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Highlights of London

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


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London is a bustling city that has many events going on everyday.  The website Timeout.com has a whole calendar of different happenings going on in different areas.  While in London we did many awesome things, so I decided to make a list of my top 10 favorite events.

Top 10 Favorite Events:

  1. Warehouse Party— We went to a concert that had seven different DJs, including Jaime XX.  The show was incredible- we got to the very front of the stage and were in many of the pictures from the show!
  2. Calvin Harris Concert—Calvin Harris came to London and we ventured all the way to zone 6 to see the show (we lived in zone 1). It took us about an hour to get there but the show was crazy!  People were packed so tightly into once space that we could hardly move.  The music and lights were great and it was great that our entire group went together.
  3. O’Neil’s in China town—O’Niel’s is a chain of Irish pubs.  One Thursday we went to the one in China town that had three floors and had two live bands.  They played songs like Blink 182 and the place was packed with dancers.
  4. Winter Wonderland—This was a theme park for all ages. My parents visited me while I was abroad and we went to Winter Wonderland together.  There were rides, foods from all different countries, games and live music.  They served mulled wine and beer which was very different than theme parks in the US.  There was even a Carousel Bar, made from a real carousel.
  5. Rugby and Soccer Games— We had the chance to go to an all-day soccer tournament and also a rugby match.  It was great to get a glimpse of British culture and see why people love the sports so much!
  6. Ice Bar—We went to the Ice Bar in London, which was made completely of ice!  We had to wear coats and gloves and could only stay in for 20 minutes, but it was so fun!
  7. Markets—London is known for having many different markets and we had the opportunity to visit a different market every weekend, including Brick Lane and Camden.
  8. Afternoon Tea at Harrods—Some of us enjoyed a nice cup of English tea with finger sandwiches and scones at Harrods.  The store was decorated for Christmas and there were giant teddy bears throughout.  A very English tradition!
  9. Sherlock Holmes Movie—The new Sherlock Holmes movie came out while were in London.  We lived on Baker Street, so it was awesome to see the movie on the street where it was set.
  10. Hampton Court Palace and Ice-Skating—Hampton Court Palace had a winter carnival.  We walked through the hedge maze, saw the amazing gardens and went ice-skating while we watched the sun set on the palace.

We did many other fun events besides those listed above, but those were the ones that my friends and I have the most lasting memories from.  London has something for everyone and it was awesome to experience a little bit from many different cultures.  Growing up in Indiana, I haven’t had exposure to much diversity but I love being surrounded by so many different walks of life!

 

 

 

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Thanksgiving in Morocco!

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

After Halloween, we thought Thanksgiving might bring about homesickness for the Americans.  To avoid longing for our families, seven of us embarked on a four-day trip to Marrakesh, Morocco. The trip was with an organization called, Sun or Sand, which has many trips for students.

On Thanksgiving Thursday, we landed in Marrakesh and could not believe we had made it to Africa!  We went through customs and exchanged our pounds for durham, the local currency.  We rode a bus to our trip leader, Mohammad.  When we met Mohammad in the town square we went to a restaurant that served chicken targine and mint tea, both of which are Moroccan specialties. Cats are everywhere in Morocco, even in the restaurant where we ate.   We then walked around the town square, and saw the Koutoubia Mosque, which is the largest in Morocco.  There were very large speakers on the Mosque, and our leader said that Muslims are called to pray 5 times a day through chants over the loud speaker. Visitors were not allowed into the mosque, so we could only see the outside.  After that we went to the markets.  The markets were huge with brightly colored scarves and tassels.  There was thick tar-looking black soap that was at many of the shops, as well as, toy wooden snakes.  At the market, Snow or Sand bought us classic Moroccan hats and my friend Rani and I bought matching coats.  We shopped in the markets for a bit and heckled with the workers for lower prices.  It was very fun to see if you could get something for a lower price. Everything cost much less than in the US; at the time, one American dollar was seven durham.  To get an idea, a scarf at a market would be 200 durham (before heckling).  The market also had iguanas, which many of us held.  After the markets, we enjoyed a glass of orange juice from a restaurant.  There were many street vendors selling orange juice and sweets, but we were discouraged from eating street food because it could have made us sick.  Also, the water was not drinkable; we even had to brush our teeth with bottled water.  In the evening, we had a Moroccan feast!  We sat at a long table, and there were unlimited plates of traditional Moroccan foods, such as couscous and skewers of meat.  It was so appropriate since it was Thanksgiving!

Friday was a fun-filled day.  To start the day, we visited a place where African women make aragon oil.  This oil can be used for cooking or in soaps and beauty products.  We saw the process of getting the oil and bought some of the products.  Our tour guide bought us tangerines and bananas that were so delicious!  We then headed up a mountain, where we rode camels!  Next, we walked up a mountain, to eat with a local.   On our way up the mountain it started to hail on us.  We had an adrenaline rush from climbing the mountain and the hail made it a truly surreal experience.  We got to the top of the mountain, where there was a tiny village.  Our guide took us to a house of a local man who cooked us lunch.  We had couscous and targine and he taught us some African words and phrases.  The restroom in a traditional Moroccan house is simply a hole in the floor.  On the way down the mountain, we saw a shepherd with a heard of baby sheep!  The sheep were so cute; they looked like puppies!  We boarded the bus and traveled down the mountain.  The landscape was breathtaking.  When we arrived to the center of town, we went to our Riad, which had incredible architecture.  There were intricate carvings all over the ceilings and walls and beautiful tile in the bathroom.  There were five other girls on the Snow or Sand trip that stayed in our Riad, and all seven of my friends got to stay in the same room. There were enough beds for all of us, and in the evenings we spent time catching up on “girl talk”.  The seven of us really bonded over this trip; we spent every day with each other and never had any misunderstandings.

In the evening, we went to a shisha bar that was decorated in bright colors.  Our guide went with us, and insisted that we come home before 10:00pm, because after that it was not safe for us to be out.  We wanted snacks after and he took us to a Moroccan version of a convenience store.  The store was literally a glass window on the sidewalk that you had to peer through to see what was offered and request what you would like.  We walked back to our Riad for the night through the town square, which was alive for the night.  There were street vendors selling DVDs, sunglasses, sweets, glow sticks and any other trinkets you could think of.  The streets are  dirt and concrete and the city has many tiny allies; it looked exactly like a scene from Aladdin.  The traffic is ciaos; to cross the street, you have to go in a large group and start walking in the middle of traffic and hope no one hits you.  There are horse buggies and the streets reek of horse dropping and there are motorized bicycles everywhere.

On Saturday morning, we went to a museum that housed artifacts about local culture, such as handmade rugs and plates.  Then, we went to an herb store, where we learned about natural healing powers of different kinds of herbs and teas and had the opportunity to buy some of the products.  One girl bought so much stuff she literally had to have it shipped home in a new suitcase!  Next, we walked through the city to the Jardin Majorelles.  On our way to the gardens, we saw a stork in its nest perched on top of a building.  In the garden we saw many exotic cacti and flowers.  The gardens were beautiful and definitely one of the highlights of the trip!  We rode a horse and carriage back to the town square and had a classic lunch of couscous and dried fruit.

After lunch we met Mohammad at the town square for an opportunity to take a picture with monkeys and snakes.  We did that and then went back to our Riad and changed into our swimsuits for a hammam bath.  None of us knew exactly what a hammam bath was before going, so we weren’t sure what to expect.  We were soon to find out that it was one of the most awkward experiences of our life.  Basically, a hammam bath is a full-body scrub, where they use an exfoliating mitt and black soap to remove all of your body’s dead skin.  We each had to be exfoliated in front of each other, and to say the least… it was a bonding experience.  Although the hammam bath was both embarrassing and unsanitary, it made your skin feel wonderful afterwards!  We showered and began to get ready for our big night!  On Saturday night, we went to dinner and saw a traditional belly dancing show.  The dancers were awesome!

Sunday was the final day of our trip.  For breakfast we had Moroccan Mint Tea, which is poured into cups in streams of about two feet and sugared bread that was very similar to a pancake.  After breakfast, we visited the markets for a final chance to grab souvenirs, and then took a bus to the airport.

Morocco was my favorite place to visit the whole semester.   The customs were totally different than that of the US.  The countryside was beautiful and it was awesome to understand Moroccan lifestyles.  It help put into perspective how fortunate I am and how much opportunity is in the US.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Adventure to Amsterdam

Time January 17th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Six of my closest friends and I decided to travel to Amsterdam for a long weekend.  We wanted to save money, so we took a bus from London to Amsterdam. We left on a Thursday night around 10:00 pm and hoped to sleep the whole 12-hour journey. Once we arrived at the Cliffs of Dover, the bus boarded a ferry and we were required to get off of the bus and hangout on the boat.  The boat ride was awesome, with duty-free stores and an open upper deck where we could watch the water below.  After the boat ride, we got back on the bus and continued on our way.

Around 10:00 am, we arrived in Amsterdam; it was chilly and quiet with an eerie haze that consumed the city.  Once we got off of the bus, we exchanged money in the train station and tried to figure out the public transportation system.  After a few failed attempts at understanding Dutch, we decided to stand by the tracks and hop on the first available train car.  Once we were on the train, we bought tickets for the ride and a local resident suggested the stop we needed for our hotel.  We booked one hotel room for seven people. Needless to say, we could not all go into the hotel at once, and attempted to hide our baggage.

Once we settled into our hotel, we decided to walk around town. The entire city is divided by canals, which made me lose my sense of direction.  Amsterdam is FULL of bikes!  Literally hundreds of bikes are parked on the sidewalks!  Since many people bike, the city is very quiet and there is much less road noise. We headed in the direction of the Red Light District, and picked up lunch at a bagel shop along the way.

After our bagel, we wanted dessert, so we ordered waffles from one of the many sidewalk stands.  The food in Amsterdam was wonderful!  The pastries were delicious, but there is also a chain of French-fry restaurants called Chipsy King, that serves French-fries in a wax-paper cone with any sauce you like right on top of the fries.  Also, we ate Kebabs that were by far the best we had in Europe.

After our waffles, we walked around the Red Light District during the day.  This was unlike anything I’ve ever experience.  The streets were empty and the neon signs were yet to be lit.  There were sex shops up and down the entire street.  Being in the Red Light District opened my eyes to an entirely new culture.  Prostitution and Marijuana are legal in Amsterdam, which gives the city a different feel than any others I have been to.  Prostitution is a major industry in Amsterdam, and the Red Light District is the hub of the profession.  Coming from a very structured background, seeing the relaxed regulations was shocking to me.  It is hard to imagine growing up in a world where the sex industry is a major player in the local economy.   The TV programs were also very lax compared to America’s, showing graphic music videos and commercials.

After the Red Light District, we walked to the center of town.  It was absolutely freezing, so the girls on the trip bought matching Amsterdam hats. Then we stopped at the famous wooden shoe for a photo op.

On Saturday, we ate at a very cute restaurant that served fresh juice and mint tea.  After lunch, we toured the Heineken brewery.  The tour took most of the day, and we ate at an American sports bar for dinner.  We went to the Red Light District in the evening, and the atmosphere was completely different than during the day.  There were herds of men on the sidewalks, and hardly any women.  The men would go behind the doors the prostitutes were standing in front of; the situation was repulsive to me. It was obvious that some of the women working in buildings together were related to one another.  Some of the women worked on their bodies a lot, since they chose that profession; on the other hand, some women were older and not fit at all.  It was interesting to see that the unfit women were not concerned about their body types, something very different than women in the US.

On Sunday, we visited Anne Frank’s house.  This was the highlight of the trip, for me.  It was so interesting to have Anne’s story come to life.  It really helped me get a visual understanding of how the Nazis marched the streets.  After Anne Frank’s house, I needed to head to the bus station.  We went to the hotel to gather our luggage, to find out that there was a national transportation strike that day.  Since there was a strike, I had to take a cab to the bus station.  Unfortunately, I had a different bus time than the others, and had to endure the 12-hour journey alone.  I arrived in London at 5:00am, and had to wait an hour for the next train to come.  After taking a short nap, I headed to work on Monday.

Overall, Amsterdam is very different than the US.  I kept an open mind about its culture and find it intriguing that the country has such open policies.  It was a great experience to open my eyes to how other people live.

 

 

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Christmas is in the Air

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

London is wonderful during the Christmas season!  We recently went to a concert on Oxford Street, to celebrate the lighting of the Christmas decorations.  The Saturdays played, which is an all-girls group similar to the Spice Girls.  Also, there was a performance from the main character in Ghost, the musical.  The lighting of Oxford Street marked the official opening of the Christmas season.  Londoners do not celebrate Thanksgiving, since it is an American Holiday, so they use celebrations like this to set the mood for Christmas shopping.  After the performances, there were fireworks and the street was closed off to cars so that happy shoppers could make their way to the stores.

We also attended the lighting of the Christmas decorations on Marylebone High Street.  This was only one street over from our hall of residence.  The whole street was blocked off and filled with Christmas cheer.  There were food booths, people collecting for charity, a live performance and a snow machine.  The music was fantastic and the snow machine created a winter-wonderland even though it was in the fifties! Once the Christmas lights turned on, there were fireworks and a live performance from a local choir.  Throughout London, store windows were decorated for Christmas, there were mass groves of shoppers and the hustle and bustle of Christmas officially set in.

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First Month in the UK

Time October 18th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | Comments Off on First Month in the UK by

I have been living in London for just over a month now, and life could not be better. We have done so many things in this wonderful city and met people from many different backgrounds.

Freshers Weeks

            The best thing about our school is how centrally located our dorms are. Marylebone campus has many business courses, so luckily nearly all of my classes are at the campus where I live.  Our campus is located in the heart of London and is just a short walk or tube ride to some of the most popular places in the city.

At Butler, we have one week of Freshman Orientation, which we call “Welcome Week”.  In London, there is “Freshers” which is the first two weeks of school completely dedicated to helping students get to know each other through planned functions.  Freshers week was probably the best two weeks of the entire year, and really helped each of us get to know one another.

Places

The study abroad experience has been so great because in just over a month we have covered so much of London and some places beyond London, as well.  We have visited Camden Markets, Brick Lane Markets, Oxford Street, The British Museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Covent Garden, Regent’s Park, and The Tate Modern Museum.  We have gone on a boat cruise to see the city in a different light and traveled to Wales, where we went into a coal mine.

Experiences

Through my internship, I’ve had the opportunity to see many different speakers and attend many day-long conferences.  Some of these have included speakers from Google, Facebook, Twitter, XBOX, Nike, and the author of How Cool Brands Stay Hot.   I also got the opportunity to go to an event on the 41st floor of HSBC, a large bank in London.  One thing I have been struggling with is finding a work/life balance.  Many days, between going to work and school, I end up putting in 12-hour days and still try to find time to hang out with friends and apply for jobs.  It is my semester goal to develop a balance between my internship, school and extra activities.

While in London, I have also learned how to navigate through the public transport system, called the Underground or the Tube.  I’ve also been put in situations to improve my networking skills and learn how to meet people.  One of the main challenges in networking with others is understanding the many different accents that are being spoken.  Even though everyone is speaking English, sometimes it is very difficult to understand what is being said!  Some of the best things about London are: the amazing shopping, the incredibly fashionably shoes and delectable candy.  I have only been homesick a few times, and it has been easily cured thanks to the wonderful technology of video chatting!

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