It’s London!

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I arrived at London on January 3.

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I was glad that I could come to London safely just as planned. It was a long trip for about 6 hours (but shorter than NY to Japan). We arrived in the morning. After checking in our flat, we walked to ATM to get cash. It was the first time to see European money. It’s so cute! I tried to stay up not to be beaten by the jet lug, but the jet lug won. I was so tired and fell asleep for a few hours. After taking a nap, my roommates and I walked to the grocery shop to get some food. I heard British food is not delicious, so I prepared myself. I gave a sigh of relief because the shop was similar to one in the US. I planned to eat as many British food as possible, so I only bought small amount of food in case of getting hungry at night and before class.

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I was so impressed by the landscape of London when I first saw the town because buildings were unbelievably pretty. I couldn’t count how many times I said “Oh my god, it’s so cute.” Everything was decorative yet stylish. I especially love traditional brick apartments. A red London bus has two levels and runs around the city. It is one of the symbols of London. I bought the Oyster card without a bus potion so the main transportation is a train, but I would take the bus at least once before going back to the US.

My stay in London is just getting started. I will visit as many places as I can, and eat as many British food as possible!

Thank you for reading!

Soon to be London Bound

Hello all my name is Marissa Heuser. I am currently a sophomore at SUNY New Paltz. I’m in the honors program here.   I adore New Paltz and pretty much everything about it. I am going to be studying abroad at Kingston University in London, England. I leave the USA on January 4th which is so soon!! I am going for the whole Spring semester and to be honest I’m kind of scared. In a, I’ve never been this far from my family/friends for this long, kind of way. I am a real homebody, I chose my school because it was 2.5 hours away from my home. My parents are my closest confidants and my sister is my best friend. It’s going to be a challenge learning how to survive without them. I also have two Labradors, Chloe a female black lab who is 11 and Kingsley a little yellow male who is almost 2. They are my little loves and I’m going miss them so much.
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My friends are just as fantastic. I have two of the most amazing roommates anyone could hope for. Jess and Christina have become my best friends at college and my life line(s). They are supportive, kind, brilliant and hysterical.

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It is going to be so weird not living with them next semester. I have plans to video chat with them all the time because I don’t know if I can handle life any other way 😝.

My friends back home are weird and crazy but they are the best people you’ll ever meet. They will talk your ear off about video games but they will never let you down. They are loyal and goofy and basically just the weirdest pack of misfits you will ever meet. We have stuck together through everything and I know that even through they are far away, we are never truly apart.
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But enough with the sappy, I’m going to miss my family/friends so much, stuff!
I am packing for England! I decided to start packing about 6/7 days before I leave. A bit of advice, NEVER START PACKING A WEEK BEFORE A 5 MONTH TRIP!! It’s stressful because it is close to the departure date so you are freaking out but just far enough away to let you be paranoid. I have spent about 2 full days contemplating bringing another pair of socks. Its….not healthy. I am locking up those suitcases and putting them in a different room because I can’t stop staring at them wondering what I missed.
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They are both MAXED OUT.
I will make my second post on the day I leave! I was really lucky to make a friend who is also going to Kingston. We even got seats next to each other on the plane! I am so nervous and excited and I can’t believe that I am going to London!!!

 

I guess that’s all for now!

Till next time,

Marissa

London is almost there!

Hello. I’m Emi Takeyama, a junior international student from Japan. My major is Graphic Design and I will join the London Art Seminar during this winter. The trip is only for two weeks, from January 2 through January 17.

During the seminar, we will visit famous and important places of art and history such as Tate Modern, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, Kew Gardens, and Saatchi Gallery. We will also join some tours and watch a theatre show.

Of course watching art works is the biggest purpose of this class, but experiencing its culture is another very important purpose. This is the first time for me to travel Europe, so everything I see, listen, eat, smell, and feel is new in London. I already experienced studying abroad in the U.S. as Japanese, so this is a good time to compare how I feel in England and the U.S. as an international student.

In London, I will sketch landscapes in my cute travel sketchbook and take a lot of photos to remember the trip. Also I want to use those photos as materials of my art works in the future.

I will try traditional British food such as fish and chips, English breakfast, Yorkshire pudding (I heard they are delicious), Stargazy Pie, and Haggis (I heard they are awful…).

Overall, I am very excited to go to London! I will continue to post my recent conditions on this blog. Thank you for reading!

1. Getting ready for my date with London!

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It’s 3 days and 7 hours before the departure, and I’ve just started my second 8 hour train ride this week. The holiday season has consisted of visiting all of my relatives and all of my boyfriend’s, making this month and the next couple weeks the most I’ve ever traveled in my life. I’m overjoyed by it all, but I have to admit I’m also anxious. It’s a mix of never taking a flight this long (it’ll be about 8 hours), never leaving the country except my short vacation in the Bahamas when I was 6, and being so insanely busy the past 2 weeks that I’ll only have one day to get everything together and actually pack. Adding on to that, the day after I come back from London the spring semester auditions for the theatre department are happening. l’m thinking about all the wonderful things I want to do in London, but I also have the looming audition anxiety, and I haven’t even found all of my material yet. So it’s a lot to think about.

Connie had us do pre-departure assignments that gave us a chance to explore the city of London online a little bit before our feet hit the ground running. I’m so used to the grid system of NYC that it’s still kind of confusing to see how the city of London is laid out, but the tube is starting to make more sense, and I’ve been told by many people how much easier it is than dealing with the subway here. It looks like Bloomsbury, where we’re staying, is an excellent location, right near the theaters and lots of fun pubs and restaurants.

This all seemed so far away…and now I’m rushing to get everything together and I’m brimming with excitement. I’ve looked at our schedule for the next 2 weeks, and it’s jam-packed with so many awesome things. I’m particularly excited to see Macbeth at the Young Vic, the Kinks musical Sunny Afternoon, and visit the Globe. I’m looking forward to meeting all kinds of interesting people, seeing great theatre, eating delicious food, trying different beers and cocktails, and having loads of unique experiences. Bring it on!

Back In New York

How was it over a month ago that I sat in my room writing my “prepping for London” blog post?  How has a month gone by and how have I found myself writing the  “coming down from the emotional high that was one of the best experiences of my life” blog post?

 

In all sincerity, I am very happy to be home; to see my family, my friends, and my bed (sleeping being the second thing I did, only after having pizza, of course!)  I have now been home for five days, the first four of which were pretty hard on my body.  Jet lag (especially after a 14-hour layover in Norway) hit me pretty hard and left me with a migraine and irregular sleep schedule that I am just now coming out of.    Now that I’m not waking up at 4:00 in the morning and have seen the majority of my family and friends, it almost feels as if no time has passed at all.  It was pretty comforting to come home and see that though life went on whilst I was gone for a month, everything stayed relatively the same.  I suppose I am ready to settle back into the life I had prior to leaving, one that consisted primarily of school work and my part-time job, but now I’m grateful to say my mind has beautiful places including Scotland, France, and England to wander to.

Pit Stop in Wales

After the euphoric month I spent in Prague, I am lucky enough to have been welcomed back to Wales for a visit before returning to New York. I am staying with one of my best friends, Annie, who was my flatmate in Uni Hall when I studied at Cardiff University. This is my second time meeting up with her since studying in Cardiff, but my first time coming to her home in Wrexham.

Not only was the cool, rainy weather comforting after an extremely hot summer in Prague, but Annie’s parents and house are even more comforting. They’ve made me feel so welcome that I’ve talked of being adopted into the family.

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Annie took me on a tour to Chester, England on Sunday and then we had a study session when we returned. We went to ride her horse on Monday before a cheeky night out for old time’s sake. Tuesday was recovery day and I continued to work on my essays. Wednesday we met up with another flatmate from Cardiff, Kym, in Chester. They took me to Afflecks, and indoor indie commerce shop with a variety of different shops. It was basically the whole village of New Paltz in one building: tapestries, records, henna… very hipster and I loved it. Unfortunately, my budget was super tight at this point and I had major baggage restrictions so I had to resort to window shopping, but it was wonderful. We eventually went to the Manchester Art Gallery which was free and HUGE. I love art, and it almost made me feel like it was another day in Prague.

All in all, it was so great to spend time with my friends that I made during my first study abroad experience. I remember being miserable when I had to leave Cardiff, not knowing when I’d see all my Welsh and English friends next… 1 and a half years later, I’ve been back to Europe two more times and some of them have even came to visit me in New York.

Traveling is really the most beautiful, indescribable, surreal thing I’ve ever done; I don’t ever plan to stop.

#tbt: Amsterdam

I can’t believe it’s been a month since I visited Amsterdam. It was my last trip until I headed home to New York. I’ve always wanted to visit Amsterdam. I remember my aunt going all the time and bringing me back souvenirs. It was great to finally have the opportunity to see it for myself.

In order to explore Amsterdam we used transportation and walking. However, we soon realize that walking was the best way to get around. I realize the bus pass we got for the four days we were there was not worth it. Lesson learned!

Tip #1: Research! If you don’t need transportation, don’t be pressure to buy a weekly pass or etc. 

Also it’s very important to pay attention. Not only are you look both ways for cars, but bikes make up most of the transportation around Amsterdam. I had to constantly look back and forth just in case.

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The highlight of my trip was visiting the Anne Frank House. I’ve heard about this place for such a long time. I grew up learning about Anne Frank and the holocaust that I had to check it out. The whole time I couldn’t believe I was there and learning about new things I didn’t know. I left that place feeling inspired and grateful for the life that I live.

I also learned that you have to be patience because you have to wait about two hours to get inside. That didn’t stop me from wanting to see the museum. I’ve waited for concerts longer than that!

Tip #2: Be patience and arrive to places early. 

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Another highlight was visiting the Van Gogh Museum. Gogh was another person I grew up learning about. It was great to be surrounded by his art and other artists that were inspired by him or that he was inspired by. It was great to see his famous work and learning more about his life.

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It was also the beautiful scenery that Amsterdam has to offer. There was beautiful canals, flowers, and weather all around me. It was a great time to go to Amsterdam. Although I didn’t get to go on a canal, I was able to experience riding a bike around Amsterdam. It was very nerve wracking at first, but then I got the hang of it. I would definitely ride a bike again in Amsterdam if I have the chance.

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I got visit the famous I Amsterdam. I watched people climb the letters with so much ease and I wish I had the strength. Maybe next time!

I miss all the travel places I got to visit. I can’t wait to experience it again one day.

Back To Reality

It’s been exactly ten days since I left Wales. It felt like just yesterday that I was walking the streets of the lovely country and creating a life there. I remember the people, the food, and the place I called home. There are small moments when I think back to the six months I spent abroad. Sometimes it feels like a dream and I just woke up from it. I still can’t believe I got the opportunity to travel and study in UK.

I think over the past six months I developed a greater appreciate for the world and where I live. I started taking a closer look of my surroundings and feel grateful to live in one of the greatest cities in the world. Since I was away for six months, I feel like a foreigner. I have to start falling into the familiar patterns and rediscover my city.

Two days after returning, I went to Manhattan and I couldn’t hide the smile from my face. It was great to be back and call home, home once again. One thing that I started paying more attention is the tourists. I have a better understanding of what goes through their minds when visiting a new place for the first time. Now, I have patience when it comes to being surrounded by tourists because I was a tourist for six months.

I wouldn’t mind being a tourist in my own city. There are still so many things I haven’t seen and I lived here all my life! I still have places in Europe that I want to visit in the future or even return to places like Wales once again. With studying abroad, it made my love for traveling increase. I want to travel the world and grow my appreciation for the world even more.

Aside from seeing the differences between UK and US, I think I’ve become a better person and student. I have learned to take on new responsibilities and skills. I’m on my last year in SUNY New Paltz and I’m ready to take on the upcoming tasks with the new skills I learned. Studying abroad helped my growth and helped in redefining my goals I set in the beginning of the year.

I love that I had the chance to study abroad. It gives me the chance to talk about my experiences and hope that my brother would want to study abroad one day. I can also offer tips to my cousin, who will be studying abroad in two years. I think everyone should have the chance to study abroad and discover the world we live in.

Layover in London

I arrived in London on the evening of June 17th. This having been my third time in flying into Heathrow International, the return was comfortingly familiar. I exhaled joy when I made it through the border and consciously strolled to the Underground, emphasis on strolled, because I was ready for the change of pace that Europe always offers. I got on the Piccadilly Line toward Borough, my final destination, and smiled when I heard the British operator announce, “This is the Piccadilly Line toward Cockfosters, please mind the gap.” The chuckle of a clear novice London traveler made me reflect back on my first time catching the Underground from the airport just 6 months earlier. “I remember when I had my first beer,” I smirked.

I arrived at Borough station and walked nostalgically toward Shrabani’s flat. Shrabani is my amazing friend who I would be spending the week with. I studied abroad with her in Cardiff, Wales just to be captivated by her kindness, generosity, work ethic, and her positive outlook on life. Cardiff was actually her second time studying abroad, so she helped me a lot in my transition being a pro traveler at the time.

Anyhow, I was scheduled to be spending this week before Prague with this phenomenal woman, and she was nothing short of a wonderful host and supporting friend: she cooked me amazing meals, showed me many tourist sights which I had not seen on prior visits to London, introduced me to her friends and favorite clubs, had heart to hearts with me and gave great advice, encouraged me to follow my dreams and gave me ideas aiding my future goals, while simultaneously working on her dissertation for her Master’s Degree at the London School of Economics and applying for jobs. If that doesn’t prove how exceptionally multifaceted she is, I will send you her resume (which I asked to read).

Aside from spending time with Bani, who was also a Peer Counselor for the Center for International Programs (CIP) and is featured on the CIP website, some of the highlights of my trip were the sights.

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First, was the Tower Bridge, which I had always called the London Bridge, but it turns out the London Bridge is just a plain Bridge right next to the infamous Tower Bridge and is really only good for giving a great view of the Tower Bridge, the real star. This was great information to learn since I had known it as the London Bridge all my life (as do most people). It was breath taking, really. The lights, the architecture, the history… it was magical. Bani and I arrived around sunset as well, thus adding to my enamor. We walked across, back, found a loo, then sat on lawn with a side view of the bridge and enjoyed some ciders and the view. We watched people pass and made up possible stories for who they were, where they were going. The London rain and chill was the only reason to ever leave.

Next, was a double whammy! The Leake Street Tunnel and the London Eye… like what!? Okay, so the Leake Street Tunnel  was something a New Paltz professor had mentioned at the Take Back the Night event on campus this past May. She had mentioned graffiti art and how feminist activists often tag there, but I was sold at graffiti art in a tunnel. I told Shrabani I wanted to go and she made it happen. It was so awesome! So diverse, creative, and raw were most of the works. And what was even cooler was that I saw three artists in progress. Next time I make a trip to London, I might tag something on the wall too, even if only a poem.

So after 30 minutes of walking through this tunnel and taking pictures, being inspired, we walked a bit, turned two corners and BAM: The London Freaking Eye! “Holy cow, OMG, WTF” and all the other cliché American phrases was all I thought as my chin dragged across the ground. I don’t know if it was the sudden, unexpectedness of it or its utter beauty, but I was floored. Wow! I had seen it when flying into London just like the Tower Bridge, but geez I didn’t think seeing it up close would be so profound.

View of the London Eye from where Bani and I sat.

View of the London Eye from where Bani and I sat.

Bani and I set up shop in the Southbank Center right next to the Eye, which was also hosting a university graduation. She transcribed interviews while I read The Color Purple; it was perfect. We eventually took lunch outside where we found a bench with an epic view of the Eye, thus we continued our work outdoors.

Another highlight was all of the food experiences, whether prepared by Shrabani or at a restaurant. Also, this cool restaurant and nightclub Bar Salsa which offered both Bachata and Salsa lessons. Studying and reading was another highlight of the week. Bani is an exceptional study partner and motivator. Ugh, it was amazing; a great layover before my trip to Prague.

Goodbye Cardiff!

In less than 24 hours, I will be returning to New York. I can’t believe that I will no longer be studying abroad in Cardiff University. For the past six months, I’ve been independent and experiencing a world I read in books and seen in movies.

I’ve made a life in Wales and I grew so much as a person. I have learned new skills and adjusted to being on my own. I have seen the differences in cultures and taught people about the how New York really is.

I never thought that a Puerto Rican from the Bronx will ever get the chance to travel the world. I never thought that I would get the opportunities to create memories that I will talk about for the rest of my life.

I’m excited and nervous to head back to the states. When I come back home, I have to remember that there’s no more Tesco and that I have to rely on transportation. I have to remember I can’t just hop on a bus to London or plan trips to Ireland or Rome when I feel like it.

But I’m excited that I will be reunited with my family after all this time. I’ve been away from my family before, but not to this extend. This was an experience for the both of us. I can’t wait to thank them for giving me the chance to study abroad. I can’t wait to tell them all about my trips and give them the gifts from all the countries I visited.

I can’t wait to provide my parents with the support they’ve given me. I want to be able to cook for them, clean for them, and provide just as much as they provided for me.

I know once I return, I need to start looking into jobs, internships, and start preparing for my last year of college. Vacation is finally over! :p

I’m sad to be leaving Cardiff, but I have a feeling it won’t be the last time I visit. One day!