Friday, February 26, 2016

A Day in Dublin

So this past Tuesday, I flew to Ireland to explore Dublin. I don't have classes on Tuesdays and flights to Dublin from London are pretty cheap (my flights there and back came out to just 30 pounds!) (thank you Ryanair!!) so I decided to just go for it. I also may or may not have gone alone- if my parents ask, I went with a friend, okay?? Anyway, I woke up a little later than planned so I rushed to get ready and took an Uber to Gatwick Airport during which I had a nice conversation about London versus. New York with my driver. The gate was closing at 9:10 and I arrived at Gatwick at 8:50, at which point I started running through the airport. It was like a scene from a movie except sweatier, somehow I made it to the gate right on time and was sitting in my window seat comfortably next to a nice sister & brother from San Francisco on holiday for a month. Flying is honestly one of my favorite things to do, it just feels incredible to be in sky, leaving the world behind. I think it's maybe because I waited so long to study abroad (most people at NYU go sophomore year) or maybe because I've always wanted to just run away from...well, everything, that flying makes me unbelievably happy. When I was little I used to wonder what it would be like to touch a cloud and for now, flying is the closest I can get to that- until I go skydiving (it's going to happen one day). 

Spending a day in Dublin was actually easier than expected because the airport provides a bus service that you can purchase a 24 hour pass for, which is what I did. It cost 10 euros and took me all around the city. My only set destination was the Guinness Storehouse and the Airlink bus's last stop was only a few minutes walk from the storehouse so I was able to avoid getting lost (for the most part). The Guinness Storehouse is definitely a tourist trap but one I enjoyed. It has an extensive gift shop and several floors that serve as a museum to the history of Guinness, as well as a cafe, restaurant, and the Gravity Bar. Every ticket comes with a complimentary pint of Guinness that you can either get at the Gravity Bar, which is at the top floor of the storehouse and offers a beautiful 360 degree view of Dublin. The Gravity Bar is gorgeous and I loved being able to see the city from so high above. The other option is learn how to pour a perfect pint at the Guinness Academy, which is two floors below the Gravity Bar. This was the option I went with because I thought it'd be fun to learn / it might come in handy one day. I enjoyed getting to go behind the bar and try my hand at pouring a pint so I'd definitely recommend it to anyone thinking of visiting here.

I thought about trying to visit a few other sites but decided not to risk missing my flight. After grabbing dinner at the restaurant in the storehouse, I briefly got lost trying to walk back to the bus stop but hey, I found it eventually. The bus took me to see all the picturesque bridges in Dublin as well as a lot of the cathedrals and monuments so I felt like I got to see a lot of the city. 

Although I only spent maybe 10 hours in Dublin, I definitely thought the trip was worth it. The flight was cheap, getting around was easy, and Dublin was gorgeous. I never knew Dublin was a city of the sea until I saw all the seagulls flying above in the sunny blue skies. If I went back, I think I would want to visit the coast this time to see the cliffs of Moher as well as Killeny Cliff which are both stunning. 10/10 recommend going if you're looking for somewhere to visit for a day!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Eating London: Cereal Killer Cafe

There are a few places I've been dying to visit in London and the top one was Cereal Killer Cafe- you'll probably recognize it from Instagram, it's the one with glass cereal bowls topped off with sugary colorful confections set on top of a vintage-esque countertop emblazoned with the cafe's logo. To celebrate being reunited with Julia, a few of the Kappas in London trekked over to Shoreditch (basically the Williamsburg/ hipster central of London) to enjoy some very photogenic cereal.

Cereal Killer Cafe essentially has every cereal to have ever existed, especially the sugary, completely unhealthy ones from your childhood. The walls are decorated with shelves stacked with colorful cereal boxes and the whole cafe gives off a very retro vibe. It's a tiny place so it's definitely smart to go during the week when it's less crowded. We went on a Saturday (lol) but with a bit of maneuvering, our group was able to claim the oh-so coveted counter top facing the windows (aka where you get the best lighting for photos). My favorite part was getting a chocolate hippo as a topping on my 'unicorn poop' cereal cocktail- look how cute it is!!              

Overall, Cereal Killer Cafe is adorable and every Instagram lovers' dream. It's fun being able to relive your childhood through cereal and the combinations the cafe has come up with are delicious. It does get super crowded though, so it's probably best to go during the week. I definitely can't wait to go back and try another 'cereal cocktail' or maybe just get a bowl of all my favorite childhood cereals. There's basically an endless list of things to try here and I'm looking forward to my next visit very much! 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Feelings and Thoughts and Stuff

I think Wednesdays are officially my day to post updates on here- I like the idea of writing something every week so I'm going to try to commit to it. Originally I planned on keeping a journal while abroad but fun fact: I never learned to hold a pen properly and so I can only write for so long before my hand starts to cramp up and hurt too much to write more than a few pages. Technically I've been keeping a journal of sorts since I write letters pretty often, mostly to Beatrice (HI I MISS YOU). I  guess I could write on my laptop instead but basically I always forget to bring it with me/ don't think to write down my thoughts on a Google Doc before heading to bed. 

This past weekend was a lot of fun since Julia came to visit from Paris! We went sightseeing, museum-ing, and did a lot of eating with Emily. I'm really thankful to have so many Kappas here in London with me, it's made a world of a difference. It's no that I don't like to meet new people, I love making new friends but I know I tend to get weird about it. I've had the same best friend since preschool (Hi Clare)- I'm most comfortable with friends who have known me for years and years and also newer friends who one way or another have learned almost everything about me by now. I've always been super uneasy about being boxed into a category and so I don't like how when you meet someone new, there's so much they still don't know about you. I don't know how to explain that the nights I sleep before midnight are a big deal for me because I've had terrible insomnia for as long as I can remember, to the point of having to take prescription medication to even try to sleep for a few hours at night and I'm really trying to not have to depend on pills to sleep. That I'm hesitant about going out because right now, I don't look the way I want to, but a little while back I did, and I'm trying to get back to that. That I still think of myself as a runner even though I'm not the girl who could run 5 miles for fun and 10 miles just to relieve some stress anymore- I actually get really offended if anyone even remotely implies that I'm not active even though in reality, I haven't been as active as I once was (gah that phrase makes me cringe) (I feel old). I'm a different person in my mind and I forget that the Irene people are meeting doesn't always come off as that person. It's logical but still a strange concept for me. 

The most frustrating thing here has been spraining my ankle because 1) I can't work out and 2) it made me less independent for a little bit. I'm terrified of being a burden to people and go out of my way not to ask for help if possible, which is definitely not a great attitude to have (I'm working on it). So it was hard to be struggling to walk and get the things I need and it was also hard to try and still make the most of my time here because when you're abroad, there's definitely this HUGE pressure to be doing something/seeing something every second. On the bright side, my ankle's mostly healed, aka I can sign up for a gym and I guess it worked out because now any monthly contract I sign up for will end closer to when I actually leave London. And I can also explore without being paranoid that my ankle is going to give out (again). 

This has been more of a personal update so I'll write a second one with more about London and what I've been seeing (and eating). It's definitely been a nice week, despite how negative most of this post has been (sorry!!)- there'll be cute pictures, I promise.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

hello from the other side

Today hits the two-week mark that so many friends have advised me as being exactly when they began enjoying studying abroad and so I felt it was an ideal time to post an update. This isn't to say I was having a terrible time and suddenly today everything became perfect, that's definitely not the case. For me, studying abroad so far has been kind of a strange, confusing and exciting time. It's a constant fluctuation of highs and lows. In spite of a stubborn sprained ankle that's been taking it's sweet old time healing, I've been exploring London a lot and visiting many places I've anticipated going to for awhile. My Seeing London's Architecture class went to see the Tower of London earlier this week, a place I've been obsessively reading about in several historical books.

From the mysterious disappearance of Elizabeth Woodville's two sons (although one was alleged to have been spirited away to live with a nice peasant family) to the beheadings of many prominent historical figures- Anne Boleyn, her cousin Catherine Howard, Jane Grey, to the famous imprisonment of Elizabeth I during her older half-sister Mary's reign (which is when she's rumored to have first fallen in love with her favorite Robert Dudley), the Tower is rich in history and I found myself touching the massive stone walls to prove to myself I was really here. I adore history, especially British history, so it was incredible to see the Crown Jewels that were specifically created for Charles II after the English monarchy was restored in 1660- I recently reread The King's Favorite by Susan Holloway, a favorite historical fiction novel of mine about Nell Gwynn, one of King Charles II's most famous mistresses. I've also been rereading The Autobiography of Henry VIII by by Margaret George- it's this massive book of about 900 pages, I misplaced my copy of it a few years ago and kept meaning to replace it but didn't until I stumbled into a tiny used book shop in Bloomsbury and saw a copy. It's great because even though I'm reading for fun, the content is relevant to my classes here (shout out to History of British Fashion for being the class I never knew I needed in my life) so I'm technically being productive even as I read one of my favorite books. So you could say that academically, I'm doing phenomenally. I've even started enjoying my Global Fashion Industry class. Fashion, Culture, & the Body is a bit confusing but I'm trying to be open-minded as a friend told me it was her favorite class from the fashion program during her semester in London.

I think I'm definitely adjusting to actually living here and navigating friendships, both old and new. I've been told that studying abroad is about yourself, so I'm trying to keep that in mind as I decide where I want to travel, who to go with, etc. I'm an extremist at heart so I think I would've preferred to either study abroad with people I know and be with only them, or to have come knowing nobody at all. Instead, I've been dealt a 'in-between' situation where I've come with many friends but live far from them, so I'm figuring out how to balance keeping up with the friends who are here while also getting to know new friends better. I also think I'm the type of person who people generally like better after knowing for a long time as they actually get to know me so I'm reminding myself to just keep doing me and have some faith in myself.

I'm most definitely homesick- I miss my friends and family back at home and do my best to stay in touch with them as often as possible (aka writing daily letters to Beatrice and sending postcards to the friends I used to see everyday, FaceTiming with Maria about recruitment more often than someone who's studying abroad should) but it's not debilitating in any way. Just a fact of being abroad that I've made my peace with. However, I'm definitely still struggling with missing NYC restaurants, especially salad places (I swear the British don't believe in salads) (I just want Fresh & Co) and of course, my mattress pad. The beds here are not exactly comfortable but I guess it prevents me from staying in bed all day, so I'll accept my fate (for now).

This morning was the first time it really hit me that I'm in a different country and it was pretty exhilarating. I love the anonymity of being in a new city- New York has become home for me, a very positive thing but here in London I really feel like I've gone incognito. I'm obviously not off the grid as I continue to update my social media pretty often but I love feeling like I could do whatever I want- fly away to Amsterdam, escape to Paris for the weekend, and nobody would know (*cue the end of Say No to This from Hamilton- "nobody needs to know" (literally) (seriously nobody needs to know!!)) and I LOVE it. That initial rush of freedom and exhilaration I felt when I stepped onto the plane to come to London hasn't left, I still feel like I've stepped into an unforgettable adventure. So to everyone who told me that 2 weeks is when things change for the better: you were right. I'm sure there's still plenty of awkward moments and loneliness heading my way, I still have to figure out where I'm traveling and with who, but I'm starting to feel good about coming here. Cheers! xx

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Studying Abroad: London London London (Week 1)

Having just hit the one week mark of studying abroad, I decided this would be a good time to share my experiences so far as the initial chaos of excitement combined with pangs of homesickness have subsided and I (think) I can think straight again. Leaving for London felt amazing- I couldn't stop smiling while waiting to board the plane and there was a constant rush of adrenaline hitting me. It just felt so unbelievably good to be physically leaving, it was actually very therapeutic. Maybe it's because I've never been too far from home on my own or because flying across the ocean to a whole new continent really feels like a fresh start for me, either way some tears may have found their way out of my eyes when I watched the lights below me shrink and the clouds above grow closer. Despite everyone else sleeping during the flight, I found I couldn't fall asleep and so I ended up finally watching Inside Out and Slumdog Millionaire, both of which are A++++ and everyone should watch!! I can't believe it took me this long to watch SUCH MASTERPIECES. 

Anyway, the two main reasons I chose to study abroad in London is 1) (NYU) Gallatin's fashion program here is fantastic and 2) I am terrible at French and wouldn't have survived this long in Paris. These reasons are also backed up by my obsession with British History and all things Tudor related. One of my classes, Seeing London's Architecture, is at a different monument/building in London each week (where we literally sit and sketch) and this upcoming class is being held at the Tower of London, somewhere I've been dying to go since reading about Elizabeth Woodville's sons being lost there and Anne Boleyn staying in the Tower before her coronation as tradition dictates and then again when she was awaiting her execution (Anne Boleyn is my fav, expect more posts about her soon) (I may have bought more history books to read for fun today) (it happens). I'm excited to take tours at the palaces (and tea at Kensington Palace!) as well as roam around the many (free!) museums here in London- so far I've only gone to the British Museum, where I had to be rolled out in a wheel chair because my sprained ankle re-sprained itself (there's pictures, I've got to ask my friends to send them to me). I have no shame with being a tourist, I don't know when I'll be back in Europe so I want to do and see as much as possible. And yes, I'll take pictures because pictures are great! I have a terrible memory and I want to be able to remember all this (also why I got a GoPro, video coming soon).

So here's the thing nobody really tells you about: Yes, studying abroad always looks like a blast in pictures online and honestly, it is. It's also awkward and lonely, especially at the start. You're essentially starting over and have to make friends (what a concept) while navigating a new city, trying to find places to eat (a surprisingly rather difficult quest in London)- I've definitely questioned my decision to come here more than once. I'm thankful to have come with so many people I know (thank you Kappa) so there's less pressure to make new friends and less of a danger of becoming unbearably lonely since you know there's always someone to hang out with, but it's still a little tough. I miss the friends who are back home (except for Michelle who will never text me back). Honestly, I'm too sensitive for my own good and take everything way too personally and seriously so it's hard to remind myself to just focus on me without worrying about being left out/ convinced that everyone hates me (thanks brain, really). I recently FaceTimed with a friend who studied abroad before me and she confirmed that she went through a similar experience so it was nice to know it's not just me. 

At the same time, I love my classes (well the ones I've had so far) (even if that one girl couldn't remember my name when she was supposed to introduce me during the icebreaker today) (honestly you had one job) (it's fine), the girls I'm living with are great and I can't wait to get to know them all better, and I'm in freakin' Europe!! In the wise words of Smash Mouth, there's so much to see and so much to do. So this is me, in London, finally, feeling both excited and terrified. For awhile I hated that I put off studying abroad two years for a boy (don't do that) (bad idea) (I PROMISE) but I really feel like this is when I was meant to leave and be on my own. It's cheesy, I know, I can't help it. Cheers to anyone else studying abroad and finding new adventures, and lots of love to everyone back home!