Archive for January, 2011

January 26, 2011

Oh yeah, I have class.


This is Mariah. Mariah is Charlotte’s dog and is extremely friendly. I’m not cheating on Sandi, but it’s soo nice to have a dog and its happiness around.

In a nutshell, our classes are just an introduction meeting to the field trip we’ll be taking in an hour. The way our schedule works is that we have one class once a week, (i.e. I have my politics class on Monday mornings, media on Tuesdays) anddd that’s pretty much it. We learned in British Media & Politics about the queen/prime minister and it turns out that being royalty literally involves doing nothing. You make no decisions, you have to be politically neutral, you are only a figurehead. The prime minister is basically our equivalent president. He’s got the power. Our outing on Monday was to the British Library which has toonnns of awesome/interesting/historical/amazing stuff. Other marvelous non historical things include this bench:

For theatre we go to a show/play every Monday night, and this week was Hamlet. After sprinting throughout London from dinner to the National Theatre for a 3 hour and 50 minute show…I was slightly tired. I am, however, making a presentation of my critique about it for next class so I’ve learned a lot about it in the past few days. The show we saw was modernized and has more “brilliant” (heh :)) reviews than bad ones, so if you’re a Shakespeare fan and ever in the area…go for it. Tuesday morning had class for British Media & Society and our teacher (a Steven Tyler twin) seemed disappointed that he had so many SMAD majors..which I still don’t get. It’s not weird that there are media majors in a media class. Besides that, he is probably one of the more interesting teachers I’ll have this semester, even though they’re all completely unique & funny. He took a break in the middle of class to show us Eve’s cafe, where we juiced up on caffeine to get through the rest of the day. Our outing was to the British Museum (free and right around the corner from us) to briefly show us the different exhibitions. A lot of this trip is just reflections and critiques of everything we do. After class we ate lunch and then I scadaddled over to Wriglesworth for my first day. So crazy how much I learned about London’s market in just half a day. Decided to make my first shopping spree and what a wonderful decision that was, because I ended up getting 20% off for student discounts and getting so much for so little. I. Love. Bargains. Speaking of that, anyone who knows me will find it hilarious to know that we have a T.K Maxx (yes, it’s K in London) approx 5-10 minutes away from our house. Hallelujah.

Last night we went to the Sports Cafe, Tuesdays is college night, aka a very cheap night and tons of students from everywhere. Woke up bright and early yet again this morning and headed off for a full day at Wriglesworth. 8 1/2 hours later, ate some dinner, had some meetings, and I am pooped. In our internship “class” aka weekly meetings to discuss our lives as British workers, Charlotte taught us how to make a proper cup of tea & coffee, so from tomorrow on I’m planning on practicing & perfecting those skills. (Which are surprisingly more important than you think! I’m not about to be the intern who makes bad tea…just saying.) We don’t have a free weekend to travel until the weekend after my birthday, but this weekend we’re doing London Tower & Westiminister Abbey on Friday and the following weekend is Brighton and Greenwich.

I’ll work on getting the pictures tab of this blog going soon…it’s getting a little unmotivating when I look in my photo library and see hundreds of pictures, but I’ll get it eventually.

Last class tomorrow of the week and then the weekend…Rusty says that he normally tells students that this trip is split in two halves. The first ends the end of this week, and the second is the end of the trip. Apparently the amount of time in both feels the same, and I don’t doubt him for a second. More time on here means less time out there…so…

Cheers!

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January 23, 2011

Orientation Weekend: check.


So this weekend we pretty much just got through all of the tourist-filled attractions that London has to offer. The rest of the interns got here on Friday afternoon, went through the same introduction meeting that we had on Wednesday, and then life clicked into fast-forward & nonstop mode.

Rusty is the director of the semester in London program and he is hysterical, helpful and LEAVING this Wednesday. 😦 Friday afternoon they split us up and sent us on a scavenger hunt-type walk around the city. It was actually a great way to learn our neighborhood and the area. We saw a ton of cute looking pubs and shops, got to cross the Hungerford bridge & got great shots of Big Ben, The London Eye and the other typical sights on the London skyline. We continued on an awfully cold night for a “Twilight Thames” walk led by Rusty. It actually was painfully cold so we cut it short by a little and headed back to Bloomsbury for some dinner atWagamama. We knew that if Kelly, Liz & Erin went home they would crash for a good night’s sleep of about 12+ hours, SO we went straight to the pub, Friend at Hand. 🙂 I can’t wait until I’m comfortable walking into a pub. It’s very awkward walking in…10 times out of 10, there’s no seating, but nobody else is standing, and everybody just stares at you as you try to figure out what to do. After you get past that little hump, pubs are awesome and exactly what you’re probably picturing them to be…minus the fact that most of them close before 12. So, after the last call, we made the short trek back to the house and slept the night away.

Bright and early on Saturday we had an official orientation for our house: rules & policies and such. We got sent away on another neighborhood scavenger-hunt walk, and then set free for lunch. Annalina, Paul, Liz & I found this cafe that ended up being really delicious..Five Star Cafe. The second half of the day was a guided tour of the East End, which included a lot of interesting stories and very cool parts of town (markets, pubs, Brick Lane) that I’ll be revisiting for sure.

Last night we went out to a pub and then a club called The Den. We got a taste of European nightlife and started to meet some local Londoners. A lot of American students live in our area (You can’t miss the familiarity of loud, obnoxious voices walking along the streets) so hopefully we’ll get to meet them too. Today we went on a Royal London walk, and saw Buckingham Palace, Westminister Abbey, Big Ben & the Houses of Parliament. It was nice to get all of the big attractions out of the way this weekend, and now we can explore to more than just the touristy skirts of London. After our walk we were set free for lunch and Kelly, Erin & I just found a local cafe and got burgers: how American. 🙂 (We’re beginning to set up trips for our free weekends..Spain, Sweden, Germany, Malta, Ireland and Denmark are for sure on my “to-see” list.) After our lunch break we had a meeting with a local officer to talk to us about safety & precautions in London, especially because we’re American and usually the targets. We went on our first adventure grocery shopping in London, which has its minor differences but overall not that big of an adventure.

First grocery shopping experience in London!

I don’t think that I can emphasize enough how much we walk. I expected it, but we literally leave for the day, walk all day, and just come back to sleep. My feet are sore, and I hope this is just me “breaking in” all of the walking. I absolutely love it though. City life is the way to go. Tonight is actually the first night that we’ve had a few hours to relax and actually properly check up on lives back in the USA. But classes start tomorrow, so everyone will have somewhat of a routine.

The weekend overall: a little rough with everyone adjusting but extremely successful!
Cheers!

January 21, 2011

Borough Market


I had my interview this morning, which was basically a chat with one of my supervisors about the company, about ourselves and about traveling through Europe. It was scheduled for 10am and I got there around 9:50 and was out of there by 10:10. Since I had the entirreee rest of the day with no plans I decided to not take the tube back to Bloomsbury and just wandered and explored. I ended up finding this alley which is right next to the tube stop for Chancery Lane and it is very similar to Canal Street, except instead of it all being bags and the same items, it ranges from peacoats to scarves to food and to underwear. Everything was still being set up when I walked through so I’m guessing that it usually starts around 11am.

After exploring and making my way back to Bedford Place Annalina and I both decided to go to Borough Market. She had seen it with her mom or her mom had told her about it when they were here earlier this week, so we took the Northern line from Tottenham Court Road to Waterloo and then switched to the  Jubilee line to London Bridge. When you get off there it’s about a block away and the Borough Market is AWESOME. It made me think of my mom right away. It’s similar to Arthur Avenue in NY, a favorite of hers, but it is so much more close together with booths everywhere.

 

 

They have food from all over ranging from sausage to cheese to desserts to fruits/veggies. EVERYTHING. It’s only open Thursday, Friday & Saturday so its pretty much packed whenever you go. We ended up buying these mozzarella & tomato paninis and way too much from a fruit/candy stand. (Not on purpose, they scooped too much!)

Right next to it is the Southwark Cathedral, the oldest gothic church in London. It’s one of the first of many [famous] churches I’ll see this semester.

Great start to the weekend! Updates coming soon.

Cheers!

January 20, 2011

Packing…


…is literally an impossible task. I don’t even know how many times I packed and repacked and unpacked and repacked. Maybe 8? This is after I laid everything in piles and went through the piles multiple times. HOW DO YOU FIT YOUR LIFE FOR 3+ MONTHS INTO A SUITCASE? The other hard part was that I wasn’t just packing for school/leisurely traveling London & Europe. I have an internship here so I have to pack business casual!

What made the final cut: I packed loads of sweaters. Lots of cardigans, plain shirts that can be layered up. I packed maybe 5 T-Shirts. I don’t know how often I’ll run but if its more than 5 days in a row (which I highly doubt) then I’ll do laundry. Same with running shorts. I packed 0 sweatpants. The only form of lounge pants I brought are yoga-type pants but they’re baggy and therefore comfortable. I only brought 4 pairs of jeans and they still took up soo much room. Shoes were impossible. I have 4 pairs of boots but had to drop one, I didn’t bring annyy pumps or heels because I figured I’d just get them here if I needed them, I brought my running sneakers and that’s about it. At first I had, literally, an entire suitcase filled with shoes, and I realized that wasn’t going to work. Add this and jackets (2 rain/waterproof peacoat type jackets, 1 rainjacket, 1 peacoat), purses, makeup, dresses and random other things and you’ve got yourself more than one 50 pound suitcase. If you’re a student who’s going abroad and looking here for advice, I really don’t have any. (I know!! Sorry!) I rolled all my clothes if that helps. I know I should’ve cut down to one suitcase (Elayna did it, it’s possible) but I have no idea how I would’ve done that. Everyone else seemed to have the same type deal at the airport, and I made it here safe and sound and with all my luggage.. soooo no more worries. 🙂

This was an issue…

I ended up checking 2 bags: one big suitcase and one a little smaller, and then my carry on was my backpack and my purse.

Good Luck!!

January 20, 2011

Student VISA


Ah gosh I’m sorry, I never ended up adding information when I was ACTUALLY still in the US. In case you’re interested in the process:

In addition to my classes I’m also doing a 3 credit internship at Wriglesworth consultancy..a PR agency in London. The way that JMU does this is with an organization called CAPA International Education (Center for Academic Programs Abraod) and we go through a process that I wish had been done earlier because of how quickly I had to round up a TON of papers/files/forms, but CAPA is really really helpful and available, so luckilyy my questions were answered quickly. Those of us interning had to go through the application process…final mail to CAPA included: 2 passport sized photos, 1 photocopy of passport, 1 signed release form, an academic letter of recommendation, a professional letter of recommendation, a police background check and a transcript. The awesome thing about CAPA is that they ask you to rank your field of interest and they piece together allll of this information to place you at a (hopefully) baller internship. Getting the student VISA was a really annoying process. Right after I came home from Thanksgiving break, I found out I had to mail my ACTUAL passport in with a whole bunch of supporting documents. And, this process had to be done as soon as possible because it could take up to something like 12 weeks. So, my parents had to send my passport priority mail, meanwhile I had to take more passport pictures, fillout an online application that had step by step instructions our director had to send to us, (I had to list when I left the country in the last 10 years. yikes) and drive to Alexandria to get a biometric finger scan. (Literally, drove 2 hours, took a 3 minute finger scan, drove back 2 hours.) Final mail into the British UK Agency in NY: my passport, a printed copy of my online application, an Appendix 8 Tier 4 (General) Student Self Assessment form, a passport photo, an official transcript, and a confirmation of the completed biometrics appointment. The fee, which they fail to really tell you about until you have to pay, is something like $385. Yeeeeeesh. A few weeks later my passport arrived with my Student VISA stamped in it and the process was finally complete.

January 20, 2011

My First Free Moment


Actually, I’m lying. We had free time yesterday after orientation but I didn’t take it to be on my computer/room because a) I’m in London. b) I didn’t want to be tempted to nap and screw up my jet lag. Now that I’m somewhat awake and getting used to this schedule, I’m ready to update.

So, the flight here was basically incredible. I forgot that planes serve food when they’re over something like 5 hours, so when the flight attendant asked me if I wanted pasta or chicken, my obvious response was, “We get food?” …I had actually planned on going until 9:35 am London time without eating. Turns out, we got TWO meals, dinner and breakfast (red-eyes are my new favorite), but I haven’t even told you the best part of the trip. I’m pretty sure every single passenger had our own row to sleep on. (red-eyes *that are not crowded* are my new favorite) I arrived in Heathrow about 20 minutes early, got through customs/UK border, had to ask HER if she wanted to see my student status letter because I was so persistent on printing it out 3 times. To get from Terminal 4 to Terminal 5, where I was meeting up with the rest of the group, I had to get on the Heathrow Express, get off at the stop for Terminal 1 & 5, then connect to the other car that went to Terminal 4. Most of you have been on the subway in NYC, DC metro or some form of it. When you’re waiting for a train, you wait for everyone to get off and then you get on as quickly as you can so you don’t miss the doors closing. So, once everyone unloaded from this car, I stepped forward to get on, only to get yelled at by a conductor to stay on the platform. Absolutely clueless, I just stood their watching the conductor make a run through every single car to make sure it was clear, then we were allowed on. I’m still not quite sure why that happened, because it definitely didn’t happen later on the tube. Anyways, on this adventure I met a lady who is homeless and lives in Heathrow airport. She carries one suitcase, her purse, and a tempurpedic pad that she rolls up and sticks in the handles of her bag and just goes about her life, talking and meeting to everyone passing through. After chatting with her I met up with the JMU group (only the interns are here right now, the rest come TOMORROW!), and then once we were all collected we loaded onto the bus and took the approx 1 hour ride to our new home, Bedford Place 🙂

Once we got here we just dropped off our bags into our room and went straight to our school, the FSU building about 3 blocks away. (The British Museum is the next block over, and there are two parks at each end of our street) We had an orientation, got packets, info cards, our new cell phones, oyster cards (for the tube) and a bunchh of other stuff. Then we had the rest of the night off, so I came back and unpacked. Our room has unbelievably small space for unpacking and storing stuff, so that was a huge/funny challenge. To avoid falling asleep Annalina (my roommate) and I went a few blocks away to run some errands, we “TopUp”ed aka..put money on our cell phones, and then went to Boots, the London version of our Rite Aid/CVS, to get toiletries and basics. After showering and whatnot a few of us adventured off trying to find a pub for dinner.

Annalina and I had asked Charlotte, our house manager/resident manager, for a pub that previous JMU kids had liked. She drew us a map, and we realized after we had left that the map was still sitting on our desk, three floors up. We decided to just leave it and see where life took us, and Annalina remembered the general direction.. so we just went for it.We found a plaza/outdoor shopping square, but we didn’t want chain food or ‘food court’ type meals so we went further. We passed a futbol game, but were starving so we wanted to eat first. We stopped a guy on the street and he told us about a good local pub called The Lamb. We walked up and down and around and around. We passed one street that had a lit up cafe looking thing, but by this point we were determined to find The Lamb, so we decided if after a few more blocks we didn’t find it, we’d come back. Turns ouuuut that that was The Lamb. Well, right next door was, but still. After getting directions round 2, the identifying factor to the street was the old public toilet that is at the beginning of the street that forms a fork. Sort of cool, sort of gross. We walked in The Lamb through one door and walked out the other. It was definitely a drinking scene, and bodies were packed in so we couldn’t move..good for future reference. However, we all were starving by this point, so we decided to adventure on because we didn’t even know if they served food at all in this place. One block later and we stumble across The Perserverence. How appropriate of a name for a group that had ventured all over looking for a wonderfully cozy pub. Charlotte had warned us earlier that pubs are not like restaurants, you don’t just sit down and wait for a server because you’ll be waiting the entire night. You have to go up to the bar and order and then wait for your food after that. I went up to the bartender: “So….do we just sit?” Him: “Um yeah, unless you want to stand.” Clearly American. After getting the process down, we got some sandwiches and my first legal drink for the rest of my life was a pint of Wainwright beer. After dinner we took a different route home and it wound up being SO close to our home…maybe 2 blocks. So it might become a regular place to hang out. We’ll see. We got home around 9:30 and with the jet lag and drinking it was easy peasy falling asleep and I slept until this morning. I’m pretty sure after one more night I’ll be on track with this schedule.

This morning we had a CAPA orientation (CAPA=Center for Academic Programs Abroad) and we just heard about tips for our internships, advice from previous students, etc etc. Annalina and I both found out our interviews are tomorrow morning, so since we had the rest of the day free we decided to go find our internships so we didn’t get lost tomorrow. GOOD thing we did that because we definitely got lost trying to find mine. After everything, it’s actually only about a 10 minute commute (which is awesome) but we went the wrong way because we were looking at the map right side up…which was, from where we were coming from, upside down. When we finally got to the area, I was extremely happy because it reminds me of NYC in that it is busy, there’s business casual attire everywhere, and the buildings are much bigger than in other parts of London. We found my building and  it is the cutest thing ever and I can’t wait to go there every week. We grabbed lunch at a sandwich place and then went off to find Annalina’s location, which is about a 35 min tube ride. After finding it we took the bus back (yes, the double deckers!) to Euston and walked home. After exploring and adventuring for the past two days I am getting a familiar sense of everything around us, still have the same, if not more, level of excitment AND am getting over my jet lag quickly. Pictures to come!!
Cheers!

(which, it turns out, IS a saying that is actually as common as people think it is)