with me to spend the rest of my break with me and do some traveling! After 6 long months of planning and excitement it had finally arrived. Now on top of it being our first New Years physically together, who would have thought we would be spending it in London?? I sure didn’t. What a wonderful New Years it was (minus the 5 hours of standing outside by the river pitching our spot for the fireworks). I was so excited to show Joe around my new temporary home and bring him to some of my favorite spots, and even discover new spots of our own!

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Our next stop was Munich! I think Joe was most excited for this because we centered this trip around going to Munich to see the BMW Museum. But I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it as well. Although our first night we were slightly overwhelmed being a city where we didn’t speak a word of the language, it all worked out well because we managed to fit so much into 2 short days! Our first full day we spent just in the Olympic Park area. And to all those planning to go to Munich, I give you this advice: don’t pay for the tram. After 20 long minutes of trying to figure out which ticket to get we gave up and just hopped on, just like it seemed many of the locals did as well. We still aren’t entirely sure if they actually don’t pay or not, but I guess we had to save a few euros somehow. Once we arrived at Olympic Park, Joe was beaming with excitement as we got closer to the BMW complex. Once we arrived, I found myself getting almost as excited as he was (almost). I did enjoy sitting in cars that almost cost more than my education. BMW Welt was actually very impressive and interactive where we could sit in the cars and on the motorcycles without feeling obligated to buy anything. Next stop (where we spent a majority of our day) was the BMW Museum. I got a lot of my enjoyment out of watching Joe get so excited about the original cars and parts that were on display. I’m ashamed to say I actually knew what some of the stuff was also. I guess that’s what I get for dating a BMW enthusiast. He was able to tell me exactly what most of the exhibits were without reading a map or placard. Nonetheless, I did enjoy myself gazing at vehicles I probably will never be able to afford.

While we were in the Olympic Park area, we decided to tour the Olympic Stadium and Olympic Tower. I’m really glad we were able to squeeze these in because it taught us a little about the Olympic history of Munich, and I can now say I’ve been to an Olympic site. The Tower was absolutely breathtaking because we were able to get a panoramic view of the city, and even catch a glimpse of the Bavarian Alps at sunset!

Later that night we decided to participate in a “beer challenge” that our hostel told us about. This may have been Joe’s second favorite part of the whole trip because, well, beer. We went to some authentic biergarten places where Joe felt the need to order a whole liter of beer. I surprisingly also enjoyed myself because I found some beers where I didn’t cringe when they hit my tongue. I guess because I was actually tasting something that wasn’t Natty. However, all in all I did enjoy participating in this as it is the root of Munich’s culture, where the water is more expensive than the beer (and I’m not kidding).ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

So I went a little overboard on the Munich pictures. However, if you are still reading, thank you because I promise I have more things other than BMW’s and beer!

The next city we chose to visit was the romantic city of Paris. Now, being students we of course were on a budget. At the time of booking it, we both thought it was a wonderful idea, but turned out to be a bit of a stressful idea. We chose to take an overnight bus from Munich to Paris. We were on a bus for 13 hours. 13 long grueling hours. But whatever you have to do to save money I guess. Nevertheless, we arrived and made it to our hostel. Looking back on it, I don’t think I would choose our Paris hostel again. Next time I definitely will put out the extra money to have nicer facilities and a better area. I will spare the details but I’ll just say it did not look like the pictures on their website.

We learned very quickly also that Paris is not a cheap city. Our first night we spend almost 40 euros for dinner on salads and soup. That was a big mistake, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re hungry in Paris. Again, our first night was a little overwhelming since again we did not speak the language at all. However, we did spend a wonderful (and free!) day at Versailles. Let me tell you, Joe and I both agreed that we could never be royalty. This place was huge. We felt lost even with our maps and signs. As beautiful as this place was, we actually couldn’t believe how much money was wasted into making something so extravagant. However, it was still quite a sight to see. (Note to all Paris travelers, the first Sunday of the winter months are free. Completely free. All of it. We saved probably 50 euros each.)

The next day we did all of the usual Paris tourist things: the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, cafes, etc. We also made it a point to go to the Love Lock Bridge and put a lock on it and toss the key into the river. We were amazed at how many locks were on this bridge, and how many locks were attached to other locks because they ran out of room. Thankfully, we found a little spot to attach ours to the actual bridge, threw the key over, and each kept a key for ourselves. We also got the chance to meander through the beautiful Notre Dame. The next day we went back just to walk up the 400+ stairs up to the top to get a view of Paris from the center of the city. We also toured the beautiful Sacre Coeur which was thankfully very close to our hostel.

After all these church visits, we decided to make our way to the Pantheon. Here, we saw the burial places of Rousseau, Voltaire, Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, and many other great French people. After this, we made our way over to see the spectacle of the Arc de Triomphe. However, Joe and I can both agree that the spectacle was not the arc itself, but the mass mayhem of traffic going around it. We concluded our day with a trip up to the middle of the Eiffel Tower at night because unfortunately the top was closed.

Now up to this point we had felt very fortunate that our whole trip had gone smoothly with no delays or mishaps. However, the very last few hours as we were waiting at a cafe across from Gare du Nord, we had the misfortune of getting robbed. Actually robbed. Our best guess is that when a younger French boy came up to us from one side and spoke to us in French, we believe he was posing as a distraction as one of his friends came up and snatched Joe’s whole backpack. We were very thankful that nothing of huge value was in there like our passports or money or credit cards. I felt so bad because there was absolutely nothing we could do about it since our train back to London was about to leave.

Word of caution to all traveling to Paris, or any large tourist city: please please please keep an eye on your stuff at all times. Something simple as this could happen to you. Our biggest surprise was the number of illegal street vendors and criminals merely trying to distract you to take your belongings and run. Do not do not purchase the cheap Eiffel Towers from the men near the big attractions. It is illegal. And the girls who come up to you and ask if you speak English? Walk away. Security guards told us it was a trap. They were planning to distract us and steal our stuff. If anyone at all approaches you, just walk away. I’m just very thankful that we knew most of this beforehand so we were not hurt or targeted like many other tourists were.

Other than this little mishap, we recovered and will eventually replace everything. We did have an absolutely wonderful time other than this. I’m so thankful I was able to spend this time traveling with someone that I know really appreciated it.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

(my inner math geek came out when I saw these names on the side of the Eiffel Tower)

ImageImageImage

Can’t forget the French wine!

After our mini Euro Trip, we trekked back to London to get a few more touristy pictures, and catch a showing of Wicked!

Image

Joe’s first fish and chips!

ImageImageImageImage

Traveling fiend

Who would have thought that I would be able to pack so much traveling in to such a short time? I don’t even know where to begin!

Well, last weekend was both the longest and shortest weekend that I can remember. After 11 grueling hours of traveling by bus, ferry, and then bus again, we were so happy to finally stretch our legs in the wondrous city of Amsterdam! We were given the chance to explore the city at night (since we finally had arrived at 7pm..) and we were able to see all the stereotypes Amsterdam is known for. What is a trip to Amsterdam without walking through the Red Light District? (Well, I actually could have done without, but I guess I can now say I’ve been there.) 

The next morning, we were taken to two beautiful and quaint cities just outside Amsterdam: Edam and Volendam. Here we were able to experience the real Dutch culture with many cheese and candy shops! I’m not sure how popular Edam cheese is in America, since I had only heard about it when I came here, but this is where Edam cheese comes from. Volendam was such a beautiful fishing city right on the water. We watched out tour guide eat raw Herring (which for the longest time we thought he was talking about a Heron..) which apparently tasted pretty decent. 

ImageImageImageImage

 

Later in the day we were able to go back to Amsterdam and do our normal touristy things. We had decided to dedicate the rest of our day to two main things: the Anne Frank House and the Heineken Experience. Now, unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures in the Anne Frank House, but if anyone is ever nearby, I highly recommend braving the cold while you wait in line. It is really a very moving experience being able to walk where the Frank family hid, and see the original diary. We then trekked across the city to the Heineken Experience. This was actually a very fun exhibit as it was the original brewery for the infamous beer, where it later moved to further outside the city. So this brewery was transformed into an interactive exhibition to learn about the history of the family and the beer, and to learn about the process it goes through from the beginning to the end result. They even gave out many free samples, as none of us really complained about that.. I even got a chance to pour my own beer and become a “certified pourer”! Then we were lucky to catch the last boat ride down the canal to their other merchandise store, where they had us play a trivia game, where the other half of my group ended up winning.. But it definitely was a great time, and a stark contrast to the previous exhibition. 

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Sunday, our final mission was Brugges, Belgium. Although we only had about 3 hours in the city, we tried to make the most of it by trying to pack everything in. We tried our best while we were in search of Belgian beer, chocolate, and fries. And we were quite successful! The fries and mayonnaise were to die for. I had never thought such a combination would actually be so good! Brugges was a beautiful city, full of life and surprises. I do hope that I can someday visit again because 3 hours was not nearly enough time!

ImageImageImageImageImage

 

This past weekend I got to take a day trip to Canterbury and Dover Castle! What sights you can see if you just venture out of London a mere hour or two! Canterbury was such a cute town that I definitely want to visit again. The Cathedral was unlike anything I have ever seen. My pictures don’t do it enough justice. It was phenomenal. I couldn’t even imagine what it is like for mass there. Unfortunately we only had a few short hours until we made our way to Dover where we were set free in the castle that overlooked the English Channel. This castle was the main military base for many wars, as Dover is the closest city to France. Adventuring through the main tower was interesting since all the stairways turned into forks and we never knew which way to go! We then were guided to the underground military tunnels where we got a tour of these tunnels that were built into the beautiful white cliffs. These tunnels were a key component to WWII, and it was so fascinating how much they made an impact on the British military strategies.

ImageImageImageImage

 

And we met this little fellow. 

 

Image

What a week!

Amidst the whirlwind of classes and assignments, I have thankfully been able to continue sightseeing and traveling! And what a week it has been. 

First and foremost, shoutout to my friend Ryan who told me about Rupert Grint (aka Ronald Weasley) doing a play nearby. If not for him, I would have not gotten this picture. 

Image

 

Okay, so you can’t really see me in this one, but I’m the one in the middle. Here’s a better one:

Image

 

 

This past week, the ATP Men’s tennis had their final tournament of the season. Lucky for me it was right here in London! The purpose of this tournament was to take the top 8 doubles teams and top 8 singles players and play to determine the final winner for the 2013 season. Now, I actually did not know this tournament was as big as it was, as I just thought it was a regular little traveling tournament. I was way wrong. When the tickets first came out, there was no knowing of who would be playing that particular day, do I had at first decided it wouldn’t be worth paying if I didn’t know who was playing. Just last week however, they had released the schedule of the players. When I found out the Bryan Brothers, and Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovic would be playing in the same session, I almost fell out of my chair. Now, by this point, tickets were a pretty penny because how often can you see something like this. Thank you daddy for making it my Christmas gift! I had the time of my life. I didn’t even care that I went by myself because the match had me on the edge of my seat all night. Never did I think in my life I would have the chance to see my favorite player of all time, Roger Federer, playing live just a few hundred feet away from me. 

Image

 

ImageImageImageImage

 

Unfortunately, Fed lost, but it was such an exciting match. So happy I had the chance to see two of the greatest players in the world. 

 

I also was grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to another country for the first time since I have been here! Scotland was so beautiful, and never did I think I would have as much fun as I did. I went on the trip through Arcadia, and also on this trip was many students all around London who were also studying abroad, but unfortunately I didn’t know a single one! I was able to tag along with some girls I met thankfully, which made the trip so much better! Who knew Edinburgh had so much influence on Harry Potter too! Our tour guide brought us all around Edinburgh showing us the building where J. K. Rowling wrote the 7th book, the cafe where she wrote the 1st book, and the graveyard which inspired characters like Tom Riddle and Professor McGonagall! That night I did some shopping, and I caved, purchasing a really warm tartan scarf, as you can see in the picture below. 

The next morning, my new friend Viki and I decided to wake up at 6:30 am and tackle Edinburgh’s highest point: Arthur’s Seat. Now, Arthur’s Seat is a whopping 822ft high. From our hostel, it was a good 2 miles to get to the top. Now, I made it about 750ft and had almost decided to quit because it was so treacherous and high up. Thankfully for Viki, I did it after much perseverance and frozen fingers. If not for her being more adventurous than me, I would not have been able to see these beautiful and astounding views.

ImageImageImageImage

 

Image

 

Never did I think I would ever be that adventurous, but it was so worth it! 

Next adventure was Edinburgh Castle. 

Image

 

Pretty cool that I can say I’ve been to a castle now. There was so much history engulfed into one place. It was absolutely incredible. The exhibits were really well laid out and I learned a lot about the Scottish monarchy before it merged with the English. (Even though the English crown jewels are much better.) 

Edinburgh is such a quirky city with so much history and life. I highly recommend spending at least three days there because I don’t even think I scratched the surface of what there is to do! 

Next stop this weekend? Amsterdam! 

Birthday weekend

ImageImageImageImage

Well I definitely had an exciting few days to say the least! (And it’s not even my birthday yet!) These past few days have been jam packed with so much going on, I can hardly keep up!

This past Tuesday night, I was so thrilled to see my first live musical in London: Phantom of the Opera. It was definitely a great choice to begin with. The sets and music was phenomenal. Even the special effects for a play blew my mind. It was a beautiful story with even more beautiful music that I still have on repeat when I do my homework.

Thursday night I was fortunate enough to see the one and only Dan Radcliffe! (Yes, that’s Harry Potter.) I found out about one of his movies premiering just a ten minute walk away. How could I not go? Me and two friends decided to meander over to the area to see if we could get a glimpse of the action. Fortunately, we were just a few rows away from the red carpet! So, naturally as Daniel Radcliffe stepped out, people from all sides mobbed all around us. But I managed to get a few pictures and catch a glimpse! First celebrity sighting was a success!

Friday night a few friends and I decided to venture to a club called Propaganda. I have decided that London clubs (from what I’ve been to) are far better than any frat party you could ever go to. The music is better (and sometimes even American!) and (most) people are there just looking to have fun. And when they bring out songs like Stacy’s Mom and Sugar We’re Going Down, you know it’s going to be a good time. Little did I know I would be there until 2am to then beg taxi drivers to bring us back home, to then get a whopping 3 hours of sleep. But it was definitely worth it.

So having to be up at 6am after being out all night was not so ideal, but going to Stonehenge and Bath made up for it quite fast! Now, I have mixed feelings about Stonehenge. Everyone makes it out to be this big great attraction. Don’t get me wrong, it really is a wonder to see. But like all of the pamphlets said, how did it get there? What is the significance of it? Who knows. Being in the middle of nowhere, it’s something quite interesting. Just these large rocks piled on top of each other from over 4000 years ago. Supposedly it’s supposed to measure where the sun is in different months. However, it really is perturbing to know that historians and scientists still can’t figure out its true meaning.

After Stonehenge, we trekked our way to Bath. Now, I had never heard of Bath until I started my study abroad process. I doubt many of my readers will know what Bath is either. It truly is a beautiful place though. It is such a quaint town with so much history ranging from the Romans all the way to the 19th century. The Roman Bath houses were actually incredibly fascinating with all the architecture and engineering that went into the design. The mineral water, which was the basis of why they built these bath houses, however was not so delicious, as we were allowed to drink it. Nevertheless, being able to spend just a few hours in this historic town made me want to do so much more traveling. There is so much of the UK and Europe to see, that one in their lifetime cannot possibly see it all.

The ride home back to London was even more of a surprise. Now, I knew the UK had a lot of sheep, but boy did I see a lot of sheep. The landscape was absolutely incredible however. The rolling hills in the sunset actually looked like a scene from a dream. Never did I think such beauty could be held in some place so simple and unknown. The pictures just didn’t do it justice.

As I sit here reminiscing on just a simple day trip within the UK, I’m becoming increasingly more anxious and excited for my upcoming trips to Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Oxford, Canterbury, Munich, Paris, and now in the process of planning Milan! Never did I think such a wonderful opportunity would arise in my lifetime.

Lackadaisical London Life

Image

Now, many of you may think that London is full of the hustle and bustle of city life. And don’t get me wrong, it definitely is. However, there are many things that set apart my home university, nestled on the side of a mountain in good old Bethlehem, from the LSE. There are really some truly brilliant minds here at the LSE, and sometimes it’s definitely overwhelming. However, it does not seem like anyone in this town has a sense of urgency, and it has really been a challenge for me to adjust to this lifestyle. I’m one to always have a plan and schedule, and I hate when I feel like I’m going to be late. Here however, many of my fellow classmates tend to stroll into lectures 30 minutes late. Now, in the states, this rarely happens, and when it does, you get the whole class staring at you. Here? It seems to be the social norm to always be late. 

Another astounding difference from any institution in the states versus here is that no one here expects to be spoon fed. To all my college friends back home, listen up! That’s right! There’s no one holding our hand telling us what exactly is going to be on the exam or what pages we have to read. Here everyone knows they just have to know everything and they accept it. There is not a huge stream of emails coming in every day making sure your classes are correct at the beginning of the semester, and advisors are not breathing down your neck to make sure you graduate on time. Everyone here is expected to fend for themselves and seek help when they need it, as opposed to being constantly asked if you do need help. 

Another huge adjustment I’ve had to make is not knowing my actual class schedule. As opposed to knowing your exact schedule, professors, and classrooms a whopping 3 months before classes actually start, my “timetable” as they call it, is still not completely done. I’m heading into my second week here at the LSE and I only have 2 courses shown on my schedule, waiting for my other 2 which are pending to be approved. But here, students don’t find this as stressful as us American folk who are used to knowing these things well in advanced. People here just go with the flow, and still manage to get everything done. 

This lifestyle is definitely something I am slowly adjusting to, and believe it or not, there is quite a bit of culture shock just coming to England. As I walk the streets to and from class, or when I’m running errands, every coffee shop, bar, and pub is filled with people at all hours of the day. And boy do people here love their alcohol. No matter what day of the week, there are floods of people in and around bars and pubs making the most of their happy hour (or happy evening I should say). But here, alcohol isn’t seen as it is here. Anywhere I go, even a museum cafe, they sell some sort of beer or cider. Here, people seem to be more responsible and don’t see it as a taboo lifestyle. It really is incredible that a school so prestigious as the LSE has approved the existence of “Wine Appreciation Society” (which I have decided to join!) and is run by the Student Union. In America, that is definitely unheard of. 

All of these subtle differences have combined into what is turning into a very worthwhile experience as I continue my studies, make new friends from around the world, and adapt to a surprisingly foreign country.