Tagged: Lauren Dezenski

Lauren in London: Passport to Paris

By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
@LaurenDezenski

The famous leopard coat, accompanied by French wine and French onion soup. Très bon!/PHOTO VIA Lauren Dezenski

Paris, the first leg of our most recent and last trip abroad, was one for the books. Rima and I spent five days in the City of Light (by far our longest stay anywhere other than London) and did our best to transform into the French ladies that lie within.

Pro tip: for you kids studying abroad in an EU country, you can get free admission into basically every museum in Paris, along with some hefty student discounts pretty much everywhere else. This turned out to be particularly helpful when we had 45 minutes before the Louvre closed–you feel so much less guilt when you just go to take a couple selfies with Mona Lisa and then spend most of your time taking pictures with the pyramid outside. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything…

Speaking of spending time outside of the Louvre, this goes out to all the illegal street vendors who harassed us there and at the Eiffel Tour. Rima figured out how to say “what you’re doing is illegal” in French, which then just made them awkwardly mock her.

I did the best I could behind my significant language barrier and proved to be no help when Rima was called Lady Gaga not once but twice by two different people. I think her leopard print coat definitely had something to do with it. Très, très bon.

I still can’t decide which night was better: our last night in Paris or that one night in Geneva.

The last night in Paris, we met up with some friends on the BU program who were also in Paris and ended up in this tiny fondue place in Montmartre that serves wine in baby bottles.

It sounds weirder than it actually was, though that was certainly helped by the hour spent beforehand at the neighboring bar that had glasses of wine for €3.

There were also issues with some sort of reservation, but Rima was the French knight in knitted leopard print, arguing with the restaurant owner. So, we not only got seated, but got free drinks and enough charcuterie to make your head spin. I somehow managed to spill wine on myself despite the baby bottle situation (I did take off the top because it was still weird), but the drinks, company, and cheese were top-notch.

Then there was our one night in Geneva. We stayed with my aunt who lives there and who took us to this big Christmas party that was being held in some swanky hotel. Apparently last year’s fête had been a blast, so we put our best dresses on and cabbed it over. The performer for this year’s party was a Lady Gaga impersonator, but it was awkward because she actually just looked like my friend Emily wearing a kimono, sunglasses and red lipstick. Go figure.

The people watching was also top-notch. There’s a sizable ex-pat population in Geneva, many of whom are from Eastern Europe and really go all-out with their feathers, sequins, skin-tight dresses and gold lamé. Good stuff.

So folks, this is the end. There’s still five days left of my abroad experience, but most of it will be spent packing, “studying” and crying into the nearest pint of cider.

It’s hard to explain what exactly I’ll be crying about. Sure, London is awesome, but it’s been far from my favorite city that I’ve visited this semester. The first half of the abroad program sucked, for the record, and it took a long time to get over my initial culture shock and subsequent FOMO.

I think the thing I’ll miss most about my abroad experience will be the opportunity to travel. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit eight different countries (not counting layovers) and have some truly incredible experiences. Though I have to say I never did get to ride on the back of a Parisian boy’s motorcycle through the streets of Paris a la Lauren Conrad on “The Hills.”

Lauren in London: The Delights of Prague

By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
@LaurenDezenski

Standing by the illuminated buildings right off the Charles Bridge./PHOTO VIA Lauren Dezenski

I’d just like to give a shout out to the guy in the seat behind me snoring like his life depends on it. His olfactorial noises are truly a delight.

Other delights I’ve experienced this weekend: the beautiful city of Prague. My friend Rima and I went for roughly 36 hours because a baby’s gotta do what a baby’s gotta do and these babies had a small amount of time to see Prague but gosh darn it we were going to see it. All of this was shocking to the especially chatty man at the Swiss Air Heathrow check-in desk. “What do you mean you’re only going for a day?”

Continuing with the things that made this weekend delightful: not flying Ryanair. Though I did read somewhere that now Ryanair is allowing two pieces of carry-on luggage which is amazing.

The flight attendant also just spoke to me in German which is a wonderful feeling because this usually means I don’t look like an American. Personal victories!

When our Swiss Air flight landed in Prague, the lady sitting behind me started clapping like they do on Ryanair flights but there was nothing novel about her clapping since I wasn’t expecting to die on this flight like I have every time I’ve flown Ryanair.

Just kidding.

Anyway, Prague was exceptional. In a weird way, it was everything I expected to see somewhere like Rome–beautiful cobblestone streets, colorful and ornate buildings, all chock full of historical significance. Prague was all of that with only a fraction of the touristy nonsense that you’d get in Rome. Of course there’s vendors all over the place selling the same 15 prints of watercolor paintings, but you’re not nearly as worried about pickpockets.

We decided to visit Prague this weekend to see the famous Christmas markets and they did not disappoint. We knew of two markets but only found one, which was fine because after a while markets can all blend together. The market was in the same square as the astronomical clock that happens to be freakishly old.

No one told us that the clock was located at essentially eye-level, so we were wandering around the perimeter of the square, looking up at all the buildings and this big clock tower, thinking that we misread the map or something. That was also partially influenced by the large quantity of hot wine and mead we consumed at the market, though we did our best to off-set it with langos, fresh potato chips, sausage, and lots of pastries.

One thing we never did figure out was where Prague Castle is located. Apparently our hotel was right at the steps of the castle, but we just never found it. We don’t really know how that happened. But it was still awesome.

Additional shout out to Europe’s apparent obsession with funiculars. Prague is now the third city I’ve visited this semester to have one of those rail cars that slide up and down a steep hill with what I imagine to be an epic lever and pulley system. I’ve taken to calling them “up machines.”

The Prague up machine didn’t disappoint and was our last stop before heading to the airport. This one took us up to this 60 meters tall replica of the Eiffel Tower. No joke. It’s hilarious. It’s visible from all over the city and the views from the top are absolutely breathtaking. I highly recommend it.

I suppose the replica Eiffel Tower visit is the best way to prepare Rima and I for our next trip. We’ve got 36 hours in London before our next destination: Paris.

Lauren in London: Countdown to Home

By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
@LaurenDezenski

St. Paul’s Cathedral was never very far./PHOTO VIA Lauren Dezenski

I’ll be home in less than a month.

Just as this city has started to really get in under my skin in the best ways, it’s going to be over. It’s made even worse by the realization that I’ve only got one weekend left in London.

I suppose it’s for the best that I’m falling in love with the city as I prepare to leave it.

This all just feels like I’ve had two pints of cider at the pub and upon standing I realize I’m a little more drunk than anticipated…but not too far gone for another pint.

One of my favorite buildings in all of London is St. Paul’s Cathedral. Look back on most of my Instagrams of any sort of London skyline, if it’s not featuring Big Ben or the London Eye (or some combination of me trying to break into a palace or join the Royal Family). St. Paul’s Cathedral is there, sometimes in the foreground, sometimes in the background, sometimes featured in a glass of wine.

I’ve never actually been inside of St.Paul’s, mind you. It’s on my (dwindling) list of places to go, and my friend convinced me to wait to go until next weekend. Ending my London tourist-ings on a high note, right?

It’s hard to explain my infatuation with this building. William and Kate weren’t even married there (though William’s mother and father were). In a city filled to the brim with old buildings, it’s one of the most noteworthy, sure, but there’s just something about the way it rises above most of the other buildings in that majestic way tall things are tall. It’s a crude description but bear with me.

Whether I’m 50 feet or 5,000 meters away, something about that white dome just catches my eye and holds my attention. A friend and I walked around the cathedral on Saturday evening and I couldn’t help but just stare skyward at the beautifully carved exterior, marveling.

Something about St. Paul’s makes me feel centered. I’m by no means a religious person, but the curve of the dome and the beauty that was wrought by Christopher Wren just makes things feel right.

I feel small, but not in a bad way. You get close to the building and look up, until you remember to look where you’re going because another tourist almost bumped into you. You remember your feet are still on the ground and you’ve got another place to go.

Maybe it’s strange to have a semi-religious experience thanks to a building’s exterior architecture and maybe I’m just mostly typing nonsense, but I think it all goes hand in hand with my time in London.

No matter what, I’ll always look toward London. It’ll have a place in my heart, for better or for worse, and now I’ll understand a little better what this city actually is.

Just like getting close to the cathedral, I’ve felt small in London. I’ve felt really small. Never before have I felt so outside my comfort zone in so many situations—but it’s also a beautiful reminder of what life brings.

In no way shape or form should I remain in my comfort zone at all times, and I think I best grow when put outside of my native environment.

I think because of all of this, it’s given me a greater understanding of myself. Sure I’ve bumped into a number of tourists (both physically and allegorically), but it’s all made me realize what’s going on around me—and just how awesome it’s been to be here.

Lauren in London: Viva Barcelona!

By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
@LaurenDezenski

Even the cacti know what’s up in Barcelona./PHOTO VIA Lauren Dezenski

Another weekend, another country visited. This weekend’s destination was Barcelona, where I’ve been hoping to travel since I started taking Spanish in seventh grade.

Armed with a laundry list of recommendations and fewer than 36 hours, my friend Rima and I set out on our glorious Ryanair flight to Barcelona. For the record (and to my dismay) no one clapped once we landed.

It’s important to know good places to visit when you’re going to a new city, but sometimes too many recommendations can cause problems. Maybe it’s just because we weren’t in Barcelona for very long (and some would argue not  enough), but we had a huge list of places to visit but not enough time to see them.

It’s also worth mentioning that international travel is kind of a drag on three hours of sleep and a chesty cough (the pharmacist’s words, not mine).

Once we made it to the hostel and I used conversational Spanish for the first time in years, we did as the locals did: siesta-ed. Hard. For those unfamiliar, the Spanish basically take a break every afternoon to eat and nap and it’s called a siesta.

Post-siesta, we took the train towards Sagrada Familia and Park Güell. Both of these are pieces of architecture designed by Gaudi — his artwork is all over the city of Barcelona (which I learned in my Spanish class senior year of high school. At least I paid attention in class at some point in my life).

On the way to these landmarks, we decided to stop at this highly recommended paella place in a relatively quiet, residential neighborhood. It was a gorgeous walk, especially since there wasn’t a tour bus or fanny pack in sight, but it was out of the way of most everything we wanted to see. Plus, it turned out the restaurant didn’t start serving their paella until 8 p.m., so we detoured even further by getting tapas and sangria elsewhere.

Despite Barcelona’s size — its population is only 1.6M, the city’s got remarkably good infrastructure, including a transit system that puts the MBTA to shame. We used the train to get most everywhere in the city, though we did cab it back to the hostel after we didn’t leave our paella dinner until midnight.

We figured it would save us time to get ready to go out to Barcelona’s famed clubs (as every single person and their mother who has ever visited the city will tell you), but that wasn’t the case. We laid down for a siesta round two because everyone knows they don’t go out in Barcelona until 2 a.m… but then we forgot to wake up. We did actually wake up at 3:30 a.m. and realize what happened, but it was too late (so to speak).

This morning, we were determined to make up for lost time, going from Park Güell to Las Ramblas and La Boqueria, this food market that is my friend’s favorite place in the entire world (and she’s been a lot of places in this world, so I really trust her judgement).

We were absolutely GUTTED to realize that La Boqueria is CLOSED on Sundays. Strike two. We got over it as best we could with Kinder Bueno gelato and headed up the glorified ski lift to Montjuïc castle before popping down to the sea-side area called “Barceloneta.” A few pictures of the sunset later and back to London we went.

While I experienced so many other aspects of Barcelona and saw a city with much more depth and culture than I ever could have imagined, I can’t help but feel like something’s missing. But I guess that’s travel. You really have to take advantage of the time you have somewhere and carpe every diem, even if that means you’ll need a couple double espressos to do it.

Lauren in London: FOMO

By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
@LaurenDezenski

You can’t have Boston without the Red Sox./PHOTO VIA Flickr user Keith Allison

If Webster was a college-aged COM major, he’d describe FOMO in the following ways:

Noun: Short for “fear of missing out,” describing the feeling of being left out or the anticipation of being left out.

It can also be used as a verb.

When used in a sentence: “Lauren FOMOed so hard when she missed the Red Sox winning the World Series at Fenway this year.”

This should come as no surprise, but I felt so much FOMO this week. Not that this was a secret in any way because I told anyone who’d ask (and most people didn’t even have to ask for me to tell them).

As pretty much any media report on Boston’s World Series victory will tell you: the win was huge for the city.

It’s so strange to know the city is at such a high when just six months ago, it was at such a low. It was even stranger to not be there to experience that high.

When the bombs went off on Boylston St. six months ago, I was working on the city desk at the Boston Globe. The entire day, I had been looking forward to my shift ending at 3:30–I was missing out on much of Marathon Monday because I was at work, but I planned to make the most of the rest of the day by meeting up with friends and, per tradition, drinking heavily. That all changed at roughly 2:50 when the police scanner on my editor’s desk erupted with noise. The next six hours, not to mention the rest of the week, were a scary, exhilarating blur.

There really is something incredible about the city of Boston. This strange little city full of people with crazy accents manages to get under your skin and stick with you.

Sure, I like London, but I love boston. And after living and working in the city during that week in the middle of April, I felt so close to the city that I totally understood wanting to fight someone for saying something terrible about Boston.

I think it’s that connection that kept me up until 4 a.m. on a work night, glued to Twitter to see the Red Sox clinch the final World Series game. I admit, I’m not truly a Red Sox die-hard. I can’t name more than two or three players on the roster and I certainly didn’t go to a place in London that showed the game. But I know what the team means to the city, because let’s face it. You can’t have Boston without the Red Sox.

It’s strange to be in a special, once-in-a-lifetime place but just want to go home. Boston may not be my hometown, but after this spring, it is my home. And there is no other way to put this: It truly sucked not to be one of the thousands cheering for the team on Boylston Street, snapping an Instagram or two like my friend Meredith. I just wanted to be shipping up to Boston, not sipping tea at Selfridges.

Nevertheless, I’ll be home soon. I’ve only got six weeks left across the pond, and I’m set to enjoy them properly. And let’s be honest, spring training really isn’t that far off.

Lauren in London: But Actually, Edinburgh

By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
@LaurenDezenski

The view of Arthur’s Seat/PHOTO VIA Flickr user downatthezoo

Greetings from the Scottish countryside (or right outside of Edinburgh). The east coast of Great Britain? Who really knows? What I do know is that my friend Rima and I went to Edinburgh (pronounced “Edinboro,” fun fact) on a whim and it couldn’t have been a better decision.

That wasn’t always the case with this trip, though. We booked the train tickets just after midnight Thursday morning and managed to get them at a reasonable price for a trip beginning fewer than 72 hours later.

After booking the train tickets, we perused Hostelworld.com only to realize that there was nowhere in Edinburgh we could stay for less than £90 a night per person (ridiculous when you’re only staying one night, and that’s even before you convert the price over to US dollars).

I did some creative Google searching, ending up at some random site with an available room in a “guest house” for £30 a night. Finding it a better alternative than sleeping in the train station, we booked the room.

The next day, I was GChatting with a friend and told her about my latest accomplishment: booking this trip. When I got to the part about the train, she reminded me of her worst experience while abroad, which was the train ride back from Edinburgh.

Turns out she booked the exact same train tickets we did. The reason why the tickets were so cheap was that the train companies basically sell tickets that are valid for the entire day, making it a great way to travel flexibly, but also not technically guaranteeing seats on a certain train with tickets sold at our price point. Essentially, we had just purchased standing room-only tickets for a five-hour train ride (oh, did I forget to mention that part about how long the train ride is?).

I broke the news to Rima, who took it much better than I did. We resolved to try to fix it, and if not, make sure we were standing near a widow, because the ride up the coast was, by all accounts, supposed to be incredible. The next day I marched over to Kings Cross in search of a customer service kiosk for answers, which is hilarious because customer service in this country is basically non-existent.

We were up before the sun on Saturday morning, headed to Kings Cross with as much excitement as we could muster for a seatless train ride at 7 a.m. Picking up our tickets, I asked the kind man (using that term loosely, for the record) at the kiosk about the seat situation on the train, saying there was no mention of seats, or lack thereof, on the website — even the fine print in terms and conditions. He chuckled and replied, “You know, you can’t always trust what you read on the Internet.” And then pointed out a typo on the Transport for London website.

Knowing it was a battle we couldn’t win, we set out for the departure boards to wait for the train platform to appear. Once platform 7 flashed on the screen, we booked it through the station and onto the train, finding seats that weren’t reserved, therefore fair game for us as third class (or so it felt) passengers. We even got a table! Take that, condescending man at the kiosk.

After we found our seats, the rest of the trip went swimmingly. Way better than we could have imagined, to be honest. The guest house was basically a hotel-hostel hybrid with private rooms, shared bathrooms and no real concierge. Plus, it was a street over from Arthur’s Seat, a dormant volcano in the middle of Edinburgh and a stone’s throw from the city center.

We climbed Arthur’s Seat despite definitely not being in the correct attire, but the photos are absolutely worth it. We also got caught in a rain storm at the top — but that only added to the experience, in my opinion. Plus, I don’t think we got pneumonia, either, so take THAT Mother Nature. We spent the evening warming up at a cozy gastropub and ended up in bed by midnight. The next day, we started the day with a cheap and delicious Scottish breakfast, complete with black pudding (also known as blood sausage. Holla!) followed by a trip up to Edinburgh Castle and shopping on the Royal Mile. We bought enough tartan and cashmere to last the winter, not to mention the (probably) overpriced tin of Walkers shortbread cookies commemorating the birth of Prince George.

We capped the sightseeing with afternoon tea at the Missoni Hotel (who knew they had a hotel in Scotland of all places?) which was made even better by the attractive men in Missoni kilts working the valet. And to top it all off, we not only made the 5:30 train back to London. We got seats.

Lauren in London: Having Survived in London

By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
@LaurenDezenski

“When the lights go down in the city.”/PHOTO VIA Lauren Dezenski

Is it bad that I want to preface every single blog post with the statement “I HAVE SURVIVED”? Like it’s a somewhat novel idea that I’ve made it yet another week in this strange little island country that has like…10 different names.

Okay that’s not true, it’s only four or so (The United Kingdom, England, Britain, Great Britain—see what I mean?).

Pro tip: British and English are two very different things. You can be British but not English (the Irish and Welsh, for example. This basically applies to countries that are members of Great Britain but separate from England itself). Isn’t learning fun?

Getting back on topic…noon on Tuesday will exactly mark the halfway point of my semester in London.

It’s been quite the ride thus far, as I’m sure you’ve read. But getting comfortable with your new surroundings takes way more time than any of your friends will ever let on (though I’ll be totally honest because sometimes I’m too blunt).

From what I’ve ascertained in conversations with other friends on the program, it’s hard not to walk off that plane at Heathrow with the expectation that this semester will change your life. But it’s not like taking the Tube is a religious experience that lets you feel close to God the moment you mind the gap and alight to Paddington.

The good stuff takes time and I think in a lot of cases, it’s not until it’s gone that you realize what you actually had.

What I’m trying to say is that I love London but I’m not “in-love with London. At least not yet. It’s still really scary trying to cross the street and I still second-guess which side of the sidewalk I should be walking on.

I’m self-conscious about my accent when ordering my skinny Americano from Pret. Sometimes that’s reason enough to just stay inside and binge on episodes of Bad Education on the BBC iPlayer (watch that show, it’s hilarious).

But there is hope. This week, I started my internship with a technology media company (the UK’s largest) called IDG UK. I’m by no means a tech nerd (though I can spit some mad game if you ask me about the latest Apple keynote) but like one of my professors told me, tech reporting is just like any other beat.

Thus far, it’s been awesome. Maybe it’s the workload or the diversity of things I get to do or the fact that I’m not taking classes and the office is in a cool part of town and has a ton of windows, but it’s been a great deal of fun.

I’ve even learned some new British slang, realized the value of Google when understanding British idioms and got to cover an event that brought me to the top of The Shard (the tallest building in Western Europe).

It’s also forced me to get out and see a new part of London, which is extremely refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, I love South Ken and the hordes of children in their school uniforms zipping past me on their scooters, but dodging their mothers’ Prada bags and fathers’ Maserati or Range Rover or Bugatti when I’m just trying to run off last night’s Burger King gets old and fast.

I’d much rather be run down by other young professionals just trying to get to that place off Oxford Street that only sells hot dogs and champagne.

I’ve always had better luck with the second halves of experiences. Chalk it up to growing pains, if you must. Getting adjusted to new things can be absolutely crappy, but let’s be real: once you get your sea legs, you learn just how awesome boating can be. Or in this case, living in London.

Lauren in London: Fall Break

By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
@LaurenDezenski

It’s good to get lost in a foreign country despite a language barrier./PHOTO VIA Lauren Dezenski

It seems only fair that I’m spending my last night of fall break holed up in a makeshift blanket-cocoon in my room with all the lights off, felled by a migraine. The last five days have been a total whirlwind (I hate that that’s such a cliché but it’s perfect way to put it) in what has become the total study abroad rite of passage: Fall break. Or spring break for those in the spring semester. Basically a chunk of time that you are given off so you can use it to do the most magical thing in Europe: travel. And travel we did.

First: Flying Ryanair to Budapest was largely uneventful—with one exception. Drinking a pint of cider over dinner before our flight certainly helped us get settled into our flight on the low-cost airline. Ryanair is infamous for selling seats at dirt-cheap prices and then charging you like crazy for things like multiple pieces of luggage or not being able to fit all of your belongings into the smallest suitcase known to man. But you do it because it’s all about the benjamins saved that are better used on boat tours or pub crawls. Duh. So the Ryanair flight to Budapest. Totally normal, run-of-the-mill. The plane descends, touches down and makes a successful landing. Suddenly the entire airplane erupts with applause.  And then the first call bugle song that they play at the Kentucky Derby (you know the one) plays over the speakers and a recording comes on saying Ryainair has the most on-time flights in Europe. And then everyone claps again. I’m not sure if we clapped because the flight was cheap or that we all survived the cheapest flights of our lives. For all I know, we could have been clapping for the fact that we were simply not dead.

Once we landed, we navigated the bus/metro system from the airport to our hostel in the center of the city. The highlight of all of our hostel stays on this trip had to be the first man we met in our hostel in Budapest, Zoltan. My friend Tyler, who I traveled with, gave a really solid summary of our encounter with Zoltan (since it only really happened once) on his blog and it’s definitely worth a read.

But back to why fall break travel is a rite of passage. Unless you’re keen on staying in the UK, most students (at least that I know of on the BU abroad program) use this time to visit places they’ve never been before. More often than not, these places are in different countries. And chances are, there’s a language barrier.

Studying abroad in London offers the unique chance to experience a different culture without having to get over a serious language barrier. Unless, of course, you’re me. But we’ll get to that later. For Tyler and I, we knew we wanted to travel to Budapest and Stockholm, so we booked the flights and hostels and went on our merry way. Emerging from customs in a foreign country is such a weird experience. You shuffle off the plane, hand over your documents and then you’re just spit out into this new place. The country is your oyster. It’s exhilarating and a little terrifying, especially when you’re looking for signs with English because neither you nor your travel partner speak Hungarian or Swedish. But you figure it out. Because you have to. At no point can you just throw up your hands and say “I’m done with this country I’m outta here.” Well, you could, but logistically it’d be quite difficult. You learn to truly roll with the punches and the ultimate value in asking for help. Plus a new-found appreciation for the fact that so many people in Europe are fluent in English.

Funny story about speaking English…My only serious issues with language barriers actually came from trying (and completely failing) to understand English-speakers. The best example is from our first night in Stockholm, when Tyler and I were chatting with this Australian guy also staying in the hostel. He was telling us about he had been traveling around Europe for the last couple months and I asked about his favorite place to visit. He responded “Ireland” but with his accent, I heard “island.” So I tried to clarify: “What island?” to which he replied, “Ireland.” Tyler had to put me out of misery before I brought us further shame by not understanding our own language.

Lauren in London: Dezlirium

By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
@LaurenDezenski

They’re re-naming it Dezlirium in my honor. I also learned that the management doesn’t appreciate attempts to take their trays as souvenirs./PHOTO VIA Lauren Dezenski

Is it possible to get whiplash from things in your life changing so quickly? As of last week, I finally felt like I had settled into a normal-ish routine of classwork, socializing and sight-seeing. Now, all that is changing once again as Monday marks the start of finals (already?) and fall break begins after finals wrap up on Tuesday.

I suppose the class trip to Brussels at the beginning of the week didn’t help my sense of adjustment—three days in the capital of Europe (I learned that there) were followed by the last two class days of the first half of the semester. Boston University splits up the abroad semester a bit strangely—the first five weeks of the semester are devoted to two classes, followed by a five-day break and eight weeks spent interning and taking one class. Then you spend a week and a half traveling and studying for your last finals and then it’s back to the U.S. with you.

The class trip to Brussels was an interesting experience in that I rarely had any idea where I was. Everything in the city is in two languages—Flemish and French, so looking at a map was extra complicated. Plus, I have absolutely no knowledge of the Flemish language and the only things I know how to say in French are “hello,” “goodbye,” and “my little hat.” That last one is guaranteed to make people laugh, but definitely will not help you when you’re trying to figure out how to get to Delirium Café.  Don’t worry, I found it anyway.

Though my complications with the language barriers in Brussels will only get more hilarious—I say hilarious because I laugh when I’m uncomfortable—during fall break as my friend Tyler and I travel to Budapest and Stockholm. I doubt I could identify the Hungarian language if a Hungarian person was shouting in my face, but I think I’ll be okay in Stockholm because I’ve been to Ikea so many times.

Nevertheless, this constant adjustment and readjustment to my changing surroundings is good. What good is your comfort zone if you don’t know its limits? And who knows, maybe I’ll pick up Hungarian in a snap and actually have a sense of direction in one of these foreign cities. But in the meantime, I’m just glad my phone has an international data plan. Thank God for Google Maps.

Lauren in London: Lauren Gets Sick

By Lauren Dezenski, Staff Writer
@LaurenDezenski

Skyscrapers and more skyscrapers./PHOTO VIA Lauren Dezenski

I’m proud to say this is my second blog post filed while in transit. This time, I’m somewhere below the English Channel, en route to Brussels on a class trip for my political science class. I really wish the Chunnel (the Channel Tunnel) had little windows to see the water. It’s kinda eerie gliding through this tunnel knowing I’m under water but not really knowing much else.

Today also marks my fourth week since landing in London, though it feels like much, much longer. This week, I’ve had the chance to explore both my neighborhood and other parts off city (not to mention the foreign city I’m headed toward now).

I finally got to get my journalism on with Wednesday’s assignment to go to Canary Wharf, find and write a 1,000-word feature story. Canary Wharf is arguably London’s most transformed borough thanks to the jolt of capitalism administered by Margaret Thatcher back in the ’80s. The result: a gleaming, silver archipelago of power and wealth built on London’s formerly dilapidated docklands. Now, the former isle of dogs is inhabited by a major European financial center, chock full of successful-looking men and women in expensive suits. I felt like a pauper walking among the Credit Suisse and Barclays bigwigs, but you gotta fake it ’till you make it, right? One of my favorite sights was a sand sculpture of William, Kate, and the royal baby on the West India docks. It’s now a life goal of mine to be immortalized in a sand sculpture.

Back in South Ken, I found myself in Hyde Park nearly every day this week until I was felled by a nasty cough. It has been absolutely beautiful and rain-free in the capital for the last couple days and there really is no better way to enjoy the weather than with strolls around the Serpentine or jogs to the Marble Arch. See, Mom, I’m actually using my sneakers! Friday night, a couple friends and I packed a dinner and some ciders and picnicked on a hill next to Kensington Palace as the sun set. It certainly wasn’t as active as a run, but it was a heck of a lot more fun.

Since then, I’ve been nursing a persistent cough that the British hilariously call a “chesty cough.” Even getting sick here is a cultural experience. In the process of buying out the cold and cough sections of Boots in the hopes of feeling better before the trip to Brussels, I can’t help but feel a little proud I’m not feeling well. Clearly I’m doing something right, because you only get sick when you’re exposed to other people. It’s like my chesty cough is proof that I’ve been out and about, getting to know this city and its inhabitants. I could be totally insane trying to justify this, but you know there’s a grain of truth in what I’m saying.

Now, I’ve got an arsenal of cough medicine, lozenges and nasal spray to keep me powering through Brussels’ delicacies and sites. Here’s to hoping they do their job.