Next Stop: Paris!

Bonjour Paris!

It took about eight hours to get to Paris. We took the night bus and I don’t think I got any sleep. At one moment, the bus was in a ferry and yet I couldn’t even feel it! I didn’t even think that was possible.

I couldn’t believe I was in Paris as I walked to my first hostel of my long trip. It was the St. Christopher’s Inn and I highly recommend it for anyone traveling to Paris! Unfortunately we were earlier than our check in date, so as a result we got free breakfast from the hostel and a free walking tour of Paris!

Tip #1: Always have back-up plans. You ever know what’s going to happen. 

My friends and I were able to put our luggages in the lockers provided in the hostel before joining the group for the tour.

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The free walking tour of Paris was the best decision! I was only in Paris for one day, so I wanted to be able to see all of the city in such a short amount time. I did not only see these well-known places, like the Notre Dame and Louvre, but I got to learn about its history from my tour guide.

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Tip #2: Find out what your hostel offers and do it! This can be a once and a life time opportunity, so take chances.

When the tour was over, my friends and I ventured to see the Eiffel Tower up close (it wasn’t included in the tour). It was a long walk, but when we got there, it was breathtaking! I couldn’t believe I was actually sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower. Of course, the first time I see the Eiffel Tower, I’m exhausted and my phone dies.

Tip #3: Make sure your phone is charged or you brought a portable charger. (It’s not important because it’s better to have memories than photos, but still!) 

Although I didn’t get to sleep in the hostel (long story due to poor planning), it was great to experience a day in Paris. I always dreamed of visiting the city of love and I’m glad I had the chance to!

Two small highlights of my day in Paris: I got to try a macaroon for the first time and have a crepe in France!

I also met two Australian women that were so kind and one even paid for my friend and I’s train fare when we didn’t have any.

BUTTTTTT guess what?

I returned to Paris when I left Italy! Although I was walking around Paris with my carry-on, I was glad to have the opportunity to see the city once again.

I was able to visit (and take photos) of the Eiffel Tower and the Arch de Triumph. I was able to enjoy the perfect weather and have a moment to appreciate the Eiffel Tower without taking photos with it or of it.

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Although I had fun in Paris, I still have a list of things I still want to do. Hopefully before I return home or later on in life I get the chance to visit such an amazing place again!

First Stop: London

I can’t believe spring break is officially over! I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to visit five countries in the course of three weeks. I’m constantly looking at my photos and my notes to realize that it wasn’t a dream.

There are so many things to cover and tell you guys, so I’m making four posts of my travels 🙂

I started my travels in London, England! London is the closest area to travel to from Wales (only three hours by bus). When I stayed in London, I stood in an Air B&B.  For those who don’t know, an Air B&B is an alternative place to stay other than a hostel. You are able to find a room in an apartment or a house that can provide you with a variety of extra things to make your stay worthwhile such as free breakfast, kitchen access, your own bathroom, and more!

It was just three of us that had the room to ourselves with our own bathroom and breakfast every morning from the host. It was also a great location, only twenty minutes from all the main attractions.

The bus became our main transportation. It was a great way to travel and admire London from the top deck of the double decker.11082650_10205409531214393_3875162331161001711_n

Tip #1: The first thing to remember when you’re traveling through London is to buy an Oyster card. I learned that the harder way when I didn’t have one and it took us longer to get to our place than it should have.

Since our first day in London was spent getting there, we did everything the next day. On our second day in, we spent it doing all the ‘touristy’ things. That included Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Millennium Bridge, St. Paul Cathedral, and King’s Cross. I still can’t believe we got all that done in one day and I think we only use transportation three times!

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Tip #2: It made be hard and overwhelming, but try to plan as much as you can. We tried to do that as much as we can because there’s so much of London, but so little time.

On our third day in London, we saw other parts of London such as Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street, Soho, Shoreditch, and Abbey Road. London really reminded me of New York City. Each area had a different presence, a different way of making me smile.

Two highlights of that day was finding a random picture of Bradley Cooper and getting to see the Cinderella exhibition…for free!

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Our final day in London was filled with saying goodbye to our Air B&B, checking out Hyde Park which featured Princess Diana’s Memorial Fountain and saying goodbye to London overall.

Tip #3: Always ALWAYS double check on plans. Communication is key! I was stuck with my luggage for about two hours because of miscommunication. So always communicate with the people you’re traveling with.

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Although the weather was never in our favor (maybe for a short while), it was still easy to travel in London. There wasn’t an area of London that we didn’t see, whether we were traveling by foot or not. I got so accustomed to traveling, I felt like I was a native in the city.

London was so fun and so rewarding with great friends. It was sad to leave London, but I was excited for the next journey. Hello Paris!

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Ello from London!

Houses of Parliament

Houses of Parliament

London has always been at the top of my list of places to visit (as well as L’Italia). Before me and Joceline arrived at Limerick, we knew that one of the cities we had to visit was the iconic, London. London became the first city outside Limerick that we visited. Being that I am such a HUGE city girl, I absolutely loved it. I’m really glad we went to see

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Big Ben, Houses of Parliament

London first because we were halfway through the semester, and it was just so refreshing to step foot in a city. I love Ireland, don’t get me wrong. But I was starting to get a little city sick, and this trip was definitely needed. We decided to take public transportation throughout the whole entire weekend, especially on the double decker buses. We were able to really see the city in all of its glory on the bus. Not to mention, we were really lucky because we got sit on the top floor, first row with the window view. We visited a lot of popular tourist destinations. We saw the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, day and night. Parliament at night is so gorgeous and the architecture is beautiful. We also climbed the Tower of London, and

Telephone Booth

Telephone Booth

climbed 311 steps of The Monument. We walked the London Bridge, and walked along River Thames. We saw Buckingham Palace, Webminster Cathedral, and Webminster Abbey. We visited Trafalgar Square (which is the center of London). We also made a pit stop at the Kings Cross Metro so that we can catch the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 3/4, and found the Harry Potter filming location of Diagon Alley and the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron. Joceline was also able to go on a bike tour around the city, (I didn’t go because…surprise! I can’t ride a bike) and I went on Europe’s largest Ferris

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

London Bridge

London Bridge

Red Double Decker Bus

Red Double Decker Bus

London Eye, River Thames

London Eye, River Thames

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wheel and saw the most beautiful view of the city. Although I was a little bit disappointed because I was hoping to bump into Adele (she’s my favorite artist and celebrity…and I am OBSESSED) but I didn’t. Which shouldn’t have been surprising because she’s incognito.

London Eye

London Eye

London Eye

London Eye

Inside the London Eye

Inside the London Eye

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tower of London

Tower of London

Tower of London

Tower of London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Monument

The Monument

On top of the Monument

On top of the Monument

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square

 

Platform 9 3/4 was a huge disappointment. It was nothing like the movie (which I understand, movies are different adaptation to the books) but I pictured the platform to

Diagon Alley, Entrance to Leaky Cauldron

Diagon Alley, Entrance to Leaky Cauldron

Platform 9 3/4

Platform 9 3/4

literally be in between platforms 9 and 10. But instead, it was away from all of the railways and trains in that metro station. A really cheap trolley and cheap props were placed against a

random brick wall of the station, between platforms 9 and 10. But instead, it was away from all of the railways and trains in that metro station. A really cheap trolley and cheap props were placed against a random brick wall of the station, with a plastic “Platform 9 3/4” sign hanging over it. Nevertheless, I had to take a picture in front of it anyway (with a Hufflepuff colored scarf because I am a Hufflepuff) because it was one of those bucket list things.

The Script - No Sound Without Silence Tour

The Script – No Sound Without Silence Tour

Speaking of bucket list, I also broke my concert virginity in London. I am proud to say that the very first concert I ever attended was, The Script during their No Sound Without Silence tour. I really wanted to see them in Dublin because they’re an Irish band, but I would have been home during the date they were playing in Dublin. I was worried that we got nosebleed seats but it turned out that we were really close to the stage! The band played a lot of songs from their new album, and a few old hits. The concert was a huge thrill, and the venue (O2 Arena) was huge! There were about 16,000 people there!  The concert ended with “Hall of Fame” from their #3 album, with confetti cannons going off. It was a beautiful sight to see. I left the concert in tears.

The Script - No Sound Without Silence Tour

The Script – No Sound Without Silence Tour

London was amazing and I loved every aspect of it. It’s definitely one of my favorite cities I visited during my time here abroad. Once a city girl, always a city girl.

Spring Break VS. Spring Vacation

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SPRING BREAK BABY!  As I write this post my spring break unfortunately comes to an end.  No, I am not bummed to be back in Milan.  However, who would say no to more time off?

Ano Poli, Thessaloniki with Dyeemah

Ano Poli, Thessaloniki with Dyeemah

I had probably the greatest spring break of my life.  My spring break started in Thessaloniki, Greece.  Now I know what you’re thinking, why Thessaloniki?  Lucky for me I have always wanted to go to Greece, and I have a friend from high school, Dyeemah, living there for the year!  It was pretty much fate that our spring breaks collided and I could visit her and truly see her world.  Greece to say the least is truly breathtaking.  I love Milan, but it is a city through & through.  To be able to spend my time along the Mediterranean, gazing upon the gorgeous skyline was something I made sure not to take for granted.

Dyeemah and I infront of the White Tower in Thessaloniki

Dyeemah and I in front of the White Tower in Thessaloniki

The food in Greece was SO good!  The best meal I had was my first night in Greece, where I tagged along to a dinner with Dyeemah, her students, and her colleagues.  We all ordered multiple dishes, and just kind of split everything.  Everything was so delicious, and authentic I can’t really pick a favorite!  That meal really was unfair because of how high it set the bar so early on in my trip.  But I did eat many, many yummy things while there, including a pork hero.  Street food in Europe is one of my favorite things ever, we need more in the US.  Street food is cheap, yummy, and a total comfort.

Pork Hero = yum yum

Pork Hero = Yum Yum

Greece was very relaxing, and serene.  It was nice for once to go on a trip and not have to plan anything.  I was just able to go with the flow.  Plus I got to use Dyeemah’s dryer for my clothes, so that pretty much made the trip worth it just on that note alone.  I was in Thessaloniki for 6 days before heading off to London.  While I have already been to London before, I needed to go back.  I truly mean need, this was far beyond my wants.  Having not been overwhelmed with excitement from my prior visit to London, I was determined to return in order to visit the Harry Potter studio tour.  During my study abroad adventures I really am trying not to double dip on past trips, London so far being my only exception.  My camp friend, Nina, is spending her semester studying in Copenhagen.  Nina and I are huge HP fans, having once even been to the Quidditch world cup in NYC.  Once we both decided on Europe for our Spring 2015 study abroad destinations, we knew it was fate.  We booked our tickets for the attraction months in advanced because it is popular beyond belief, selling out constantly.

Butterbeer with Nina!

Butterbeer with Nina!

The Harry Potter studio tour was beyond what I could have ever imagined.  However, I must say just in general, London really was the real MVP of spring break.  While our stay in London was brief, it was jam packed.  We did a free walking tour, caught up with another camp friend over dinner, spent the day in Camden (which was perfection), and lastly but most essentially left the muggle world behind for bigger and better things.

Nina & I with our camp friend Nicole

Nina & I with our camp friend Nicole =)

IMG_2604If you have the chance to visit the Harry Potter studio tour in London I really do recommend it.  Being a die hard fan of the books, films, and everything in between, this experience really did provide us with an insight into the intricate details of this world we have learned to love with all of our hearts.  Harry Potter is universal, teaching messages including love, determination, friendship, imagination, and so much more.  Harry Potter was such a big part of my childhood, it had become a ritual for my mother to read the books to me at night.  Seeing the world come to life in front of my own eyes was the cherry on top of my London sundae (or the Cadbury egg McFlurry I had while in London).

Hogwarts!

Hogwarts!

It is safe to assume that after my spring break I will be leaving Italy, in search for my new study abroad destination aka Hogwarts.

Thanks for reading, until next time keep practicing your spells!

This proud Slytherin is off to her next adventure

This proud Slytherin is off to her next adventure

St. David’s Day!

I remember when I was looking through study abroad programs and came upon Wales. It was the first time I’ve heard about the country and I knew that before I headed to the unknown I had to research it. Just from reading on the place, I was excited. Now that I’m here, two months later, I’m glad I made the right decision!

Wales is filled with nice weather, people, and places to see. Cardiff reminds me of a smaller version of New York City. Although there are differences, I feel comfortable and safe here. I have become accustom to my surroundings and cemented daily routines.

Recently, I headed down to the City Center to see their annual St. David’s Day parade, a celebration for the patron saint of Wales. I brought the Wales’ mascot hat (a red dragon) and joined the mixture of Welsh and tourists that came together for the celebration. While I walked through the streets I can see flags, flower pins, and hats everywhere I turned. In that moment,  I felt like part of the community.

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As I continued to walk the streets, I stopped for a moment to capture a duo dancing to music, while street vendors sold Wales merch. The street vendors always come out for special events like this. The only times I see them is during the Rugby matches that I had the pleasure of going to watch a game in one of the pubs for fun.

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I didn’t know what to expect of the parade. I was so use to the ones at home that I just assumed it’ll be the same. But then I realize there were no barricades or security insight. Their parades were a bit smaller and intimate. Overall, it was a fun experience, seeing the people in the parades, the music playing, and the smiles on everyone’s faces around me.

Once the parade was done, there was free access into Cardiff Castle. Cardiff Castle is one of the key places to visit while you’re in Cardiff. I haven’t went inside before, so I was happy to had a chance to. Once I was inside, my jaw dropped at how beautiful it was. I felt like I was in a whole new place as I looked around at the many people crowding around the grass. Although many things were restricted (just an excuse to come back) I managed to go up to a part of the castle and look down at the sight. For a moment, I felt like I was in an episode of Game of Thrones.

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It was a great to celebrate Wales! Events like this makes me appreciate picking such an interesting, historical and exciting place to study abroad. I can’t wait to plan travels to explore outside of Cardiff and love Wale even more!

Academic Adjustment: Cardiff Style

I can’t believe I’m in my 8th week of classes! I only have three more weeks left until my classes are officially over and finals kick in. I remember how intimated I was on the first day. I didn’t know what to expect because I was so accustomed to classes in SUNY New Paltz.

In the beginning of the semester, I can already tell the difference between SUNY New Paltz and Cardiff University. I was only taking three classes (each count as 20 credits), Tuesdays became my off days, and the earliest class for me was 9 a.m. It’s also tough getting to classes each day, especially on Fridays. I’m so use to all the academic buildings being so close to each other that when I came here, I was in for a total workout!

It was beneficial to take courses that will count towards both my major and minor. So I decided to take two English courses called Graphic Memoir and Reading Old English. I’m also taking a Journalism course called The Making & Shaping of the News.

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This where I have Reading Old English. I’m always the first one in the classroom :p

I decided to take Reading Old English, knowing it was a challenge. I like to say it’s the most challenging class I’ve ever taken in my three years of college. I’m basically learning a whole new language that I didn’t know existed. The first time I saw the text, I already had a feeling that this wasn’t going to be an easy A.

I felt at ease knowing the people around me didn’t have a clue on  how to translate Old English. Without the guidance of my professor and the glossary provided in our textbooks, I would be lost. Thankfully I’ve been doing the coursework and taking my time to understand for the upcoming exam.

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Long hours translating Old English!

 

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Bute Building – This is where my journalism class is held.

When it came to The Making & Shaping of the News, I was learning about UK news, something I’ve never learned before. I was learning concepts that some students were use to since their freshmen year of university. It’s also cringe worthy to watch examples of ‘bad news’ coming from America. It doesn’t help that the professor looks my way every time America is even mentioned.

But overall it’s interesting to learn about UK news and the background information I wasn’t aware of with news in general. Although this class wasn’t my first choice, I’m glad I had a chance to take it.

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Tons of reading for class!

By the end of my week, I have Graphic Memoir. I wasn’t expecting to analyze graphic memoirs! All this time, I viewed them as comic books, but there’s so much more to these work of arts. It feels similar to the English classes in SUNY New Paltz when it came to analyzing literature. However, in this case, we’re taking a closer look on concepts we learn each week on books like Maus and Fun Home.

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This where I take my English classes!

Out of all my classes though, it’s weird to have Graphic Memoir on the same day at three different times. It’s different from SUNY New Paltz because Cardiff University breaks up their week by lectures and seminars. My lectures are in medium-size lecture halls, where we are taught in great detail the topic of the week. But, the seminars are small and intimate. Just like SUNY New Paltz, all three of my professors know who I am and it gives me a chance to interact with other students during the seminar time.

Overall, my classes have been great! It’s been informative, interesting, and overall fun! Although it’s weird being the foreigner in most of my classes, it’s great to interact with people from around the world.

Now final essays and exams are another thing…

Adjusting My (Budgeting) Life

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Roath Park

I can’t believe it’s been over a month and a half! I’ve been settling in Wales nicely with juggling personal responsibilities, academics, and a social life.  Although I feel like time is moving fast, my life has been at a steady pace. It took a while to adjust to the calm atmosphere that Wales brings me.

I always considered myself an independent person. However, I realized I wasn’t as independent as I thought. It was a new challenge for me to start budgeting my life when it came to food, travels, and social events.

Although it’s fun to spend money on traveling and social events, it’s also important to budget money for eating. When I first came to Wales, I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know how I was going to use my money wisely. How was I going to eat and have fun at the same time? I realized I relied so much on a meal plan, that I forgot how to step out of it.

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First real cooked meal at Wales!

 

By the next week, I was getting better at budgeting. I began writing my expenses down and focusing on what’s important. I only cashed out money once (even twice) a month. I used the cash when I really needed it or my purchases were less than twenty pounds.

When it came to food shopping, I began comparing prices. There are three (sometimes four) supermarkets I look into. By comparing prices of the items I buy, I’m cutting cost and getting an abundance of items that can hold me for a month or two. Before coming to Wales, I was afraid I wasn’t going to find anything I like. But that fear slowly faded with the variety of choices I was familiar with when I walk the aisle of the supermarkets. Oh poptarts, how I missed you!

With a focus on what I’m buying and how much I’m spending, I have enough money left over for fun stuff like trips, social events with friends, and delicious traditional Welsh food!

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Traditional Welsh Breakfast

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Welsh Rarebit & Earl Grey Tea

 

I always relied on the advice of my mother or on SUNY New Paltz for so many of things. It’s weird not being able to pick up the phone and call my mother (with the rates for international calling and the five hours difference it’s difficult). It’s also weird that my student id is nothing more than just identification. I never use my id except to let people know I go to Cardiff University or discounts at stores (there’s 20% discount at Krispy Kreme’s!).

From meals to printing, budgeting has become a major adjustment to my life.

 

My First Month At Wales!

I can’t believe I’m studying abroad in Cardiff, Wales! I’ve been wanting to do this since I was little. I always wanted to travel to Europe and my dreams finally came true.

Now that I’m settled in. I thought I give you a recap of what’s been having in the past month.

I traveled six hours from New York (with Amsterdam being a layover) to Wales. I got about four meals, two hours of sleep, and one movie in (How To Train Your Dragon 2 anyone?). Sadly, I didn’t get to explore Amsterdam, but hopefully I’ll get the chance to later on. However, at one point, I was more excited to drop off my heavy luggage, shower, and sleep than anything.

It’s weird being known as an exchange student. I’m always use to people coming to America and now I’m the foreigner. For the first week there was so many things to learn and see. I felt like a freshman all over again. I got a City Centre tour (small version of Time Square) and of campus (3x bigger than SUNY New Paltz). The real challenge for me was to learn how to go from campus or the City Centre to my flat. It took about three days to get it right. The first time it took about two hours in the pouring rain with a ripped up map.

My first month of classes went well. The courses I take are Reading Old English, Graphic Memoir, and The Making & Shaping of the News. So far, they’re interesting and small enough that my professors already know my name.

Overall,I’ve been enjoying my time at Cardiff!  I also made friends from different countries 🙂 I explored the area near my flat and found a lot of food places from around the world. There are also places to visit like Cardiff Bay (It was beautiful!), Roath Park, and the National Museum of Cardiff.

I still keep thinking that this is a dream and that I’m going to wake up any minute now. I can’t believe I’m here

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

There is so much to see in London that I don’t think it can be done in 2 weeks. The city is alive with color and lights, the quiet bustling of thousands of occupations. It’s tall and wide and mixed with a diversity of buildings that are older than our country is.

I remember starting to sob when I saw the Globe Theatre for the first time in my life. I just felt overwhelmed and overjoyed, like it couldn’t be real. It was there and standing tall and beautiful. Even though I knew it was a replication theatre, it was just amazing to me.

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On top of all that, I saw 9 incredible new and amazing pieces of theatre for the same price as one broadway ticket (crazy, right?!)

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The biggest “tourist attraction” for me(besides the globe, that was just a life altering experience) was definitely the Tower of London. So much rich (get it? Crown Jewels?) history in every stone of tit’s foundation. It was absolutely incredible.

I remember walking through London on my own and realizing how beautiful it is. How old the city is and how it touched my very core. Everything gave me the chills, had me bouncing in excitement, or crying from sheer excitement. And now I am home, looking back on this brief moment of time where I lived in the most amazing city in the world… and know that I have to live there someday. So good bye for now, London. I’ll be back.

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Back in the USA

The departure was quite sad, but I was ready to head back home. Packed up my mini London life, stuffed it in a suitcase, and finished off my trip with a delicious croissant sandwich. The flight back seemed much longer than the flight there, probably because I stayed awake most of the time. I watched 3 movies, ate a lot of food, and suffered through the turbulance, but overall it was a good flight. Going through customs was fine, but I don’t think I will ever get tired of the feeling I experience when I realize that I am home (by home- I mean America). I always feel this sense of relief and comfort when I get back to the U.S.

It’s been a little over a week since I have been back in New York. I have to say that transitioning from living in London and returning to school 2 days later was a bit tough. No time to relax, and not enough time to prepare, but school started anyway. The cold, ice, and the snow is a bit rude too. Don’t get me wrong, I love snow, but it was so much warmer in London where everything wasn’t covered in a sheet of ice. Today and tomorrow…. more is coming.

So I believe that this concludes it. London has come and gone, and now a new chapter begins. Second semester of grad school here I come!