Be more concerned with your character than your reputation.
Be yourself, (via kushandwizdom)
Playing in Portugal

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I know, I know…I am SUPER behind on blogging. I’ve just been so busy traveling the world! Over the last three weekends, I have been to three different cities: Lisbon, Prague, and Amsterdam.

Twelve of my IES friends and I went to Lisbon, Portugal for a weekend of sun, sand, laying on the beach….

…just kidding. It was a bit cold/rainy, but Lisbon was still one of the coolest cities I’ve ever seen! Unlike a lot of European cities, Lisbon doesn’t have a “stereotype,” so we weren’t sure what to expect. Traveling with a crew of 12 people felt a lot like being on a reality show (“The Real World: Portugal” was the name of our group text for the weekend), so we were in for a fun and memorable weekend.

We arrived to the city and began the trek to our hostel. Lisbon is a very hilly city, and it has trams that go up and down these steep hills. They are really cool and vintage-looking!

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imageSights on the “hike”

We checked into our Equity Point hostel (Equity Point is a chain in Europe, we stayed in one in Barcelona, Lisbon, and Prague - highly recommended) in which we were given one huge room for all 13 of us. So fun!

imageView from the hostel

We freshened up and left for an afternoon of exploring the city. Lisbon has huge plazas and tiled sidewalks and is absolutely beautiful. We walked all the way until we came to the river and the Praça do Comércio, a huge plaza right on the water. 

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imageimagePosing with the crew

After some sightseeing, we ate a late lunch at a traditional Portuguese restaurant. Portuguese food generally consists of a main meat dish with a side of rice AND french fries. Go figure?

That night, we wandered around an area called Bairro Alto, which was near our hostel. This area has a lot of shopping, restaurants, and nightlife. We chatted over some pitchers of Sangria before doing some bar-hopping. The guy at our hostel’s front desk recommended a bar called Park.

Park is located on the roof of a parking garage. Not gonna lie, I was pretty skeptical when we finally managed to find the parking garage. There were no signs or anything pointing us to a bar. We decided to take the elevator to the top floor anyway, and it was so worth it! Park had a gorgeous indoor/outdoor patio area, played smooth jazz music, had great food and drinks, and looked out over the city. It was so much fun.

View from Park

The next day, my friend Katelyn and I decided to meet up with some other IES friends who weren’t staying at the hostel with us and go to a beach town called Cascais. The town was GORGEOUS. When we arrived, we walked through a little outdoor market and then headed towards the beach. The sun was shining, boats were in the harbor, and it was just generally a beautiful day.

The market

After a long day in the little beach town, we headed back to Lisbon to get ready for dinner and see one last thing: the Miradouro da Senhora do Monte.

A miradouro is basically just a viewpoint, but this miradouro looked out over the entire city. We went there to watch the sunset on our last night in Portugal, and the views were stunning.

I swear - in every city that I visit, I manage to hike up to the top of something and look at the view! Makes for some great pictures and memories, though :)

xx

I Solemnly Swear That I Am Up to No Good

A couple of weeks ago, I experienced what every Harry Potter super fan wishes to experience in his or her lifetime: the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London.

It was an emotional day for me, full of laughter, tears, and butterbeer sugar-highs. Here are my favorite pictures from the day (and my favorite quote, for added sentimental value):

"The stories we love best do live in us forever, so whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home." - J.K. Rowling

xx

The Comprehensive Guide to Hosting Visitors in London

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If you are thinking about studying abroad in London, and are thinking about hosting visitors like family or friends, READ THIS. This post may or may not be one of the most important ones you read before beginning your adventure abroad.

Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to host my two best friends from home for their spring break in London! It was their first time in Europe, and I wanted to make sure they had the best week of their lives!

My friends opted to stay in a hotel for the week, which was an excellent decision. Our dorm rooms are minuscule, and having two guests sleep on the floor would have been very uncomfortable for them. After they checked in and showered/rested for a bit, we hopped on the tube and headed to Big Ben!

[Side note: make sure your guests get an week-unlimited Oyster card, and maybe even get one for yourself. You will be taking the tube and buses so often that it is worth the £30.]

Taking your guests to Big Ben and the surrounding area is one of the best ways to kick off the week. You can take pictures with the tower, on the riverbank, with the classic red telephone booth, and in front of Westminster Abbey. Examples:

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imageselfies!

After an afternoon of sightseeing, we went back to King’s Cross and ate fish and chips at a classic English pub for dinner. Then, we got ready for a fun night out at my favorite local bar - Be At One! Jerica and Alyssa got to meet all of my friends from my program, which was perfect since we all would be spending a lot of time together. So fun!

The next day, the three of us went to the Brick Lane market. I had never been, and I had been looking forward to going for awhile! London has some of the best outdoor markets, and each market is unique. Brick Lane is known for delicious ethnic food and some of the best vintage stores in the city. Using one of the guides that my Media and UK Politics teacher sent us, I was able to navigate through the busy market streets. We stopped at an indoor portion of the market which had every type of food you could imagine. After wandering through all the aisles, we finally decided to try Moroccan food. It was tasty!

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imageEnjoying our food outside on a beautiful London day!

After finishing our food, we walked throughout the rest of the market and looked at some of the cool vintage stores. There were lots of stands outside as well selling sunglasses, records, polaroid cameras, and clothing. On our way back to the bus stop, we passed a really cool wall of graffiti and stopped for a photo op.

imageOne of the Brick Lane vintage stores

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After a long day of wandering around Brick Lane, we headed home, did some grocery shopping (great way to save money during the week - cook your meals!), and chilled out at the dorm.

Unfortunately, I still had class during the week of Jerica and Alyssa’s visit, but we planned accordingly so they would have things to do while I was busy with class. Monday is my busy day (TWO classes…it’s a hard life being me) so I had the girls meet me at the British Museum after my first class. The museum takes 2-3 hours to complete, so they spent some more time there after I had to leave for my second class.

After I got home for the evening, we made dinner and decided to go grab casual drinks with the IES crew at a fun little bar called the Euston Tap. The Tap is located right in front of Euston Station, and it has two separate buildings: one that serves beer, and one that serves cider. Us girls headed for the Cider Tap, and the boys met us after they grabbed some beers. We had a fun, chill Monday night chatting and hanging out with friends!

On Tuesday after class, we got dressed up and headed to one of my favorite London locations - Harrod’s! We spent a little bit of time admiring the expensive clothes and shoes, but we soon started to crave Harrod’s tea and headed upstairs to the tea room (for my fellow tea-addicts, I recommend the 1849 blend). We lingered over our pots of tea for awhile before heading out and going to Buckingham Palace. The palace is very close to Harrod’s, so I recommend doing both in one day. We pretended to be royals and snapped some paparazzi-worthy photos outside the palace:

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After taking a stroll through the surrounding Green Park, we headed home to make dinner and get ready for a fun night out. This time, we were doing something different - a pub quiz with the IES crew! The quiz was so fun and was even MORE fun when we won £70 from answering the bonus round question!

imageOur fab team with the winnings!

On Wednesday, I had the girls meet me in Southwark after the Shakespeare tour. We enjoyed lunch on the Thames at a traditional English pub called the Anchor. After lunch, we headed to St. John’s Wood station - the station nearest to the famous Abbey Road crossing. The road is definitely still in use today, and it was quite difficult to get the perfect Beatles-reenactment shot with all of the cars and tourists attempting to do the same thing as us. We finally managed to capture the winning shot:

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It was such a beautiful day outside that we decided to walk home rather than take public transport. We took a stroll through Regent’s Park, and everything was blooming and spring was in the air.

Again, we headed home to make dinner and get ready for a night out (these girls don’t slow down) at one of my favorite bars - Roxy. Roxy has great discount drink deals, is only a 15 minute bus ride away, and has some of the best music around (think late 90s, early 2000s pop and hip-hop). The three of us and the IES crew had so much fun dancing the night away.

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On Thursday, we went on the Harry Potter studio tour….but I think that experience is best reserved for its own, geeky blog post :)

Friday is usually our “market day” when we head to the Borough Market, and I of course wanted Jerica and Alyssa to experience the sheer beauty that is a Borough Market toastie. We ate a lot of food at the market that day, but we walked some of our calories off by walking across the London Bridge into the actual City of London, where all the big banks are located. After our walk, we took the tube and headed to the Camden market for a day of clothing, accessory, and souvenir shopping.

We concluded their trip with a nice dinner out, another visit to Be At One, and a spontaneous late-night trip to see Big Ben lit up at night. It was a magical ending to a fabulous week with my best friends!

So, in summary, when hosting guests:

  • Make sure they buy a week-unlimited Oyster card for £30, which will get them on all the tube trains and buses in London (consider getting one for yourself, as well)
  • Kick off the week with a trip to Big Ben and the surrounding area
  • London has tons of markets and each one is unique - definitely take your guests to a couple of these
  • London also has some of the best museums in the world, and most of them are free! Take advantage of this.
  • Save money during the week by cooking meals at home
  • Harrod’s.
  • If the weather is nice, take advantage of London’s beautiful parks (Hyde park, Green park, Regent’s park…)
  • DON’T try and do cartwheels across the Abbey Road crossing
  • Go to bars and clubs with student nights. You’ll save money and the crowd/atmosphere will be a lot more fun
  • Spontaneous late-night adventures make for the best memories!

xx

At fifteen you had the radiance of early morning, at twenty you will begin to have the melancholy brilliance of the moon.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise (via thevampirian)

(Source: larmoyante)

A Note on Classes

I know I blog mostly about traveling around Europe…but I promise I’m taking classes and studying! I am taking some interesting courses and have even had the opportunity to go on field trips.

My favorite class is called “Media and UK Politics.” I was accidentally placed in this class (I wanted to take a Theatre class), but I’m so glad that I was! My teacher is hilarious and keeps the material fresh by showing videos in class and encouraging discussion. He also emails us guides to living in London (for example: an EXTREMELY thorough guide to navigating the Brick Lane Market). In class, we discuss current events in the UK and how these events are relayed in the media. We spend a good amount of time analyzing the bias of different news outlets, and the changes happening in the media now that most people receive their news from online sources.

Side note: some of the current events we discuss (if you’re interested in researching them) include “Hackgate”, “Plebgate”, the Scottish Referendum, Edward Snowden and GCHQ, and the coalition government of David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

Our teacher took us to the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) headquarters a couple of weeks ago for a tour. Here are some pictures from the trip:

The floor of the BBC. The BBC is publicly funded (taxpayer money) but is colossal compared to our Public Broadcasting Service. These people work around the clock turning press releases into news stories.

Our class posing around the news table. Julie and Logan got to “broadcast” a couple of fake news stories.

We hopped on over to the old BBC headquarters, and saw a really cool sound stage that is still in use. Many famous musicians have performed here, practically for free (I think they get paid £25 or something like that).

I am also enrolled in a class called “Shakespeare the Dramatist.” In high school, we studied King Leer, Hamlet, and Macbeth in AP English, so I have been exposed to Shakespeare before. In this class, we’ve studied Richard III, Henry IV part I and II, Henry V, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, and Twelfth Night. My teacher likes to show the movie interpretations in class, which I love, so we’ve watched Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing (starring himself and Emma Thompson) and Trevor Nunn’s Twelfth Night (starring Helena Bonham Carter).

We also went on a field trip for this class where we walked along the river bank in Southwark and saw the original site of the Globe Theatre (there is nothing there but a plaque) and the new Globe Theatre, commissioned by actor, director, and Chicagoan Sam Wanamaker. Here are some pictures from the day:

Shakespeare quotes along the riverbank

Posing with my friends Alex and Julie! Such a beautiful day.

Inside the Globe Theatre, where the stage is set for The Merchant of Venice. I was lucky enough to see Love’s Labour’s Lost here with my family in 2007!

"All that glisters is not gold" from The Merchant of Venice, Act II, Scene VII.

My other classes include Managing Behaviour in Organisations (notice the British spelling of “behavior” and “organizations”?), International Finance, and Equity Investment Management. All of these classes are required for my major, but I feel that Equity Investment Management, especially, is preparing me for my summer internship with Goldman Sachs. For that class, we had to work on a group project in which we selected a (fictional) client and picked around 25 stocks for his equity portfolio. I definitely learned a lot about stock-picking and hedging risk!

For future study-abroaders, I highly suggest going outside of your comfort zone to take a class that you wouldn’t have normally taken at IU. Media and UK Politics ended up being my favorite class, and I was only placed in it by accident!

So, Mom and Dad, now you know that I’m actually enrolled in courses over here and not just traveling around :)

xx