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Goodbye for now: the words of Johnson and reflection during the Olympics

Time August 15th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

A big thank you to all those that have stuck with me this far! This is the final blog of my time in London last spring and I hope it sums up how much I loved my IFSA experience. I cannot thank the staff of IFSA London enough for fantastic excursions, wonderful teas in Pembridge Gardens, and just being incredibly cool. Love you all! Enjoy the video…


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Final Explorations, Memorizations and Jubilations

Time July 16th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I turned in my final paper the second week of May and was suddenly face-to-face with my final few weeks. Five months in London summarized by a ‘tour de force’ of markets, palaces, barbeques and pageantry. After saying goodbye to my parents in early May, I began a farewell tour of sorts: I returned once more to all of my London favorites, ventured out of the city  to Brighton, and attempted to soak up every moment in the city that had become home too easily to leave it so soon. I lost count the number of times I just wanted a simple night with friends and a pint at our nearby student pub. I spent hours during rainy afternoons inside the National Gallery and other museums reconnecting with the art I visited my first week in town. (And noticing with amazement how far the Olympic countdown in Traflagar Square had progressed during my time.)

I spent a (thankfully beautiful) day in Brighton on an IFSA trip in mid-May. In the end, I wished I’d spent more time there; the city has a quirky quality to it that reminded me of the Hampden section of Baltimore. We spent our morning on a tour of the immense Royal Pavilion that is truly one of the most indescribable sights of the last five months. It’s majestically and imposingly beautiful and awe-inspiring, instantly dwarfing you once inside. We wandered through street markets, found an amazing ice cream shop in an alleyway and shared a pin with fish and chips on the Pier. I felt a bit like my worlds were merging: fresh off my parents fantastic visit and reminders of weekends on the Jersey shore piers and Baltimore, my day in Brighton was the first time I felt torn across the ocean, longing both for home and for more time in England. It was spectacular and bittersweet all at once. Royal Pavilion in Brighton Beer on the Pier! Brighton street markets

I finally visited Kensington Palace once back in London and spent many hours walking the Gardens and Hyde Park. During a rare gorgeously sunny weekend at the end of May, I picnicked for hours in Reagent’s Park and on Primrose Hill with my flatmates. I spent many nights socializing with amazing friends, including a successful 80s night (Truffle Shuffle! As in the Goonies!) at the student union’s nightclub. And even with my last couple weeks counting down, I met a wonderful new friend (turned flatmate) Sarah, who helped me discover my inner cat lady and quickly became one of the people I knew I’d miss the most. I planned coffee dates on almost a daily basis to see friends and caught myself staring out windows on buses just watching the city move around me. Picnic with Sarah and Lauralyn

My last weekend was marked by the most impressive party of all: Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. The Friday eve of Jubilee weekend, I had an amazing time at a barbeque with mostly theatre gathered at my friends, Jack and Jo’s, house. It was strangely ironic to spend my last Friday with the first people (outside of my flatmates) to make me feel so welcome in London. It only occurred to me the next morning, as a pondered over my cereal, that I didn’t know any of the them at the beginning of 2012 and yet, I now cannot imagine what my life abroad would have been like without them. Theatre barbeque Jubilee barbeques!

Sunday found Sarah and I in the rain along the Thames, watching the River Pageant and joining in with the spontaneous chorales of ‘God Save the Queen.’ It was completely worth the soaked state of our clothes just to see the flotilla pass among the sea of Union flags in the crowd. The amount of pure patriotism and pride during the weekend was incredible; it felt like a local Fourth of July parade in America, multiplied by millions of people situated on the river. The same happened as Lauralyn and I tracked the Queen’s carriage along Pall Mall in the rain on Tuesday before seeking shelter in a Leicester Square Starbucks and doing more of that staring out the window I mentioned earlier. River Pageant crowds Oh, the bunting... Crowds of Jubilee weekend Bunting at Covent Garden

I spent those last few weeks imprinting London onto my memory. I wanted to be able to recall it all, from the sights and sounds of the city to the conversations of my friends at the pub and the specific aroma of Borough Market on a Saturday morning. But as I waved a last goodbye to my fellow theatre tech, luggage helper and great friend Claire and moved through Heathrow’s Terminal 3, I knew it was time to go home. I was ready to go home to family, good pizza and Hopkins. My farewell tour had successfully filled my memory with illustrations of London, so that even as I left that wonderful, dreary city below during the ascent, I definitely didn’t leave it behind.

Keep an eye out for the last edition of this study abroad saga, as I reflect on my first month Stateside, coming soon.

 

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Quick! The parents are coming! The parents are coming!

Time June 11th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello friendly readers! Well, I am quickly winding down my study abroad time in London, but the month of May has been quite interesting. On the very first day, my parents arrived in London for a week of adventures. It was beyond wonderful to see my parents after four months; it’s the longest time I’ve ever been away from home and I was so excited to share the London I’ve discovered with them. Of course, being the marvelous daughter I am, I marched my jet-lagged parents across half of London their first day here just to show them the sights. Trust me, they didn’t look this awake at the end of the day. Parents first day

We stopped in on the current production of ‘The Sunshine Boys’ one of their first days here. Perhaps it wasn’t the most ‘British’ thing we could do, considering one of its main stars is Jersey guy Danny DeVito, but the production was fantastic and I’m really glad I had the chance to see it with my parents rather than with my British friends. Because we understand the Jersey thing better. (Same goes for seeing Zach Braff’s ‘All New People’ with my American flatmate; it’s something that just clicks from your youth.)

In all seriousness though: I wore my parents out with everything I showed them. Especially since their middle age dictates that bedtime is before 11pm, however, I’m quite proud of them for keeping up with me. And if I’m being truly honest, I was ready for bed early most nights too. My parents visited Westminster Abbey while I handled the pesky thing called lecture, but perhaps the best attraction was the Churchill War Rooms on the very edge of St. James Park. We essentially stepped back in time to walk through the underground bunkers at the heart of Britain’s defense in World War II. It’s painstakingly hard to imagine daily life beneath the turmoil of the Battle of Britain, where you can see the reinforced concrete slab in the ceiling meant to protect the bunkers from missiles. I also took my first trip to the Tower of London with the parents to see the Crown Jewels and walk among those historic caverns and popped by the British museum to see the gold medals that will awarded at this year’s Olympics. (And you can see which parent my looks take after most from our picture on the London Eye.) War Rooms War Rooms trap door Olympic medals in British Museum Parents and me on Eye

We topped off our experience by trying the best of British fare through fish and chips at Ye Old Cheshire Cheese in the City of London near St. Paul’s Cathedral, Sunday roast at a pub and watching my dad plan a Friday night dinner while exploring one of my favorite places in London, Borough Market. On our final few days, per suggestion of my dad, we pub crawled throughout London, stopping every few hours at the closest pub. I got to show my parents some of my favorite little places in London, like The Blackfriar, an old Dominican friary saved from demolition hundreds of years ago so we can now appreciate its Art Nouveau style. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese caverns The Blackfriar

Having my parents in London for a week was one of the best experiences of my time here because they are such a huge part of my Hopkins experiences. I loved the opportunity to introduce them to the city and explore it further with them. It certainly helps seeing them with six weeks to go until I return home. Now if they could have only fit my six-foot-four little brother into their suitcases to tag along….

Next up: the London bucket list and Jubilee celebrations! Houses of Parliament from the Eye

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A Loch With a Different Kind of Monster

Time May 18th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The end of April, generally, isn’t the best time to visit Scotland. When I ventured there three weeks ago, there was snow on the ground the week before I arrived. Yet, when I finally reached my host parents’ home in the village of Kincraig (near Kingussie) after an interesting commute, involving a replacement bus service due to a landslide on the track, Peter (my host dad) assured me the weather would be splendid for the weekend.  Splendid turned out to be a bit of an understatement.

On Saturday, we hit it off right away by having the best porridge I’ve ever had. Granted, I don’t eat much porridge as it is, but now that I’ve had Sarah’s (my host mom), that’s the version I’ll be making for myself from now on. Good thing that breakfast was deliciously hardy because we spent the day biking through forest around Loch Inch and canoeing on the actual lake itself. While Eunji (the other student with me this weekend from Brighton) set off with Peter, Sarah and I created rumors of a new monster in a Loch, with my helmet decoration, while biking through the woods. We stopped for lunch beneath the base of the Cairngorm mountain range and headed back to the house for a canoeing afternoon on Loch Inch. Of course, that resulted in being completely soaked through and we ended our day quietly reading in the sun room that had been heated throughout the day. Eunji, Sarah and I Biking with my awesome helmet Canoeing on Loch Inch

Sunday was an even better day! Eunji and I started off with a walk around the loch on our own, just taking in the absolutely beautiful sights of Kincraig. Obviously, the pictures describe it better than I could, but it was wonderful to have to time to appreciate the view. In the afternoon, Sarah and Peter led us up a hill across the way from the house. I could actually see the hill from my bedroom window and when we reached the top (very self-satisfying after the steep ascent), the house was directly beneath us. On this walk alone, we saw ospreys in the nest, an eagle, red squirrels and a herd of deer seeking shelter from the approaching storm that night) in the forest. We also came upon the stone ruins of what was once clearly a village on the hill on our descent. Quick rest on our Sunday walk View from my bedroom window Eunji and I at the top View from the top!

It was honestly amazing to spend the weekend in Kincraig; my hosts were very welcoming and gracious and the landscape was a wonderful alternative to London. After my weekend, I rushed back to London to get ready to welcome my own parents to London, which you’ll hear all about next week!

 

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Willkommen: My Holiday in Berlin

Time April 26th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello everyone!

This week you’re gifted with another video! I spent the first week of my Easter holidays in Berlin with some friends. Enjoy the video and the pictures! This weekend, I’m headed to Kingussie, Scotland to stay with a host family before welcoming my actual parents to London. Talk soon!

 


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Friends from Home and the End of Term

Time April 20th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Oh my goodness. It’s been more than four weeks since I posted. For my dear family and friends in the States whom I’ve bribed into reading this blog and any possible future IFSA students whom I’ve entertained enough to still be following this, I deeply apologize for my absence. To reward you for (hopefully) your continued patience, I’ll update more of my adventures early next week with a video! Until then, I hope you’ll enjoy my enthralling comments on the end of my epic month of March.

When I last left you, dear reader, we were on the verge of St. Patrick’s Day and the arrival of my roommate from Hopkins, Sarah. Sarah arrived completely jet lagged and, as a best friend should, I then preceded to drag her to Borough Market (a delightful outdoor market with anything edible you could possibly want), the local pub during the last of the Six Nations rugby games to be surrounded by drunken St. Patty’s Day celebrators, and to a house party with some musical theatre friends (which is honestly the norm for her as I drag her to all my theatre projects). I barely let her sleep in the next day before we spent six hours in increasingly cold, cloudy weather at the St. Patty’s Day festival in Trafalgar Square. Of course, being the kind, caring friend I am, I decided the best way to warm up after a great day of Irish music was with authentic, spicy Cantonese Chinese food from Chinatown. Yeah, I clearly had her best interests at heart. St. Patty's Day in Trafalgar Square

Monday, the third day of her visit, Sarah and I visited Abbey Road. A devoted (understatement) Beatles fan, Sarah was the perfect person to experience the historic site with me; she even came prepared to sign the wall outside the studios. After an ill-fated attempt to visit the Zoo (we were not paying 20 quid to see penguins), we walked around the massive area that is Regent’s Park and ate ice cream. Because ice cream must feature in every Sarah/Kristina adventure. Abbey Road Studios

Tuesday was a whirlwind day. Not only did we welcome the third Musketeer, our friend Carolyn, to London, we visited the Sherlock Holmes Museum, the Beatles store, Platform 9 3/4 and made it to afternoon tea before Sarah and I went to see Les Mis while Carolyn visited another friend currently studying in London. Firstly, as huge fans of Sherlock Holmes, our trio had an amazing time at 221b Baker Street for the six pounds we paid to enter. The two pictures below tell a very small portion of the whole story of fun in the solid half hour we spent inside the small house. With the Beatles store also on Baker Street, Carolyn and I could not pass up the opportunity to see Sarah in her natural habitat, especially since her natural indecisive nature made her want to buy the entire store. A few (understatement, again) pounds lighter, our band of merry university students then crossed London to indulge in our love of Harry Potter at Platform 9 3/4 in the newly refurbished, beautiful King’s Cross station. With Sarah’s (rare) great picture-taking skills, we caught one of the best pictures of my time abroad thus far. 221b Baker Street If only we were as cool as Sherlock and Watson Platform 9 3/4

Tuesday night was the first of our musical adventures, with an nearly ethereal experience with Les Miserables. With one of our favorite singers, Ramin Karimloo, as Jean Valjean, Sarah and I were literally on an adrenaline rush for the entire performance. I cannot put what I was feeling into words and that is theatre at its finest. Wednesday night found Sarah and I (after a slight ticket mishap on my part) in the audience for Matilda, an absolutely delightful, funny, enjoyable musical with the most talented children I have ever seen. We laughed often (in complete contrast to our tears during Les Mis) and I am elated we had a chance to see this amazing production before it opens on Broadway next spring. Wednesday also found the Hopkins trio on the London Eye, which I was glad to do with my best friends for my first time. Aboard the London Eye

For our last weekend together, we changed scenery with a trip to Cardiff for the first time for all three of us. We explored the beautiful immensity of Cardiff Castle on Friday, which included walking through a World War II bomb shelter within the castle. My history nerd squealed like a teenager at Elvis in the 1950s. We also made it to Cardiff Bay, evoking a certain nostalgia for the Baltimore Inner Harbor and Hopkins, but indulgence in fresh, hot Welshcakes from Mermaid Quay quickly dispelled the homesickness. As Doctor Who fans (who then attended the convention on Saturday), Carolyn and I took pictures all around the Roald Dahl Plass, with the Millennium Centre and water tower landmarks. (Sarah finally got her revenge from our cackles at her Beatles store geek out.) Squinting in the sun at Cardiff Castle The Roald Dahl Plass at Cardiff Bay We only had wi-fi in this spot on the Plass

After sadly saying goodbye to my other two Musketeers and best friends until June, I threw my focus wholeheartedly into the next musical production of Hot Mikado (based on the Gilbert and Sullivan production, which I researched for my undergraduate thesis at Hopkins last year) and finishing the next set of essays due. I drank a lot of caffeine that week. But, as always with the productions I join, it came together in a fantastic three night performance week with essays that were actually pretty good. Well, I thought they were pretty good; my professors have yet to tell me if they agree.

I hope you enjoy the pictures from the adventures of the Hopkins trio in the UK. See you early next week with a video about my amazing time in Berlin. Cheers!

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Oxford and Alleyway Pubs, Birthday Celebrations, and Lots of Sheep

Time March 16th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello again!

If you recall from my last (vlog!) post, I mentioned that March was already shaping up to be quite an exciting month. Two weeks into it, I’m already having the time of my life.

When I last left you, I recently completed three essays and was looking forward to a nice easy week before diving into the next set due March 30. Well, after my cozy week, I ventured out to Oxford on a Saturday day trip with IFSA. Unfortunately, in my ‘taking it easy’ week, I forgot to charge my camera batteries. So apologies for the lack of Oxford pictures. We had a wonderful tour from a student at one of the many colleges and his anecdotes about the university’s traditions and rituals really emphasized my love for local knowledge about these cities surrounding London. For lunch, we followed his suggestion of a pub down a few alleyways and had, again, fantastic food. Apparently, an alleyway is a key feature in the local pubs with fantastic food I’ve visited outside of London. (Remember Winchester?) Anyway, after a satisfied appetite and a pint of a local bitter beer that was phenomenal, we visited Blenheim Palace, the residence of the Duke of Marlborough and his family about eight miles from Oxford. The palace, also the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, was magnificent on the inside. There were many French touches and the state rooms were all matters of extravagant. Personally, however, I fell in love with the gardens and grounds outside the palace. With the lack of pictures, you’ll have to take my word for it, but the gardens (against the sunny backdrop we were lucky to have) were breathtaking. I wish I had the day to wander around the grounds, with the flowers beginning to bloom in the first tastes of spring and the sculptures decorating the grass. It was truly amazing.

Upon return to London, I geared up for my 21st birthday. That week was the most homesick I’ve been since first arriving, knowing that 21 is rather important in the U.S. and my closest friends would not be here with me. However, with the never-ending enthusiasm from my flatmates in London, the slight homesickness quickly subsided and they organized a spectacular birthday party for me, complete with tons of sweets, candles, and a wonderful card. It’s fantastic how quickly they’ve become good friends in the short time I’ve been here. Sweets and Friends Flatmates

I additionally lucked out because the IFSA Adventure Weekend coincided directly with my birthday! I adored spending the weekend in North Wales, where we kicked things off correctly by winning Oran’s Friday night pub quiz. (My team gave me the trophy for my birthday and it sits next to my computer in celebration.) Pub Quiz!

Saturday I hiked into the old slate quarries and had a tremendous view of the Welsh countryside, complete with the vast amount of sheep commonly found in Wales. I also visited Caernarfon Castle, which was designed as a palace by Edward I after conquering Wales and offers a fantastic view of coast and town from atop the towers. To get up the towers, there are about four flights of steep, narrow, winding steps that are equally hard to navigate in both directions but completely worth the view. Slate Quarry Miners Countryside Caernarfon Castle Tower View

Before returning to London, Sunday morning featured a trip to the coastal town of Llandudno, along the Irish Sea. This town had the perfect coastal feeling that reminded me of Cape May, NJ (for those of you from that area) and the fish and chips surpassed anything I’ve ever imagined! The beach itself was actually rocky- no sand at all. (Not that I minded the lack of sand everywhere for the bus ride home!) There was even a pier reminiscent of the boardwalks down the shore and against the backdrop of the mountains, I would make this my summer home in an instant! Llandudno Llandudno Pier

After the excitement of Adventure Weekend, I settled back into the study part of study abroad. Though, with two great friends from the U.S. coming for their spring break and participating in King’s Musical Theatre Society’s production of Hot Mikado at the end of the month, this brilliant month is just getting started. See you in two weeks before I head to the continent for my spring break! Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Happy British Mothers’ Day (March 18) to my wonderful mom, my fantastic Nana and Mom-mom, and my amazing aunts, cousins and family friends who are mothers!

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Grassy Noles, Rocks, and the Round Table: Adventures outside of London.

Time February 24th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I hope you enjoy the deviation from the norm this time with a video! Associated photos are also posted. Cheers!



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Keep Left (mostly) and Expand Your Vocabulary: the First Three Weeks in London

Time January 23rd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Oh dear! It’s been three weeks since I last blogged about my pre-departure jitters and attempts to squeeze five months of life into two suitcases. Well, I succeeded in that endeavor (sort of) and made it to London oozing with excitement and even more jitters about living abroad. Upon arriving in the pouring rain (that all of the locals assured me was uncommon) and working on little sleep from the overnight flight, I explored Bloomsbury section of London where our IFSA orientation hotel was located. Right in the heart of the city, this area touches upon the West End theatre district (the Queen musical We Will Rock You was showing down the block) and I wandered through the shops with some fellow students, mainly in search of a cheap, simple phone to use for these few months. I learned two things on this first day: I am horribly addicted to my Blackberry in the U.S. (and instant connections to email and social media) and more important- keep left.

Pretty much everyone knows that vehicles in Britain drive on the left side of the street, opposite to our right-sided ways in America. This makes crossing the street a dangerous mission at times, compounded by one-ways and no entry roadways that are numerous in London. Thankfully, most street corners include directions on which way to look for traffic before venturing into the street. It’s a bit confusing for someone used to the checkerboard patterns of Philadelphia and New York, but three weeks in, I am amazingly getting the hang of it. However, when walking on the pavement (or sidewalk as we say in the States, again setting up a potentially dangerous miscommunication), keeping to the left is seemingly arbitrary. Most of the time, especially in the central part of the city, people move so quickly darting in and out and around that it seems there must be an intuitive system to it all. I haven’t gotten it yet. To further complicate matters, on Underground escalators, the rule is to keep right to stand and left to walk, much like the D.C. Metro. So-keep left, most of the time.

I’ve spent the majority of my first few weeks here doing touristy things and you’ll see a few pictures in this blog of those experiences. One of the best things to do in London is simply to walk around and enjoy it. Exploring the Southwark area of London in the southeast section (where my residence hall is located), you can stumble upon the Borough Market, which is a fantastic Saturday afternoon adventure when many goods go down in price. Located near the Southwark Cathedral and London Bridge and only a short walk from the Globe Theater, the Borough Market will certainly be a regular part of my Saturdays while here.

I also loved my day-long adventure into Westminster. Beginning at Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery (which is great for multiple visits), venturing into St. James Park and the chance to see the Horse Guards at the Palace of Whitehall, you can stroll leisurely up The Mall toward the East Front of Buckingham Palace and watch the Changing of the Guard. In the winter, however, the guards wear gray coats, rather than their famous red ones, so I’m holding onto those pictures for later in the year. After the Palace, it’s a short walk to Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.  The Abbey has probably been my favorite tourist part so far. A truly beautiful building, I spent nearly three hours just exploring the different areas, including the tombs of Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots and Poets’ Corner, before staying for the weekday Evensong service to hear the Abbey Choir. And a small part of me definitely enjoyed the fact that I walked the same path that Kate Middleton did on her way to becoming the Duchess of Cambridge. Okay…a large part of me enjoyed it.

If you’ve stuck with the blog this long, I congratulate you! It’s hard to fit three weeks of amazing experiences into a short blog posting. However, I’d like to leave you with a few of my favorite moments of the last few weeks.

1. Even Londoners check Tube and road maps. Roads tend to change names often and the Tube is always undergoing improvements with the upcoming Olympic Games. Looking for an adrenaline rush for under £2? Ride the trademark double-decker red London bus on the top floor at the very front as it weaves through the narrow London streets. Just remember not to panic when it looks like you’re going to hit something.

2. Take time to listen to the sounds of the city, especially if you’ve never lived in a city before. Even then, the vibe in London, with its different neighborhoods and different cultures, is completely removed from any city in America. It’s fantastic to capture the old buildings like  the Houses of Parliament next to today’s technology and soak up the culture of nation both traditional and moving forward. Taking it a step further, create a London-themed playlist and watch the city against a backdrop of songs from British artists. Perhaps my favorite experience was having lunch on a bench in St. James Park with a view of Buckingham Palace beyond the trees while listening to Mumford and Sons (first introduced to me by their number-one fan, my U.S. roommate Sarah).

3. Pantos are one of the best British traditions ever. Usually shown around Christmas, pantos (pantomines) are zany, family shows with popular songs set to fairy tales and filled with double entendres for parents, crazy dance and joke routines for kids and generally, an all around great night out. I was so fortunate that IFSA took us to see Dick Whittington at the New Wimbeldon Theatre and it’s an experience that I would repeat again in a heartbeat.

4. London is gorgeous at night. Truly beautiful. My camera is not nearly good enough to do the images justice, so you’ll have to take my word for it. But exiting the National Gallery and looking out over Trafalgar Square to see Big Ben in the distance gave me one of those “Oh my Gosh, I’m in London” moments that have happened quite often these last weeks.

5. No one says awesome here. While awesome is likely the most widely and overly used adjective in America (and in my vocabulary), it’s very rare here. A few of my new British friends have chuckled, even though it’s becoming more used in the younger generations. Therefore, I will be focusing on replacing my use of awesome with lovely and fantastic. We’ll see how well this works.

So that’s it from me for now! I’ll see you in a couple weeks with adventures outside of London and maybe even a bit on my studies thus far. Maybe. Just to keep Mom and Dad happy. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures!

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Wellies and Trainers and Bears, Oh My! Or-How packing shoes prepared me for London.

Time January 3rd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Cheerio! My name is Kristina; I’m a 20 year old Jersey girl studying at Johns Hopkins while stateside. However, what I’m sure everyone is more excited about, is the next semester that I’ll spend in London at King’s College.  It’s New Year’s Eve, about 11pm on the East Coast and it’s finally beginning to hit me.  In less than 48 hours, I’ll be on a flight to London. Oh. My. Gosh.

In truth, this realization has been building up all week, mostly while I’ve been packing up my shoes. But first, a bit of background. I’ve never been much of a shoe lover. During high school, if the shoes were comfortable and not falling apart, I wore them. That all changed when I met my college roommate, Sarah, who has the largest sneaker collection I’ve ever seen and gives the best advice when shoe shopping. Therefore, after two and a half years of college, I’ve come to love shoe shopping. And you can blame Sarah for the shoe metaphor throughout this pre-departure blog.

Packing for a semester in London scared me. I purposefully ignored any part of the preparation until after Christmas before suddenly realizing that I was one week from departure with an entirely empty suitcase. The empty suitcase only increased my fear. So, on December 26, armed with my IFSA Preparing to Study Abroad book, I locked myself in my room with the company of my London playlist (featuring Adele and Mumford and Sons, of course) and began packing. The clothes part came surprising easy.  It’s truly amazing how much you can fit in Space Bags (Thanks to my cousin, Nikki, for the suggestion!) and packing up the essentials for a few months in England was relatively stress-free.  But then I had to pack shoes.

To begin with the simple things, I packed my wellies first.  Better known as rain boots to Americans, wellies are essential for UK’s wet winter (I’ve been told it dries out a bit in March so we’ll see). However, as a history major, I simply cannot let the moment pass without sharing a interesting fact:  The name “wellies” is actually short for Wellington boots, made popular by the Duke of Wellington in the 19th century.  But I digress and pack the wellies first.

Then come the trainers (sneakers) required for the abundance of walking in London. In the trainers category, I’ve tossed a couple pairs of Converse Chuck Taylors (Chucks) for two reasons:  I like them and the Tenth Doctor wears them. Maybe I should explain. The thing is-I’m a Whovian, meaning a fan of the popular British sci-fi show Doctor Who. Although some (my roommate) would argue that fan is a bit of an understatement.  I watch a lot of British television via BBC America, so I’m curious to experience smaller everyday things, like watching telly, from the other side of the pond. The previous Doctor, portrayed by David Tennant, always wore Chucks with his suits, so my Chucks have been added to suitcase for the awful lot of running I plan to do while abroad.

Also collected in the pile of shoes are a pair of plaid sneakers, newly acquired as a gift from my parents this Christmas, and therefore added last minute; new black flats bought on the worthy guidance of my roommate this month, and a pair of boots I hope to use on IFSA’s Adventure Weekend.  The shoes collected in my suitcase are a pretty good representation of what I hope to experience while in London. Firstly, dodging puddles and embracing the weather, which shouldn’t be too difficult after handling a Baltimore fall. Secondly, I love cities. I grew up about an hour by car or train from Philadelphia and New York, respectively, and I plan to wear down those trainers while experiencing London. I hope to communicate that passion for exploring cities in my upcoming blogs. And thirdly, in addition to my excitement of living in a city, I cannot wait venture out a bit, gaining some valuable memories in Scotland, Wales and Europe.

And now it’s getting close to midnight and the start of 2012. I’m very much looking forward to kicking it off in London and squeezing an extra day into my time abroad this leap year! But for now, I’m powering down the computer to celebrate with my family. Happy New Year and see you in London!   sta70243

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