Back in Oregon!

After my long flights home I’m finally here! As happy as I am with my experience abroad I am so glad to be back home! I was filled with emotions as I was walking towards my family at the airport, at first sight of them a huge smile took over my face and then as I was about half way to them I began crying. I missed my family so much and it was so good to see them again.

My arrival back in the U.S. gave me a feeling of relief, the complete opposite of how I felt after landing in London. My arrival in London was so overwhelming, there was so much to take in that it took me awhile to truly get settled in there and begin feeling comfortable. Arriving back home is coming back to a place that I know and I was actually excited to get back to my normal schedule and getting settled in to my new house here in Monmouth.

I do however miss things about the culture and lifestyle I had in London. I obviously miss the people, all the friends I made while abroad. Culturally I miss some of the food, like the sandwiches and how the foods there have simpler ingredients in them and appeared to be less processed than the food in America. I also miss how walking became such a big part of my day there because that was my only way around. It inspires me to make walking more of a habit here when it’s reasonable rather than driving places like school and the grocery store.

Being back home I appreciated my home, kitchen and being able to cook myself dinners again. I definitely appreciate having air conditioning again! But most of all I am just appreciating being around my family and loved ones again and spending time with them before school begins.

Like I’ve said, looking back on my overall experience abroad it was absolutely amazing. I learned so much about being in a different culture and I truly don’t regret a thing.

Preparing to return home!

I can’t believe the time has come where I am getting ready to leave. My experience here has been absolutely nothing like what I imagined! The people in my host culture were reserved but almost more than I expected. While taking the tube around people rarely talked to you which was fine but where I didn’t expect it was when trying to get places if you were in someone’s way nobody would ever say excuse me to get by they would just push by. Also, when walking on the streets I felt like I stood out in the sense that I had to always be weaving through the people that would just walk in a straight line. They wouldn’t move so if I didn’t weave around people I would be running into people. Lastly, this observation was more funny but because they are so reserved they don’t say bless you to each other when someone sneezes.

My food accusation was also not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I enjoyed the food actually! The differences between their food and our food aren’t bad ones and they actually eat healthier than we do in my opinion even though the locals don’t notice that. They don’t use salt as heavily as we do and no high fructose corn syrup! I noticed there food doesn’t have as long of a shelf life as ours does because they don’t process there food nearly as much as we do. I thought it was amazing that they didn’t use high fructose corn syrup and even just looking at the ingredients of things, the ingredients are so much simpler than ours. I did hear they had great fish and chips and I am not to crazy about fish and chips in America but I did try them one time and they were delicious! I tried them in Brighton, located along the coast, so I knew they would be really fresh there and I was happy that I waited to try them there! Also, the whole baked beans and toast experience I didn’t end up trying. However, I didn’t eat true breakfast there in general because I would eat breakfast in my room and I just bought cereal and bagels from the grocery store. My favorite food experience in London and one of the things I’ll miss the most is the Real Food Market which was located by the eye. It was a tiny market but full of high quality authentic diversified food. I tried there was delicious but my favorite would probably be the hummus and falafel Mediterranean wrap.

The residence halls living experience was nothing that I imagined. Everybody participating in the summer program were scattered throughout the hall. I never actually really knew the people on the floor I lived on. On the ground floor though they had a common room and we would at all often hang out there.

My interactions with my host culture was also not as expected but I stay open minded in having conversations with people when they opened up to me. Since the people there are so reserved, I never initiated conversation with them really. When I first arrived I struggled with home sickness and was really overwhelmed by the city end everything going on with it. After the first week though I began feeling better about it and slowly became a lot more comfortable with my surroundings.

Now that my time is coming to an end I am very excited to go home. It took a long time for it to become real to me though that I actually was going home. It truly amazed me how comfortable I became there. My last day running my final errands I realized that I will indeed miss it there. I’ll miss the adventure but I am especially going to miss all of the amazing people I have met here! I have formed some great friendships and those people truly had a great influence on the my time here as well!

Above everybody there were three people I grew the closest too! Kyla, Angelica, and Chelsea. We made a lot of great memories together and I can’t wait to go visit them in their home states. My time abroad would have been a lot different without them and I am truly blessed to have met them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am most excited to see my boyfriend when I get home. I really feel like if I didn’t have a boyfriend the moments of it being really hard wouldn’t have been as big of a struggle and I would of been able to study abroad for longer than six weeks. However, because that’s not the case and I am in a relationship I think the six weeks turned out being the absolute perfect amount of time! I really enjoyed my time there and definitely don’t regret a thing!

Bonjour Paris!

            My last weekend abroad I took the train under the channel to Paris, France! I went with two girls I met in the summer program and it was absolutely amazing! I have to say though, as much as I loved Paris I do like London more and wouldn’t of wanted to study abroad in Paris. It was definetly interesting trying to adapt to a new culture after getting comfortable around London. The most obvious challenge would be the language barrier in Paris however that wasn’t even the most challenging part of the new culture. I downloaded a speak easy french app onto my phone and practiced before I went some simple phrases. I’d have to say the phrase I used the most while there was, “parlez-vous anglais?”! Most people could speak english, there was only one gal who couldn’t in a small bagguette place we went for lunch and we would just point to what we would like. The most challenging part of Paris was nagivating around. They also have an underground train like London but called the Metropolitan. The metropolitan however stinks and was very confusing! We obviously still had to use it to get around but London’s tube is much better! So once we arrived and found our hostel we took a map from reception, sat down at there restaurant and ordered some food, and planned our weekend there! Exciting, and we even met some friends who were from California! Our first day we bought tickets for a hop on hop off boat that went in a circle along the canal and that day we visited Notre Dame, Champs-Elysees, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower. The second day we explored a little bit, went to a cute little creperie, the love lock bridge, Versailles, and back to the Eiffel Tower. We spent

close to four hours at the Eiffel tower the second day just relaxing and we bought food at a close grocery store for dinner. Then after the sun sets the Eiffel Tower glitters for the first five minutes at the top of every hour.

Although two very busy days in Paris and I was beyond exhausted traveling back to London, I am so thankful that I was able to take advantage of this opportunity. My one hope while abroad was to travel outside of the UK and I did it! I can’t believe I have less than a week left in London now before I fly back home. I have seriously had an amazing time here but I am also very excited to go back home!

Traveling up North!

This past weekend I went on an overnight trip to York in northern England through the social program. York is a small town that is surrounded by medieval city walls which was

very interesting to see. Our group went to see the York Minster which was an absolute gorgeous building. I love how when our group goes on bus tours places they will take us to historic places and then we get a lot of free time as well to explore on our own. The York Minster was greatly known for their collection of stained glass. They had a choir singing songs in the main part of the Minster. I also had the opportunity to light a candle and next to all of the candles lit by visitors there was a sign that read, “Lighting a candle is a prayer. Response to beauty and goodness. Thought for others. Offering of oneself. Your candle burns as a sign to those who pass by.” I loved the meaning behind it and that I got to be apart of that there. After wandering around and taking photos myself and a few other girls explored the town a bit before we had to meet back at the coach. The next day we went to see Fountains Abbey which is Britain’s largest ruin and most complete abbey. It

was beautiful and I enjoyed exploring the abbey at our own pace. It was located in a national park so there was also a royal water garden which was nice to go walk around on a beautiful day. Our last stop was to Hardwick hall where we got to walk through the Elizabethan home of Bess of Hardwick. The house was surrounded by gardens and acres of green so we walked around outside as well. I ended my visit with a delicious scone with clotted cream and jam which was a something I had been looking forward to my whole trip there so I was glad I got to try one!

On Tuesday the social program took us to see Wicked which was a wonderful show. However, I did come to the realization that day thought that very few places in England or maybe just abroad have air conditioning. It’s going really hot here in London the past couple weeks to so that’s been an adjustment. Inside that theatre was so hot and I probably would have been able to enjoy the play more if I wasn’t distracted by that. My mom says I’m spoiled in the US with our air conditioning, but I’m okay with that! I don’t know how they do it here. I did learn in my photography class today though that Britain is obsessed with the weather because it is impossible to predict the weather here. It is unpredictable, but this July has been the hottest July here in 275 years. I don’t know how true that statement is exactly but one of my professors told me that and I was shocked. The weather has been in it’s high 80′s but there is hardly any wind here so that makes it worse.

Wednesday, my photography class took us on a class visit to the V&A museum and National History Museum to see photography exhibits. Each one was fascinated to see other photographers works and look deeper into their meaning. In the National History Museum exhibit there were photos taken in America of the Grand Canyon and such so it was kind of exciting to see pictures taking in the U.S. part of an exhibit here.

I had a good week in my photography class! I started my second project and I chose to focus on the history of tea throughout London. So I am photographing different aspects of tea in different tea rooms. There is a lot of history behind it here and I am excited to learn about all of its background so I can pair that with my photos. I began taking some photos this week and a couple have them turned out well so I am looking forward to completing my series next week!

I can’t believe I’m approaching only 1 more week left in London. I am going on a very exciting trip this weekend, my train actually leaves in 2 hours but I am going to leave where I am going a surprise! I look forward to telling you all about my adventure in a completely different culture when I get back!

 

Another day, another week!

 

 

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I’ll begin this post with my day trip to Brighton! This was my first day trip that wasn’t through the social program, it was planned by some of the girls I live with and we went on our own! Brighton is on the South coast of England so we got to spend some time at the

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beach! However, this beach was different than most, it had no sand, it was a rock beach. We walked down the pier where there were rides, games, and lots of food. We did not decide to eat there though we asked some locals where a good place was to try some fish and chips and went there! They were delicious I will add too! We spent most of day shopping and exploring the town and it was interesting to learn that everything in this town closes pretty early. We had tell 8:40pm tell our coach bus would take us back to London and a lot of places close in Brighton between 5pm and 7pm.  That was okay though because we went

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and sat in the grass around the Royal Pavilion which was gorgeous as the sun began to set. This trip also made me realize that such a big part in getting to know different cultures, even if it’s only travelling within the country, is trying different kinds of food! I discovered during dinner that not everybody knows what ranch is because I asked for some and the waiter had no idea what I was talking about, he suggested sour cream but I told him no thank you.

On Sunday we had the session 2 meet and greet so that all the new students that just arrived could begin getting to know the students that have already been here for session 1. It’s been cool to meet some of the new people but I’m still missing some of those who left. The start of a new session also means the start of a new class though and I am really enjoying my class this session. I am taking photographing the city: London, it is a way more relaxed class compared to the class I took last session but I am really liking learning more about how to take better photos. We went on two walks this week during class where the teacher has a route mapped out for us and as a class we go on a walk with some stops so we have the opportunity to take lots of photos. Our first day we had a project assigned to take photos of a peer in the class, one portrait shot and one shot directed by them. Our second day we began our pilot project which is where we can takea series of photos of whatever we want in London. I chose to focus on women’s

accessories mainly on their hands, like their bracelets and rings. It’s been intimidating going up to strangers explaining how I am a photography student and asking if I take a picture of their accessories but I’m getting better at it! The picture to the left was the first photo I took and still stands as my favorite one. We have our review on Monday so I can hear some constructive criticism on the photos I have taken thus far. I  look forward to improving my photos during the course of this class.

Some new things I have learned culturally within this city is how reserved the people in London. Everybody I went up and asked to take their photo were all caught off guard that a stranger was coming up and talking to them. Once a conversation has begun they have always been really nice but they will usually never be the one to initiate the conversation. Also, they spell words here differently then we do like favorite is spelled favourite over here. I found that interesting as well!

On Tuesday I went on a East end art walking tour through the social program and this was  great because I was able to see more of London outside of the central part. I got to see

amazing pieces of artwork throughout the east end and I think it is great that it doesn’t get ruined by anybody. I took a lot of photos of all the artwork I got to see but this photo on the left was one of my favorite pieces throughout the tour. This piece was done just on the side of a building.

Anyways, this week was a good week! Although my time here is dwindling down I still got good things coming! I officially booked my trip this week for Paris! I’m going with two other girls in the program from July 18th-21st. I’m proud of myself for fully taking advantage of my time here and all amazing opportunities this trip has brought me.

 

 

 

I’m half way there!

A very overdue update on week 3, but all week it was crazy to think that after this week I’m already half way through my time here!

On Saturday June 29th the social program took us on a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath! Stonehenge was great and lucky for us we got to visit on a beautiful day! There were lots

of people but we were able to make it through the queue pretty quickly and then we were given free time to make our way around! Next we went to visit Bath which was this gorgeous little town about an hour away from Stonehenge. Here we had lunch, got to visit the Roman Baths and then were given a chance to explore the city. Baths was full of people and things going on, it was a great place to visit. After getting lunch at a little place called la baguette a group of us went to walk around and we came across a market. We got to tour the Roman baths

and at the end you were able to try the water which is suppose to be full of healthy minerals but the water was warm and tasted really gross. After the tour, Chelsea and I went to find ice cream and then walked down to the river where we found a park to relax for awhile. While sitting there, some British guys came up and chatted with us for awhile. It was funny because we were teaching them things about America, and they were from London so we asked them what was something we had to do their before we left from a locals point of view. They called themselves “horrible Londoners” because they didn’t know about any of the things to do there. We ended up teaching them about the Tower of London because we had went there last week so it was a funny to be able to have a conversation with people from here since we don’t get to very often.

Sunday Chelsea and I went to the Sea Life Aquarium in South bank! It’s a close walk away from where we are staying so it was a good day! After we treated ourself to a nice dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant and because it is starting to finally get nice here we were able to sit outside! Lastly, I went with a group of people to an arcade that is also in South Bank where we rode bumper cars, played games, and bowled! There bowling here is a little different then back at home because you play like you do other arcade games in a sense. You have to put a certain amount of pound coins in to play, there are no bowling shoes, and the lanes are a shorter than ours. It was a lot of fun though!

I have approached the last week of my session 1 course, online entertainment management, and overall I have enjoyed it. I created an idea for a mobile application and created a presentation for it, and wrote an academic report on back channeling using microblogging.  Although it was a challenge learning the structure for which they do things here I got to look deeper into our social media and why we do the things we do so I look back on it being a positive learning experience.

We end session 1 with a boat party along the Thames river that was put on by the school Thursday night and it was our last time to spend time and say goodbye to those who were only here for session 1. This also happened to be fourth of July for us Americans! So after a group of us went to this diner for milkshakes and it was decorated with american flags and red white and blue balloons with stars on them. I found it interesting how you could find places around London that celebrate fourth of July but it was a cool experience!

 

 

 

 

 

The top left picture are the group of girls that I’ve connected with and the top right picture i most everybody in our big group that live! Obviously this isn’t everybody in the International Summer school program but it’s our little family here that we formed in the beginning because we all live in International house! But Chelsea, the bottom picture, has by far been the girl I have grown closest with over these past 3 weeks and now she is gone because she was only here for session 1. I miss her so much, we had so much in common and made so many great memories together that it was hard to see her leave. Until next time though, she is from Pittsburgh but we plan on meeting up with each other within the next year!

let the adventures begin!

DSC_0262 Hello Wales! We started our bus tour at this outdoor Roman amphitheatre which is the only fully excavated amphitheatre in Britain. It was amazing to begin seeing the country side of the UK and to explore throughout this very large ruin. Also at this stop we got to see the Roman Barracks ancient monument and stop at a Roman Legionary Museum. The museum was very interesting and because our group was only able to stay for a short period of time the owner allowed all of us to go into the outside part of the museum where they had people re-enacting what it was like back in the time of the Romans. Our next stop was to Caerphilly Castle, this is considered to be one of the

 

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greatest medieval castles of Western Europe. This castle had not one but two motes and we got a chance to explore all of inside. We even got to witness the start of wedding occurring there! We stayed the night in Swansea and began day two at the Big Pit Mining Museum. This was an amazing experience, I got a tour of an actual mine 300 hundred feet underground. We put our hard hats on with our head lights attached to them and we were ready to go! Our tour guide was funny too which made the tour that much more enjoyable. I learned how they ventilate fresh air down in the mine, and how they used to have boys as young as six years old working down in the mines. At one part of the tour, our tour guide had us all of our lights off to experience true darkness as the little boys would when their candle got blown out. We got to see where they kept all of the horses and learned the origin of the word S.H.I.T.! It meant sit high in transit when lifting all of the horses manure out of the mine. Near the end our tour guide asked where we were visiting from and we told him London and he said, “London’s a dumb. The best part about London is the M4 on its way to Wales!” Our last stop was to Tintern Abbey which was a gorgeous ruin. We were able to explore around the abbey for awhile and before headed back our tour guide bought us all the best welsh cakes to try which were actually pretty good! I was thrown off by it looking like a pancake but tasting like a scone. Overall I had a great time in Wales, the welsh were very friendly but now it is time to say goodbye and head back to London.

Amongst this trip I have began adventuring around in London with a few friends I’ve made here! We found this amazing street food festival that is near the London eye on the weekends so that is something we look forward to now for their great authentic food! Also, I have began visiting some of the great royal parks here in London. I have been to the

Queen’s Rose garden and part of Kensington Gardens. Kensington Gardens is so big but I was able to see the peter pan statue and the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial which is where we are on the left! I plan to go back there again though to see Kensington Palace.

Other than that I have been doing well and my time here is going by much faster! I have made a list of places I still want to go and I look forward to being able to check some of them off this next week!

getting adapted to London!

I have to say my first week here was an overwhelming and emotional one. I have my good days and my bad ones but my experience here has been far from what I expected it to be like.  The picture below is the very first picture I took since I landed in London. Trying to adapt to the city and new culture with people you do not know was a lot for me

to take in which caused me to miss home a lot and not want to be here.  The hardest part for me is feeling like I’m alone even though I have a ton of support, walking to and from class in this huge city makes me feel like I’m alone. The dorm living here is also a lot different then how I imagined it being like from the information I received about it. All of the students who came here through CISabroad were randomly placed in the hall I am in and so it isn’t as community based as I thought it would be. Also, I found on University of Westminster’s website that they rent their rooms commercially during the summer months.  I’ve met two girls who only stayed here for ten days, a girl who will be here for two years, and I’ve seen people of all ages which was all unexpected.  My hall is located outside of central London but is close to the London eye! There is also this authentic street food festival near the eye on the weekends which is absolutely delicious!

My main form of transportation that I have had to learn would be what they call the tube!

The tube is an underground train system and is the second largest in the world! Learning about this the first day was very intimidating and I was terrified of it because I was not used to using public transportation much at home. I had to get my oyster card which is what they use here to easily use the tube and buses but there are several ways to load money onto them. Everybody has to scan their card in order to get in and out of all train stations. After a week of practice I have become much more comfortable with it now and can even blend in with the locals by having to cram myself on when it’s busy! An interesting thing I’ve observed that has really stuck out is how few trash cans they have around the city but yet it’s pretty clean everywhere!  Every time I find myself with garbage because I had to eat to eat on the go or something I always find myself holding on to it for awhile before I come across a trash can.

Lastly, this week I had orientation at University of Westminster and began my class! This session I am taking Online Entertainment Management and I like my professor, she is pretty relaxed and understands that we stay busy outside of class exploring around! My class has 11 student in it including two local students surprisingly.

University of Westminster has four separate campuses divided by areas of study. Regent campus is the photo to the left and that is where we had orientation.  My class is at Cavendish campus this session which is a little bit of a walk from here but I will have my session 2 class at Regent campus. It has been interesting to learn about their how they do things because it is so different compared to how things are done in the states. Our entire grade in the class is made up of two modules, a in-module assessment and end-of-module assessment. Our assessments are graded by receiving marks and each gets marked three times. At the start I was very nervous for my class because I heard how many Americans will fail their classes here because of how different it is and not being disciplined enough but I feel much better now that my class has begun and I know my professor. I think I will enjoy it and do just fine! Everybody has class Monday-Thursday from 10:0am-1:00pm and on Thursdays my class gets to go on visits, which is what they call field trips. This Thursday we went to the Science Museum to see Google’s web lab exhibit which I actually really enjoyed. We got to participate in and observe four different experiments and a learned a lot from it as well.

Although this first week was extremely long and rough for me I have tried hard to stay strong and keep positive. I have been keeping in touch with my family which is nice because I miss them a lot but I have also gotten to know quite a bit of people here so far which keeps me distracted most of the time. I’m going on a trip to Wales this weekend through the social program at University of Westminster which should be fun so although rough, I still am trying to make the most of my time here!

Arrival!

On the plane leaving Philadelphia! Destination: London! Excited but nervous!

My arrival at the airport was definitely different than previous experiences of mine.  The airplane stopped at a gate that was just off the runway but not attached to the actual airport itself.  So they had the passengers slowly getting of the airplane by stairs that were pushed up against the door of the plane.  They had to have passengers come off in groups as shuttles came to transport us to the airport. Once I arrived to the terminal I made my way to customs to receive my visa. The line was very long but luckily it moved quickly. I have to say I was pretty nervous about making sure I did everything right but I showed them what they needed, I got my visa stamp, and off I want! Next was baggage claim and I had this very nice English man help me in finding my bag.  From there I had to walk to terminal 3, I’ll note that I was in terminal 1, to find my group that was picking me up! This is where I started things began getting difficult and I let it get the best of me.  I thought there was a train to transport people to terminal 3 but I was unable to find one and by following the signs ended up walking the whole way there.  At this point I realized I might have packed too much because it wasn’t easy for me to transport all of my luggage on my own, but I didn’t have a choice. I eventually made it to terminal 3 but then ran into the next issue of not being able to find my group.   This got me stressed and frazzled because the group was supposed to be leaving the airport at noon, and it was 11:45am. Although I knew they would wait for me I don’t like being late for things.  At this point I began to panic and breakdown because I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have change to work the payphones to call my on-site director. I didn’t have Wi-Fi anymore because I only received it for 45 minutes and I started my time when I arrived so that I could inform family that I made it safely.  I had another English man see me struggling and he came to talk to me and attempt to help but that only made me embarrassed since I was tearing up and so I toughened up and told him I would find them! I went to go ask this one group I saw for help because they were sort of watching me put the sign I saw this girl hold up wasn’t the group I was a part of.  I went and asked anyways and it turned out it was my group! I finally made it to where I needed to be thank goodness! It turns out at the end of the arrival instructions it said to look for this bag rather than a sign, and the bag was clear as day but I didn’t read that far into my instructions to know that was what I was looking for.

There were about eight other people there and we had to wait for one more before we could leave!  Unfortunately, she never showed up and no one was able to find out why so our site director decided we’d leave while one other girl working for the program stayed behind.  We then had a van transport us to where we would be staying; most of us were staying in the same dorm except for two other girls who were going to be staying someplace else.  We got our oyster cards set up, which are cards needed for unlimited travel on buses and the tube! The tube is the underground train system here! After, we all went to our local pub with our on-site director so we could get something to eat and get any question we had answered which was nice.

Flying all day Friday and then arriving in London Saturday morning was extremely exhausting and after my first day I couldn’t wait to go to bed! I’m excited to see what adventures this trip brings though!

Alyssa

Pre-departure!

I apologize for this being a late post; I had a lot going on making sure everything was ready to go! However, I still wanted to share my pre-conceived thoughts of the town before I did my arrival blog!

Upon arrival I was very excited for this experience and nervous at the same time. I had no idea what the town was going to be like but I thought the people would be reserved but helpful if I were to ask a question. I heard the food was pretty bland, which made me nervous because I love food! I thought they only would have a drink with dinner, not drink as often as those in the states do.  I was able to have conversations with quit a few people that had traveled to London before so I got to hear about their experience!  From them I learned that they drink a lot here and if you weren’t much of a drinker that they would change you.  Which really didn’t go with what I expected, but I rarely drink and so I was planning to stick to what I’m comfortable with while here!  They also told me about the food how they have baked beans on toast and have delicious fish and chips!

I also expected the dorms here to be community styled living, similar to the dorms at western but with some differences. I thought I would be living with a group of 8, all having single rooms but sharing a kitchen and living area.  So then we could all go grocery shopping together and split the costs.

I’ve never flown or traveled by myself so I expect this to be a huge learning experience for myself but that is part of what makes it so exciting! I’m nervous to have to say goodbye to my friends and family but I’m sure once I get their time will fly and it’ll be over before I know it so I plan on making the most of it!

Alyssa