The Tres Amigos go to Barcelona!

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Hola Amigos! 🙂

Julissa, Kelly, and I embarked on our first trip this weekend, to Barcelona! We left for Gatwick Airport at 3:30 in the morning, because we had to catch the train to take us to our 6:55am flight! We arrived in beautiful Barcelona at around 10:30am. Julissa’s family friend, Nick, was letting us to stay in one of his hotel rooms because he was in Barcelona on a business trip, but we couldn’t go to the hotel until 5 pm. So, the tres amigos set out to explore Barcelona by foot!

On Friday, we walked for literally 7 hours all around the city. The bus from Barcelona’s airport dropped us off at Plaça de Catalyuna from where we walked down La Rambla which had a bunch of tents and stands that sold gelato, flowers, leather goods, and of course FC Barcelona gear. We were still carrying our travel bags with us, so I felt like a true backpacker! We stopped and got lunch at a cute little tapas bar that we found hidden within the narrow winding streets of the Barri Gotic area of town. While walking around after lunch exploring the small narrow streets, we stumbled upon the Santa Maria del Mar church. Entrance was free, and it was a beautiful little church that had  tall, dark, vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows. On our long hike to the hotel, we walked through Parc de La Ciutadella, and found this amazing, tropical-like fountain in the middle of the park!

We finally made our way to the hotel. after stopping by the beach, and met up with Nick. We went out for dinner to a cute little outdoor restaurant, El Glop de La Rambla, where I had my first ever sangria and seafood paella! Let me tell you, I could eat seafood paella for days! I had never had it before, and trying it in Spain was definitely the right choice. That night after dinner Kelly, Julissa, and I went out to a hole in the wall bar called “Chupitos,” which is spanish for Shots. The bar had over 580 different types of shots, from the Harry Potter shot to the Boy scout shot. The bar is an experience in and of itself, the bartenders put on a show for each of the different shots, which usually included setting the bar on fire.

The next day, us girls and Nick decided to do the tourist-y thing and took the open top bus tour around Barcelona, and got off at the different sites. We first went to the Picasso Museum which was in the Barri Gotic district. It was a cool experience walking through the exhibit and seeing how his style changed over his lifetime. The museum even had on a special display some works by Van Gough and Cezanne! After the museum, and an AMAZING fish lunch down by the beach, we made our way over to the Temple de La Sagrada Familia. The basillica’s construction began in 1880, and still is not finished! But still, I was speechless and I took my tour throughout the amazing church. Sagrada Familia is a beautiful, modern church and is unlike any gothic or classical church I have seen. Antoni Gaudi, the Catalan architect who designed the church, really wanted to make use of the Mediterranean light and the way he utilized that was through the infinite amount stained and clear glass windows. It creates a breathtaking effect, as well as making it easier to appreciate the highly detailed architecture through the church. The two outside faces of the church were designed in two different ways. The north face of the church is dedicated to Christ’s birth and shows signs of life and happiness, while the south face depicts his death and resurrection. Visiting the Sagrada Familia was definitely one of the main highlights of my trip to Barcelona.

The rest of the bus tour took us all around Barcelona, and we got to see more building that were designed by Gaudi and we even got to go past FC Barcelona’s stadium! Kelly, Julissa, and I were stuffed from our delicious fish lunch, so for dinner we went to a tapas bar in La Rambla, where we met and had a two hour conversation with a couple from England! We went on the Barcelona Bar Crawl that night which was such a fun time, and where we got to meet a lot of other study abroad and traveling students. On Sunday, us girls were a little tired, and our plane didn’t leave until 9:55pm, so we spent the day enjoying the 85 degree weather on the sandy beach. (Definitely a lot better than Brighton’s pebble beach!) I felt like I was transported to a Caribbean island resort! Now I’ve officially swam in the English Channel AND the Mediterranean Sea!   (I uploaded pictures from Barcelona to the Pictures tab, so check them out!)

Going to Barcelona was a great experience and I would definitely want to go back to Spain and visit other cities. The whole traveling experience, like getting to and from the airport and into the city center from the airport, was a little daunting at first but now it’s something we know we can handle and isn’t that hard to plan. I was proud of us for figuring everything out on our own. We’re just growing up so fast aren’t we? 🙂

Next weekend, IFSA-Butler has organized a trip to the Lake District which is at the very north of England, where we will be hiking, gorge scrambling, and doing a bunch of outdoor adventure activities. I’m excited to get outside the city of London and have the chance to visit other parts of England. Like in the United States, there’s more to the country than just New York City. Can’t wait to keep you guys updated!

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Beyond London

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Finally!

I am done with my first week of classes at Queen Mary. I had my first Health Psychology class, which really seems like it’s going to be a interesting course. I thought that the class was going to deal with and discuss mental issues, but actually the class is about “mental health.” The class focus’s on how a person’s beliefs and attitudes affects things like what triggers someone to go or not go see a doctor, people adherence to medical advice, and how one reacts to and deals with illness. My two other classes are both in the Geography department. One is called, Society, Culture and Space and seems like it will be a typical sociology course, dealing with and trying to find answers behind stereotypes and stigmas in England. The other class is called Environment, Nature, and Society and really ties into the sophomore year writing class at Lafayette that I took called Agriculture, Ethics, and the Environment. I was really into that writing class, and I think a lot of the information I learned from that class will be applicable to this one.

London has been having an indian summer, on Thursday the temperature broke 86 degrees, which broke a record from 200 years ago! So, Julissa, Kelly, and I decided to take advantage of the great weather and our class-free Friday to explore the West End of London. We went to Portobello Market in Notting Hill and walked around for hours. The market has a bunch of different things, like antique jewlery, silverware, and diningware, relics from WWII, clothing, and an amazing farmers market! It was so much fun walking around in the sunshine, browsing through the different stands. I ended up buying some fresh fruit to bring back to my flat, some local strawberries and figs. I also walked past a Greek food stand which had over 10 different types of marinated and stuffed olives. I absolutely had to get some, and my favorite ended up being the green olives that were stuffed with jalapenos. All of this was so good, so fresh, and so cheap. I got it all for under 5 pounds! I’m such a frugal shopper 🙂

The great weather continued so yesterday the girls and I, along with four of our British friends (Angelo, Dan, Will and Josh), decided to take the train to Brighton, which is a beach town just south of London. It was an hour and a half ride and we got to the beach at 9:30 am. It was so nice to get away from the city and just lounge on the beach all day. It felt like an beautiful August day at the Jersey Shore, not an October afternoon in England! Brighton reminded me of two cities back in the States. The beach and streets surrounding the shoreline reminded me of Coney Island in New York, by the way the pier looked and the type of music that was playing. It seemed straight out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. The city  of Brighton looked a lot like San Francisco, with it’s big hills and winding roads. Brighton’s beach is on the English Channel so now I can officially say that I swam in the English Channel! The only thing I would change about the beach is sand, because there was none! The beach was a pebble beach and my feet are sore today from running around all day. We stayed on the beach until about 4 pm. We walked around the town and got some quintessential fish and chips before we took the train home. I have uploaded some pictures from the beach trip, so check them out!

This coming weekend, Julissa, Kelly and I are going on our first traveling adventure to Barcelona! It’s the first trip that I’ve ever booked and planned entirely on my own, so I’m excited to see how everything pans out. (Hopefully it all goes smoothly) I’ve never been to Spain and this is one of the cities I had definitely wanted to visit while I live in London. I’ve also been craving some Spanish food so it’s looks like I’m in luck. Only four more days! 🙂

First Day of Class – British Style

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Cheers!

Yesterday I attended my first class of the semester at Queen Mary! The class I attended was called “Terror, Transgression, and Astonishment,” which is a literature class on Gothicism in the 17th-19th centuries. The style of class here in London is different than what I’m used to back home at good ole’ Lafayette. We only meet for class once a week! After the one hour lecture by my professor, I attended what they call a seminar. A seminar is where the class splits up into groups of about 15 students and talk about in further detail the readings and what was discussed in lecture, and this lasts an additional hour-hour and a half. It’s all pretty different but definitely something I could get used to. The classes here also seem a LOT more reading intensive than what I’m used to back home. I have to have a 670 page novel (The Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe) read by next week! But all the novels for this literature class that I have to read all seem like books that I will enjoy reading. Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is on the list, so really how bad could it be? 🙂

Julissa, Kelly, and I have also booked more plane flights! We are now officially going to Munich from November 4th-7th and we are headed to Amsterdam December 2nd-4th! Finally these ideas and wishes to travel are finally becoming reality. We already leave for our first trip, to Barcelona, next weekend!

Now, although I am looking forward to traveling around Europe, I’m also just as excited to be living in Britain, traveling around the UK, and experiencing the culture here. One way I have done this is by sampling the favorite foods of the natives. I know, I know…the Brits are known for their beer, not their food, but I had to give it a try and what better way to do that than to have “beans on toast.” Beans are HUGE here! They eat beans for breakfast with eggs, with baked potatoes and cheese and on toast. My new friend Josh made “beans on toast” the other day, and he was shell-shocked that I had never heard of it! I figured, “How bad could it be?” and I tried it. Now the English normally eat this meal for breakfast, but I had it for lunch along with Julissa. And it was surprisingly pretty tasty! I don’t think I could bring myself to have beans for breakfast, but I still hope to bring it back to the States. Oh, I’m just getting so cultured over here 🙂

 

PS- Check out some of the pictures I uploaded!

Classes and Travel Plans!!!

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Great news! Study abroad associate student orientation at Queen Mary is finally over, and I am now an official enrolled student at and more importantly I have my class schedule (or “timetable” as they call it here) I’m taking Health Psychology and an english class called Terror, Transgression, and Astonishment. I’m also taking an environmental science class Environment, Nature and Society, and an anthropology class called Society, Culture, and Space. Thankfully Kelly, Julissa, and I all don’t have classes on Friday! So we will always have long weekends which will be great for when we start traveling! How lucky did we get?!

Speaking of traveling, we booked our plane tickets to Barcelona the other night, with the airline Easyjet! We will be leaving Friday October 7th and returning Sunday October 9th. Julissa has a friend who will also be there that weekend, and he is providing us with free hotel accommodations! Which is great because that’s just another expense we don’t have to plan or pay for. Also in October, the weekend of the 14th-16th, IFSA-Butler is taking all of it’s students on a free adventure weekend in the Lake District (which is in northern England, close to Scotland) We will be able to do a bunch of  different outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, gorge scrappling, and this thing call the Via Terratta which is a series of iron beams fixed high up along the gorge which you can harness yourself into and slide across the gorge on. It all sounds really exciting and I’m definitely looking forward to that trip as well!

Our classes don’t start until Monday, so the past couple of days Julissa, Kelly, and I have been exploring central London and have gone to see some more tourist-y things like Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. Westminster Abbey is one of my favorite things about London. It’s architecture (especially in the Royal Airforce Chapel) is breathtaking. I wish I would have taken some illegal pictures. 🙂 We are planning to go to a couple mass services at Westminster. How many times will we get to do that? Buckingham Palace was so ornate and…royal! Definitely fit for a queen! Architect John Nash who designed the redecoration and modeling of the palace definitely knew how to impress.

So that’s what I’ve been up to the past couple of days. Classes start on Monday, so I’m trying to make the most of my last free weekend before school begins. Wish me luck! 🙂

Week One!

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Wow! I cannot believe that I have only been in London for one week? It feels like I’ve been living here for a month! Let me update everyone on what my first week in London has entailed.

My friend Julissa and I arrived at the airport, to be greeted by Kelly and her mom, Renee. It was so nice getting off the plane and being able to find a familiar face. We took a taxi to Lancaster Gate, which is where Kelly and her family had rented an apartment. Lancaster Gate is right next to Hype Park, which is the largest park in London and has important memorials like Speakers Corner and a monument dedicated to Princess Diana. After we showered and freshened up from the long plane ride, we all headed out to explore London! We went on the London Eye, which is currently the largest ferris wheel in the world and is funded by EDF Energy, which is a company dedicated to supporting a low carbon future. From the top, I had a 360-degree view of the entire city. Pretty cool way to start my London experience, wouldn’t you say?

The next day, we set off sort St. Giles Hotel, which is where we attended our IFSA-Butler orientation which lasted until Friday. Besides bombarding us with tons and tons of information about studying and living in London, the program took us on some great excursions. On Thursday night, we went to the Apollo Theater and saw the muscical Wicked! I had seen this musical in New York City a couple of years ago, but it was still a very impressive show. One of my all time favorites! On Friday, which was our last day of orientation, all of the students in the IFSA-Butler program who are studying at Queen Mary University of London went on a walking tour of London. We were able to see the great, notable attractions of London. However our tour guide also took us into back alleys and hidden squares throughout central London that I would have never found by myself that were so peaceful, beautiful, and quiet! They were like little oasis’s in the middle of the city!

On Saturday morning, I moved from St. Giles Hotel into my room at Queen Mary where I will be staying for the remainder of the semester! I have a single room (which is a decent size) with my own bathroom (which is the tiniest bathrom I’ve ever seen! I can have my bum on the toliet, hands in the sink, and feet in the shower at the same time!) I’m in a flat with 3 other study abroad students, and 4 British students. We share a kitchen which has two of every appliance, which is nice when it comes to be dinner time!

Speaking of cooking, Julissa, Kelly, and I went on our first grocery shopping trip to Sainsbury’s. It was a little daunting and overwhelming. I’m not used to buying groceries for the week and planning out dinners every night for myself! However, when all was said and done, I made it out alive and have surprised myself with how easy cooking dinner every night can be. I’ve realized I need to make a list of what I’m going to make every night before I go shopping to make the whole experience a little easier for myself.

My dad and coach will be happy to hear that running from campus is very easy, and quite beautiful! There is a canal that runs alongside our campus and connects two parks, Mile End Park and Victoria Park. So needless to say, I have no excuse not to run. (Darn!) Kelly, Julissa and I have had some debate over which side of the trail to run on. In America, we drive on the right and run on the left. But it seems in England, they drive on the left and runners and cyclists on the right! Either way, I’m sure we will be able to figure it out after three months of living amongst the natives! 🙂

It’s been a very, very busy (and at points stressful) week, but overall I’m still in awe that I’m here and this adventure of mine is beginning. I can’t wait to update you on what happens next.

Cheers!