J’aime Paris!

Bonjour!

This past weekend I took a trip to Paris with my flat mates and I had an absolutely amazing time! I hope I can return to this beautiful city one day!

So in an attempt to try something new and exciting, I decided to create a video blog (vlog) of my weekend. It’s really not the best, but I didn’t want to waste the effort that I put into it by not uploading. This is my first attempt at creating a vlog, so I’m still in the learning process! Enjoy! Au revoir!

A Day in Brighton

Brighton, located in the south of England, is a beautiful beach town that attracts visitors from all over the country. It’s also a popular location for Londoners who are looking for a day out to shop, grab lunch, and walk around but want a break from the city. I recently had the pleasure of visiting the town with my study abroad group and I absolutely loved it!

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The very first thing we did in Brighton was take a tour of The Royal Pavilion, a former royal residence (it’s now owned by the town) initially constructed for King George IV. It was fascinating to see and learn about its history, but the entire design  of the building is quite confusing. The outside was inspired by Indian architecture and the inside was inspired by Chinese design…but some rooms were quite plain… I didn’t quite understand the overall vision.

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Next we went to the Brighton Pier, a fun environment with food, games, rides, and a great view of the coastline. There, I had fish and chips for the first time since arriving in England and I’m so glad that I waited until I was in Brighton to eat one of Great Britain’s most popular dishes. The fish was so fresh and delicious (they catch it daily)!

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After spending time on the pier, my friends and I walked along the pebble beach, enjoying the beautiful day.

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Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to poke around in all of the adorable little shops (the downfall of a program trip is that we have to head back home rather early), but I had a nice day and I hope I get the chance to return!

Dover Castle

Exploring Dover Castle was such a wonderful experience! It was an incredibly beautiful sight to see with a magnificent view of the English Channel at the southernmost point in England. Not knowing much about Dover Castle before visiting, I learned so much about its medieval, royal, and military history. Not only did I explore the centuries old grounds and living quarters, but I was also able to explore the wartime tunnels. The tour highlighted the usage of the tunnels during WWII when they were still  a secret with very high security (we learned that Winston Churchill was once denied entry because he was issued the incorrect pass). The entire tour was extremely fascinating. I would love to revisit Dover Castle one day, as it has been one of my favorite experiences thus far.

Here is a slideshow that I put together of the pictures that I took while at Dover Castle. I could not choose which ones I wanted to display in this post, so I decided to display all of them along with some delightful music for your enjoyment.

Lights, Camera, Action (“The Martian” European Premiere)!

London is a beautiful mix of New York City and Los Angeles (significantly older of course). The magic of this city partially resides in the fact that all of the UK entertainment industries are booming in one place, ultimately granting me and all of its inhabitants incredible opportunities such as attending movie premieres in the midst of fashion week. It’s so exciting to see so many big events from varying industries happening at the same time in the same place!

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The Odeon Cinema, Leicester Square

Yesterday evening I took advantage of living in this city by attending the red carpet event for the European premiere of “The Martian” starring Matt Damon, Kate Mara, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wig, and many other talented actors. Of course they were accompanied by the director of the film, Ridley Scott.

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My friend and I managed to get an incredible spot in the front row at the end of the red carpet. We were just a few feet away as we watched several cars pull up, and one by one, each star made their appearance. More excitingly, we were able to watch each star (right in front of us) as they were interviewed by Jim Chapman, one of the hosts for the evening.

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Matt Damon’s Interview
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Kate Mara’s Interview

The entire atmosphere was exciting and glamorous. I was truly amazed to see how genuinely happy the actors were to be there and I was overjoyed to see their efforts to make as many fans happy as possible. For me, the most magical moment of the evening was when Matt Damon was signing a page in my journal. He looked up, right into my eyes, and said, “Hi,” with a huge smile on his face. I will never forget that moment! I also got an autograph from Jessica Chastain who is not only beautiful, but extremely kind.

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Kristen Wig was geting flustered because she was trying to meet as many fans as possible but she kept getting called over to do interviews and take take pictures for the media.
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Jessica Chastain (I lover her gown!)

I’m looking forward to experiencing more amazing events like this during my stay here in a big city, especially the Mockingjay Part 2 premiere on November 5th!

P.S. When Jim Chapman initially arrived before the event officially began, I recognized him immediately and smiled and waved. He noticed me and happily returned a very sweet smile and wave. I’m a fan of his (he is a Youtube personality that I watch regularly), so that was also another nice moment of the evening that I will never forget.

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Louis Vuitton Series Exhibition

London is an incredible city, thriving in countless industries. The fashion industry is extremely relevant and exciting at the moment as we are in the midst of London Fashion Week! This means the center of London is full of models, designers, and fashion lovers from all over the world celebrating creativity, self-expression, and beautifully crafted garments. Of course I do not have any sort of status in the fashion world, therefore I will not be invited to any runway shows nor will I have the opportunity to meet Cara Delevingne (British supermodel). However, there are other ways for us mere common-folk to celebrate the occasion.

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The Louis Vuitton Series Exhibition is temporarily located right next to my campus, so I conveniently stopped in after class. I wasn’t entirely sure what it would consist of but everything that has free admission is worth going to! Regardless, it was so amazing that I would have paid for it (and I’m often quite stingy with money). The entire exhibit was beautifully constructed. The attractions were spread out in a minimalist style, which was perfect because often times exhibits can feel a bit overwhelming. In contrast, the design of the exhibit was so abstract that it was unbelievably captivating. I understand that this might not make sense, unfortunately it is one of those things that you have to experience yourself  in order to truly understand.

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In the end, the exhibit leads to a wall of stickers, each one containing an image of a beautifully designed Louis Vuitton accessory piece. Not only is admission free, but I was allowed to take two accessory stickers and two stickers representing my initials (I will most likely put these on my laptop case). Immediately afterwards I entered the final room in which every inch of the walls are covered in images of models and designs. There, I was given a free poster (also beautifully designed)! I really hope I can fit it in my suitcase without destroying it because I really want to hang it in my bedroom at home…

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The poster would have been too complicated to take a proper picture of….

Maybe it’s just because I am an easily inspired person (despite the fact that I lack many skills), but I found the exhibit to be incredible. If I could draw, I would probably be trying to start my design career at the moment instead of writing this post and if I was tall enough I would probably be researching agencies or something…Oh well, a girl can dream… and dream I will do.

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The runway room created such an exciting atmosphere…all I wanted to do was put on some heels and strut…haha.

Eating Fresh, Shopping Local (Borough Market)

Here in in the city of London, grocery stores are often small (in comparison to those in the United States) and some may not have a very large selection of fresh food. Often times locals choose to go to city markets in order to purchase fresh produce, meats, breads, and other various items (including clothing, home goods, and decor at certain ones). There are various markets all over the city and I am very fortunate to live near Borough Market, which is a massive food market. It is AMAZING!

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For me, as a poor college student, the best part is the free samples! A lot of stands put out free samples in order to entice the customers into purchasing their product. For me, this means that if I get enough free samples I won’t have to buy or make lunch…hehe… As soon as my roommate and I entered the market, we were called over by a man who was selling honey. He had us try every single flavor that he was selling… most of them were quite delicious but I definitely consumed a lot of sugar!

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We walked around the market for nearly two hours sampling award-winning cheeses (including the best mozzarella I have ever eaten),breads, pastries, chocolates, oils, vinegars, juices, and so much more! I also sampled an incredibly delicious pumpkin tortellini as well as the best hamburger I have ever had! In addition there were produce stations, meat stations, and numerous stands that were selling hot meals (something that many local workers were taking advantage of during their lunch break).

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Turkish Delight (first time trying it)

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I never knew there could be so many different kinds of mustard!
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Adorable Meat Pies!

In the end I had consumed enough free samples to create a meal, but of course I had to purchase a chocolate croissant anyway. I also bought a few fruits and vegetables but I didn’t want to overdo it because I didn’t want anything to spoil before I could finish it. The Borough Market is definitely a place I will be going to regularly during my stay here!

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P.S. Uncle Paul and Zachary (if you’re reading this), you would love this place!

All Aboard the Hogwarts Express!

I am living in the United Kingdom for the next few months so naturally I have to see everything that is remotely related to Harry Potter (whether it’s in the books or the movies, or both). Yesterday, only four days into my trip, my flatmates and I went to King’s Cross Station to see the infamous Platform 9 and 3/4! London really embraces the Harry Potter fandom so King’s Cross Station installed a luggage cart on the wall between the entrances to Platforms 9 and 10. Unfortunately King’s Cross is set up so that one cannot stand on the actual train platforms without a ticket so the cart was set up outside the entrances (plus I’ve read the filming location was actually at the pillar in between platform 5 and 6 because it looked better). But despite all that, it was so cool to take a photo as if I were heading to the Hogwarts Express (2 weeks late) while representing my Hogwarts house,Ravenclaw (the station had workers lending us scarves and wands and taking photos)! Such a magical moment!!!

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The station even has a Harry Potter souvenir shop with a lot of really cool memorabilia. I didn’t buy anything last night, but I will certainly be back. Christmas presents anyone? I’m sure I will be buying Christmas presents for myself…

St. Pancras International Station is located right next to King’s Cross Station. For those of you who have seen the movies, you may recognize it from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Harry and Ron fly Arthur Weasley’s Ford Anglia from King’s Cross to Hogwarts. This is also the station that is used in the films for Platform 9 and 3/4 (once the students go through the wall and actually enter the platform where the Hogwarts express is waiting). Hopefully I will be able to take a trip to Paris and take a train from this station.

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My first solo flight!

I successfully survived my first solo flight! For somebody who has very little flying experience this is a very big deal. I am a very independent person so doing things on my own doesn’t normally freak me out, but I couldn’t help but think that I was going to get stuck at security or immigration. Fortunately, neither security nor immigration was a problem and I have successfully entered the United Kingdom! Yay for kind airport staff! Other than those things, I find flying to be an absolutely amazing phenomenon. It’s incredible that these massive machines can carry us high above the earth and take us to incredibly far places in just hours! Ahhh, flying is so cool! Okay, I will stop being a nerd now…

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Anyway, I had a pretty good flight. I was given a little pillow and blanket, the food was mostly edible, the airline had a great game, movie, and music selection to keep me entertained, and I was seated next to a really kind British woman. Unfortunately an airplane isn’t the most comfortable place to sleep so I only managed to take about a 45 minute nap. I did, however, wake up to a beautiful view of the sunrise over a blanket of fluffy clouds.

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After a quick little breakfast, we began descending into England as I endured a terrible earache (truly the worst part of flying, but I’m learning to expect it and accept it).

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I was then greeted by ISA staff with a lovely piece of chocolate 🙂

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Hours later my group and I left the airport and headed to our accommodations. My flat has a great view.

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Today is the Big Day!

I cannot believe that I have finally reached my departure day! I have spent my entire summer thinking about my time in London, but even now that my bags are packed, it still only feels like an idea or a dream rather than my reality. I am so excited to start this chapter of my life; I am always ready for something new and exciting. Of course I am going to miss all of you, my family and friends, but I truly believe that I am going to learn and grow from this experience. I know the next few months will fly by and I’m honestly afraid that I won’t want to return home (I always feel post-vacation depression any time I go anywhere). But I am also afraid that I will get a bit homesick, especially around Thanksgiving (one of my favorite holidays) when everyone is spending time together. Hopefully the post-vacation depression and the homesickness will cancel each other out.

Anyway, thank you all for supporting me. Big events are always better when your loved ones are cheering you on! I will do my best to keep everyone updated and I will be looking forward to sharing every single Harry Potter related experience with you (I promise that is not the only reason I am going but it is definitely a huge benefit)!

Here’s a casual selfie of Brooke and I that she took sometime between our family breakfast at Cackleberries this morning (we miss you Tyty) and leaving for work…

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Where Has the Time Gone? (2 weeks away)

It feels like it was just a few days ago when I broke the news to my parents that I scheduled a meeting with the study abroad advisor at my school (at the time my mom didn’t think I was actually going through with this), but that was eight months ago now. Now here I am, two weeks from my departure and the excitement is increasing rapidly.

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I received my course schedule about a week ago and now it’s all starting to feel real as I imagine what my weekly routine is going be look like during my time in the incredible city of London. For those who are unfamiliar with the university learning structure in England, it is a little bit more self-motivated than here in the U.S. For me that means my classes will meet less frequently (only once or twice a week) and I will not be given many assignments. Typically a final term grade at an English university consists of one or two large assignments. Therefore, I am fortunate that my schedule will allow me to balance my coursework with my many adventures! Throughout the week I will start classes no earlier than 9:00Am and end no later than 1:00PM. I will also have Wednesdays off (a nice break in the middle of the week)!

When this summer started I wanted it to last forever due to the fact that I was a bit nervous about leaving my friends and family for 15 weeks. However, now that many of my friends have already moved in to their colleges and my summer is slowly losing excitement, I can’t wait to depart! But of course, I will be looking forward to seeing all of your beautiful faces when I return in December!