Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Interiors of London

This past "weekend" (Thursday through Sunday woohoo!) I've had the chance to look at the exclusive interiors of London, from Buckingham Palace to personal homes. Building interiors are one of my favorite things to see. I'm the kind of person whose idea of a fun afternoon is going out and looking at model homes on the market and scrolling through various versions of staircases on Pinterest. So getting to walk through Buckingham Palace and see a few architecturally significant residences during London Open House, was pretty darn cool.

Touring the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace was incredible and possibly my favorite London site so far. Unfortunately, photos aren't allowed inside the Palace, but I did buy some nifty postcards afterward. Normally, I don't gravitate toward listening to the audio tours while visiting sites, but here it was very well put together and really pretty necessary. With many audio tours, you simply walk up to whatever you're interested in and put in the corresponding number on the sign. However, this tour was an amazingly immersive experience that felt like a real guide was with you. Plus, without it, I would have missed vital information about portraits, furniture, and even the locations of secret passageways!

There was an excellent exhibition for the 2014 tour cycle as well centering on childhood and what growing up as a royal was like. They had over a dozen outfits worn by young Prince William and Harry, as well as Princess Elizabeth and Beatrice. There were lots of royal toys, furniture with their names inscribed, and even drawings they had done (Queen Victoria was the best artist). Actually everything Queen Victoria was my favorite part, from a surviving dress she wore as a child to the portraits of her family she had hung on the walls of the Palace. I'm not sure why she's my most-looked-up-to royal figure. Probably a mix of the time period she ruled, her love of husband and family, and the fact that her rule was a true golden age.

When the inside tour was over, we were led out into the gardens. They were so beautiful! I took a lot of pictures. I can (literally) only imagine what it must be like to have a royal garden party there. It would be so incredible to see something like that!

Also this weekend, an event was going on called London Open House. These sites are either normally open-to-the-public sites which then become free or are personal homes that have been architecturally praised and are open for public tours. On Saturday, housemate Janel and I went to two private homes. The first was called "The Small House". It is reportedly one of the smallest self-sustaining homes in all of London and wow was it small! Before becoming a home it was first a flower shop. The owner lives here "occasionally" and the house is apparently worth around 250,000 pounds. Yikes!

The next home we went to had a bit more room to move! It was a pink traditional Victorian home that had been purchased by an architect and completely redesigned. It was gorgeous and also very sustainably built with special insulation, windows, and rain-catchers.

So that's pretty much been my weekend! It was fun and also exhausting....but every minute has been worth it. There's so much to see and do here. It's never ending really, which is both awesome and sad, since I won't be here forever. I just really have to concentrate on the things I know I want to see and do, while still making room for the spontaneous life that is living in London! Hope you enjoyed.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Nitty Gritty

So, a lot of the details about things I've been doing and how everything is going haven't been explained in very much detail. This is my attempt to fix that! There's just been so much happening in the last week and a half that I haven't been able to find the time to get everything down, so I do apologize for that as I know so many of you are eagerly awaiting these posts, right? ;)

And I'm just going to put everything in nice little categories because, well, it's Sunday afternoon and I'm lazy like that.


I love my homestay. I am so glad I went ahead and decided to live with a family. I live with a married couple in the Southgate/Enfield area. It's about an hour and 15 minute commute to central London. The couple are Greek and Russian, which has been really interesting, they've also had guests over in the evenings and it's been so much fun talking, laughing, and eating together!

Our set-up is pretty great as well. Janel (fellow CAPA student) and I each have our own room and there's a kitchenette, table/chairs, and bathroom in between.


I actually quit my internship. So much for that $700 visa....oh well. It was a huge combination of factors that led to my decision. Trust me, I didn't take throwing that much money away lightly. If anything, I think I've learned to trust my instincts more. Ever since I applied for the internship I was torn thinking about it and how much time I would have to spend on it. With commuting time it ended up eating about 28 hours of my week. In addition to my class time and the 4-5 hours I spend on my blog each week, that was 39 hours. I know someday (someday soon) I will have a 40 hour work week with commuting time in addition to other involvements, but for me, my only semester abroad is not the time to start being crunched for time. It just wasn't a good schedule for what I want to accomplish while I'm here. And since I don't plan on doing much after dark, living farther out, it didn't leave much time for anything apart from Saturday and Sunday in the afternoon.

I think the real reason I clung to the idea of an internship as long as I did was because of two things. First, I knew that some of my desire to drop the internship was fear. Fear that I would mess up. Fear of answering the telephones. Just fear of not knowing how to do things. Second, was the doubt about what field I should go into after I graduate. About halfway through sophomore year I realized that what I wanted to do with my life was help people, students in particular. The prospect of an internship in an industry like publishing, marketing, PR, etc. made me doubt what I was passionate about. I was thinking that this would be my last opportunity to "throw myself" in a new direction, to actually have a "professional career". I was telling myself that I wasn't passionate about student affairs, that I was only choosing to go into it because it's familiar and "easy". But none of those things were true.

I did interview for the position and actually went to the first two days. I was able to face some of those fears I'd had like being in a new place and, especially, answering the phone and the door. Once I got over the initial horrible fear of those things though, I realized I simply didn't want to be there.

I also realized that I have no professional passion for film and especially not indie film. I love movies, don't get me wrong, but most of that love actually comes from my love of books and seeing those books become movies. There were so many cool things happening in the office like social media and drafting articles--of which I definitely have skills in--but the idea of trying to use those skills toward something I have no passion for was impossible. Every minute I was there, all I could really think about was not wanting to be there. And I absolutely do not mean to blame my program or anyone else involved. I think they do a great job of getting students international experience in the workplace and most of the students seem to really like their internships. I just wasn't right for me and wasn't the industry for me.


Since I dropped my internship, I am now taking four classes this semester. Two I attended last week and the other two will be new for me this week. They are...

Writing the City: London - I haven't been to this class yet, but it focuses on creative writing with London being the subject.

Theatricality: Understanding the Possibilities of Theatre - This class is awesome! In the first session we talked about Greece and the formation of theatre. We are meant to learn how the audience plays an important role in theatre and are going to be attending three shows. The first being The Woman in Black.

20th and 21st Century Art - Haven't attended this class, but thought it would be interesting since I've never taken an art course before and what a better time to do it than when I'm surrounded by amazing artwork!? We will be going on field trips to various art museums.

Understanding Modern Britain - The professor in this class is hysterical. Should be great fun. We have lots of field trips planned in this class including walks around the city, the Imperial War Museum, a Mosque, a talk with a previously homeless woman, and others. It's all focused on why Britains are the way they are and how they are different/similar to us.

Getting Involved

After dropping my internship, I feel like I actually have time to be involved in the things I would like to be. I was able to join CAPA's Student Council which is awesome. I've haven't been on a student council since 4th grade. I think it's going to be such a fun way to be connected to fellow CAPA students and CAPA staff. We get to plan events for the rest of the students and I can't wait to start!

I also was able to attend a church service today for the first time since arriving. It was a fun experience, though the service was very traditional. I am going next week to the more student oriented service and once the school term starts here, there'll be student small groups and hang-outs to attend.

I'd like to check out the other clubs/orgs. offered at Imperial College as well. Hopefully there's a volunteering club or something education related that I can be a part of this semester. I really want to meet more British students and be active in the student community.

So that's pretty much everything thus far. I've seen a lot of sites and things as well, but you'll be able to get more of that on my CAPA blogs so you don't need me to repeat everything. If there's anything else anyone wants to know, just leave a comment or message me or whatever!

(Also, sorry there were no pictures...)


Friday, September 12, 2014

First week in London

I have been here just a week and already so much has happened. I feel like I have gone from a really confused and timid student to a real London commuter! Everything about being here has been amazing. I love London even more than I thought I would. There's so much to see and do in this city!

I had CAPA orientation, have gone on a sightseeing tour of London, started my first week of classes and am headed to Bath tomorrow. It's been a very busy, but wonderful week. I was so nervous to ride the buses and the tube the first 2 days, but it was also really cool to finally be commuting in London. I felt a little bit like this (I've also been to this station!)....

Here are some highlights of the sites I've visited as well. Now I know it looks like I'm wearing the same thing every day, but my orange coat is just so perfect for walking around London. It's decently warmer and is long enough that it covers my pant pockets, so nothing can be easily stolen from them.

           VA Museum
VA Museum

Shakespeare's Globe
Tower of London
Wobbly/Harry Potter bridge
Changing of the Guard 
View from my window
Big Ben & Parliment
Buckingham Palace
St. Paul's Cathedral
CAPA Afternoon Tea Reception @ Regency Hotel
Pub near my homestay
View of the London Eye
London Bridge

As you can see from some of the pictures, it's actually been great weather here! Usually around 70 degrees and clear sunny skies. It hasn't rained yet, just sprinkled for a few minutes one day. This weather is kind of difficult. It's kind of like the time of year in Arizona when it's really hot under the sun, but then move into the shade and it's freezing. Except here it's just the sun moving out of or behind a cloud every 5 minutes. It also can be either really cold or really warm down in the tube stations depending on the time of day and the amount of people. I usually end up leaving my coat on and sweating though when it gets warm because I hate taking it on and off...

There are more photos on my Flicker page! You can also follow along on my blog through CAPA (which is more coherently written...) which goes up every Monday morning. There'll be a lot more details of my first impressions of London there, but I just wanted to update since I haven't had the chance to until today! More to come!