Saturday, September 19, 2009

A State-side Update

I had so much fun writing this blog last spring while I was in London! I truly miss living in such a fun and beautiful city. As a reader, I hope you enjoyed following my semester experience. Through using his expertise on tracking web traffic, my father was able to conclude that I had many hits each day while I was updating this blog actively - very exciting feedback for me!

I have had a few readers contact me with insightful questions about my trip. I am still (and always will be) happy to answer any questions anyone has about studying abroad/London/etc., so please do not hesitate to contact me!

With that, if you are interested in reading more from me, I have created a new blog where I am currently writing about my senior year at IU! Feel free to check it out:

Thanks so much for being such a loyal reader!


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What I Did In Italy - Part 2

"Just A Romer"
"Rome if you want to"
...And other cool songs where I can change Roam to Rome

Sorry I never finished the Rome Part 2 entry until now! Better late than never, I suppose!


Derek and I rode to Rome via a bus from the Siena bus station to a smaller bus station in Rome (the big one has trains, busses, and an airport). When we got to the bus station, we were disappointed to find out that the walking directions were not going to help us because we were literally fenced into the property. So we finally figured out how to hop on the metro and took it one stop to Bologna Square. Our hostel was really easy to find from there, and the hostel was cool because its theme was global travelling.

The guy at the front desk told us some inexpensive places to eat near the university, so we ventured toward that direction for lunch. It started pouring when we were walking, and when we went to the restaurants, most of them were closed for an afternoon siesta. So we ate gelato for lunch. Totally justified.

Next we walked up to the Trevi fountain, and explored that area. We also bought the Roma Pass, which came in handy a lot! It gave us free travel on the Metro for three days and free admission to two museums of our choice. From there, Derek and I started sightseeing around all of Rome. That night we went to the Pantheon and walked around and saw as many ancient ruins as possible. Also, it would be silly if I didn't mention that we chose to eat at a Chinese restaurant we found (instead of eating Italian food for the first time during the trip). Although the restaurant had awesome decor, the food was not up to my standards.

Me, my broken umbrella, and some light drizzle in front of the Pantheon.


Wednesday we woke up and went straight to the Colosseum. I sang the song from the Arthur cartoon to Derek way too many times (he unfortunately had not had the pleasure of seeing that episode). It goes, "AAAAAncient Roooooome....It's not like hooooome....COOOOOOLLISEUMMMM!" And those are the only lyrics. Here's some pictures:

A picture of the interior. You can see the passages under where the floor used to be.

Me and Derek at the Colosseum. We found another American couple to take this picture.

Then Derek got a hold of my map and decided to start highlighting our route around Rome so that we could see where we had been and what we had seen. Needless to say, by walking way more than I was used to, we saw almost every single landmark in Rome on Wednesday. Here's some pictures:

Me overlooking all of the ruins of Ancient Rome.

Me sitting inside the Roman Forum.

Me at the Trevi Fountain when it WASN'T raining!


On Thursday Derek and I woke up early and went to Vatican City. We stood in line for about an hour waiting to go into St. Peter's Basilica. It was pretty cool inside. Very big church. Lot's of pretty things to look at. The weather had really cleared up by Thursday, so luckily it was a sunny day to stand in line!

To my disappointment, we ended up not going to see the Sistine Chapel (pretty much the sole reason why I wanted to go to Vatican City), because we didn't want to wait in line anymore. So we took the metro back to the center of Rome and went to all of the last tourist sites on our map that we did not hit. I think I liked the Spanish steps the most, because they were such a cool hangout! Derek also bought some paintings for his family from a street painter by the river, and I really enjoyed talking to the man briefly. I think he liked us too, cuz he threw in some extra wood paintings of his with Derek's purchases. Here's a picture of the Spanish steps:

A child playing with his grandfather at the fountain in front of the Spanish Steps. The fountain is really old.


On Friday we took the metro back to Florence and I got to have dinner with my sorority sister Rachel and her friend Lauren who also goes to IU! They both studied in Bologna this spring and really loved it. We ate at a fun outdoor cafe, and I had some really delicious pasta and white wine. It was so much fun to see a friend from home!

When Derek and I went back to our hostel, we had a really rare and gross experience. We ended up finding bugs in our sheets and on our walls! So we got our money back and walked to the hostel we stayed at the first time we were in Florence and purchased a room there for the night. It was probably around midnight when we finally got that all sorted out. It was a huge hassle, and also very surprising because the bug hostel had good ratings on hostelworld. But, I guess strange things sometimes happen when you travel! My recommendation is to have the location of a back-up hostel written down when you travel to a city in Europe.


Saturday morning Derek and I woke up and went to the train station, only to find that the train we wanted to take had left 5 minutes before we got there. Because we had an issue with reading the train schedule for that day (remember our language barriers), we had a scare that the trains did not go to Pisa once per hour like we had thought. Luckily, we were wrong and we grabbed a local train that made a stop in every city (Pisa, too, luckily). Even though the train took much longer than we expected, we still arrived at the Pisa airport in time to grab lunch before our flights. (Both of our flights took off within 5 minutes of eachother's.)

There were a couple issues at check-in, though. Derek's line was super long and barely moved, creating a scare that he would not make his flight on time. I ended up convincing the attendants in my line after the London line was finished to check Derek in for his flight, which I feel proud about since they barely understood what I was saying. Also, I got a weird look from my attendant when I checked in for my London flight, since my visa had expired two days before. Thankfully, I brought proof of my return flight to Chicago just for that reason, and she stamped my ticket.


Before I flew back to Chicago on Monday, I spent a lot of time by myself wandering around my old neighborhood, chilling in Hyde Park, and doing some casual London shopping. I also hung out with Christine and Erin at Hyde Park a little bit too, which was nice because the park was beautiful! Also, I got my bags out of storage, and I recommend to anyone who would think about trying this that they should never try to take two 50-pound bags on the tube. The tube is not always handicapped accessible, and I learned that the hard way by needing to pull both bags up many giant flights of stairs. I really lucked out that I had a man and a women (angels from God) come and help me with the longest flight up the stairs. I had literally sweat through my shirt when I got back to the hostel, and the man at the front desk felt so badly for me that he let me store my bags for free overnight. I really should have spent money on a cab!

Overall, my Italy trip was really great, and I'm glad I'm finally able to document it completely!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Just Keep Your Eye On The Prize

The draft about my trip to Italy is still in the works, and will be published once it is complete and to my liking. Please bare with me, as I have had a very busy past two weeks with flying home to Chicago, flying to Tucson soon after to begin my summer internship, and then flying back to Chicago this weekend to tend to family matters. However, I have not forgotten about my Italy entry, so do not fret! I appreciate your patience with me.

In regards to my last entry, jet lag was a killer. My body was confused for three days after returning to Chicago. I would take long naps in the late afternoon out of necessity. I recommend thinking about and preparing for jetlag both on your flights to and from overseas destinations.

As for right now, if you have any questions for me about studying abroad (especially in London or even about my London program), feel free to comment and ask me. I will address them as best and detailed as I can.

Monday, May 11, 2009

What I Did In Italy - Part 1

Saturday, April 25:

On Saturday morning I left Palace Court at 6:30 am to take a cab to Paddington station. I got there about 6:45 and waited around the station for 15 minutes for the Left Luggage office to open with everything I owned in tow. Finally it opened, and I easily stored my two massive suitcases. From there, I took the tube to Liverpool Street. At Liverpool Street, I got on the Stansted Express train and took it to Stansted Airport. When I was checking in at Stansted, I realized that I had signed up for online check in when I ordered my tickets, so they charged me a large fee for checking in at the airport instead. Budget airlines are so tricky with the ways they decide to charge more money.

Since I woke up so early that morning, my flight to Pisa Airport was pretty uneventful. I slept most of the way. The only cool part was when we were descending, the pilot flew over the Mediterranean Sea, which was a gorgeous turquoise color. We could see sail boats and the shadows of underwater reefs from the air. Also, we could see the Tuscan coast and the Leaning Tower of Pisa during the descent. The views were absolutely stunning!

When I got to the Pisa Airport, I just followed a group of three older British couples, because I heard they were headed to Florence as well. It was slightly complicated, since there are only two direct trains from the Pisa Airport to Florence each day. Either I had to wait four hours for the train, or I had to catch a bus to Pisa Central Station and then take a train to Florence from there. By following the couples, I found out how to buy a bus ticket, where the buses picked up, and how to get to Pisa Central. I went to the ticket counter right away and bought my ticket to Florence for 5.60 euro. Shortly thereafter, I tried calling Derek, and started to freak out that my phone didn't allow me to dial his number. I probably tried 30 times.

Somehow I got on the train to Florence after some wait at the station, and I spent the first half of the train ride desperately trying to find a way to contact Derek. I even called Talk Mobile's customer service internationally, and they were absolutely no help. Then I called two of my friends as well as my parents. I was really nervous about having used up most of my talk credit and not having a way to "top up" while in Italy, and finally Derek called me to see where I was. I told him that I had been freaking out because he hadn't sent me the name of the hostel or directions how to get there like I had asked him several times to do (since he had made the reservations), and I was really insecure in a foreign country by myself with no way of contacting him. He re-assured me that he would pick me up from the train station and that I didn't have anything to worry about anymore. (Of course he was 20 minutes late picking me up from the station due to him getting lost, and I yet again freaked out for a little while.)

After we found each other, we walked around Florence for a while enjoying the city. It's really pretty, and my favorite place we went that night was a pizzaria in the Piazza Signora. I ordered my meal in Italian courtesy of the handy-dandy Italy guidebook that I borrowed from my uncle Frank.

On our way to the hostel from the restaurant, we stopped at a delicious gelateria where I had my first taste of Italian gelato! Needless to say, it was devine.

That night we stayed in an 8-person hostel room at the Hostel Santa Monaca (which was pretty nice). It was interesting because everyone else in the room spoke English, even though everyone else was from Holland, Italy, and Japan. I really enjoyed learning about their reasons for travelling in Europe.

Sunday, April 26:

On Sunday, Derek and I wanted to get a head-start on sightseeing, so we woke up early and started walking around Florence. We stopped at a coffee shop along the way, where I hoped I could find a mocha. No such luck. That was the beginning of my disappointment in finding out that Italy did not invent the mocha, and that it must have been Starbucks. Also, Starbucks does not exist in Italy. Another interesting tid-bit about Italian breakfast is that it's not big, and includes just a small cup of cappuccino with foam and a "sweet" such as a donut or glazed croissant.

As for sightseeing, we went to El Duomo, the outdoor market, the Ponte Vecchio, and outside the Ufizzi. We didn't go in that art museum because the line was estimated to take 3 hours. It would have come in handy if we had reserved tickets in advance. With that, it was raining off and on the whole time, which means my pictures are kinda drab-looking. However, we did go inside the Accademia de Arte and saw "The David" as well as other cool statues! That was an amazing cultural experience, for sure.

Then, around sunset, we followed what our guidebook told us to do and we went to the lookout point (Via de Michaelangelo???). Even though it was really cloudy, it was a cool climb and had pretty views!

For both lunch and dinner we ate at El Dante Pizzaria. At lunch, Derek spilled water all over the table at lunch. We had the same waiter for dinner, who was very nice and recognized us as the people who spilled water during lunch. During our dinner trip we ate with our roommate named Lincoln from Singapore. Then the three of us went and got gelato before heading back to the hostel to go to bed.

Monday, April 27:

Monday morning Derek and I woke up very early and took the train to Siena from Florence. It was a pretty cloudy day with the occasional rain bursts. When we got to the Siena train station, we didn't know which bus to catch. Also, I was pretty hungry so I decided to get some food from the grocery store in the train station. However, when I took the apple up to the register, they started talking to me in Italian about how I needed a ticket for it. So I told them in English that I just didn't want it anymore. Needless to say, they didn't understand me, and I basically made a fool out of myself. The woman behind the counter went to the other side of the store for me to get a ticket for my apple, holding up the line. I felt so badly.

Anyway, after that we went downstairs and couldn't figure out the bus system because there was no bus map and the timetable was in Italian. After trying to figure out the bus system for about a half hour, we decided just to take a taxi to the hostel.

The hostel was very simple, but fine for just the night. It was kinda far from the city, but I hear it's the only hostel in town with linens. So we took a bus to the city and then started walking around. We ate at a restaurant that some friends of Derek's recommended, which was near the Duomo. Then we went and checked out the Duomo, the Piazza Central, and the big fort near the bus station. Siena is very old, and all of the buildings are an earthy reddish brown color. Also, the city is very historical, because back in medieval times it used to be a huge rival to Florence.

For dinner Derek and I went to a local pizzaria near our hostel that ended up being very delicious. I had learned how to say sausage pizza in Italian by then, so I had the sausage pizza and Derek and I both had the house wine. By the time we were done with our meal, the entire restaurant had totally filled up and there were people waiting out the door. It obviously was a good place to go according to the locals. The only downfall about that night was that after we were done with dinner (around 8:30) there was literally nothing for us to do around our hostel. I tried to go to the combination McDonalds/gas station to get something to read, and even the gas station was closed. I recommend bringing a fun book to read when you're travelling for times like that when there is literally nothing to do.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I am suffering from jet lag. Please be patient with the Italy update. It will come. I am giving you my word.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Greetings From Rome!

Buon Giorno! I'm not sure if I spelled that right. But I hear just saying ciao is pretty informal. I wanted to be fancy.

Anyway, I'm sitting in my hostel right now in Rome typing this blog post. Derek and I have been having a crazy week. I will give a lot of details later, but for now I just wanted to type a brief update.

I am already done with my study abroad program. Last week I had finals. On Friday I had a really busy day because I finished my final paper for the equivalent of IU's Z302, went to City University to turn it in (very long commute), ate Chinese with Haley and Christine, and then I had to pack for home and get all of my stuff together for Italy.

On Saturday morning I woke up really early to take a cab at 6:30am to Paddington Station to leave my giant suitcases at the left luggage drop off. (Hopefully they are doing ok there.) Then I flew Ryanair from Stansted all the way to Pisa. From the Pisa airport I had to take a train into the city, and then another train to Florence. I had a slight freak out because my phone was not letting me call Derek, but he finally called me and we figured out how to meet up.

So far we've been to Florence, Siena, and Rome. Today was our last full day in Rome, and we are waking up early tomorrow to take a train from Rome Termini to Florence SMN stations. Tomorrow night is our last hostel stay, and then we are both flying out of Pisa (I have to take the same complicated route to get back to the airport) at the same time, but I'm going to London and Derek is going to Seville. Crazy planning was involved, but it's been a fun week.

Well, that's my update for now. I will write with fun details later!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Apparently, I am a hayfever sufferer

It is becoming hayfever season here in England, and apparently I am one of those afflicted with the allergy. I've been taking a Boots-brand hayfever pill once a day in the morning, which helps for about the first 12 hours, and then makes it challenging to sleep. I looked at the prevention tips online for hayfever (at if you must know), and prevention is not in my favor. Here they are, accompanied with why I am suffering so much:

1.) In the summer stay inside between 5pm and 7pm, when pollen counts are usually high. Keep windows and doors closed, especially at these times and when sleeping. I am always outside during this time due to commuting. Also, my roommates and I basically have to keep our windows open at all times or else it gets unbearably hot in our room.

2.) Use an air conditioner or filter when possible, at home, work, and in the car, to remove pollen and other allergens from the air. There is no air conditioner or filter in any building that I frequent.

3.) Damp dust and vacuum your home regularly, to minimise the presence of pollen and dust. My roommates and I have discussed how the Palace Court cleaning lady never vacuums our room thoroughly. I also do not have individual access to a vacuum.

4.) Airing bedclothes in direct sunlight is also helpful. I do not have direct sunlight to air my bedclothes.

5.) Be aware of the pollen count (usually broadcast along with the weather), and avoid areas of high pollen concentration, eg long grass, lawn mowings, and trees if allergic to these. If you need to work in these environments consider wearing a mask and goggles. I live next to a giant park called Kensington Gardens.

6.) Avoid unnecessary extra irritants such as smoke and chemical fumes. My sole mode of daily transportation is the polluted underground tube system.

As you can tell, I have all factors against me. Sleeping has become difficult, because now I have nose, eye, and throat problems along with an unfathomably uncomfortable mattress.

I also just got home from taking my only written final exam this week - marketing. We had two hours to choose five out of ten questions that he asked, and form detailed answers. I studied a lot, but I do not know just how detailed he wanted me to be. Out of seven people in the class, I was the last finished, though. Pretty typical of me. It has been very difficult to transition from being graded primarily through multiple choice exams at IU to all essay exams at City/Arcadia.

Now for some fun blog topics that I jotted down as they came to me while I was at Starbucks studying for my marketing exam (it's air conditioned so it was good for my health...that's my defense).

First, customer service at Starbucks is very different here in a negative way. They do not ask for anyone's names, and using a credit card slows down the process instead of speeds it up. No one is accustomed to "swipe cards" here, because the Brits use a pin number like a signature.

Second, if you are a big ziplock baggie and full gallon of milk fan, you should probably not study in Britain. Instead of ziplock baggies, they have baggies that stick together at the top like stickers/post it note glue. It's extremely awkward, and makes it much harder to put food into the bag and seal it perfectly. My best description of my attempts would be if you peeled off a really long piece of scotch tape to use on something very high, and the tape just flaps in the air and sticks to itself instead of staying straight.

Third, the Body Shop is much bigger here than it is in America. You will see a Body Shop in every city in Britain.

Finally, I find it strange that expensive cosmetics are sold in Boots - the equivalent of Walgreens or CVS. For example, the Boots store near me has an large, all-inclusive Lancome counter. There are some Boots stores that have every high-end cosmetics brand inside the store, just like you would see in Macys or Dillards back home. Why do the cosmetic companies place their products in Boots as a distribution outlet? I have yet to find out.

Ok that's it for my thoughts this week. I move out of Palace Court on Saturday, which is starting to get really depressing. I've loved living with all of the people in my program, and I'm going to miss them a lot when I go home. Only three of us who live in Palace Court go to IU, so it will be weird saying goodbye to so many people.

By the way, I think I already mentioned that I'll be in Italy next week before I fly home. I will try to update from internet cafes as best as I can.