By Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
I am so thankful I chose to study in London. Immersing myself in British culture has been an adventure and I am so grateful to have been able to do so in such a beautiful, historic place. I feel extremely lucky to have been able to call such a lively and diverse city home.
My decision to study abroad at all was made on a complete whim: I emailed my favorite professor one day about it and he told me he studied overseas and it was the best choice he ever made. Signed, sealed, delivered. I also love travel so, truthfully, I didn’t need much convincing. I studied the study abroad page so carefully that I memorized its content. From there, I narrowed down my choices and eventually had London in the top spot.
Less than two weeks after I applied, I was accepted — the rest, as they say, was history.
I came abroad with two main goals: to get to know London and to see Europe. I like to think I accomplished both — I traveled almost every weekend and spent my weeks taking advantage of what my home city had to offer me. Plays, museums, pubs, restaurants — I saw as many as I could as many times as I could. I made British friends. I grew a working network.
My internship, seven weeks at an absolutely amazing company in downtown London, was an extremely important part of my overall experience. Without it, I wouldn’t have really understood what it means to be British and what Brits think of Americans. I also wouldn’t have seen as much as the city as I did, considering how many outings my colleagues and I took. I also mastered the London Underground due to my commute.
Outside of England, I saw different cities and different countryside towns. Ireland, Scotland and Wales are all stunning and surprisingly different facets of the United Kingdom. Outside of Great Britain, I was lucky enough to see parts of Hungary, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Vatican City. While I can’t pick a distinct favorite, there wasn’t one place I disliked.
In addition to new experiences through my visiting various places, traveling in and of itself was important: I learned how to travel on a budget and in the most efficient way. I also learned how to travel with big and small groups and where and when each was possible.
It can be easy to grow tired of what you know so well, easy to be bored with the routine and with the usual. I came to London with the hope of renewing my appreciation for the world around me. I wasn’t depressed or unhappy (far from it), but for whatever reason, that passion had escaped me slightly — unpaid internships, countless hours clocked at work and my demanding extracurricular schedule left me exhausted.
My London experience has strengthened my appreciation for home and for my surroundings, and has inspired me to go out and see more of the world. I have so many more places I hope to travel to and so many things I want to accomplish in the coming years.
For now, I’m looking forward to spending some time back on American soil. Home might not be uncharted territory, but it’s an adventure in its own right.
By Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
There is no photo or string of words that can properly depict how beautiful Vatican City truly is. Just one small part of an encompassing country, it’s a destination in and of itself. I’m no Catholic, but St. Peter’s and the surrounding streets are enough to render anyone speechless. The smallest country in the world certainly makes a big impression.
Rome has been my favorite city since my first visit here with my mom. It’s lively, it’s gorgeous, it’s filled with stunning works of art and architecture and it’s home to some of the best food in the world. I also love Italian culture.
When my friends and I decided to take on Italy (both Rome and the Amalfi Coast) for our last break, I was really excited to come back and share my favorite city with them all.
I led us up and down the Tiber from Vatican City to Trastevere, making sure to return to my favorite restaurants and check out all the main sites like the Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and (my favorite) the Colosseum. We trekked in and out of Rome’s winding, narrow streets, checking out different pockets of the city as we went.
One of the strangest and best things about Rome is simply the idea of it all: the notion that my friends and I can hop on a plane and land in a city that’s been there, growing and changing for thousands of years — amid the coming and going of different populations — and just walk around and see it all. It doesn’t seem possible. It’s wild.
After three nights in the eternal city with no major hiccups — other than a broken shower grate that flooded the apartment we rented, resulting in a heated argument between myself and our extremely Italian landlady — we made our way to Termini Station to head to the Amalfi Coast.
Our train snaked its way through the gorgeous southern Italian countryside. We passed mountains, farms, fields and dozens of colorful villages before reaching Naples. From there we hopped another train to Salerno and then got on a packed bus to Conca dei Marini, our vacation spot for the last three days of break.
The Amalfi Coast is gorgeous, rain or shine. Houses, restaurants and shops jut out of the mountains that rise above the shore. Roads wind for miles up above the Mediterranean. The house we rented was tucked away down a set of stairs in a sleepy village with a view of some neighboring houses’ red clay roofs and a slice of the sea — not a bad way to get away from the hustle and bustle of London.
Today, we spent the day exploring the village and walking down the stunning coastline to the village of
Amalfi, stopping along the way to grab lunch on the water and go to the beach in a secret cove we found. It has been amazing checking out two distinctly different parts of one amazing country for our last vacation abroad.
By Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
After a sad departure from my internship on Thursday, it was really nice to spend a weekend in London. Even though we live here, it’s hard to feel like we’ve seen all the city has to offer with our full-time jobs.
Friday night started off with a bang — after farewell drinks with my work colleagues, my friends and I met up in Shoreditch, an up-and-coming neighborhood in East London. Shoreditch is a part of the city that has become increasingly gentrified. Filled with bars and clubs, it’s a trendy area we felt we had to check out before we returned home to the states.
After checking out a fun club there, we made our way over to Hoxton, another area with the same trendy feel. The club we went to there, the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, was three venues all in one: a lounge, a bar and a club and was an awesome way to end the evening. My roommate and I danced on stage with a random stranger for the better part of the night and had a blast.
Saturday morning, we woke up and headed over to Camden Market in Camden Town. After almost a whole semester in London, we were so happy to finally be able to check out the famous market in northern London. It was absolutely packed with shoppers, merchants and Londoners just milling about. There were a bunch of different markets — Inverness Market, Horse Stables Market and Camden Lock Market, among others — that we explored for hours.
Even though I didn’t buy anything, I was tempted all day; we passed hundreds of food vendors from all over the world, dozens of clothing merchants and people selling knick-knacks that could satisfy any shopper’s needs.
The next day, we headed out the door at 10:30 a.m. We made our way over to Canary Wharf to catch some of the London Marathon. The six of us grabbed a pint at Smollensky’s and watched runners pass through the city’s financial district at the 18th mile marker.
Next, we took the Docklands Light Railway to the O2 Arena to check out The British Music Experience. We learned about the history of British music from the 1940s onward and even recorded songs in their on-site studio (the highlight was definitely either our rendition of “Wonderwall” by Oasis or of “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees.) We saw outfits worn by David Bowie, Jimmy Page and the Spice Girls and got to look at a selection of Sir Elton John’s glasses.
After a tour around the museum, we took a gondola over the River Thames to see the Olympic Park. We all love the Olympics and loved checking out the site of the 2012 summer games.
After a long day of sightseeing, we went back to one of our favorite pubs, called The Mayflower. We hung out on their deck, overlooking the Thames and London’s glittering skyline before heading back to South Kensington. It seems crazy, but I think we’re ready to start our last full week abroad.
By Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
My roommate and I decided to ditch city living for the weekend and to head off to the Irish countryside for a nice visit with her aunt and cousin. However, to get there, we had to do the unimaginable — fly with Ryanair.
After hearing horror story after horror story about their inflexible booking, jam-packed planes and poor customer service, we were hesitant (to say the least) to book our tickets. Eventually, though, we took the plunge and ended up with two seats on one of their infamous blue and yellow planes.
To say the landing was shaky would be an understatement, but the trip wasn’t actually all that bad — their rebranding efforts must be working, because we really didn’t have any problems.
After we landed, we were greeted at the airport by my roommate’s family and had a really fun and relaxing night at their adorable house in Limerick, Ireland. I played with their two cats, drank lots of wine and watched Animal House before going to bed to get some shut-eye for a Saturday of sightseeing.
We started the day off right with an Irish breakfast that included eggs, sausages, white pudding, toast and a strong cup of Irish tea. Apparently, the whole country is divided between Barry’s tea and Lyons tea (My roommate’s family is pro-Barry’s).
After breakfast, we drove up the western side of the country toward the Cliffes of Moher, listening to the Munster rugby game on the radio all the way. Munster is my roommate’s family’s preferred team and one of four professional provincial rugby teams in Ireland.
This weekend, they competed in the quarter-final round of the Heineken Cup. We stopped at a pub for a pint and to watch the second half of the game on television. We had a plan to stop in a tiny little town but upon doing so, were told that the one pub in the entire town with a television wasn’t going to have a subscription to Sky Sports Network until Monday, so we kept on driving to a slightly bigger town and set up camp there instead. Munster won handily over Toulouse and advanced to the semi-final round.
The main event of the weekend, however, was our trip to see the stunning Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. I had long heard my roommate’s stories of her dad daringly hanging over the edge of the cliffs and about the ragged coastline, so I was excited to see them in person. They did not disappoint! We had a great day walking up and down the cliff walk.
Later that night, we headed to the pubs downtown and got to see a traditional Irish music session, where a few musicians gather around a table and play Irish music for everyone (my personal favorite is “Whiskey in the Jar”). A local band called The Lemon Suckers got on stage to end the night with an awesome set of covers. It was really fun and the atmosphere downtown was perfect after Munster’s big win.
It was great to spend a few days in the gorgeous countryside and also to curb our spending — if only for a little while. I joke about it, saying “Moher money, Moher problems,” but the amount of money that we’ve all spent is pretty horrifying — we’re all getting a little nervous that we won’t be able to afford our last few weeks here. Still though, we all agree that even if we all go bankrupt, it will have all been worth it.
By Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
When I stepped off the plane at Heathrow Sunday night on our way home from Amsterdam, I breathed a sigh of relief: “We’re home.”
This got me thinking, almost at once: is London really home? At what moment does the line between “tourist” and “resident” blur? Is it when you no longer need to refer to the subway map? Is it when you get used to everybody’s accents? Is it when you start taking your city for granted?
Luckily, I’m not the sort of person the latter can happen to. I still wander around South Kensington, craning my neck to take in every little detail like it’s not all going to be there when I get back. While none of it feels new anymore, it’s still breathtaking in its own right. To this day, I’m in awe that some of it belongs to me — at least for a little while.
I’ve been here for 82 days and I’m still having new experiences all the time. Whether it’s visiting a new place, meeting someone new or learning a new British custom, I’m constantly taking in new information.
Still, I feel like I really do have an established place here — I’ve got my day-to-day routine, my ever-changing schedule and my own little network of people. My job helps with this, of course. Every day, I’m in my office from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. doing tasks, interacting with people, watching projects begin and end. I’ve got go-to lunch places and little jokes with coworkers.
And yet, I’m not convinced that it’s my right to say that London is my home.
Concord is home, for sure — Boston, too. Soon, I’ll move back to Massachusetts and then New York City and carry on my normal life back in the states. However, it wouldn’t be right to classify London as a “pit stop.”
What makes London so homey is not that it’s beautiful or comfortable or even “Americanized” — it’s the people and my life here. It’s having a job in downtown London that I commute to and from every single day. It’s that the people at the coffee shop next door know my order and my coworkers know how I take my tea. It’s that I love my friends here and feel extremely lucky to be with them, both in London and in our travels. It’s that I know where and when to go.
My friends and I don’t talk about our semester’s impending expiration date (which is less than a month away). We don’t want to “go back to reality.”
Isn’t this what this is, though? Sure, we have a privileged life here in London, living in beautiful South Kensington and traveling every weekend, but it’s come to be our own little niche of the city.
For these four months, this is and has been our reality, and I’ll be sad to see it go. Until the end of April, I’m going to keep enjoying it.
By Danny McCarthy, Staff Writer
Welcome to Monday! It may have been a rainy weekend, but it’s all toasty warm in pop culture land! So kick up your feet and settle in for a while as we talk about everything that you might’ve missed in the last week!
6. Chris Martin & Gwyneth Paltrow selling their London home:
In the aftermath of going public with their split, Gwyneth Paltrow and husband Chris Martin are reportedly selling their $7 million London home. The pair have been working on their marriage for roughly a year, and despite rumors swirling of infidelity on the side of Paltrow, they insist the break-up is amicable. Paltrow also announced that she will be taking time off from Hollywood to be with her children and deal with the effects of the split.
Looks like Selena is being dragged into Justin’s legal mess! The beautiful brunette was served with court papers. She will testify in the lawsuit centering around Bieber’s alleged assault on a paparazzo while on a date with Gomez. However, Gomez could be grilled on more than just that one incident. Possible topics include Bieber’s use of illegal substances and any incidents of violence or anger.
Jupiter Ascending, starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum, released a new trailer, and it’s drawing me in! With the scenes of a vast galactic empire and some pretty sick fights — involving a wolfish Tatum — I’m excited for the film to be released in July. The film was directed by the Wachowskis, who brought us the Matrix films. It centers on Jupiter, played by Kunis, who is the next in line for a celestial throne, and the great battle to achieve her birthright. Pretty cool, right?
Zoe Saldana is having one hell of a year! The Star Trek actress will be involved with the “Avatar” sequel, a NBC adaptation of “Rosemary’s Baby,” and now she joins the likes of Blake Lively and Lea Michele as L’Oreal Paris’s newest spokesmodel. Saldana was humbled by the offer, and credits her success to her family’s work ethic. We can’t wait to see the gorgeous L’Oreal pictures featuring the beauty!
If it were possible for the entire world to love Beyoncé more, it would be this moment. At her last show of 132 shows on her Mrs. Carter tour, Beyoncé humbly thanked her fans for giving her a career and lifting her up every time she fell. It is amazing to see a celebrity of Beyoncé’s stature acknowledge the power and special place of the fans in the making of fame. The past year of the tour has been a huge step for Beyoncé: the growth of her daughter Blue Ivy, and the release of her secret fifth album, BEYONCÉ.
1. Emma Watson “Noah” premiere; graduation in May:
Okay, full disclosure: this is my number 1 because I’ve been re-obsessed with the “Harry Potter” series lately and Emma Watson is my British queen. At the “Noah“ premiere, Watson revealed that she is due to graduate from Brown University in May, and she couldn’t be happier! She finished her degree in five years, balancing both the pressures of schoolwork and cinema. Emma says that graduating will free up her time considerably and, after filming her new movie “Regression,” she would love to break out on Broadway. Congrats, Watson!
Okay, so that’s all for this week! If there’s anything I missed, or anything you want to chime in on, feel free to comment down below!
By Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
As soon as I stepped off the plane at Heathrow Sunday evening, I wanted to be back in Paris.
The city of lights is absolutely breathtaking, from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre to the Pont de l’Archevêché to the Seine. I have visited some amazing places in my life and can enjoy any city, but Paris was like nothing I’ve ever seen. Also, don’t believe what you hear about Parisians — they’re wonderful.
After dusting off my French skills, I got to put them to use a little bit between talking to waiters, asking for directions and navigating the metro.
We arrived on Friday night and left for our respective daytrips on Saturday at just after 7 a.m. (My friends wanted to go to Disneyland Paris, but I refused and decided to go to Versailles by myself instead). I took a quick trip on the metro to Versailles, which sits just outside Paris, and took a tour of Louis XV’s and Louis XVI’s apartments and the Royal Opera at the palace before venturing off on my own to check out the other areas and the massive gardens. The gardens stretched for miles and easily could have taken a few days to cover if you did a really thorough job.
My favorite part of my visit to Versailles was either the Hall of Mirrors (a section of the castle that captures the true opulence of the palace) or walking around the surrounding town. There were adorable boutiques, boulangeries everywhere you looked, nice townspeople and pretty houses. It was sort of nice to do my own thing for a day and to do some sightseeing on my own time, even if it took a few hours to get used to.
It was definitely worth the daytrip, but I was glad to get back to Paris — I spent the rest of the day exploring the city and even made a friend with whom I shared a long, leisurely lunch near La Sainte-Chapelle.
Later on, I ended with a fun night in le quartier Latin, an area known for its nightlife. Just before bed, we leaned out the window of our apartment, listening to Édith Piaf and enjoying the gorgeous view of the city.
The next day, we got up and headed straight for the Notre Dame. I bought a book at the famous Shakespeare and Company and we had a traditional Parisian breakfast. We wandered around the neighborhood before checking out the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, famous for its shops, restaurants and cinemas and its proximity to L’arc de Triomphe. Some of us trekked up to the top and enjoyed a 360-degree view of the city.
Last on our list was the Eiffel Tower, an iconic structure that is absolutely breathtaking in person. In a Kodak moment unlike any I’ve ever witnessed, a rainbow broke out just beside the tower as we approached, which practically started a tourist stampede in everyone’s efforts to get the perfect picture.
After just a few days in France, I can officially say, “Paris, je t’aime.” My mom and I have a Paris trip planned for the end of April and I’m really looking forward to returning and experiencing more of the city (and using more of my French!).
By Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
On a total whim, my friends and I signed up to go on an “adventure trip.” We found ourselves in Pembrokeshire, middle-of-nowhere Wales hiking, sea kayaking and coasteering around its rocky western coast.
I’ve been a big skier for forever and played lots of sports in high school and for one year in college (before I transferred to Boston University), but I don’t really consider myself to be an outdoorsy person. I’d rather wander around a city than hike up a mountain any day.
However, it was really nice to switch things up from traveling around London and a lot of Europe’s other major cities.
It was quite an endeavor getting to Pembrokeshire; we took a cab to Paddington Station, then one train, then another, then a mini-bus, then another cab for a journey that doesn’t seem all that far on a map. To create a mental image of this town: there is absolutely no cell phone service and, at least to my knowledge, more sheep and cows than people. We all crammed into a cute hostel operated through the adventure company Preseli Venture that we booked with and got some shut-eye before waking up bright and early to get going.
On another whim, we decided to take the long hike rather than the short one and ended up hiking all around Wales’ breathtaking coast. The ocean was a shockingly bright blue and the hills and rocky shoreline were stunning, too. It looked like something out of a movie set.
After finally getting back to our hostel, we ate a quick lunch and got dressed (we all had to wear wet suits, helmets and water shoes) and went sea kayaking. I’ve had a fear of kayaks since I was seven, so for me to do this was a pretty big deal, but I had no complaints (even when I capsized after about five minutes on the water… yikes). It was a blast to get out on the water on a gorgeous day. We even saw a seal!
After a long night of hanging out with the rest of the people on the program inside the hostel’s living room and out by the campfire, we turned in for the night and got some sleep for the weekend’s main event: coasteering.
Coasteering, which I had never done before, is a combination of rock climbing, swimming and cliff-jumping (which is exactly what it sounds like). The water was ice-cold, but our wetsuits, neoprene shirts, shorts and “water socks” in our sneakers did a good job keeping us warm. We scrambled across rocks and swam and walked through caves before learning how to jump. The first jump was little and shallow, so we all had to belly flop into the water.
Then, we did a bigger jump, then another, and then jumped the grand finale: we plunged into the icy water from 32 feet. It was pretty intimidating to stand on the edge of the cliff looking down into the ocean way below us, but it was so worth it. My friends and I did the last jump twice before scrambling up the crest of the cliff and hiking back down the backside to the beach.
Completely exhausted (and exhilarated), we made the long trek back to London Sunday afternoon. It was amazing to get some fresh air and explore part of a country I never would have visited if I hadn’t chosen to study in the U.K.
Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
Between learning to pour the perfect pint of Guinness, embarking on a hilarious journey with new Irish friends and having a spiritual encounter with a particularly delicious burrito, I had a fantastic time exploring Dublin and Galway this week.
When my professor canceled my Thursday class, my roommate and I decided to change our Dublin flights to arrange for a Wednesday night arrival. We took the tube to Heathrow for a quick flight over to Ireland’s capital.
The first night, we explored the Temple Bar area of Dublin — a slice of the city known for its nightlife — that sits just south of the River Liffey. That part of town is comprised of narrow, cobble-stoned streets in their original medieval layout. My roommate and I had a late start and ended up splitting our time between two pubs near each other, one of which had live authentic Irish music.
The third night we were there, we met up with more friends from the BU London program who also decided to visit Ireland this week. We went to one of the same pubs from the night before and then made our way over to one of Dublin’s most popular clubs, which was a blast. We ran into more American friends, coincidentally, and also met some locals in the “queue” to get inside and once we were in.
Much later that night, as we were leaving, we met up with a friend at a nearby late-night Mexican restaurant and had what we described as a “life-changing burrito.” It gave some of our friends the strength to return home to their hostel — they had boldly chosen to bunk in a 16-bed mixed dormitory just north of the river. (We were lucky enough to be able to stay at my roommate’s cousin’s house after just one night in a private hostel room.)
We met new people every night we were out, in places ranging from hole-in-the-wall pubs to the busiest clubs on the street, which was awesome. My new Irish friends, who had known each other forever, took my roommate and I to their favorite spots around town on Saturday night. Against the Grain— a “gastropub” that is known for its varied selection of craft beers — was really fun and was absolutely packed with locals enjoying pints and each other’s company. The Garage Bar, a club in Temple Bar and our next stop after Against the Grain, had a floor covered in sawdust, played mostly punk music and drew a totally different crowd but was just as fun.
Galway, a relatively short bus ride away, was a fun day trip as well, even though it poured rain the entire day. We had the opportunity to see Ireland’s gorgeous countryside as well which was nice in comparison to the urban landscape of Dublin.
The last touristy thing we did was tour the Guinness factory, a must for any American in Dublin. We are now certified Guinness pourers and as such retain the right to judge any bartender who doesn’t follow Guinness’ recommended instructions.
All in all, it was an amazing four days and I would highly recommend both Dublin and Galway to anyone visiting Ireland. You’ll never run out of things to do or people to meet.
Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
A week into my semester abroad, I still feel like it’s not really real yet.
I’ve been to Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Big Ben, Parliament, pubs (so many pubs) and clubs. I took a boat cruise down the Thames and even visited “Platform Nine and ¾.” Everything is gorgeous and so old and historical. It has been so fun sightseeing; we’re off to the Tower of London today. Still, though, it feels like I’m on vacation with a bunch of friends — except, on a budget.
One of the hardest things to adjust to — besides learning to look the “wrong” way when crossing the street — has been living completely on my own. Last semester, I had an apartment, but I was always at The Daily Free Press or my restaurant job and rarely had time to cook real meals for myself. Here, though, it’s been all home-cooked, all the time. We really can’t afford anything else with the exchange rate (which sits at almost two dollars for every one pound) and with our estimated travel budget. So, it’s been chicken and veggies pretty much every night for dinner.
My roommate and I have pooled our spending and split everything from trips to the grocery store, to cooking and dishes. It’s been a great system but definitely has been a big adjustment, along with sharing a kitchen with 14 other girls, all of whom live in my flat.
Before I got here, I decided one of my main goals would be to travel. I’ve been looking forward to seeing all parts of Europe since I can remember and realize this is the perfect opportunity. We’re going to Dublin next weekend, where luckily enough I have a friend there we can stay with for free. We’ve got a bunch more trips planned, too — all around the U.K., Ireland and the Netherlands, for now, with our bigger trips still up in the air.
I think what has struck me most about London is how massive and how international it is as a city. Every place we’ve been, we’ve met people from all over the globe. Other Americans, a ton of French people, Lithuanians and — my personal favorite — two businessmen from Copenhagen we met on a pub-crawl. It’s been much harder to meet Brits than I figured it would be, but I think that’s because of the neighborhood we live in (South Kensington). It’s very expensive and not home to too many locals. I’ve set another goal for myself this week to meet more people from in and around London. There are a bunch of local universities around that we might go check out.
All and all, it’s been an amazing first week and I couldn’t be happier with my choice to study abroad in London. As far as classes go, I’m taking a British media and culture class and a class focused on foreign corresponding. I can’t wait for those to begin next week!