The 411 – Part 9: 4 Months Out

December 31, 2015

It was exactly four months ago today that I wrote my very first post for this blog, on my 20th birthday. I have now been home for about 11 days. I’m finally over the jet lag and it seems the only bit of British English I have added to my vocabulary is the way I pronounce my h’s. I am currently on a train en route to Philadelphia to ring in 2016 with my roommates who I have spent four long months without! The train’s final destination, coincidentally enough, is Washington D.C.

The weirdest thing about being home is how normal it feels, and how easy it was to slip right back into the swing of things. It’s like I didn’t even skip a beat. I’ve also found it very weird being face to face with the people who have spent time over the last four months reading this blog and finding interest in where I’ve been and what I’ve done. I had lost sight of how personal my posts are.

Since my trip abroad was a bit abrupt, I kind of had to spring my absence at school this semester at the very last second. One of my close friends said to me when I told him, “You’re gonna be one of those girls that ‘studies abroad’” and as much as I disagreed…he was right. Studying abroad changes your character in ways you would never have anticipated. It allows us to be exposed to things and forces us to be comfortable with them, in ways that you would not present itself in any other circumstance, forcing us to open our eyes a little wider, feel a little deeper, and dream a little bigger.

I would also like to say, after answering many times this last week which place was my favorite, that the city you actually do your ‘studying’ in, holds a different place in your heart than any other place you will ever visit. When people say they leave a piece of their heart in X, it’s true, the love you have for the city you studied abroad in isn’t a place that you can love like anywhere else. That city was your only concept of home in a sea of so many new, uncomfortable, and beautiful experiences. So thank you London for that.

I have to admit, as much as I miss London, I am not necessarily sad to be home. I was ready to come home (and my bank account wasn’t getting me anywhere else). I had gone to every place I had wanted to go, and seen just about everything I wanted to see. I missed my dog, my friends, complacency, American bacon, free public restrooms, and my queen sized bed…I had checked everything off my lists and felt I had gotten everything out of my semester that I needed too. And I think that’s the most important thing. I went after this experience because I was at a crossroads in my life, and needed some time to figure out which direction I needed to head. In a sense, I found myself, or at the very least the person I am meant to and want to be at this point in my life. I’m so grateful that I could leave happy and ready, still in love with that amazing city, but not mourning to return. Well, just yet anyway.

Some other information I guess I should share (since I promised) was to tell you if and when the wish I made at the Trevi Fountain came true. Well it did. I just wished that I would return home safe, I thought if I wished something realistic that would most likely come true, the magic of it would be kept in tact. (I may have also added in there that if the wish granters were feeling generous they could hook me up with a internship but we’ll see what happens with that one…) At the time it wasn’t the most unrealistic thought that something tragic could have happened on my way back to America. When I visited Rome, it was less than three weeks after the attacks on Paris in November. It was also at this time, that I realized what the scariest thing about all of this is. We would walk past armed men on the street, and I mean like every major street in a major city, and not even give it a second thought. That lack of a second thought was the scariest part of all of this, but it is just the reality of the world we live in.

It’s hard to imagine that the next 8 months of my twentieth year could even compare with how influential the first 4 were. I do think, however, that the last 8 months of my 19th year were spent preparing me entirely for the adventure I just embarked on. So that just shows you how important some things can be, without you even realizing it. I have very little expectations for the rest of my twentieth year. I am impatiently waiting for the arrival of my 21st birthday, knowing that amazing things will happen along the way.

So on that note, I am ready for 2016. I am thankful for everything that 2015 was: for all of the people who made it so special, for all of the places that stole a place in my heart, for my closest friends and family for supporting me and loving me throughout, and for all the lessons I’ve learned. I look forward to 2016 with hope in what this world holds for us all and confident about all of the ways that the past year has influenced whom I will be next year. And this is by no means my farewell post; I have plans for 2016, so stay tuned. Cheers ☺

I took a step back…

I took a picture in front of a Red Telephone Booth.
I minded the gap.
I’ve had lots of fish and a lot of chips.
I took the Nimbus 3000 for a spin at The Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studios.
I saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
I watched street performers in Trafalgar Square.
I embraced the late summer sun walking across the Tower Bridge.
I saw the entire city from the London Monument.
I heard Big Ben signal half past the hour.
I popped my Cheeky Nando’s cherry.
I learned that rugby is far more interesting than football.
I found my dream house in Kensington.
I saw roses of every color in the Queen’s Garden in Regents Park.
I found the best vintage sweater on Brick Lane.
But I didn’t actually end up at Old Spitafield’s Market until my third attempt.
I admired St. Paul’s Cathedral, but only from the outside cuz £16 is far too much for entry.
I got in a fight with a Southern train worker…but only got ripped off once.
I drank Pimm’s on the beach in Brighton.
I had a champagne picnic in Hyde Park.
I discovered that Bleecker St. Burgers put Shake Shack to shame.
I fell in love with the pastel flats on Portobello Road.
I was overwhelmed by Camden Market.
I went back to the 90’s in the Cereal Killer Café.
I found out that I may Love Wednesday’s but not more than Thursday’s.
I saw my favorite play in the West End.
I stood at 0° Longitude, on the Prime Meridian.
I had a free lunch at Borough Market, by mooching samples.
I realized the London Bridge is the least relevant one on the Southbank of the Thames.
I made it across the wibbly wobbly (Millenium) Bridge on a very windy day.
I’ve now seen the city from the London Eye during the day and at night.
I watched fireworks on Bonfire Day.
I saw the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum.
But I missed the Magna Carta at the British Library.
I drank the water at the Roman baths in Bath.
I appreciated Andy Warhol at the Tate Modern.
But I appreciated everything at the Saatchi Gallery.
I got lost on all 7 floors at Harrod’s.
I was unimpressed with Stonehenge.
I discovered Cadbury is better than Hershey.
I finally looked right and then left when crossing the road, by instinct.
I managed to not get hit by a double decker bus but came too close too many times to count.
I had high tea in the afternoon.
I went ice-skating at Somerset House.
I Christmas shopped in Covent Garden.
I devoured pizza at Homeslice.
I saw art and culture at the Victoria and Albert.
I admit I found the Natural History Museum a snore.
I visited the home of England Rugby.
I craved oreos with peanut butter after visiting 23 Egerton Road.
I drank cider at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.
I went to the Christmas Party on Carnaby Street.
I spent a rainy Saturday at Broadway Market.

I kissed the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle.
I danced to Galway Girl at a pub in Galway.
I drank a Guinness at St. James Gate in Dublin.
I ate a foot long hot dog at Oktoberfest, but I don’t remember because I had one too many steins.
I climbed Arthur’s Gate in Edinburgh after enjoying a hot chocolate at The Elephant Cafe.
I searched for Nessie at Loch Ness.
I paraglided in Switzerland.
I am going back to sky dive.
I bathed at the thermal baths in Budapest.
I ate breakfast at a coffee shop outside of St. Stephen’s Church in Vienna.
I left my mark on the John Lennon Wall in Prague.
I walked along the East Side Gallery in the Birkenstocks I bought in Berlin.
I conquered rush hour in the bike lane in Amsterdam.
I ate waffles AND frites in Belgium.
I drank wine in the Chianti region of Tuscany.
I went on a gondola ride through the Venice canals.
I made a wish at the Trevi Fountain.
I’ll let you know if it comes true.
I watched the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo in Firenze.

I went over my data every single month.
But I accessed geotags in every city. ^
I am disgusted by my reliance on wifi.
I finished 10 books.
I forgot how much I love to read for fun.
I made new friends from Wisconsin, New Jersey, New York, Chicago, Pennsylvania, Australia, Germany, and of course England.
I referred to professors by their first names.
I felt so awkward every time I did it.
I cried about being homesick more than I expected too.
I changed so much, but nothing at Catholic did.
I encountered very few churches more beautiful than the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
I cried about the exchange rate more than I needed too.
I am pretty broke.
I ate crappy cafeteria food far too often.
I only gave into my Chipotle cravings twice.
I drank my body weight in cappuccinos this semester.
I really miss my Keurig.
I spent far too much time looking for normal pretzels in grocery stores.
I discovered that Waitrose always has them, 3 months too late.
I haven’t had Jif peanut butter in 4 months.
I am really going to miss Desperado’s.
I learned that the ones who post the most Instagram’s are having the best times.
I learned how to sleep on just about any train, bus, or plane.
I now go by military time.
I am happy to say that British people are the friendliest ones that I encountered.
I could live here one day in a heart beat.
I didn’t send nearly as many postcards as I thought I would.
I think I did an okay job staying in touch with my friends at home.
I miss them a lot.
I always chose to eat my calories rather than drink them.
I regret nothing.
I have just scratched the surface of all the places I want to travel to.
I wish I could say it’s possible to see everything you want too, but there’s never enough time.
I never chose sleep over experience.
I do think it’s worth it to try to see as much as possible in a short period of time. The only time I would say quantity over quality.
I am always surprised by just how small this world is.
I truly believe I accomplished more because I always had a list.
I think the only thing I didn’t check off my list was to fall in love with a British boy.
I was too busy falling in love with myself, instead.
I needed this experience more than I could have ever imagined.
I will be back some day.
I hope that day is sooner than I think.
I am sad that my adventure is over, for now.
I think I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to come home.

I will see you soon, America.

The 411 -Part 8

The 411 -Part 8

Well I have officially entered the final 36 hours of my study abroad semester.  I have to admit, I’m a little confused as to where exactly the last four months went because I feel like I just got here like last week and now its time to leave.  I’ve been trying to make the most of my final days, balancing spending time in the city and finishing up my papers and projects.  At my school they don’t actually have finals until January, so half of my final assignments aren’t due until next year.  I have been trying to be really realistic about the situation, and let’s face it, as soon as I get home there’s a very slim chance I am going to get around to doing this once I get home.  So I actually got the majority of all of my papers done! Between spending time in the library writing those I have checked quite a few things off my London Bucket List so let me just fill you in…

The majority of last week was focused on school work, but that was only so I could have a stress free weekend! So Friday night I headed to Hyde Park to experience Winter Wonderland.  Now I know I mentioned in my last post that London does Christmas, but everyday I am amazed at how much dedication they put into this holiday.  Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is definitely the peak of it all, however.  For those of you who have visited Hyde Park, you know its quite large.  Well imagine at least half of the park just covered with rides, vendors selling gifts, stalls celling mulled cider and beer, and every kind of sweet imaginable.  It’s incredible.  I went with a lot of the other study abroad kids, and it was nice to experience it with them.  My favorite part was the Bavarian Village. It was like a mini Oktoberfest and on a Friday night it was #lit.  The music was amazing and everyone was singing and dancing and it was just like, “WHY do I have to leave this place in a week.” I enjoyed my night drinking cider and singing Christmas Carols scattered with some Grease classics and Bob Marley before returning to Twickenham late Friday night.

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Hyde Park, Winter Wonderland

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Bavarian Village

Saturday was a pretty eventful day.  I started my day in Hackney, checking off the last market that was on my list.  When I was in Berlin, one of the girls staying in my hostel told me that her favorite market in London was Broadway Market.  It’s only a Saturday Market so I’ve had a hard time finding the right time to make it there, but as it was my last Saturday I made a point to get there and meet up with my friend Becca.  I can see why it was her favorite Market.  It was probably the least overwhelming market I’ve been to thus far, and I mean that in the best way.  I was able to walk around several times, and decide what I actually wanted, without being overwhelmed and making an impulse decision.  We enjoyed some bomb vegetarian Indian and browsed all the stalls before parting ways.  But as fate would have it, we are both on the same flight back to Boston on Saturday morning.  It’s so funny how stuff like that happens, huh?

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Broadway Market

I made my way back to Twickenham on Saturday afternoon, as I had the final study abroad dinner on Saturday night.  All of the study abroad ambassadors and coordinators, set up a dinner for anyone around and willing in order to have one last hoorah all together.  It was nice to spend time with people I have become so fond of over the last four months.  And obviously we went to the pub for a few drinks after dinner.  It was a wonderful way to spend my last Saturday night, with the people I spent my very first nights at St. Mary’s with.  They are the people who have made this experience everything that it was.  I’m so lucky to have met such awesome people during my time here.

Sunday I had a lazy day.  I’m not only trying to balance embracing London and finish mms school work, but trying to cherish as much alone time as I can before I return home.  Don’t get me wrong I am SO excited to go home and see my friends, but one of the best things about this semester is that I’ve been able to spend so much uninterrupted time with myself.  I’ve watched so many movies on Netflix, a lot of them being classics I should not have waited til the age of 20 to see.  I forgot how much I enjoyed having time to myself.  I can’t wait to live in a house with 7 other girls that I love dearly, but alone time just isn’t a thing in that type of environment and I’m trying to cherish these moments while I can.

I spent Monday in the library finish a paper that took far longer than it should have.

Tuesday I checked quite a few things off my list, but not everything.  There was this one crepe place I had really wanted to try, but it was a hike and a half from Twickenham.  It happened to be relatively close to Camden Market, so I figured I would go back to Camden and stop by the crepe place on the way.  Well they just so happened to be closed on Tuesday.  So one thing I just won’t get to do, I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

Alls well that ends well I suppose, as Camden has endless amounts of yummy food.  So I had a delicious lunch AND found the last christmas present I needed to get.  So I would say I was extremely successful.

After Camden I had a few things I wanted to see.  The first was in Kensington, in an area I have walked by quite a few times but missed nonetheless.  You know “The Parent Trap”? Well if you don’t you need to pull yourself out from that rock you’ve been hiding under and watch it immediately.  Well Annie is from London, so OBVIOUSLY, I had to go see the house where the movie is filmed.  My childhood self who thought Lindsay Lohan actually had a twin until I was about 10 would be so proud.

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23 Egerton Road!!!!

After seeing the house, and feeling extremely creepy for taking an excessive amount of pictures of someones actual home, I went to the last museum that was on my list.  Well it’s not really a museum, but rather a gallery.  Now I have been to a lot of museums in the last four months and I have to tell ya I am down right over them.  I am REALLY glad that I made it to the Saatchi Gallery, however, as it was probably my favorite one I’ve been too.

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Saatchi Gallery
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Those are flowers. Yeah.

The problem with all these museums is that they are jack full of all this old boring art that I simply don’t appreciate.  The Saatchi Gallery only had 15 rooms, all with only a few pieces of art and very centralized on one thing.  It was art that I appreciated and didn’t just browse.  I DEFINITELY recommend the Saatchi Gallery to anyone who finds themselves in London and is looking for something cool and alternative to do.  And it’s free!

Today I went out to lunch at a yummy burger place and packed.  Everything fit so there’s that, but that’s about as happy as I’m gonna be when it comes to that process.

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Dirty Burger = Perfect Hangover Food

It’s so weird that tomorrow is my last night here.  No other way to describe it.  My plan is to spend tomorrow just taking in the city, wandering around, appreciating all that this wonderful place is.  My adventure may be near its end but that doesn’t mean my posts will stop so stay tuned.  Cheers 🙂

*just British things* – Afternoon Tea and Christmas Time

Another week gone by far too fast.  I checked quite a few things off my London Bucket list last week so I thought I would fill you all in…

The first thing I checked off my Bucket List last weekend was to go see the Rugby Stadium.  As I know I have mentioned before, the Rugby World Cup took place this past fall right down the road from my school.  Well, I never made it to a rugby game and therefore, I never made it down to the stadium.  Well Tuesday afternoon last week I finally made it to the stadium.  I didn’t actually get to see the inside, I didn’t know how to go about doing that and figured hopping a fence wouldn’t do anything but get me into trouble.  But I know a lot of famous, influential, and very drunk people have been in and out of that stadium in the last few months so it was still cool to walk a mile down the road and be able to see where it all took place.

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Afternoon Tea

It’s no secret that Afternoon Tea is a very traditional thing to do in England.  Break up your day with a nice cuppa and some finger-food smack dab in the middle.  Well it is a tradition I haven’t really taken part in since I’ve been over here, as my caffeine addiction can only be satisfied by 2-3 cups of coffee a day, but nonetheless it was one thing I simply had to do because…#JustBritishThings.

So Wednesday afternoon my friends and I headed to the Sanderson Hotel for Afternoon Tea. We chose to have tea at the Sanderson Hotel, because they offer a special twist to this tradition: The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.  Everything is Alice in Wonderland themed.  There are 5 different kinds of tea to choose from, all of them are different characters in the story.  The teapots where crowns and all of the treats are critters or characters.

First you are served your tea, obviously.  Then comes the first round of treats.  Little finger sandwiches of different assortments.  One of them was a cucumber sandwich on some kind of green bread, so that was interesting.

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S’Cute

Next comes the sweets, and there were lots of them.  Biscuits, cookies, macaroons.  You name it, it was there.  I had a headache from the sugar overload.  But they were all delicious, and I wasn’t expecting anything less because Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel comes to about 50 pounds a person.  For those of you who aren’t up to date with your USD to GBP conversion rates, that’s one expensive cup of tea.  But it’s all about the experience, and Afternoon Tea has now been checked off the list with #NoRagrets.

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The caterpillar was bangin’

*Just Christmas Things*

Someone asked me the other day if they do Christmas over here.  The way Britain does Christmas is the way I wish everyone did Christmas.  Since they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving on this side of the Pond, as soon as Halloween is over the Christmas Season begins.

Cue, lights on every street, trees in every square, Christmas markets everywhere, and yes ice skating rinks all throughout the city.  So yes, London does Christmas.  It has really helped in getting me in the holiday spirit, and so Caroline and I decided to spend our day ice skating and Christmas shopping on Friday.

An Oxford Street Christmas
An Oxford Street Christmas

Our first stop was the Somerset House.  They have a rink, that over looks a giant tree and have Christmas Markets to browse through when your done.  It’s the whole 9 yards.  Well we both managed to skate for an entire hour without falling, even though I came close about every three minutes. It was just nice to be around so many people who were not only struggling as much as I was, but also embracing the season and the beautiful sunny day.  I also watched Love Actually on Saturday night and they flashed the Somerset House skating rink in the movie, so like now I can say I’ve done that as well.

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I almost ate it when this was being taken
Somerset House, 12/6/15
Somerset House, 12/6/15

After we left the rink, we browsed the Christmas shops at Somerset House and then made our way to Covent Garden.  Covent Garden was full of holiday shoppers looking for gifts, street performers entertaining the lively crowds, and Christmas decorations adorning every shop and stall.  I am definitely feeling the holiday spirit, which is a very nice change of pace as normally at this time of year I am stuck in the library studying for finals and I feel as if the Christmas season comes and goes without me ever really having time to appreciate it.  Just another wonderful thing about studying abroad!

Much Ornaments, Very Festive, So Christmas
Much Ornaments, Very Festive, So Christmas

Well after finding some gifts we headed to South Kensington for our next stop on our list.  We managed to hit both the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert museum on Friday afternoon.  Given, we probably should’ve dedicated a lot more time to each and definitely didn’t appreciate all that these two very famous museums have to offer but we saw and became more ~cultured~ and besides, I’ve been to so many damn museums lately everything is beginning to look the same.  But I can now check them off my list!

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Natural History Museum, December 2015

I had a very uneventful weekend.  Saturday I did homework and watched Christmas movies, and yesterday I got up early and spent the day on Brick Lane, endlessly searching for some good vintage finds to bring home with me but turning up unsuccessful.  I did manage to get a famous Brick Lane Bagel, and found a few more Christmas Presents, so I wasn’t all that unsuccessful after all I suppose.  I will truly miss being able to wake up on  a weekend morning and have any number of markets at my disposal to waste my day at.

I’ve started to feel very nostalgic.  I woke up around 9:30 on Saturday morning and realized that two weeks from that very moment I would be boarding my plane to go home.  For the first time I thought to myself that I really don’t want to go home.  I obviously am almost ready, I really miss my friends and my roommates and my bed and my dog, but I’m very reluctant to give up this life filled with adventure and new experiences.  But part of this experience is that it has to end eventually.  Time is just moving a little too quickly for my liking.

Speaking of time, I will be spending the majority of this week in the library, trying to finish up every paper and presentation I have so I can do nothing but appreciate this wonderful city on my last week here.  So I probably won’t be doing anything too interesting this week, but hey you never know so stay tuned. Cheers 🙂