Spring Break

This past week was my Spring Break. While most of my friends went to Italy or Spain, I stayed in Jolly Ol’ England. And it wasn’t as boring as you might expect it to be.

To kick off the week, one of my best friends came up from Granada, Spain, to visit for the weekend. I’ve always considered London to be a safe and fairly normal city, but the oddest things happened while she was here: A man walked up to us stating that he wasn’t on drugs and needed money, but then refused the leftover food we had; several people tried to trick us into giving us their products in exchange for money; two men at the club pretended to be gay in order to talk to us way past their welcome,…the list goes on. I know these things aren’t actually that unusual, but after being here two months, it was kind of a shock to suddenly experience this.

The rest of the week was fairly uneventful. I found a bookshop, thanks to BuzzFeed, called Any Amount of Books on Charing Cross Road. There was a section where the books were only one pound! We also ate at a restaurant where Charlie Chaplin used to rehearse in when it was a theater; one of my favorite parts about this city is how you can purely by chance eat in a restaurant where something historical happened.

My highlight of the week, however, was Camden Market. From Thursday until Sunday there is street food from all over the world: Roti food, Polish food, Indian food, French food, Ethiopian food, and so much more. You can walk around and have samples at almost every vendor’s booth and then decide what you want to buy, and it’s all pretty cheap too. I had Pierogis, which are these noodles stuffed with mushrooms and other delicious things, from the Polish booth for only five pounds. I normally tend to only eat what I know, and don’t try anything new, but the Camden Market is an awesome opportunity to branch out a little at no cost, and then get a whole meal for cheap. #gettingmycultureon

I hope to still travel to a couple of other places while I’m here but overall, being able to spend the week in London and relax from school, was a good choice. I caught up on all my tv series, ate a lot of food, found some books, and saw some more of London. I guess you know you’re home when you don’t do anything outside of what you would normally do back at your other home.

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An American in Paris

This past weekend I spent two days in “The City of Love”. Despite the extremely uncomfortable bus ride, and almost no sleep, I still had high hopes for the short holiday. Unfortunately, my hopes were about to be greatly disappointed.

I know, you’re probably thinking, “You’re in PARIS. How could it NOT be everything you were expecting?” And you would not be the only one in thinking this. Paris is a beautiful city, as long as you are looking up at the magnificent architecture on every corner. Look down where you are walking however, and you will realize that the streets, and even the very air you are breathing, is incredibly distasteful. If you’re lucky, you might even see a man peeing under a tree, as there is no law prohibiting it. The pouring rain, which rarely stopped during our stay, accented this environment even more.

Paris has a sense of aristocracy that I have yet to find in London. While London is very posh, but friendly and helpful for the most part, Paris is like that blonde girl in high school that you couldn’t stand because she always wore designer labels and looked down her nose at you. By Paris’s terms, I would be considered a peasant. My extremely rough and inelegant attempts to speak French and find my way around, was not appreciated or encouraged, despite the Parisians insistence not to speak English. While some may say that is just the “French pride” I consider it, quite frankly, just being an asshat. I won’t go into the countless stories I gained of both rude and very strange people, only that I have many to tell when I come back to the U.S. But, after all, that’s what this study abroad is all about: Stories.

In an effort not to completely hate on France, I found the Louvre and the food excellent. I could have spent all day in the Louvre and still have not seen everything, and the buildings had amazing statues and carvings, unparalleled to anything else I’ve seen. I’m sure that if one has the money, would could find plenty of things to do in Paris; the drawback is if you are poor, then there is nothing.

The bus ride home was a relief, and much more comfortable than the one going to Paris. Perhaps the journey there should have been my first clue. As I entered England, I immediately felt back at home; I am in love with the wide, green, rolling hills and the little farms and brick houses. When I stepped off the bus and into a taxi, the driver’s “Hello lovey”, felt like a hug. London has truly captured my heart.

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Delicious wine on our first night out 
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The Eiffel Tower lit up is a sight to see
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“The Crew” on our last night in Paris–Valentine’s Day! 
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Bad picture of me, but Mona looks good
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The famous Lock Bridge. I put a lock up myself. 🙂
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Lovely looking Macaroons, at an adorable though quite pricey shop. Also with a rude manager

Home is where the…

This past weekend, against my valiant attempts not to, I came down with a cold. It was nothing to cry over, just your regular sore throat and sniffles, but I began to feel homesick all over again. As I’m in the beginning of week 3 in London, I’ve started to feel truly at home. Taking the Tube has become second nature, classes are routine and enjoyable, and the refectory food is decent, if not always what is desired. I’m feeling so comfortable in fact, that the idea of studying in New Hampshire again is sounding distasteful. I don’t want to leave!

But despite London’s charisma, it does have one major drawback: I can’t go home when I’m sick. I can’t jump in a car and drive home for a relaxing weekend in my own bed where my mother brings me tea and soup, and I watch Netflix and sleep all day. I am living in a place that has a giant ocean separating me from my friends, my parents, my boyfriend, and my comfortable familiarity. Is this what adulting is all about?

By Sunday, I was feeling much better, and spent the afternoon browsing a bookstore and drinking tea. My sentimental feelings for home disappeared, and I began to love London again. But my heart feels divided between my love for this wonderful city and all she offers, and my hometown, that somehow provides a comfort that I have yet to find elsewhere. It makes me wonder if this is occurring because I have never been this far away from home before, or if it’s just a fact of reality that your true home will be where you grew up. Or, perhaps home is where you are with the people you love.

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Trying to get a good pic with the swan at the pond near Regent’s.
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Tea and a chocolate tart.

First Observations

Ello, chap! Lovely weather we’re having here, isn’t it?

Ok, so I haven’t actually met anyone who’s said these precise words to me, but I’m sure I will eventually. What I do know is the Brits love to talk about the weather, and it’s a completely normal and acceptable conversation starter. In my two weeks of living here, I’ve been completely blown away by the amount of cultural diversity that surrounds me, and how London is unlike any other city I’ve visited–quite a different reaction from when I first arrived.

By this point, I’ve become a bit more acquainted with the tube (underground, subway), and I thoroughly enjoy observing the many people who inhabit it. Many read a newspaper or book, others doze off, and others sit quietly, staring off into space. I’ve noticed that both the tube and the station where people wait, are unusually quiet, unless a loud American breaks the silence and thus faces many sidelong glances. Even I, one of the loudest people I know, have grown more sensitive to loud voices and behaviors, and begin to wince when I hear someone talking very excitedly about their life. This attitude may come off as proud or snooty, and perhaps it is. On further reflection, however, it’s completely understandable: Brits simply like their quiet, and find it jarring to have that quiet disrupted with “OH MY GOD, THIS CITY IS SO COOL I WANNA RIDE A RED DOUBLE DECKER BUS AND GEE IT’S REALLY NOT THAT HARD TO USE THE TUBE AND DID YOU SEE WHAT THAT GIRL WAS WEARING?!?! IT WAS SOOOOO FUNNY!!”

In stark contrast to, say, Boston, I have only heard people play music in the tube station a couple of times, and it’s never been bongo drums, or electric guitars, or singing that makes you want to pop your eardrums. I think that this goes along with the culture of being quiet and respectful of one another’s space, particularly when in public.

London is home to millions of people, and everywhere I go, no matter how I get there, I hear many different languages along the way. My favorite example so far of cultural diversity is when I went to a pub filled with people from the U.S, Spain, Venezuela, Australia, Germany, the U.K., and so many more places, and they were all singing in unison to Party in the U.S.A. Also, it’s nice to know that Bohemian Rhapsody is still a hit among my generation.

Another small observation I’ve made is that in the few times I’ve gone out for dinner, the server didn’t stop by my table five minutes in to see if I was enjoying the food. I love this, because it completely avoids the embarrassment of being asked while you have food in your mouth as you give the awkward thumbs up (even though you’ve only taken one bite). Perhaps this is only custom in certain restaurants here, but I’ll find out soon enough.

And finally, more of a fact really…the cider is amazing. Expensive, but completely worth it. I don’t know how I’ll go back to Angry Orchard.

Cheers!

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Me and a few mates at Walkabout, the Australian pub
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I waited an hour and a half for this fishbowl (a Pina Colada that I didn’t think I would like because I hate coconut), and while I would never want to wait that long again or talk to the very rude bartender, it was delicious
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The Red Lion in Westminster, with a pub downstairs and a cozy restaurant upstairs. A young Charles Dickens used to go there, probably for the cider because, once again, they’re amazing. So is the pie.

My First Week

I arrived in London Heathrow Airport, tired, sweaty, and jet-lagged. Not exactly the glamorous entrance I had in my mind, but I was excited none the less. I was in London!

Getting to Regents University was fairly uneventful: My bags hadn’t been lost, and customs went by faster than I had expected. Upon arriving by taxi to Regents however, I was informed that my room was on the third floor. Only in England, the first floor is actually the second floor, the second floor is the third floor, and so on. Confusing, I know. Not only this, but there was no elevator, nor some gent to help me with even one of my 40 pound bags. You may imagine the things that were coming out of my mouth as I struggled to drag my giant suitcase, and the bag that had been cutting into my shoulder all morning, up three flights of stairs. It seems that the number 3 has become my unlucky number, as this is now the third time I have lived on the third floor of a building, and the second in which there has been no elevator.

That first day was probably the longest day of my life. I went from meeting to meeting, given information that I was too tired to comprehend, took my first walk into the city at night, came within inches of being flattened by a black cab, and finally collapsed into bed after 30+ hours of no sleep.

The rest of the week was filled with more orientation meetings, more walking, and my first drink in a pub. I took a bus tour on Saturday, but have yet to explore more of the park in which I’m residing. The weather has been rather windy and cold, but I’m hoping for sunny skies in the coming week.

In a way, it hasn’t really hit me that I’m in London, other than when I first arrived, because the city seems much like any other, until you speak with someone and realize where you are again. I must admit that my first few days here, I’ve been more grouchy than excited to be in such a new and amazing city: I took three showers in three different bathrooms, and each one of them either had temperatures that couldn’t be adjusted, or they filled up with water so quickly that before I knew it I was just standing in a pool of my own filth, or the water pressure was bad. The rooms have also been so cold that I’ve gone to bed bundled from head to toe.

Despite the discomfort at times, Regents is a beautiful and mysterious college, that reminds me in a way of what Hogwarts would be like. There’s hidden corridors, and doors that know when you’re coming so they open automatically for you, and all the buildings connect together so after some exploring with a friend, I finally figured out how to get to each one without going outside. For some background, Regents University is inside Regents Park, and it’s all owned by the Queen. So, that makes me practically royalty. 😉

Tomorrow begins the first week of classes, and I’m very excited to have a set schedule, meet more wonderful people from all over the world, and participate in all the exciting classes I’m taking. Till next time!

Here Comes the Sun:

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The view from my bedroom window. More pictures of the park to come. And yes, the grass IS that green.

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And this is me exploring ‘the castle’ last night. These windows are actually quite comfortable, and I plan to go back with a good book. IMG_0080

One Week

Well, in exactly one week, I will be on a plane headed for London, to embark on a semester long study abroad. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to study abroad, but I have especially wanted to do so in England. I’ve been obsessed with Shakespeare, the history, and British culture in general, for years. In more recent years, I’ve had an almost insatiable desire to travel. Perhaps that stems from growing up in middle-of-nowhere-New Hampshire, but whatever the reason, having the opportunity to spend 3 1/2 months exploring EUROPE ( I put Europe in caps for emphasis), is a dream come true.

This last week at home has been a mad scramble to get done all the things I probably should’ve been doing a few weeks ago. Opening another account at a different bank, getting debit/credit cards, shopping for last minute items, packing, and internship searching, has taken up most of my time. And Netflix.

The nerves and anxiety have started to kick in, but so has the excitement. There is an entire world out there that I have only ever seen pictures of, and hoped that one day I could experience. And, as Shakespeare would say, “Why, then the world’s mine oyster, which I with sword will open.”