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 ūüôā

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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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!

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 ūüôā 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