Inspired by...Bravery

I think this entire year has been a time of bravery for me.  I remember sitting on the coach from Heathrow, incredibly jet lagged, and thinking, “Oh my god, WHAT HAVE I DONE???”  I was absolutely paralysed by fear for the first few days, and even weeks, because I was so far out of my comfort zone — I was literally an ocean away from everything I had ever known — and I didn’t think I would ever feel comfortable.  Now, over eight months later, I have a different perspective on what exactly I had done :)


I was watching The Princess Diaries the other day and I got to the part with one of my favourite quotes.  It’s the scene where Mia is so convinced that she can never be a princess or a queen and run Genovia…until she reads a letter from her father imparting a bit of wisdom on her.  He tells her, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather, the decision that something else is more important” which I think fits in perfectly with my year in London. 


Was I terrified because I was an ocean away from my comfort zone?  Yes.  Was I in a strange and unfamiliar city?  Oh yes, I was.  Was I in a completely new academic system in which I didn’t even come close to feeling like I had my sh*t together?  Absolutely.  But, was it worth it?  100%.  I think I was brave this year because, despite feeling that tightness in my chest that signals anxiety threatening to break through the surface, and despite feeling like a mess in class half the time, and despite the unfamiliarity surrounding me, I got through each day, one by one.  I knew that this year was what I needed — I had to get out and see the world, and try something different, and study at one of the world’s best universities, because ultimately, I would grow and be a better person because of it. 


I am not the person who left in September and who curled up in the seat of a coach, watching the English suburbs pass by and questioning every decision I had made up until now.  It took a long time, and many emails and frantic Skype calls with my mom, but  I survived the tears and fears, and here I am, eight months later, and I am so happy with who I have become.  


I was brave, not because I wasn’t afraid, but because I (subconsciously) decided that London was more important.


Inspired to be,


Katherine

Inspired by...20 Years From Now...

Today’s #BlogEverydayInMay prompt — writing a letter to myself 20 years into the future —  really spoke to me because I feel as though I am right on the verge of some major change in my life.  With that in mind, here’s my letter.  [Also, I hate starting letters to the future with “Dear Me” or something like that, so I’m just going to write]

 

It is May 9th, 2015.  Big things are coming.  Some of it is coming home from London, but a lot of it has to do with growing up, in general.  I’m entering my final year in college (let’s talk about that for a minute), which is also, I believe, going to be one of the most pivotal years for me in my time at Fordham.  I’m going to be going to class, as per usual, but my focus will not just be on being a student.  I’ll be interning, working, tutoring, and continuing some of my positions from this year and last year, so I’ll be taking on a more professional lifestyle.  It’s terrifying because sometimes I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.  Sure, I have this whole academic/career plan, but the little things seem to escape me.  I am not financially independent, for example, which is a huge thing for me right now because I want that freedom.  I want a job and source of income, so I fund my own lifestyle.  I feel like I’m at this in-between stage, like a flower that’s just about to bloom.  It’s close, so close, but it just needs a liiiiitttle more sun, a tiny bit more water, and a teensy bit more love before it can just burst open and take on the world.  In 20 years, I’ll be 40, almost 41.  I have no idea what my life will look like, just like I have no idea what my life is going to look like at this point next year, but I think that’s the beauty of this stage of my life.  There are a million things that could happen, and the possibility is exhilarating. 

 

Life is so beautiful right now.  It’s also uncertain because I’m coming home in 25 days, and the adventure of a lifetime will come to a close.  I say that, but just because I won’t be in Europe doesn’t mean that this summer and next year and the year after won’t be an adventure in themselves.  I know that sounds so cliche, but I want you to never forget that.  This year has been so many things for me — at first, it was the kind of excitement where you don’t really know what you’re doing.  For me, that was getting on the plane and having this grand notion about what my enchanted life in London would be like.

 

 Then the jet lag and the general feeling of “Oh my GOD what have I DONE?” set in.  That’s the reality (and lack of sleep).  The first few months here were rough, to say the least.  I spent a lot of time on Skype crying to my mom and having this horrible tightness in my chest that always signalled a wave of anxiety about to knock me over.  The rough edges softened a bit as I began to travel and see the sights and begin to have an idea of how to survive classes here.  I still knew, however, that I would be home in just a few weeks, and that became my rock.

 Then I came home: relief.

 I could breathe because I was where everything was familiar…but that time ended way too quickly and my little bubble was burst as I made my way to the airport for the long stretch of my year away and it wasn’t pure excitement I was feeling because I knew how hard it was to fly away, now.  I was terrified of not being able to make it through the next five months, and it wasn’t exactly relief that I felt when I walked in the door to my room again.  Things were definitely familiar here, but it was anything but easy.  Classes were still a mental boxing match and I wasn’t on the winning side, still.  I got stronger, and was able to fight back more and more, but I can still feel my head spin in class.  I still missed my family and home, where everything made sense, and I still wondered if I was ever going to make it to June.

 

As the weeks went by, however, I began to feel something growing inside me: joy.  The good began to outweigh the not-so-good (because nothing here has really been “bad” per se).  I had my Community and Culture class that took us around London and introduced me to some amazing people, I got to travel a ton and have my solo adventure, I had Adventure Weekend, my Faith and Leadership class, and the days took on a more comfortable rhythm.  It was more than that, though.  I started to feel real, true happiness — not the happiness that masked the terror that I felt first term, but the feeling that I knew what I was doing.  I wasn’t longing for home anymore, because London felt like home.  I wasn’t dreaming of my “real” life at home or at Fordham, because this place, this school, this city, these friends, was and is my life.  I had more and more of those moments where you’re in complete disbelief that you are in this place because you’re just so damn happy that you can’t even begin to soak it all up and breathe it all in. 

I suppose that’s what life is like and what it feels like to truly grow and change, for the better.  So, I don’t know what’s going to be my life in 20 years, but I do know that whatever it is, I can do it.


Inspired to be,


Katherine

Inspired by...Ireland!

Last week, I got to reconnect with my roots with a visit to Ireland!  Before I begin, I’d just like to point out that this trip was monumental in a few ways.  First, it was the first time I booked a plane ticket all on my own (snaps for me!).  Second, it was the first time I flew Ryanair which I believe is a rite of passage for study abroad students.  And third, I got to meet my family!

I left bright and early on Saturday morning to catch the first Tube to Liverpool Street, where I took the Stansted Express to the airport.  The flight was quick and easy and I have to say, Ryanair is not that bad at all.  Once I landed at Shannon, I was greeted with lots of hugs and welcomes from my family and we set off for the day’s adventures!

 

We stopped first at Dromoland Castle for (completely necessary) tea and scones since I was famished after the journey!  Dromoland Castle is a very high-end golf course and hotel where people have their weddings and other fancy events, so having tea in the garden made me feel oh-so chic :)

From there, we went to the Cliffs of Moher, which are on the western coast of Ireland near a little town called Doolin.  The weather was absolutely pristine that day, which was great because we went on a ferry ride to see the cliffs right from the water (the best way to see them, I think!).  The sea air felt lovely and the scenery was breathtaking.  (Fun fact: a scene from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was shot near the cliffs — can you guess which one?)  After stopping for lunch at a pub in Doolin (and watching Ireland destroy Scotland in the rugby match that day!), we began our drive along the Clare Coast and Burren National Park.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves...

Needless to say, I was exhausted when we finally got home, so I slept very well that night.

 

On Sunday, my family took me to the historic town and castle at Bunratty, which was about 15 minutes from where I was staying.  I’ve always loved historic towns — something about getting to poke around in all of the buildings and walk along the paths lets me get a real feeling for the town and its history — so we had great craic that day!  I also tried a Bailey’s coffee, which is coffee with Bailey’s Irish cream, topped with whipped cream, and it was love at first sip.  This certainly warranted a slainte! (Cheers!)  That night was Sunday dinner with almost all of my cousins and after a whole term of cooking for myself, I really appreciated the home cooking :)

Monday was quite an adventure: Eyeries to see my great-grandmother’s house!  It was about a three hour drive down to Eyeries, which is a little town on one of the “fingers” of Ireland.  Words cannot do the scenery justice, trust me.  There was something so pure about the rolling hills and the cliffs,  the tiny winding roads, and the sparkling coast and I was absolutely mesmerised the entire time.  I felt completely at ease because it was so quiet and undisturbed and the colors were so vibrant.  The scenery alone would have been lovely, but nothing could prepare me for what came next.  I got to see the very house where my great-grandmother grew up and from which she left 88 years ago at the age of 17 to come to America.  Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt the moment I laid eyes on the little house.  Can you imagine, for a second, being 17 years old, having grown up in a remote town in the mountains of Ireland, and walking out the front door knowing that you will never see your family or your home again?  I thought I was making a big leap when I came to London, but I have Skype, an iPhone, and a plane ticket home, so this doesn’t even compare.  

 

Tuesday was my last day, but it was a full one!  I sent off a bunch of postcards to family in the states, and we took a beautiful drive through the centre of Limerick.  We stopped for lunch at the University of Limerick where my uncle studied when he was about my age.  It’s a lovely campus and the music building had a beautiful mural that I simply had to capture!  We then drove to Annacotty and saw even more gorgeous scenery — I couldn’t get enough!  

After a final meal with my cousins, it was time to head to the airport, but I had had such a great time that I wasn’t even that sad to leave.  It sounds odd, but I got to do so much in a few short days, and I felt so lucky that I got to spend time with my family (who spoiled me shamelessly, by the way!), that I was in a great mood on the flight home.  Also, I’m already looking at flights to return — that’s how in love I am with Ireland!

 

Inspired to be,

 

Katherine

Inspired by...Coffee Breaks

It’s been a beautiful week in London!  The sun is shining, I’m not bundled up anymore, and big things are right on the horizon.  The past few weeks have been an absolute whirlwind, which is why I’ve been a little MIA, but I’ve missed blogging since then!  

 

I had a lovely experience yesterday.  I’ve recently discovered caffe mochas and, like cappuccinos, I don’t know where they have been all of my life!  I mean, it’s chocolate and espresso in a warm little package, so what could be better?  I took a three week break from coffee since I’m determined to not become addicted, and have been celebrating the end of that break quite a bit…  I might need to work on this.  Anyway, yesterday was a gorgeous day and I had a chunk of about 40 minutes in between finishing up some reading and my 4:00 lecture, so I treated myself to a mocha from (where else?) Caffe Nero.  I couldn’t bear to sit since I knew I would be sitting inside for the rest of the evening, so I took my coffee down to the Temple tube station to a lovely spot by the Thames.  I go walking along this path a lot, but yesterday, I just stood there and basked in the sunshine as I gazed over the river.  I was only there for a about 15 minutes, but it was such a soothing, refreshing break from my day.  In fact, I’m still thinking of that moment, which is why I simply had to blog about it!


When things are getting crazy between getting mentally beaten up every day  school, Smart Girls Group, planning for the future, and just getting through the day, I sometimes forget that I am in London.  This is my grand adventure — my year abroad in London at the London School of Economics.  It feels so normal to be here, now, that I forget that in about three months, I won’t have a Caffe Nero on every street corner, and the Thames a few blocks away from my school.  I won’t have museum lates, weekend trips to the continent, and double decker buses rumbling past me.  I am so in love with where I am and what I’m doing right now, that I forget how insanely lucky I am, and yesterday was the reminder that I desperately needed.  


I have three months left in the city that has become my home, and I plan on making the most of it. :)


Inspired to be,


Katherine

Inspired by...Museum Lates

New York, I hate to break it to you, but I think London is my new home and favourite city.  Not only is it historical, full of winding streets, beautiful architecture, cheap Indian food, and gorgeous men with British accents, but it also has this lovely little thing called “Museum Lates.”  

First off, all of the major museums (actually, the majority of the museums in London) are absolutely FREE.  You have to pay for special exhibits, but the main museums are free of charge, so you can just walk in, stay for an hour, and then come back another day.  I love this because I am a huge museum-goer, but often get museumed- out after about 3 or so hours and stop being able to focus because I am in desperate need of a break and some fresh air.  I force myself to stay, though, because I paid admission and want to get the full value of what I paid for.  This is not an issue in London, because I don’t have to feel guilty about killing an hour at the British Museum just to check out their African art galleries with every intention of coming back another day.  Some (looking at you, Ben!) may call this a socialist invention, but for the nerdy and short-on-funds study abroad student, this is a brilliant concept.  

I’m so fortunate to live right near several major museums.  The British Museum (which is really a relic of British imperialism which makes for an interesting experience) is literally a 4-minute walk from my flat, and the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery are less than ten minutes away in Trafalgar Square.  The Tate Modern is a walk down to the South Bank, and there is a lovely trio of museums - the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, and Victoria&Albert - just a short Tube ride away in South Kensington.  And that doesn’t even scratch the surface (those are just the ones I’ve visited so far - there will be more!).  London is my dream city :)

What’s even better is that the museums become a social event.  On certain nights of the week (mostly Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays), certain museums are open late, serving drinks, sponsoring special classes, or just bringing in a different crowd of people.  Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s my idea of a perfect Friday night, either by myself or on a date.  To all the beautiful, intellectual men out there, take note!  

I’ll be sure to do posts on all of the museums I’ve visited, but this is just my introduction to my quest to dive into all the museum culture that London has to offer!  For now...

Inspired to be,

Katherine

Inspired by...Cafe Days

As many of you know (from my frequent Instagram pictures and tweets), that I am a (new) cappuccino enthusiast.  I was never a coffee person - which most people can’t believe, but remember how high-strung I tend to be and then add caffeine - but last term, I was meeting my advisor from Fordham for coffee and he introduced me to cappuccinos…and the rest is history!  There is nothing I love quite like sitting in a semi-busy cafe, sipping on a cappuccino with the occasional pain au chocolat dipped in the foam.  

I also make my cappuccino habits productive.  While I save schoolwork like essay-writing and reading for my classes for the silent sections of the library, I love getting “personal” work done in cafes.  Something about the hum of activity and the openness of cafes makes me more productive.  I’ll write blog posts, work on Smart Girls Group projects, send emails, work on personal branding work, and do my biweekly “content check.” 

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I keep a few bookmark folders for websites I like to keep up to date on.  I love to read and learn about the world, to put it rather simply, so at least once a week, I’ll do a full content read where I scan through all of these websites (LevoLeague, Smart, Pretty, and Awkward, HBIC Project, MindBodyGreen, and I am That Girl are my favourites), save article I like for future reference, pin/post/tweet relevant ones, etc.  As I’m moving towards the specialised phase of my academic life, I’ve been keeping tabs on certain news sites, columnists (Nicholas Kristof and Thomas Friedman, for example), and specialty current events sites.  My field of study (Political Science, Middle East Studies, International Development, Women’s Issues) is one that is constantly changing, so I need to stay as up-to-date as possible!

During my cafe days (Wednesday afternoons and Fridays), I’ll read my book while I’m having my cappuccino, and then pop in my headphones and get down to work when I’m done.  I’ve been known to spend up to four hours in the Caffe Nero on Kingsway or the one by the Waterloo Bridge and completely lose track of time, which is such a lovely feeling.  I keep my planner with me so I can cross things off my list and when I walk out, not only am I freshly cappuccino-ed, but my weekly to-do list is just a bit shorter!  This is something I highly recommend as a change of scenery can do wonders!

Inspired to be,

Katherine

Inspired by...Borough Market

I'm back!  After the busiest week of my term (hence my "Surviving" post last week) I have returned from my little hiatus and am back to tell you about an "adventure" I had two weekends ago!  If you know me, you know that I LOVE food and that I love trying new foods.  So, naturally, food markets are a passion of mine - something about wandering through all of the different stalls, checking out what everyone is serving, tasting samples always puts me at ease.  Two weekends ago, I ventured out to Borough Market, one of London's oldest and most renowned food markets, in South Wark.  

Borough Market began exactly 1,000 years ago, which is incredible, isn't it?  When we say something is "old" in Europe, we really mean it!  

It was a rather cold and gloomy day, but my trench coat protected me on my culinary adventure. I began at Borough High Street and followed the mass of people making their way into the market, and from there, it was a feast for the senses! 

I started at a stand selling donuts that I had heard about and simply had to try, so my adventure began with the most amazing vanilla cream filled donut I have ever had!

From there, I wandered among the stands sampling everything I could so I could get the full experience.  Borough Market caters to its traditional roots, so it's mostly cheese, bread, and meats (I avoided the meat).  They also have fruit and vegetable stands, and prepared food sections where you can get paella made in giant pans, Scotch Eggs, meat pies, and (my personal favourite) mulled wine.  

I also found a green juice stand (definitely not traditional, but entirely necessary), so I balanced out the cheese and donut with a lovely little green juice:

 

I sampled so many kinds of cheeses, olive oils, and spreads that I lost track of which was which!  My advice?  Don't bother eating anything before you go, because you can basically just eat samples and be perfectly satiated.  You don't even need to buy anything necessarily, because just wandering around and observing all the different kinds of food is an experience in itself.  I needed to get out and explore a bit and this was a great break during my day!

 

Inspired to be,

Katherine :)

Inspired by... High Tea

Last week, my Community and Culture class took us to Bea’s of Bloomsbury for the quintessential British experience: high tea.  High tea is an experience like no other and if you are anywhere in the UK, I highly recommend…in fact, I implore you to give it a try, because your taste buds will thank you.  

 

Bea’s of Bloomsbury is right by St. Paul’s Cathedral, so it was close enough for me to walk to and enjoy the sunshine.  St. Paul’s was looking quite dapper that day (as always), so I had to be a tourist for a few minutes and snap a picture:

 

 

There were about 20 of us, all squeezed around a huge table, and we were each given a menu of the different kinds of tea the shop had.  I picked a vanilla tea (my personal favourite).  We got to know each other as we waited for our tea, and they all came in our own individual pots, which I thought was adorable and quite fancy!

 

 

My vanilla tea was sweet, but I still made it British by adding a little milk and sugar, which I don’t usually do, and it was quite good. 

 

After we had sipped on our tea for a bit, the sandwiches came out and they were very different from finger sandwiches in the States - there was a goat cheese and walnut one, an onion chutney with cheese and lettuce one, and then some sort of bacon sandwich (didn’t touch that one #vegetarianlife).  Brits love their sandwiches and take them quite seriously, so they were excellent!

 

Then, as if that weren’t enough, came the climax of high tea: the cakes and scones!  I have a deep love for scones with clotted cream and jam so that came first, followed by some little brownie-esque things.  There were also cupcakes, but I was so full that I couldnt bear to put anything else in my mouthas much as I wanted to :)  I also didn't get a chance to snap a picture of the sandwiches and cakes, because they were gone in the blink of an eye! I'm sure you get the idea, though.

 

High tea isnt cheap (youll probably end up spending anywhere between 9-12 pounds), but I firmly believe that it is worth every penny.  Its a fun social event and italways fun to feel fancy, doesn’t it?

 

I had a lovely time at Beas of Bloomsbury, as well!  The food and tea were exquisite, and the staff handled our large crowd very well, so I will definitely be back.

 

Inspired to be (British!),

 

Katherine :)

Inspired by..."British-isms"

I’ve been living in London for just about four months (WOW, right?) and I can’t believe how fast time has flown since September 24th!  Living in London has been nothing short of an incredible experience, and I have fallen in love with next to everything about this beautiful and inspiring city.  London is such a historic city - from the Tower of London, to relics from Britain’s imperial age in the British Museum, to winding streets, it is the perfect city for me.  Also, who can resist a British accent?  I’m still working on my own, but I did have someone say to me last week that she thought my American accent had grown stronger….#studyabroadfail.  Despite this, I have picked up on a few phrases unique to Britain, and I love incorporating them into my everyday life.  Here are a few of my favourite:

 

“Top-up”:

     When your Oyster Card (the payment card for the Tube) runs low, one needs to “top-up.”  Isn’t this phrase perfect?  After living in New York City where we always say, “Oh, I need to put money on my MetroCard,” simply being able to say, “Oops, I need to top-up!” is quite the game-changer.  It has a perky sound to it, and simplifies things, I think!

 

“Revise"

     In the States, when we say, “revise” we mean to edit or change something in an essay or a piece of writing.  To “revise” in British academia means to review or study for an upcoming exam.  In a few months, I’ll be entering the period of revision for my exams, and I can’t wait to start saying it!

 

 “Quite lovely” and “Rather"

          It’s not that these words have a different meaning here than they do in the States, but I do like saying that things are “quite lovely” and that my reading was “rather difficult.”  I’m not sure why, but it just sounds a bit (another British-ism!) more refined, don’t you?

 

“Jacket Potato"

     What we in the States would call a “baked potato.”  This is probably because the potato still has its skin, which would rather resemble a jacket, I think.  In any case, it sounds adorable. :)

 

“Fringe"

     Bangs.  I think I like saying “fringe” more than “bangs” because I can’t help but use the same voice inflection that Brits use when they say it.  It comes out kind of like frInge with more emphasis on the “i”.  

 

And for my number one favourite….

 

“Cheers!"

     This phrase can be used for everything.  When someone holds the door for you, just say “cheers!”.  When someone gives you a compliment, say “thank you”, or be British and say “cheers!”  It’s the perfect departure phrase, as well.  When I was getting my coffee this afternoon, once I had paid the cashier, I said “cheers!”.  It’s polite, and ends things on a good note, doesn’t it?

 

Oh, and in case you were wondering how I’ve managed to convert to British spelling - things like favourite, organise, etc. - I switched the language setting on my laptop to British English so it corrects everything for me.  I’ve gotten accustomed to the spelling, but sometimes I forget. :)

 

Inspired to be,

 

Katherine 

Inspired by an Exciting New Term!

Lent Term has officially begun here at LSE and wow, did I hit the ground running!  I had a presentation for my European Politics last week, one for my Democracy class this week, and an essay due for my Democracy class next week.  It feels a little more manageable this time around, though, because I have a better feel for the academic system here, and I’m not quite as overwhelmed and in transition as I was last term.  I also started a lot of new projects that are certainly keeping me occupied (I’m learning to stay away from the term busy, since I’m not a fan of the connotation), but I love them!  That’s not to say that I don’t break out my stress remedies every so often, but it’s a different kind of stress, in a way.  

 

What helps is that I’m just so excited for what I have going on right now.  I love making my to-do list on Sunday evening because I get to see, laid out, all of the “fun” tasks I need to work on during the week.  Don’t you love when work is enjoyable?  It makes it so much better!

 

I got accepted to a Faith and Leadership certificate course here at LSE that meets on Monday evenings.  Each week, we’ll be discussing one of the world’s major religions and the impact it is having on the world.  We’ll also be discussing the issues that face religion in general these days, especially in international relations and politics, so I am SO excited for this class!  We had our first class on Monday and we talked about what faith means in today’s world, as well as the basics of the nine major world religions.  I miss my theology classes from Fordham, so this class is perfect for me right now!

 

My study abroad program organised an extracurricular course that they call “Community and Culture.”  It’s designed at teaching us study abroad students about London: its history, people, neighbourhoods, and what life is like in London.  In addition to learning in the classroom, we get to go on a ton of excursions, like walking tours of different neighbourhoods, tourist-y things, and lots of food, of course! Tomorrow, we’re going to high tea in Bloomsbury, and then to a museum to learn about how the sugar industry affected the culture of Great Britain.  I'll be sure to post about that this weekend!

 

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Adventure in Amsterdam!

The meeting time for Friday was 7:00 am at Waterloo stations I got up bright and early to head out!  We got our coach assignments and then headed out to Dover which took about 2.5 hours or so.  Here's where the trip gets interesting.  We were going to be taking a ferry from Dover to Calais (France) to drive to Amsterdam which sounds like a great plan…until the French workers at Calais decided to be French and go on strike.  Our ferry was delayed leaving by about two hours….and then an hour and a half ferry ride took ….wait for it….5 HOURS.  We literally sat in the water for 4 hours while we waited for the ferries in front of us to dock.  At least the view was nice (I saw the gorgeous white cliffs of Dover!) and the company as well.  When we finally docked, we boarded the coach with an immense sigh of relief and began the rive to Amsterdam.  I got quite a bit of reading done in my book on a murder mystery in the 15th century Ottoman Empire and it was actually quite peaceful.  We finally finally finally arrived in Amsterdam around 9:30 and we checked into our hotel in southern Amsterdam.  The hotel was the best one I've stayed in yet so that was lovely.  We dropped our bags and freshened up before we went on a short walking tour of the central city.  Amsterdam is quite unlike any other city I've visited: definitely a city, but quieter and lots of canals haha.  We were starving and luckily everything is open super late on the weekends so some new friends and I had a quick dinner at an Argentinian restaurant near the centre of the city before we did a bit of exploring.  I also had the immense pleasure of trying a chocolate covered Belgian waffle from a stand on the street and words cannot describe what this waffle was like.  Smothered in chocolate, light, fluffy, and warm, and simply to die for.  

 

 

On Saturday, we had an early breakfast and were then taken on a little morning excursion to the seaside villages of Edam and Volendam.  Volendam is right on the water is full of little shops selling cheeses and souvenirs and fries and waffles of course, and it was so nice to get some fresh air and explore!  Edam is about a half hour away from Volendam and is even tinier!  I spent quite a bit of time in a little cheese shops because they had a ton of samples, including a truffled goat cheese which was incredible.  We strolled along the river a bit and sampled some more cheese before it was time to head back to Amsterdam.  When we got back, we headed straight for the Anne Frank house because that was at the top of my list.  The line wasn't too long at all and they had free wifi so we were very quiet while we waited.  You aren't allowed to take pictures inside, which I actually appreciated since I think it would feel disrespectful.  The experience was absolutely surreal.  I had read Anne Frank's diary when I was a bit younger and had read a lot about her but it's nothing like walking through the secret annexe and reading quotes on the walls and climbing up the staircases.  The rooms were so tiny and dark and you have to remind yourself constantly that eight people lived here for two and a half years, all together and terrified.  I was silent the whole time because I was speechless at what I was seeing.  They've done an excellent job with the museum because they've preserved her legacy so beautifully with quotes and pictures and I got to see the original diary which was amazing.  The whole walk through took a while so unfortunately, most of the other museums were closed by that point, but I think that was quite enough to process for one day.  We got dinner after the house and poked around in the Cheese Museum (sooo many samples!) and the Tulip Museum gift shop before we were in need of something sweet!  We stopped at a crepes and waffles place in the city and then my personal request: the best place to get Dutch apple pie in Amsterdam.  It was right on Prinsengracht and was a little cafe that had gotten 5 stars all around.  It was for a very good reason since this New Englander had the best apple pie of her entire life.  It was a cross between a pie and a cake and had whipped cream on top and was absolutely divine!

 

 

 

We had an early wakeup on Sunday so we could check out of the hotel and head to Bruges, Belgium!  It's like a little storybook city that never left the 1600s and was so fun!  We had two hours in the city so we did everything we possibly could.  We started by getting, of course, waffles at a tea room which were excellent!  I got mine with butter and powdered sugar to change things up a bit.  We then spent the rest of the time poking around little shops and tasting chocolate and stroop waffles (waffle cookies with syrup or caramel in the middle!) and fries, of course!  Belgian-cut fries are thick and they serve them with a tiny fork because they can get quite messy!  Our time was over too quickly, unfortunately, but I can't wait to come back.  From there, it was a quick journey to Calais where the French were, surprisingly, not on strike this time!  I added another stamp to my passport and the ferry ride was quick and painless.  What a relief!  

 

Inspired to be,

Katherine :)

La Vie Parisienne

I finally got to return to Paris last weekend and wow was it a beautiful trip!

Friday was quite the early start, as I had to be at King's Cross by 7:15 in the morning, but I didn't mind an early wakeup at all.  Almost immediately when I got to King's Cross and was looking for the group, I met two girls, Marie and Sarah, who looked like they were "in the same boat" and we became instant friends!   They're studying at Kingston University which is in the suburbs so they had had a much much longer journey than me.  We met our guide who gave us our tickets and showed us through security, and then it was onto the Eurostar!  I finally got to travel the Chunnel Tunnel underneath the ocean and, though it made my ears pop, it was still exciting :)  We arrived in Paris around noon local time and headed to our coach which was waiting for us.  From there, we were taken on a panoramic tour of the city!  We went around the Arc de Triomphe, the Royal Opera, Musee d'Orsay, Grand Palais and of course, the Eiffel Tower!

We checked into our hotel, dropped our bags, and then it was time to get on the Metro to head to the Louvre!  Paris is a great city for students since any EU student with an ID can get into most museums for free!  We were set loose in the Louvre for the night and free to do whatever we wished after that, so Marie and Sarah and I saw all the major pieces we had wanted to see and did some exploring of the Greek and Roman statues, as well:

IMG_2877.jpg


We were starving after that, so we found a nice brasserie near the museum and had soup and fries ("frites") and rested our feet.  I had been dying for a crepe, so we stopped outside and I was reunited with my true love of banana and nutella in a crepe and was in pure bliss.  We ate our crepes outside the Louvre and saw the most beautiful sights of Paris and the Eiffel Tower and it was perfect way to end the night.



On Saturday we had breakfast in the hotel and then headed into the Latin Quarter for a tour of Notre Dame and the surrounding area.  Notre Dame is so beyond words and is incredible.  The stained glass and reliefs and art in it are breathtaking and I lit a few candles when I was inside as well. 



 From there, we strolled through a few streets and parks in the Latin Quarter and I saw one of the oldest trees in Paris which was planted in 1622!  It's still living and is older than the US so that was quite the experience.  We then went on a boat cruise on the Seine so we could get a glimpse of the whole city and relax on the water and it was gorgeous!  The weather was pristine all weekend - it felt like true fall there and was nice and warm which was definitely a change from London!  After our boat tour, we had the rest of the days to ourselves, so Marie and Sarah and I went to the Cathedral of Saint Chappelle which is right near Notre Dame.  It has the most extensive collection of stained glass in the world and I was speechless as I was looking up around me.  I think the entire biblical story is printed in the windows which, after reading about how stained glass is made, is quite impressive!  From there, I had wanted to go to Shakespeare and Co. so we strolled along the river a bit until we were there.  The Latin Quarter is the old artist's and writer's district so writers like Hemngway and Gertrude Stein used to go to this bookstore.  It's tiny and books are stacked in every corner and crack and is the bookstore of my dreams :)

We then took the Metro down to the Eiffel Tower and had fun taking artsy pictures and gazing up at the tower.  When I went in June, the workers had gone on strike (in a typical French fashion!) that morning so it had been closed, but now my chance had finally come to go up to the top! We had dinner first (escargot for me and Marie and French onion soup for Sarah) and then mentally prepared ourselves to wait in line.  The line wasn't that bad at all and before we knew it, we were climbing the stairs to the second floor, where we boarded an elevator to the top.  Oh…my…god…so…many….stairs!!!  Seeing the entire city laid out in front of us and feeling the breeze and and hearing everything going on below made it so worth it and I will never forget it.  At the top of every hour, at night, the tower sparkles with hundreds of lights in addition to its usual lighting and it was absolutely magical.  

I was really excited… :)

I was really excited… :)




Needless to say, we were exhausted when we finally came back down, took the Metro back to the hotel, and walked into the lobby.  I laid on my bed for a solid hour before I was able to move but it was a perfect day.


Sunday was what I called my "Parisian Day" since we had the whole morning to ourselves and I had wanted a bit of quiet time.  I got up a little early, checked in my bags and had breakfast, and took the Metro back to Notre Dame.  I was early for mass so I had one of the best cappuccinos of my life in this cafe called "Le Quasimodo" (which you have to say in a classic French accent to get the entire effect haha)


  I sat and read my book for a little while before I headed to mass.  I didn't understand a word of what was being said but it was still lovely to sit and listen and take in the atmosphere.  From there, I strolled around a bit before I found the perfect place in the Latin Quarter to try moules et frites which had been on my list.  I got to sit outside and people-watch a bit and the owner liked my smile and that I was America, so he gave me a glass of Rose which paired beautifully with the garlic white wine sauce:


I had time for one last poke in Shakespeare and Co. before I had to head to the Metro to meet my group in Montmartre for another walking tour.  This is another artists' district and is where the Moulin Rouge was born so it's a fun place now.  It's the hilliest part of Paris so it was a bit like I imagine San Francisco is: up one hill and down another!  It's beautiful with cobblestone streets and little cafes and patisseries and is so charming.  We finally got the the highest point in Paris, the Sacre Coeur, and it was there that I could turn around and see Paris spread out in front of me:

 

 

I was utter awe at how beautiful it was.  We had some more free time so Marie and Sarah and I walked around a bit more and checked out artists paining and had one final crepe before it was time to head back to the hotel, check out, and make our way back to the train station to return to London.  I seriously considered just staying in Paris because I couldn't bear to leave!  I'm definitely coming back next term, though, because Paris really is one of my favourite cities :)

 

Inspired to be,

 

Katherine 

Adventure in the Highlands!

Last weekend was my adventure in the highlands, a.k.a. SCOTLAND!!!  I couldn't wait to take a little break from the city and travel so I was really looking forward to this weekend.

On Friday, I had to be at King's Cross by 8:45 so I took the Central Line to Oxford Circus but I went the wrong way at first and had to turn around and take the opposite direction and then switch to the Victoria line for a few stops before I was at King's Cross.  We met up with a rep from the tour company who gave us our tickets and it was basically like attack of the Americans on this one coach of the train which was funny.  After a long five hours on the train, we were finally there!   We were met by another tour guide who had the most lovely brogue ever!  I could never get tired of a brogue haha.  We split off between the LSE students and non LSE for the purpose of transportation back to london on Sunday and then we took a quick walk to our hostel which was really really nice!  Come to find out, Anna and I are roomies for the weekend so I was very excited.  I gave her the bottom bunk which is a double because I have a thing about having people above me and I don't mind a bunk bed for a night haha.  We had time to quickly freshen up before we headed out again.   We headed up a million stairs and a big hill to one of the best sights in Edinburgh which is on top of Carlton Hill and oh my god it is incredible!  Hills all around you and the city all spread out and I was in awe the whole time!  We had time to take pictures for a bit so Anna and Amanda and I climbed on top of the half finished war memorial and took fun pictures and almost froze to death because wow was it windy up there!  Then it was off to the Royal Mile which is this long beautiful street between the castle and palace and is full of kilt shops, pubs, gift shops,etc.   We finished right outside the castle of Edinburgh and Anna and Amanda and I decided to spend our free time poking into shops with another girl. But first, our tour guide took us to the very cafe where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter!  Total fangirl moment.  We also went to Blackfriars Cemetery where she got inspiration for some of the characters which I didn't know.    We poked around shops for a while so Anna could finish her Christmas shopping and then finally got dinner at this nice pub where I tried...:haggis!  Anna got a main serving and I got a starter vegetarian version that was layered with potatoes and mashed turnips and a whiskey sauce which was amazing!  I tried the real stuff and it was definitely an experience I needed to have.   After dessert at another pub we were wiped so we made our way back to the hostel and collapsed!  

Saturday began bright and early with a trip through the Highlands.  It was about an hour until we got to Stirling Castle which was where the Stuart Royal Family lived for centuries and is gorgeous!  There is the most breathtaking view of the hills all around it and I couldn't get over how beautiful it was!  We poked around a bit more, taking in the scenery, before we were off again.  I think I could have gazed out the window for hours at the Highland scenery!  We made a quick stop at these giant rocks across the river called the Three Sisters because legend has it that these three sisters fell in love with these men who we're going off to war and vowed to change into rocks until they came back...which they didn't.  The wind was whipping around us, hence what I call my "munchkin picture" lol.  Absolutely gorgeous, though!  We drove through the highlands some more with our tour guide giving us a great recount of Scottish history before we got to this clans men's center which was so interesting.  They gave us a demonstration of how to fold a kilt and what life was like back in the 4th century and all I can say is that I like modern life.... Then we got to Loch Ness which is one of the most beautiful bodies of water I have ever seen!  It was so quiet and eerie in the rain and mist and quite peaceful.  After we got to the hostel, the whole lot of us headed into Inverness where there were a bunch of restaurants and pubs.  After a nice relaxing dinner at a restaurant, the girls and I went to a pub called, I kid you not, Hootenanny's!  They were playing live Scottish music (bagpipes and violins and everything) so it was so fun to listen to it and dance and hang out with everyone.

Sunday was another day of exploring the Highlands as we made our way back to Edinburgh for our train.  We started the day at Culloden Battlefield which is where the Jacobites and the government forces fought in 1746 for control of the government.  Basically, it was a highland clan against well-trained soldiers, but don't discount the clan just yet because we learned some very interesting and quite terrifying battle techniques that the clansmen had the previous day.  They were outnumbered so the Jacobites lost, however.  The battlefield was huge and has monuments dedicated to all of the clans who lost members in the battle so it was eerie and beautiful at the same time.  After that, we made a detour to a 4,000 year old burial ground!  It reminded me of Stonehenge because it was mounds of rocks piled up and creating tunnels and caves and no one really knows exactly what they were used for but it was definitely interesting to check out.  From there, we headed into a tiny little town with some cute shops and restaurants, and my friends and I discovered a great Indian restaurant with a Sunday prix-fixe!  Indian food is one of my favorites so I was quite happy after that :)  We stopped at a place called the Hermitage which is like a sort of nature preserve with hiking trails and paths and an enormous waterfall in the river. It had been raining so much lately that the water was hurtling down the falls so we couldn't see any salmon or other fish jumping but it was quite peaceful and nice to get up and stretch.  That was our last stop before we got back to Edinburgh's Waverly station for our train back to London, but it was a great way to end the day.  Picture 50 American study abroad students on a train for five hours and you'll get a general idea of what the train ride back was like.  It was fun to just be silly and relax before it was back to reality, though!

 

 

LONDON! Week 3

Well, it was another busy week here in London, but I got to get away from the city thanks to an Adventure Weekend that my study abroad program coordinated in the Lake District!  More about that later, though.

 

On Monday, I had quite a bit of reading to do for my Politics in Europe class so I spent the morning in the library, which was actually quite peaceful.  This week, we talked about voting behaviors and different historical splits.  My lecturer for the week discussed voting psychology and ergonomics and whether or not different voting formats affect the way people vote.  Lots of dense reading, but I didn't mind, since the library is such a central place and I don't feel alone haha.  I had a lecture that afternoon for my Democracy and Democratisation class, and this week we discussed the different waves of democratic transitions and whether they can really be historically categorized.  That evening was the first meeting of the Women Leaders of Tomorrow society and wow was it fun!  What I love about it is that it's not one of those ultra-feminist groups that's a little too extreme for me - it's more like a version of The Smart Girls Group (the startup I work for) right here in London.  This society is working to create a community of driven women for support and mentorship so it was a really fun event.  They had booked a classroom in the new academic building, but didn't expect a popularity of over 150 of us to show up, but it was so encouraging!  There are going to be some great events this year and I can't wait!

 

On Tuesday, I spent the morning working on my newsletter for Smart Girls Group and I got a few things done for the Fordham Political Review, as well. Then I had my marathon of classes: Politics in Europe lecture from 12-1, Islamic Empires lecture from 1-2, and Politics in Europe seminar from 2-3!  LSE doesn't give you any time in between classes for whatever reason so I had to sprint across campus for my last class…and was still late unfortunately, but I'll find a shortcut haha.  I could listen to my Islamic Empires professor lecture for hours!  He has this incredible passion for the subject and gets so into what he's talking about that you're naturally on the edge of your seat and so wrapped up in the story of these three empires, that the hour just flies by.  I'm actually sad it's over when it is!  After my classes were over, I got a little more reading done before I headed out to Kensington.  My roommate from freshman year is studying abroad at Fordham's business school campus in London and it was her birthday on Thursday, so we bonded by going to her gym for an insane Tabata class and relaxing yoga, and then dinner at Whole Foods.  Seriously, I was soooo sore that night!  It was so good to catch up with her and I love how we've remained friends, long after we've vacated Jogues 435.  

 

On Wednesday, I was absolutely wiped from the previous night, so I slept in a bit and went for a nice walk in the morning.  It's still pretty mild here so the air felt lovely in the morning, and I got a chance to do some exploring.  I had my Islamic Empires class from 11-12, where we had a map quiz and learned a bit more about the geography of the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal empires.  Did you know that "Punjab" (like the Punjab region) means "place of five rivers" because it's the intersection of…well…5 rivers?  It's amazing how literal some geographical terms can be, isn't it?  After class, I did a little reading in the library before I treated myself to lunch at a Chinese restaurant near me.  I had a cold last week and I had read about the health benefits of congee (which is basically rice that's been cooked for over four hours to make a porridge/broth of sorts and is often fed to the sick because it's nourishing and healing) so I had a nice big bowl of that for lunch and it was excellent!  It's not that it was flavorful or anything, just warm and very comforting.  Definitely an excellent choice!  From there, I went to Charing Cross Road to Foyles, my favorite bookstore.  There are so many independent and interesting bookstores in London, and they're all very reasonably priced, so I actually enjoy going in them, unlike the ones in New York :).  Foyles is six stories and I could just spend hours there and keep adding to my never-ending "To Read" list!  I had wanted to get started on one of the books my Islamic Empires professor recommended, so I picked up a copy of "My Name is Red" by Orhan Pamuk, which is a murder mystery set in the Ottoman Empire in the 1550's and is absolutely excellent.  I'm also now a student member of Foyles so I get 10% off every purchase now!  From there, I went to a lecture by the Teaching and Learning Center on "Effective Reading Strategies" which was quite helpful.  The woman giving the lecture had some great tips on managing the immense amounts of reading we have, and on how to actually retain the information for an exam in 8 months.  

 

I had been meaning to go back to Westminster Abbey ever since I had heard that they celebrate some sort of mass every day and that it's free and open to the public, so I took the train there that evening.  It was a short mass - an evening prayer - but so surreal to be saying mass right in a church that's such a big part of British history.  Also, the Church of England allows women to be priests so I appreciated the mass even more haha.  I had just enough time when I got back to quickly change and head off to running club, and it was so fun!  Granted, it was luring so we all got drenched, but we ran over a few bridges and along the river which was beautiful even in the rain.  

 

Thursday started off early since I had a 9:00 class (my earliest!) but it was for my From Empires to Independence class so I didn't mind at all.  Plus, it got me going early so I got a lot done in the morning.  One of my writers for Smart Girls Group lives in London and goes to LSE's rival, King's College, so we finally got the chance to meet over hot chocolate at a lovely cafe right near campus.  She was my first writer for Smart Mail, and it's been over seven months!  We chatted for a bit and then had to get back to work so it was back to the library for me!  I got some reading done for this week in my Democracy class since I knew I would be away all weekend and I got organized which is always relaxing for me haha.  Then I had a lecture for From Empires to Independence on Japanese modernization in the 20th century and it was fascinating!  I couldn't write fast enough to capture all that my professor was saying - that's how good he is.  I had another back to back so I had to sprint to my Democracy seminar, but the TA running it is very nice and understanding so it's not a problem.  Then came the highlight of my day which was a lecture entitled: "Nixon, Kissinger, and the Shah: The United States and Iran in the Cold War."  The lecturer has just published a book on the subject and I can't wait to read it.  I had no idea that the Shah and Nixon had such a bond - they even met up in Mexico when they were both in disgrace…  Definitely a great way to end my week!

 

And now….Adventure Weekend!!!

 

My study abroad program coordinated an Adventure Weekend in Keswick, which is in the Lake District, for all of the UK students and I had been looking forward to a little country air for a while.  We left on Friday, nice and early in the morning.  The tube ride to Notting Hill Gate was quick and easy and finding the office was as well.  It's on Pembridge Lane which I think is mentioned in the Parent Trap lol.  I got there pretty early but I met a few people and didn't feel rushed at all.  People started coming one by one until there were well over a hundred of us standing around in the back garden!  I found some people I had met from orientation and we chatted until we got our coach allocations (Pink Floyd, The Who, Rolling Stones, and of course, the Beatles) and I was the only one on the bus who didn't have a seatmate which bugged me at first, but I was immediately grateful for.  Across the row from me were these two nice girls, Hope and Tirsa and they had just met so it was easy for me to break into their conversation (I remembered what schools were in a consortium with Smith, Wellesley, etc.) and we were instant friends!  Seriously, we talked for about two hours!  Tirsa is from Greenwich Village, goes to Bryn Mawr where she studies Fine Arts.  Hope is from Jersey and goes to Johns Hopkins where she's studying political science but in London, she goes to Kings and is studying War Studies!  How cool is that????  She wants to go into national security law, loves west wing, Pan Am, and all of my favorite shows!  We took a break from chatting and I read my book for Islamic Empires for a while before the first stop.  

 

From there, it was certainly an adventure!  Around 4:30, we hit traffic because of an accident and were at a standstill for about two hours so I retreated to my solo seat, curled up with my scarf as a blanket and watched two episodes of Pan Am to escape.  Tirsa and Hope and I intermittently chatted, listened to music, read, etc. and it felt like it would never end!  I actually didn't mind because I had a 1.5 liter bottle of water, my own water bottle, and was totally relaxed for some reason, despite being a little stiff.  It was quiet and I just stared out the window listening to my entire library on shuffle, which was quite peaceful.

 

For legal reasons, we had to make another stop to give the driver a break but it was nice to stretch my legs finally.  Once we got back on, I started reading since I didn't feel like looking at my iPad anymore, so I got really into my book and I love it!  I totally lost myself in it, which I haven't done in so long, and I can't wait to go chat with my professor about it.  We finally pulled into Glaramara around 10:30 (4 hours behind schedule!  lol) and I was starving!  We pulled our suitcases out in the pouring rain and ran inside to a nice warm meal.  I had fillet of salmon with mixed vegetables and wow did it taste good!  The hotel/hostel was different  but it's nice and warm and the rain falling outside is quite pleasant so I liked it. 

 

Saturday was the big day full of activities!  After breakfast, we kind of sat around for a bit before we took a group picture and split intone activities.  Mind you, it was already a bit chilly and damp when I went to the equipment house for ghyll scrambling so I was a bit apprehensive...  First, we were given lamb skin onesies, then a pair of waterproof pants with suspenders, then a rain jacket, life vest, and helmet, along with a pair of wellies.  Here are some words to describe how I was feeling: sausage, Oompa Loompa, marshmallow, and penguin.  Definitely warm!  Once we were dressed, the instructors gave us a little intro and informed us that the river was just on the verge of being safe and unsafe since it had rained pretty heavily the previous day and that they don't normally wear life jackets.  Okay, I thought, this is how I'm going to die...in a river in the Lake District!  We waddled off to the entrance to the river and climbed in one by one.  After a splash initiation by the instructor which certainly woke us up, we were off!  Now, I thought this was going to be splashing around in a river and exploring and kind of playing.  Nope, we were CLIMBING in the river, scrambling over rocks, down banks, through tunnels, being tossed into pools, the whole nine yards and I was SOAKED.  It was so much fun, though!  The water was so clean and cold and absolutely lovely.  It was such an adrenaline rush and terrifying but such a great time and  I met so many people.  

 

When we got back, we peeled off our soaking wet gear and ran inside into the warmth which was such a relief!  It was a while before our next activity but I got to chatting with a girl who goes to Oberlin and designed a linguistics major for herself and she was really interesting.  It was so fun to just sit around and drink hot chocolate in the living room and chat with everyone- kind of like a ski lodge lol. 

 

It was finally time for my next activity which was dragon boating!  At first, I was slightly disappointed that I didn't get to do paddle boarding, but after this morning, I had absolutely no desire to get tossed in the water again so it was a relief haha.  They drove us to this landing and we boarded small launch boats to take us across the lake where the wind was calmer to our dragon boat which is like a giant canoe with a dragon head carved in front so it's kind of like a Viking boat.  After a brief paddling lesson, we were off!  I have to say, this was the most beautiful part of the trip: this enormous lake with mountains and hills all around us and it's gray and cold, but it's so pure and untouched and clean.  It was incredibly peaceful (even with the very choppy lake!) and paddling was so much fun...mostly because we weren't very good at it lol.  

 

When we got back, I sprinted to the showers and took the longest hot shower ever which was pure bliss, and changed into my dry leggings and big Choate shirt so I was quite happy haha.  We had about 2.5 hours until dinner so I hung around the living room and chatted with people before I took some time to myself in my room right before dinner.  I sat with a bunch of people I had met throughout the day including Tirsa, Hope, and Hope's friends.  After dinner (such a relief to finally eat lol) it was time for a pub quiz!  Spoiler alert: guess whose team won??  THIS GIRL!!!  Thank you high school bowl! We even got medals :)

 

After that was a dance party which was kind of like an awkward middle school dance, but still fun and a good way to end the day!

 

On Sunday, we had a short morning activity before we departed, and I hadn't taken any pictures yet, so I chose to go hiking.  There is probably nothing like the mountains and countryside of England, and it was absolutely breathtaking.  First of all, there are sheep everywhere so it's a funny sight when you're climbing up a hill and you come across about 20 baaing sheep haha.  We hiked for the longest time, over hills, across rivers, through fields, and it was quite the adventure.  From one of the summits, the wind was so strong that it almost knocked me off my feet!  Here are some pictures I took: 

 From there, we boarded coaches to the center of Keswick where we picked up the non-hikers and set off for London.  Luckily, there was no traffic so we made it back in the normal six hours :)  Such a fun weekend and a great way to escape and meet some new people!

 

Well, it was another beautiful week in London!  I've got a bit more work this week, but my reward for getting through it is Scotland this weekend, so it's all worth it!

Inspired to be,

Katherine :)

LONDON: Week 2!

Well, it was another full week here in London!  I started lectures this week and I'm pleased to report that they are all fascinating and I'm literally on the edge of my seat the whole time. :)

On Monday, I only had a lecture at 2:00, so I popped into the British Museum for an hour or so, since, like all of the major museums in London, it's FREE!  The British Museum is interesting because it has artifacts from all around the world - my tour guide during orientation said that, "The good thing about having an empire is that you get to take all sorts of stuff from your colonies and put it in your own museum."  Typical Brit.  They have the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles from Greece, an Egyptian tomb, and one of the world's most famous chess sets, dating back to the 10th century:

 

I had my first Democracy and Democratisation lecture that afternoon and it looks like it's going to be a great class since we're studying the processes and effects of democracy in countries around the world.  We'll have different lecturers, each of whom is an expert in the politics of a specific region, so that's exciting!  After that, I took the train to Camden to go to the Camdentown Market with a girl I had met on the boat tour.  She's gluten free and had told me about a little place that makes gluten free vegan ice cream cookie sandwiches.  YUM!

On Tuesday, I had two lectures: Politics and Institutions in Europe and, my personal favorite, Islamic Empires: 1400-1800.  We're going to be studying the Ottoman (Turkey), Safavid (Iran), and Mughal (India) empires and the reading list is incredible.  My professor is Indian and has a fantastic British accent so it really is the best combination :)  


There was a lecture that night called "The Paradox of China's Peaceful Rise", so I went to that after class and some Smart Girls Group work.  It's amazing how much the free lectures are a social event - the hall was packed and everyone was so excited to be there.  They were taking notes, tweeting about important phrases, and were some of the most engaged students I've ever been around.  I was actually sitting next to a girl who wasn't even a student here (she's in high school), but loves economics and takes advantage of the open to the public lectures.  Amazing, right?  


Wednesday was mostly a catch-up day, but I also had time to check out the National Gallery over in Trafalgar Square.  From the portico, you get this incredible view of the Square and you can see Big Ben in the distance:

I saw a few pieces I had studied in my freshman year Art History class, including a series called "Marriage a la Mode" which is basically what happens when two rich families in the 18th century decide to marry their children who don't have any real-life skills.  To sum it up, bills go unpaid, the husband has an affair, the wife takes poison, and everyone dies.  The End!


The Teaching and Learning Center has lectures every Wednesday on how to make the most of your time at LSE so I went to one called Intro to Study at LSE and it was actually really interesting.  Their advice on how to tackle your reading made so much sense: simply treat school like a 9-5 job and use the day to get your reading done in the library.  Make a list, make a plan, and you won't be stressed and you won't pull any all-nighters (I haven't yet!).  That was definitely a relief.  There's an athletic apparel store down the street called Lululemon and they have a running club every Wednesday night, so I went for the first time and it was so much fun!  I met a girl who goes to LSE but lives in a different dorm and it was excellent running weather - nice and cool and a little misty.  We ran all along the Thames, across a few bridges, and right by the London Eye so it was sightseeing and a workout all in one!

On Thursday, I did some reading in the library in the morning.  My advisor from Fordham was actually here presenting a paper at LSE so we met for coffee at a little cafe right near campus.  I experienced the joy that is a cappuccino for the first time and I am hooked!  It was great to see him since we've always gotten along very well and he's absolutely brilliant.  He is teaching a class on Comparative Politics of the Middle East this semester and teaches a seminar I have to take in the spring so I'll be seeing him much more when I go back to Fordham.  We were talking about post-grad plans and he wants me to look into applying for a Fulbright or the Pickering Fellowship since I'm looking into foreign service or diplomacy work.  I showed him all around campus and he wants to encourage more people to apply to LSE to study abroad!


I had my first lecture for my class called "From Empire to Independence" and WOW is it going to be amazing!  The whole class is about twentieth century history, but from a non-European perspective, so we'll be looking at Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, etc. and examining how the idea of development contributed to the history of the twentieth century.  My professor is an expert on Japan, interestingly enough, so he'll be giving next week's lecture and I can't wait!  I had my first seminar for my Democracy class and I love how small the class is: only 7 of us!  This is when we go into more depth about what we learned in lecture and have discussions, so I'm really looking forward to it.


I don't have class on Fridays, but I still spent much of the day in the library so I could get ahead for the weekend.  Did you know that LSE numbers every single study spot and you can reserve your favorite spot up to two weeks ahead of time?  They also have an entire section for bean bag chairs on the lower ground floor, so they're definitely committed to making your library experience special. :)  I took a break to get a cappuccino in the afternoon and it was gorgeous out, so I sat outside and people-watched for a little while:

As I was having lunch, I ran into a girl from my orientation group and we were talking about what we were doing that evening, and we actually decided to have the classically-British experience of getting tea at Harrods!  We met up when we were done in the library and headed out to Kensington.  


Now, this was probably the most refined, lovely experience I have had since being here.  There is absolutely nothing like tea at Harrods.  We took the train to Knightsbridge and there it was, right in front of us!  Harrods is a super high-end (as in, I will never be able to afford anything there in my entire life) department store and it is HUGE.  We went up to the third floor and The Tea Room was right there. We queued for only about five minutes before we were taken to a table right in the middle of the room, which was so beautifully decorated.  We immediately decided on tea with scones and clotted cream and jam, since my friend (who completed her Masters at LSE) said that that was her favorite.  We chose a milk oolong tea recommended by our server and it wasn't long before it arrived.  The china was pristine, the tea came in a silver tea pot, and there was a little strainer to place over your tea cup as you poured your tea since it was a loose-leaf tea.  What a treat!  It had a creamy, warm flavor and was quite refreshing.  Then came the scones.  Oh my god, the scones were divine!  Scones can be so tricky, as you know, since they're either too dry and crumbly, or too dense, but these were utter perfection.  It was a plate of two - one plain and one with dried fruit - so we each had a half and spread them thickly with our little dishes of clotted cream and sampled jams from the selection they gave us.  I was in utter bliss!

I savored every last crumb until they were gone, and it was such a treat! We walked through Kensington along Hyde Park since we had wanted to pick up a few things at Whole Foods, and it was a beautiful day so the sunset was incredible.  

 

Yesterday (Saturday) was another big day, as it was my trip to Stonehenge and Bath! We met at the tube station at 7:45 am (yes, you read that correctly!) and took the bus 2.5 hours into Bath.  I had been kept up by rowdy neighbors the previous night so I mostly slept on the way up…  The village of Bath is so quaint and historic and full of pubs and patisseries, and then of course, there is the Roman Bath.  

It was built by the Romans when they were in England and is the oldest surviving one in Britain.  The water in this main pool is over 120 degrees and is actually not very clean anymore, so you can't drink it.  There is, however, a spring you can drink from and it's full of minerals and has a really interesting taste so I think I drank about a week's worth of minerals!  The most surreal thing is that I actually got to walk on paths and stones that the ROMANS walked on over 2,000 years ago.  Is that crazy or what?  They have all kinds of coins on display and statues of the goddess to whom the bath is dedicated, and is such a well done museum.  

 

From there, we took the bus about an hour into the countryside to Stonehenge which was incredible!  The English countryside is probably one of the most beautiful places I've ever been - so clean, and quiet, and the sky is so blue, and it was so peaceful.  Seeing Stonehenge was also incredibly surreal because it was created thousands of years ago and the technology and engineering that went into its creation was so advanced for its time.  

My friends and I had time leftover, so we actually walked back along a path to the visitors center, rather than take the bus, since it was such a beautiful day outside.  Also, there are so many sheep!  I really enjoyed that haha :)

 

It was another 2.5 hours to get back, but by that point the majority of us were fast asleep on the bus.  Needless to say, I slept like a baby that night!

 

I've been having so much fun exploring the area and living like a Londoner, complete with a trench coat, so it was a great week and I'm even more settled in!  

 

Inspired to be,

 

Katherine :)

LONDON: Week I

Well, I'm here!!!!  The moment I've been waiting for for the past 7 months is finally here!

I moved into my flat (LSE residence hall) on Sunday and it's one of the closest dorms to campus.  It's a few blocks away from the tube, several grocery stores, and some decent chain restaurants (they're big on chain restaurants around here, but they're quite good!).  High Holborn is organized in flats of five or so people sharing a kitchen and bathroom, and each person has a sink in their room.  Here's the weird thing, though: you can't drink the water in the bathroom sink or in your sinks because it's collected rain water!  How's that for being sustainable?  :)  You can drink the water in the kitchen, of course, so I have a nice filtered pitcher that is my new best friend.  Here's a picture of my room:

It's got a ton of storage (the year I become a minimalist!) and is one of the refurbished rooms so it's brand new and very clean!

 

On Monday, I ventured onto campus for the first time.  It's definitely more "urban"-esque than Fordham is, meaning it's not a huge sprawling campus, but I'm liking the atmosphere.  I checked out the student services fair and walked around a bit before I headed to Kensington to run some errands.  I went to the Whole Foods there and it's HUGE!  It's one of the largest Whole Foods and is stocked with literally everything I could ever need; there's an entire wall of chocolate.  Kensington is the "Royal Borough" and I think Mom said she saw Princess Diana there when she was studying abroad, so that should give you an idea haha.  It has a lot of high-end shops and is gorgeous.  

 

Tuesday was a fun day since there was a big welcome presentation for all of the General Course (study abroad) students on campus.  I have a friend from my summer at Andover here, as well as a guy I worked with when we were on a State Student Advisory Council on Education I did senior year.  Immediately after that was the boat cruise on the River Thames for all of the GC students, which was such a fun night!  I have a slight obsession with night views of cities so seeing everything lit up was absolutely incredible:

IMG_2548.jpg

On Wednesday, the Government department had a little welcome session for all its students so I got to hear from the tutors and current students and get an idea of what the program is like.  That evening was even more fun because I went on a scavenger hunt around the city!  My friend Dave (the guy I knew from State BOE) was on my team and we had to answer a bunch of trivia questions like finding out how many capsules are on the London Eye, how late the National Gallery is open on Fridays, what's on tap at the Sherlock Holmes pub, etc.  We came in 4th place, so we didn't win anything but we had fun running around the city for a little while!

 

Thursday was super busy since it was the Freshers' Fair that morning.  Unlike Fordham, which has their club fair around the quad and you can amble as you please, you have to wait in line (queue!) to get into the Students' Union to view all of the clubs.  I was in line for about an hour, but I didn't mind since I made friends with a guy from Canada who's doing a one year master's in Philosophy and Politics.  There are soooo many clubs here but I think I'm going to do Model UN, Women Leaders of Tomorrow (less active than Model UN) and I signed up for the emails from the running club so I can find some good running routes around here.  I also went to a training session given by the library which was quite exciting. The library is ENORMOUS!  It's the largest library of social science in the world and is absolutely gorgeous.  There's a big spiral staircase right in the middle that winds up and up to the different floors, so it's this beautiful open floor plan.  The curriculum at LSE is such that you have an hour of lecture and an hour of seminar per class per week, which amounts to 8 "contact hours" per week.  That may not seem like a lot but you're expected to do a ton of independent studying and reading, and it basically allows you to pursue your own interests.  You're given a reading list of about 80 or so books per class, as well as the topics for the final exam and essays for the course, but you have a choice for all of them, which I love!  You can make the class whatever you want, so that's going to be fun.  The library is so well-equipped because you're encouraged to spend a lot of time there, so there's an entire section with bean bag chairs, cafes, self check-out, no late fees, a borrowing period of 3 days for course books and 3 months for regular collection books with indefinite renewals, and designated zones depending on what you need (silent, quiet, and group).  You can even reserve study spots ahead of time and the library is open 24 hours during the Lent and Summer terms.  WOW!  That definitely merited a training session, right? :)

 

I had a group meeting with my advisor after that, and then we all had General Course registration.  Now, you would think that the London School of Economics would have moved past a circa-1980 registration method, but…. my (new thanks to registration!) friends and I were queuing for over two hours!  The queue started at the seventh floor (which is basically like the eighth floor because there's the ground floor and then the first floor) and ended in a big hall where they scanned your passport and then handed you your ID.  Yup, that was IT!  I actually didn't mind because I met a really nice girl from my program, and a guy who's at American University and we bonded quite a bit.  

 

That evening was a tour of the South Bank and a ride on the London Eye!  I found out that the London Eye has 32 capsules and it's entirely clear, so you basically float above the Thames and get the most gorgeous views.  Then, we had a walking tour of the South Bank which is right on the Thames and includes the Tate Modern Art museum, the Globe Theatre, and some great restaurants.  It was also a pub crawl (my first pub crawl!) and a friend introduced me to "shandy" which is sprite and stout and is soooo good!  I got a half pint which was the perfect amount.  I only made it to 2 out of the 3 pubs and I don't know how people do this regularly!  I could barely handle the half pint and a birthday shot and that was only at the first pub! (I got chips at the second pub haha).

Friday was a very quiet day, as I had a ton of work for Smart Girls Group, SamePage, and the political review to catch up on, but I did venture out a bit to get some hangers from Primark.  I had to order a silverware set from Amazon as I'm still using just one plastic fork that I stealthily stole from Pret a Manger because I could only find 4 person sets for about 24 pounds and who needs that much, right?  Hopefully they'll come soon!  I also spent some time at this amazing bookshop called Foyer's which is the intellectual's dream come true.  It's about 6 stories and has everything you can think of - I spent some time in the religion and history section this time.  

 

Saturday was suuuuch a busy day!  I had signed up for a "Perfect Day in London" tour and it really was the perfect day.  I got up at 7, did some yoga, and left around 8:15 to meet the group at the St. James Park tube station. Well, the District line was shut down where I normally change, so I had to go all the way back on the Central Line, switch to Victoria, and take that a few stops down, and then sprint to where we needed to meet.  I was wide awake after that!  We started out at Westminster Abbey, and I hope I can do it justice here.  It was built in 1066 by Edward the Confessor who is the patron saint of England and is one of the most incredible places I've ever been:

There are so many little chapels and tombs and famous people buried there and I could have spent the day there!  The coronation chair is there and was built in the 1200's and used to house the Stone of Scotland which the Brits stole and kept to show their dominance over Scotland.  They returned it eventually but I think they take it back for every coronation.  I saw the tombs of Elizabeth I, the Princes in the Tower, Henry VII, Charles Dickens, Sir Isaac Newton, Lewis Carroll, Jane Austen, Edmund Halley, and so many more!  At every hour, they announce a moment of silence and a short prayer so I actually got to say a prayer in Westminster Abbey!  WOW.

 

After that, we got caught in the rain (guess who wore a denim jacket and forgot an umbrella?  Rookie mistake haha) on our way to Buckingham Palace, but we got to see a bit of the changing of the guard!  It was super crowded, but it didn't take away from the beauty and precision of it all.  The new guard comes out the left side of the palace road and is led by this amazing marching band (with a tenor sax!) and the footmen all wear the quintessential bearskin hats.  

We made our way to Westminster Pier after that, where we boarded a riverboat to the Tower of London.  Let's just say it was a veeerrryyy cold and wet ride :)

The Tower of London isn't just a tower like I though - it's an enormous fortress built in the 1100s and is actually state of the art military technology at the time.  It was pretty much impenetrable!  Right now, they have a display for the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, so they're placing 888,264 ceramic poppies out the Tower and onto where the moat used to be to commemorate the British forces who died.  Poppies spring up in the harshest and most desolate environments, so they've actually been found at major battlefields:

We saw the scaffold where Anne Boleyn and Katharine Howard were both executed, along with other high-profile prisoners, and we got to see the Crown Jewels!  They've been used since 1660, when they were recommissioned following the Civil War.  The Crown Jewels contain the largest diamond ever found from the Cullinan Diamond Mine in South Africa.  It's 540 karats and is so beautiful!  The doors guarding the area where they are displayed are over 2,000 kilos each.  Basically, don't ever try to steal them.  They have footage from Queen Elizabeth II's coronation from 1953, and did you know that if she lives through next year, she'll outtake Queen Victoria for the longest-serving monarch in England?

 

We spent the afternoon around the Tower and we ventured into the armoury and saw the weapons and armor used by most of the kings of England.  Did you know that it's the longest-running visitor exhibition in the world?  We toured and toured and toured and when I finally made it back around 6:30 I was EXHAUSTED!  What a fun day, though!

Well, that's what I was up to for my first week in London!

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by Counting Down

In one week, I'll be in London.  Wow.  That makes it so real, doesn't it?  It seems like so long ago since I got the email telling me I had been accepted, and it's actually a funny story.  

I knew I was going to be finding out within the next week or so and I was losing it.  I'm normally pretty patient, but in this case, boy was I impatient!  I had gotten out early from a lab and was visiting with my friend Tyler and, I kid you not, I had just said, "Oh my god, I just want to find out about LSE!" when my phone buzzed with an email from my program advisor.  All I saw was the subject line, "LSE Acceptance" and my heart literally stopped.  I waited for the email to load (at this moment, Fordham's wifi was not on my side) and I read the words that changed my life.  Tyler was the first to hear and then I dashed out into the hall to call my mom and I got to say, "Mom, I got into the London School of Economics!"  For a while after that, it seemed like a far away dream, but being home these last few weeks has made it a reality.  I've been making lists, putting in my meal request for my flight, registering for classes, etc.  I'm SO excited for my classes because I basically get to spend an entire year studying politics and the Middle East at one of the world's best institutions for social sciences.  I know I must sound like a bit of a snob, but let's be real here, it's the London School of Economics.  I finally got to pick my classes the other day and here's what I chose:

I was torn on the last choice between a class called "From Empire to Civilisation" and the Arab-Israeli Conflict course but then I said to myself, "I'm a Middle East Studies major - how could I not take an entire year-long course on the Arab-Israeli Conflict?  Also, I love politics dearly, but I think I'll need to change it up a bit :)  So, the Arab-Israeli Conflict it is!

I love the academic model that LSE and most British schools take, as well.  For each course, I'll have one hour of lecture and one hour of seminar a week. The lectures are open to everyone who wants to come (meaning I can go to any lecture I want! #nerdstatus) but the seminars are capped at 13 or so students.  What I love about the model is that the professors or "tutors" view you not as students who need to be taught, but fellow scholars who are interested in their fields as well.  It's more of a cooperative mentality.  You're expected to do a lot of outside reading and research, as well, so you can learn as much or as little as you want and this will come through in seminar.  Sound intimidating?  Absolutely, but my two years of being homeschooled sparked this love of research and exploration-driven learning that I think fits this model.  I can't wait to read and learn all that I can.

I've also been doing quite a bit of shopping (hello, JCrew fall rollout!) so stay tuned for a photoshoot!  

Until then,

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

London Musings

On September 24th, I will embark on what is surely to be the greatest adventure I have ever had.  I will spending my junior year at the London School of Economics (and Political Science!). This is also, coincidentally, Jed Bartlett's (President on The West Wing tv show) alma mater.  Every time I think about this experience coming up, I am filled with excitement, fear, and exhilaration.  I'm excited because what could be better than spending your junior year in London and being able to travel all over Europe and immerse yourself in a foreign country and study at one of the top schools for social sciences in the world?  I have a list of so many countries and cities I want to visit and sights I want to see and foods I want to try.  I think about the classes I requested and the unique lecture/seminar mixture model that LSE uses.  I think of the beauty of London and the prospect of an adventure.  

Then, of course, I start thinking about being on another continent, an ocean away from my family and basically everything I know.  I have relatives in Ireland who I kind of know but are very kind, but I text my mom multiple times a day, just to say hi and tell her a funny story.  She is my go-to when I can't figure out what on earth to pair with my cream-colored JCrew Sylvia skirt.  My dad is my go-to for political discussions and help with professional development and book recommendations.  My brother is my 17-year-old best guy friend who I can be silly and serious with, no matter what.  I had a very difficult freshman year at Fordham, also.  I was homesick and overwhelmed by the idea of "being in college" and having to "grow up" and all of that.  It took me several months to feel like I knew what I was doing here and I'm afraid that the immense transition is going to undo this sense of well-being I finally found last year.  I don't have several months to "figure it out."  I want to enjoy myself and make the most out of my time.  What if I'm a mess or don't have any friends or classes are ten times harder than they are here?  What if, what if, what if?

But then this sense of exhilaration washes over me: a mixture of pure excitement, and clenching fear.  That's the energy that inspires me.  It's the good and the bad that drive me.  Yes, I was scared to death during my freshman year of everything unfamiliar but I grew so much that year into who I am now so fear isn't necessarily a bad thing, I've learned.  And, again, I'm spending my entire junior year in EUROPE.  That also helps calm the fear =)

I found the study abroad-specific view book online yesterday while I was supposed to be studying for an exam, and I sat there and combed through the whole thing.  I read about cultural attractions in London, clubs and organizations at the School (as it's colloquially called), famous figures who have spoken there, residential life, course descriptions, and I remembered why I fell in love with this school.  Oh, and I also re-read the program dates on the study abroad website and, instead of finishing in May like I thought, I'll be there until July!  That threw me for a bit of a loop because a) October to JULY?  Wow, that's a long time!  I'll probably come home for Christmas but I'll definitely be immersed after all that time!  b) My brother graduates in June so I'm either going to fly home or someone's going to have to prop me up on Skype so I can see the whole thing. 

Then I watched Downton Abbey since the fourth season was finally released on Amazon Prime and I hear the British accents and mannerisms and I smile and remember that, in three months, I'll be a Brit!  Cheerio!

Inspired to be,

Katherine