Bruin in London

Piccadily Circus at Night— Photo Credit: Cheechee Lin

Four weeks into my study abroad experience via UC EAP at the London School of Economics, I have barely had time to write— London is constantly buzzing with things to do! I can’t even believe that I have midterms next week and finals the week after… this has definitely been one of the most exhilarating experiences thus far in college.

So first off, I’d like to chronicle my experiences in the fantastic city by location, rather than time. More to come later!

 

The London School of Economics

This school is one of the leading institutes in the world for economics and the social sciences. I’ve chosen to take two electives here: MG101 (Marketing) and MG133 (Management). These two courses have offered me a chance to get a glimpse of the theories behind strategic marketing and management tactics in the business world. Each course is structured with daily three hour lectures and one hour seminars (much like discussions at UCLA). I’ve had plenty of opportunities to interact with my classmates from all over the world and grow in the process. The fact that approximately a third of my classmates have real world experience working in major companies has further created opportunities to hear about what the adult life is like! These courses have definitely been intensive but definitely manageable, as I have had plenty of time to explore London in my time off! The school itself has a very different vibe from UCLA as it is not so much a college with a town but rather a big city that has a school planted right in the heart of the city. This has allowed me to fully integrate myself into the life here and experience “the true London”.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace—-Photo Credit: Cheechee Lin

Buckingham Palace is magnificent. It’s located near Victoria Station, only a short bus ride from the school. On our day off, a fellow Bruin and I traveled over to watch the changing of the guards, unfortunately, we picked the wrong spot to stake out and thus only saw the entry and exit of the guards. Yet it was still quite a sight to see as guards dressed in royal red and black outfits marched by and policemen galloped by on magnificent stallions. We also paid a couple of pounds to get an in depth tour of the state rooms, which were displaying the Royal Childhood Exhibition at the time. The splendor of the palace cannot be described… unfortunately we couldn’t take pictures inside the palace so I have attached a photo of the statue outside just to give you all a taste of the grandeur!

Musicals: Wicked and Mamma Mia

London has a vibrant arts culture. Every corner of each major street probably has a ticket stand selling tickets to various musicals in London, which run six to seven days a week. I was fortunate enough to see Wicked and Mamma Mia here! I was quite impressed with Wicked. The vocals were incredibly powerful and the storyline contained all the components of humor, romance, and friendship. It was definitely worth it! The stage itself was also a magnificent work of art: a dragon leered over the top of the stage and large stage props were automated so that they rolled in by themselves during transitions. I liked the twist the story put on the original story of the Wizard of Oz. For those who haven’t seen the musical yet, I definitely encourage you all to try it!

Covent Garden, Piccadily Circus & Oxford Street

Bruins in London!— Photo Credit: Cheechee Lin

These three places are probably London’s premier shopping destinations. Granted, London does have fashionable shops everywhere, but these three attract large crowds on a daily basis! Piccadily Circus even had a “Street Musician Month” where they completely closed off the length of the road from Piccadily to Oxford Circus and invited artists to perform and sing. It was quite a sight!

London Eye, Big Ben

Thames River at night— Photo Credit: Cheechee Lin

Of course my visit to London wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the most popular attractions here! I didn’t get to actually go on the London Eye, but even from afar the ferris wheel was majestic. Big Ben was quite on time. You can hear the chimes at the top of each hour from afar (even from my building!). One night, two other fellow bruins and I decided to climb the bridge looking over the Thames River in the dead of the night and the sight was so beautiful.

Oxford University

A friend and I took a 1.5 hr bus to take a tour of this top institution on a random weekend! Though we didn’t actually get to set foot in many of the colleges, the architecture from outside was still amazing. (Think Royce Hall meets Powell times infinity).

 

Well that’s a quick summary of a couple of the places I’ve been thus far in London! I’m so incredibly grateful to my parents and UCEAP for providing an opportunity for me to study in one of the greatest city in the world. I’m enjoying my time here and am quite sad that I only have two weeks left. London, you have truly taken my breath away with your fantabulous architecture and fast-paced lifestyle and men in suits. Now for midterms and finals…

Shoutouts to any Bruins abroad/ from abroad right now! Let me know where you’re from in the comments below. 🙂

 

Toussaint

Ahhhh, I have just gotten back from a ten-day trip to Paris, London, and Luxembourg. I know I’ve written a little bit about traveling around before, but this was my first big trip outside of France. And it was a blast.

The week break came in the middle of the semester and was for a holiday called “Touissant.” It seems that not all French universities got the full week off, but I guess I got lucky with my school! Lots of students (both Californian and French) decided to take mini-vacations. I went on mine with  a friend who goes to UCLA but who I met here in France, and we had an absolutely marvelous time. I hadn’t been to Paris yet, and going with my friend was great because she lived there in high school so she got to show me around her old stomping grounds. Normally when I go to big cities I end up doing a ton of touristy stuff without ever getting to ~experience~ the city as a local. Not this trip! I felt like I was surrounded by locals the entire time. We went to museums I hadn’t heard of and to neighborhoods that I didn’t know existed (French class at UCLA only tells you so much about Paris). We ate ice cream even though it was in the forties and walked along the city’s prettiest bridges. And I am pretty sure I spent as much time in the Tuileries as I do in the botanical gardens back at UCLA.

Up next was London. I have never been to London before, and this time we didn’t really have an experienced tour guide. We saw a lot of the sights – Big Ben, the classic phonebooths, Buckingham palace (which was less impressive than I thought it would be), and we also got to ride around in the big double-decker buses. We also met up with a girl my friend knew from UCLA, which was too fun. I always get a kick out of meeting Bruins especially if it’s halfway across the world. I ate a lot of yummy food in London (my two favorites – the Indian food and the English breakfast) and had a fab time riding the tube. Leaving was sad, but I know that next semester I will be making a week-long trek out to London. No worries.

Luxembourg was last, and it was absolutely charming. We were only there for one full day, but we took a lovely hike around in the woods and explored the village where we stayed. It only had about 400 inhabitants and the only business in the town (besides the hostel) was a pizzeria where we had to order our food with broken French and hand signals (they speak a lot of different languages in Luxembourg, unfortunately French wasn’t one that our waitress really knew).

It was a great time! And this coming weekend I look forward to heading off to Madrid to see some UCLA friends studying there. Bon voyage.

UCLA Goes to London (Week 2)

Second week in London!  This week began with a trip to Camden, a town known for its thrift shops and food.  It was like going to a giant outdoor market; vendors everywhere trying to sell you so much stuff.  A group of us spent a few hours there and my friend Evan and I broke off to go see… WICKED!  We went to a really low-key ticket seller who sold us seats for £37 each (a little more than $50 each) and they were 2nd row!  Such a great experience!

The next day was a performance day, meaning we had class and then we got dressed up to see a performance of Richard III at the Old Vic Theater.  Before the performance, a large group from the program went to the National Gallery to see some of the amazing portraits they have on display.  It’s strange to stand merely feet away from the paintings you study in school for years but never have the chance to experience first-hand.  After the National Gallery, we headed to the theater for the performance.  Wondering who was starring as Richard III?  Oh, just Kevin Spacey!  It was amazing to see an American actor doing Shakespeare theatre in London.  The production was quite memorable, to say the least.  Luckily the theater was far away, so it gave us another opportunity to wander the London streets, which always turns out to be a great time.

The next day was our last day in London.  It was pretty sad to imagine it, but we had a lot to look forward to.  That day’s class had a guest speaker, Chuck Iwuji, who played Buckingham (one of the main roles in “Richard III”).  He was very insightful, talking about acting all over the world.  Then we went for a picnic lunch in the park; it was a beautiful day to enjoy a good meal with friends.  For dinner, we wanted some really good Indian food that was closer than Brick Lane, so we went to a place called Punjab.  It was excellent!  After dinner, we decided to live up the last night on the town and go to the most amazing place called IceBar.  It was a bar that was a giant freezer, made entirely of ice.  When you entered the bar, you received a large parka to keep warm and gloves to hold your glass.  The gloves were very important because your glass was made out of ice!  It was a great time and we had some really tasty drinks, as well.  The last night was finished with pub hopping all over, reminiscing about our time in this magical city.

And now, on to Stratford-Upon-Avon!  It was a 2-hour bus ride from London through the countryside to reach the home of William Shakespeare.  When we got there, we all settled in to the new hotel and then went for a hike through the English countryside.  That was absolutely beautiful!  We took a bunch of pictures of everyone frolicking in the fields—clearly, city kids in a new environment.  We had a delicious barbeque dinner provided by the hotel and a pool party in the hotel’s pool.  It was a great night.

The Stratford adventure continues in Week 3.  More on Shakespeare and his hometown next time!

UCLA Goes to London (Week 1)

Yesterday, I arrived home from the most amazing trip to England.  I did Travel Study with the English Department and went to London and Stratford-Upon-Avon to study Shakespeare.  This post is one of four where I’ll describe my four-week trip.

Traveling to England was surreal.  It was my first time traveling internationally so it was particularly special.  It was strange to look out the window and see foreign soil.  I remember thinking “This isn’t America anymore.”  I rode the tube to my hotel – the tube is the subway system in London – which I couldn’t find and got lost.  Eventually, I found it, dropped my stuff in my room, and immediately began exploring the city.  Magical would be an understatement to describe the effect London had on me.  I was amazed and astounded at the history all around me, even in the simplest buildings.  In a span of two hours, I saw Trafalgar Square, the London Eye, Big Ben, Parliament, and the River Thames.  I went to dinner with a large group from my program and had a traditional English dinner at a pub and went karaoking right away.  I sang “Man in the Mirror” for the Brits, who went bonkers.  They really like American enthusiasm over there.

The next day, I went to the Great British Beer Festival, an entire convention devoted to different beers and ciders.  It was awesome!  We even met a few Brits who talked with us for a while about British and American culture, traveling, food, sports, and many other topics.  They were great and spent the day with us.  They even took us to Brick Lane, a spot famous for its Indian food.  It was one of the tastiest meals I’ve ever had—it was truly authentic.

My third day included a performance at the Globe Theater, the same theater where Shakespeare’s plays were performed when he was alive.  I saw a performance of “As You Like It,” which was awesome!  After the performance, we wandered a bit and saw Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and Hyde Park: truly beautiful sites to behold.

I even went for a run the next morning, to Hyde Park from my hotel with one of my friends; we got some curious glances from many Londoners who couldn’t fathom why we’d be running anywhere.  I was able to meet up with one of my friends from home by the National Gallery, a museum filled with amazing and well-revered paintings.  After, we went to a pub called Princess Louise, where they had the BEST cider I’d ever tasted!!  Only £2 per pint!

Before I knew it, we were seeing another performance: “Much Ado About Nothing”, which was another great performance.  After the show, a group of us wandered the pubs and clubs of London.  It was quite an experience where we met some of the most “interesting” characters the city had to offer.

This is what I was able to jam into a short 5 days in London.  Look for Week 2 in the next post.  Go London and Go Bruins!!

The Bruins Take London!!

When I talk to prospective students about attending UCLA, one of the primary benefits I speak most to is the opportunities available to students, no matter what their major or distinction.  One of those opportunities is Studying Abroad and Travel Study.  I am lucky enough to be able to take advantage of this great opportunity.  On Thursday (tomorrow!), I will be traveling to London and Stratford-Upon-Avon to study Shakespeare.  As a student, I am thrilled to participate in this program.  As a student of English, I am PUMPED to flex my literary muscles in a historic city that gave influence and direction to the classic literature we have come to know.  LONDON!!  Can you believe it!?

Through the Travel Study program, I will be going to performances of Shakespeare’s plays in theaters such as the Globe Theater where Shakespeare’s plays were originally performed.  I will also have the opportunity to speak to the actors, directors, and producers of the plays in order to gain some perspective about performing these legendary stories.  Our program will also venture to many historic sites like the British Museum, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, etc.  As someone who has never been out of this country, I am nervous/anxious/excited to travel to such an amazing, thriving city (even though it is one of the most expensive cities in this world)!  Given this sheltered American life I’ve lead, my best friend Katherine and I will be taking advantage of a 3-day weekend and travel to Dublin, Ireland AND (given the chance) possibly Scotland.  What more could I ask for?  Not much, that’s what.

Needless to say I am thoroughly excited about this trip; I think anyone would be.  This is a great opportunity I have through the UCLA English Department and I couldn’t be more grateful to them, my parents, and the Bruins.  I’ll be gone the whole month of August (and will be blogging from London!) but I’m sure it won’t be nearly enough time to conquer the city—I’ll just have to make a return trip sometime in the future, I guess.  Anyway, I can’t wait to see what’s in store but I’m sure it will be fantastic.  Thank you Mom, Dad, UCLA, and GO BRUINS!!