Going Rogue: My Study Abroad Experience

During the summer of 2015, I was fortunate enough to study at the London School of Economics in the heart of London! (This experience was brought to you by countless hours of babysitting and working as well as donations from Jack Jessen- thanks dad). I took two business classes there (Foundations of Management and Consumer Behavior where I won Best Research Project), but before that, I went backpacking (also known as "going rogue" to our group) with one of my good friends at UGA and some of her friends through Munich, Venice, Milan, and Interlaken. Once I got to my program, I traveled on weekends to Ireland, Scotland, Paris, and of course, places in England like York, Cotswolds, Cambridge, and Oxford! Like many others, I recorded my experiences in this travel blog! It means a lot to me that you are taking part in my adventures by reading this blog, so thanks for stopping by! 

It's Not Goodbye, It's See You Later

Well friends, it is officially my last night across the pond. I will truly be living the poor college kid life after this trip and will be experiencing the beauty of jet lag, yet I am content beyond belief because of the incredible adventures I have been able to partake in during these past seven weeks.  I apologize in advance for this lengthy post, but I would love to share with you what I've done in London these past few weeks as well as what I've learned throughout the duration of my trip, and I wanted to make sure that I included everything!

Last Weeks in London

I could not have asked for a better city to study and live in than London. This city is extremely vibrant, rich in a variety of cultures, and quite fun to be a part of. In addition to my previous adventures here, I've been able to satisfy my inner history nerd with a visit to the incredible Churchill War Rooms, take a day trip to The Cotswolds and The University of Oxford, walk across the famous crosswalk on Abbey Road just like the Beatles did, visit the British Library, see another incredible show (The Lion King) at a local theatre, tour The BBC Broadcasting House, peruse different items and shops at the Camden Market, and most importantly, fan girl at the Warner Brothers Studio Harry Potter Tour.  I also finally caved and got a burrito bowl from the Chipotle in Covent Garden. When Samuel Johnson said that when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, he was most certainly correct; however, I would like to add to that quote that when a woman is tired of London, she is also tired of life. 

Thoughts on Europe

During my trip here, I have learned a lot about how people do things outside of the U.S. Though most of you probably already know these things, I thought I would share my observations because I think they are interesting! 

-Both water and air conditioning are beautiful commodities that should not be taken for granted. Tap water is often neither free nor filtered in Europe, and for some reason, there is little to no air conditioning to be found, which is not very fun when it is upwards of 100 degrees and you are stuck in a stuffy hostel room.

-This one is probably something that everybody already knows, but plugs are different everywhere. Make sure you get adapters for all of the different countries you will be going to as they are different in different places! And on that note, adapters are not the same thing as converters. Unless you have a special hair straightener, you will most likely need a converter!

-Every street looks exactly the same in Venice. If you are traveling there, make sure you print out extremely detailed directions and prepare to get lost even when you do so. 

-Surprisingly enough, the humans here are in charge of their dogs. The dogs follow them without leashes and listen to instructions. Who knew that dogs in the U.S. have been tricking us all this time?

-The airports here are like malls once you get through security, so don't waste any time waiting to go through security. Get through, and enjoy your duty free shopping spree! 

-No matter how many times you go through, customs will always be stressful. The bright side is that once you get through, you get a cool stamp. 

-There is nothing more adorable than a British accent.

-McDonald's is always there for you wherever you go, whether that be to provide a cheap meal or a free bathroom. 

-Though Europeans are way ahead on some things (like including taxes in shelf prices and having great public transportation), everybody here still smokes. And most cigarette buds end up on the ground. 

-Because there is a strong public transportation system, people still read the newspaper in London. It is passed out before they enter the station, and they read during their ride. Great way to stay informed and pass time. 

-Pubs are everything in London. We even had a pub on campus

-In my next life, I will standardize everything to make it easier- currency, units, language, etc. Lots of traveling distress could be avoided this way. 

I have been fortunate enough to visit Munich, Venice, Milan, Interlaken, Dublin, Edinburgh, Paris, and obviously in and around London, and with each city came a new adventure. Every moment was amazing, and I am already planning my future travel destinations if anybody wants to join. :)

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.
— St. Augustine

What I've Learned

I started off my trip and my blog with this quote, and I think it is fitting to come back to it while reflecting on this incredible experience. I now truly know what it means to experience culture, see landmarks firsthand, and meet people who are different than I am. I have definitely caught the travel bug. 

In addition, I am now a professional jaywalker and a Boy Scout navigator of new cities, and I survived an entire seven weeks with only ONE hairband. (Ladies, you know how difficult and impressive of a feat this truly is, so I absolutely had to brag about it). I have learned how to make friends from all over the world, take pleasure in exploring, and enjoy my own company. Growth truly does occur at the end of your comfort zone. 

Before I left, my dad wrote me a letter telling me to take it all in, stay safe, and have a blast! I have kept that in mind this entire trip as I have tried to live every day here to the fullest. This trip has inspired me to pick back up Spanish and tennis, reread Harry Potter, focus on living a healthier lifestyle, and enjoy my own city as I have enjoyed places as a tourist. Everywhere you go has something incredible to offer if you look for those hidden treasures. 

I am going to miss this vibrant city with its cute accents, amazing chocolate bread, and two pound berry deal, but the most important thing that I have learned over here is that it is not about the place, it is about the people. And boy do I have some incredible people in my life, over here and especially at home. How lucky am I to be going back to such amazing friends and family? Courtney even loved me enough to make this. 

 

To be honest, it is a little bit about the place. I am about to start my third year at the best school in the nation in my favorite city in the entire world. (Yes, I am biased. Deal with it). And having only 22 days until Georgia football can make a girl more than a little bit antsy to get home!  Thank you to everybody who has made this trip so incredible, both at home and abroad, thank you to the London School of Economics and Political Science, and thanks to everybody who has followed my blog- it really does mean the world to me. Next stop- Hartsfield Jackson (and the next stop after that will be Chick-fil-a). Cheers! 

Carbs, Art, and Merci

Paris

This past weekend, I was able to travel to Paris with a friend from LSE. It was such an amazing experience with so much to see! Their main food group consists of a variety of carbs with the vast amount of crepes, baguettes, pizza, pasta, macaroons, and croissants available. The art, architecture, and romantic French language in Paris also lend to a very unique culture, which was very cool to experience firsthand. 

Sacre Coeur

We started out by visiting Sacre Coeur, which translates to "Sacred Heart," and is a beautiful Catholic Church on top of a hill in Paris. Both the church itself and the view from the top of the hill were stunning and a great way to start the morning! 

Notre Dame, The Louvre, Champs-Elysees, Arc De Triomphe, and Statue of Liberty

After touring Sacre Coeur, we were able to take the Metro over to Notre Dame and begin our day of walking to different sites. (Interestingly enough, many locals do not pay for Metro tickets. Rather, they just jump over/slide through the barriers and don't think twice about it. What a sight). We walked by Notre Dame, another famous Catholic Cathedral, but unfortunately did not see the Hunchback. Then we were able to stroll through the Louvre, which is massive and could easily take more than a day to walk through. We were able to admire incredible statues, paintings, and other forms of art here, including the Mona Lisa. After that, we walked down Champs-Elysees, which is the main stretch that leads to the Arc de Triomphe, and were able to go in a lot of shops! Naturally, the Abercrombie and Fitch store had an entrance suitable for a castle. We also got to visit the French Statue of Liberty, which was pretty neat! 

The Eiffel Tower

Obviously, the prominent structure in Paris was pretty amazing! It is so much bigger in real life, and it was so cool to finally be standing next to something that you have seen pictures of for your entire life. We also were able to go to the top of the Tower where there was a view of almost all of Paris, which was absolutely stunning. The landmarks and canals were beautiful on the ground, and even more so from a bird's eye view. 

Palace of Versailles

Anyone who has traveled to France before or who has talked to anyone who has been knows that the line to get into The Palace of Versailles is no joke. The palace and gardens were definitely worth the two hour wait, though! The palace was beautiful and the gardens were so intricate! I have decided that once I retire, I would like to build a little hut in the Versailles Gardens and just live there. 

Paris is obviously a popular tourist destination, and I now understand that it is for good reason. Simply walking along the beautiful canals and seeing the Eiffel Tower in the distance was breathtaking! It was a great place to go for my last traveling weekend here in Europe! I only have a week and a half left in London, and I will be staying in London for that aside from a day trip to Oxford. Time really does fly when you're having fun! 

Losing a Few Pounds

And by pounds, I mean British currency, which luckily for me, are more than one and a half times what U.S. currency is going for. BUT I am spending my money on remarkable experiences and living in Central London, so I may be poor, but I am so lucky to be where I am. 

My new boyfriend, Ben, and his House (of Parliament)

My new boyfriend, Ben, and his House (of Parliament)

Life in London

I've written about all of my travels; however, I have not yet had the chance to write about how incredible my "home" is yet! I've put it off because there is no way that a blog post will be able to even come close to capturing this city that feels like it's the center of the world. In addition to having adorable accents, eating fish and chips, and drinking massive amounts of tea, the people here are well-dressed, friendly, and intellectual. And surprisingly enough, they don't go straight home from work and continue to binge watch Netflix. Rather, they go to a nearby pub, grab a drink, and socialize with friends for a few hours. My kinda place! 

School has been great as well! It is very challenging, but it is also very interesting, and I feel like I learned so much in my first course. My peers are from all over the world, so I am learning just as much from them as I am from my studies! I feel so grateful to have this opportunity to learn so much from the places I am traveling, the people I am meeting, and the classes I am taking. (Yes, I am a nerd). 

In London, I have been fortunate enough to do so many things. I have mastered the tube, become good friends with Big Ben, tried to convince Westminster Abbey to drop the "e," made a fake phone call in a stereotypical red phone booth, admired the London eye, hung out with an Easter Island head and the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum, visited Buckingham Palace, and shopped in Covent Garden. I have attended Wimbledon, strolled through Hyde Park, gotten lost in Harrod's, seen Wicked in the Apollo Victoria Theatre, gone to church in St. Paul's Cathedral, toured the Tower of London, experienced the bustle of Trafalgar Square, admired Shakespeare's Globe, visited fun pubs, befriended local pigeons, and gone to visit Kate, Will, Harry, Charlotte, and George at Kensington Palace. (Naturally, Harry is in South Africa for three months, so he has lost the opportunity to date me- his loss). 

I still have a lot left to do while I am here, but luckily, I have time! Today was the first day of my second course, which will last for three weeks, and then I will be back in the states before I know it! I hope to make the second half of my stay even better than the first half (if at all possible). I do miss everybody though and am excited that I am that much closer to seeing all of you! It means the world to me that you are reading this and keeping up with what I am doing! Cheers!

Top O' The Mornin' To Ya

Though true Irish people do not actually say "Top o' the mornin' to ya," they do say "Slainte," which is the equivalent of "Cheers" and means good health in Irish Gaelic. Of course, everybody in the United Kingdom says "Cheers" to just about everything (which is so awesome and adorable), so the Irish are just following a similar tradition with their own words! 

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Ireland

This past weekend, Tyler and I flew over the Irish Sea, traveling from London to Dublin for the weekend. And what an incredible experience it was! On Saturday, we were able to take a bus tour from Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher that went through Galway and Burren as well. On Sunday, we explored Dublin! It was a great adventure filled with fun accents, beautiful views, massive cathedrals, and people drinking Guinness on just about every corner. This was especially fun because my family has some Irish heritage, so it was very cool to see the culture that part of my family came from! 

Cliffs of Moher Tour

This bus tour was incredible. We were able to ride across the entire country of Ireland in two and a half hours to Galway, an adorable fishing village on the west coast that used to be a major trading hub back in the day. It is very close to Claddagh, where the famous Claddagh rings are made. (I had one when I was little thanks to Aunt Shannon, but I outgrew it, so Tyler got me another one and I am so excited to wear it!) After a walking tour through Galway, we were able to drive through many cute villages with old castles, interesting stories, and medieval architecture. Ireland has a bunch of great history- especially since they are known for embellishing stories to make them more fun! We also got to have lunch in a cute Irish pub with traditional dishes. Ultimately, we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher, and they were astonishing. They did not seem real, and I felt so lucky to be able to hike up these and just look at the incredible views. (Also for those of you who don't know, Harry Potter and Dumbledore destroyed a horcrux in the cave that is a part of the cliffs, so that was pretty exciting for a Harry Potter nerd like myself).

Dublin

Dublin was a great place to stay! It is a very interesting mix of old and new, and it is full of upbeat and friendly people! Naturally, I want to see every church that I can possibly see, and Dublin is great for that! We were able to see St. Patrick's Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral, along with many smaller churches that were all beautiful. In addition, we saw the Dublin Castle! And of course, we had to go to the Guinness Storehouse and the Old Jameson Distillery because the Irish take drinking very seriously. These turned out to be quite interesting because they went over how they brew everything, and Guinness even had a sky view where you could see all of Dublin! 

Overall, Ireland was amazing, and I am so grateful that I got to see so much of it in such a short time! Also, I was the closest to the U.S. that I have been in four weeks, so that was nice. I could almost feel the air conditioning and taste the Chick-fil-a! 

Roadtrippin' Through the UK

Tyler finally arrived on Thursday evening, and we were able to begin our "road trip" through the UK! We were excited not only because of the fantastic destinations, but also because we got to drive on the wrong side of the road! On Friday AFTER class (just wanted to point out to my parents and anybody else who may have been concerned that I did not skip class), we set out to drive north from London through Cambridge and York with Edinburgh as our ultimate destination. Each of these places was so unique, and it was such a pleasure to see what the United Kingdom was all about! 

A view from a cannon looking over Edinburgh from one of the castle walls

A view from a cannon looking over Edinburgh from one of the castle walls

York Minster

York Minster

University of Cambridge

University of Cambridge

University of Cambridge

The first stop on our trip was The University of Cambridge, one of the world's oldest and most distinguished universities. It was much more than beautiful architecture- it was an amazing town. There were so many shops, parks, and of course, the river. Many people like to go "punting" on the river, which is really just the adorable boating shown in my pictures. (At least twenty people asked us if we wanted to go punting and we had no idea what that meant, but now you know ahead of time!)

York, England

It was so nice to get to experience a smaller, more traditional English town! York had buildings that have been around since way before America was a twinkle in its founders' eyes, but it is not filled with tourists like major cities. It was a great way to experience more traditional English culture in a smaller setting, while marveling at buildings that were created many centuries ago. 

Edinburgh, Scotland

Our final destination and the main purpose for our trip was Edinburgh, Scotland. We were able to explore the Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, Calton Hill, and have dinner at a cute restaurant near Portobello Beach on Saturday. We also got to stop by The Elephant House, where J.K.Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book! Sunday, we woke up early and hiked up to Arthur's Seat before journeying back to London. Both of these days were filled with incredible views because Edinburgh has beautiful water, old and new architecture, and incredible hills. We got lucky with great weather that allowed us to really enjoy these views! Maybe next time I can convince Tyler to wear a kilt!

The Ins and Outs of the Trip

Driving through the United Kingdom was super fun in and of itself. We got to see what driving on the wrong side of the road was all about! (And by we I mean Tyler because I would've messed that up). We learned that roundabouts are not worth getting excited about because there are so many, sheep basically rule the world, and British pop music is just like American pop with a few horrible excuses for songs thrown in the mix! I also finally listened to the Serial Podcast, and all I have to say about that without giving away any spoilers is that I will be doing some extra sleuthing of my own on the case. 

It was an incredible weekend and another great way to experience the United Kingdom, a place that I am already falling in love with. Now, I must get back to class as we begin our second week (and midterms since classes only last three weeks- weird, I know), but I miss all of you back home and really appreciate you reading this and keeping up with what I'm doing! Have a great week!