Saturday, September 26, 2015

Running Around Kilburn

I've gone running a few times since I've arrived. I figured it's a cheap way to exercise and it'll help me discover my 'hood. Also I've been running with the Zombies Run! app which is amazing and I highly recommend. It's part radio show, part game, and incorporates your own music. It's definitely motivating.

The first day I jogged up and down streets near my house then I looked at google maps to find parks that might be good to run through. Kilburn Grange park is just around the corner from my house and it is delightful.

I found this tent set up in the middle of the park. At first I thought it was a circus, but soon realized it was an Oktoberfest party! As I said in my last post, after my run I went home, showered, and then headed back to the fest.

Kilburn grange is really cool. There's a rose garden and a free exercise area! There are tons of people with dogs walking around and some cool playgrounds as well. From the park I ran over to Paddington Old Cemetery.

I've always loved cemeteries. This one has a mixture of older and newer graves. Some are over 100 years old. (Which I guess isn't that old considering its London) After a little research I discovered it was opened in 1855. There's a really nice path that circles around and through the property. There's also a chapel in the middle though it's fenced off now for renovation. My research also revealed that an episode of Doctor Who was filmed here! (The Remembrance of the Daleks with the 7th Doctor, so I haven't seen it) I've done this run 3 times now, it's nice not having to constantly consult google maps to make sure I'm heading the right way. I've also gone when its been slightly rainy. There's just something so calming about a cemetery in the rain.

For an aerial view:

Monday, September 21, 2015

Week 1 in Review

So I've officially been in the UK for 1 week now. Here are some highlights.

Day 1: 

I rode my first motorcycle! (or motorbike as they call them here). My friend drove us over to the mall on his bike so I could get a sim card. You don't have to pay for parking on a motorbike and you're allowed to drive in between lanes (which you are definitely not allowed to do in the states) so it makes for a much faster/easier/terrifying mode of transportation. Once I got used to it, it was kind of fun driving between the cars. And the gloves I wore are made from kangaroo. KANGAROO. 

Day 2:

Monday mostly consisted of me waiting in lines - went to the post office to get my residency permit which took over an hour. Then I went to school to register and get my student ID which took about 2 hours. Though while in line I did make my very first friend! Felicia from Singapore. She even let me use her portable charger since my phone was dying from using it for navigation all day. TRUE FRIENDSHIP. They had a little tea reception but by the time we got through the registration line most of the good stuff was gone. Also my student ID picture is horrendous. My hair looks straight up yellow. Keeping that one in the depths of my wallet forever and ever. Then I came home to set up my bed. 

After a few mishaps I finally got the frame together and then it was just a matter of locking in all the support boards. The mattress came rolled up in the red bag. I thought it must be a skinny mattress, but as soon as I got it out of the red bag it started to suck in air and I could hear springs popping. It was basically inflating. I had to work quickly to get it positioned on the bed and cut off the second sheet of plastic it was wrapped in before it was too bulky for me to move. Luckily it all came together well and after 8 years of sleeping in a twin, I finally have a big girl bed!

Day 3:

We had our program's welcome talk and then they brought us to a bar afterwards to mingle. I met a lot of people and I probably remember 10% of their names. We are all foreign. I think there were 2 people who lived in the UK in my program and neither of them are English. It's about 80% Chinese, a fair amount of people from the EU, and then me! the only American.

Day 4: 

Wednesday I had 2 classes at Cass. One was to show us how to access financial databases (thrilling!) and the other was a 3 hour overview on the Financial Services industry. I thought 3 hours of this would surely kill me but it ended up being really awesome! When the class began our instructor asked for 2 volunteers to come up and act out a scenario. Nobody wanted to volunteer. I never volunteered in undergrad. Fly under the radar. That was my motto. However this time I felt a weird urge to raise my hand. Maybe because I don't know anybody yet, so what do I have to lose. Or maybe because I did actually talk to the instructor some before class and felt like I should help her out. (she complimented me on my preparedness for the English weather as I was the only one in rain boots and it was pouring out) Either way, I found myself up on stage reading lines for "Amy," a misguided girl at a career fair. I'm fairly certain half of the people in that room now think my actual name is Amy. It ended up being a really fun and interactive 3 hours to prepare us for the Career Fair. Afterwards I successfully took a city bus for the first time by myself!! I was so nervous about having to push the stop button and making sure I was at the right stop. I was heading to a bar for a Nerdist meet up but after I arrived I discovered it had been moved to Thursday. Womp. At least I know how to take the bus now. 

Day 5:

I had a refresher course on Quants. The class was so full I ended up having to sit on the floor. The professor thought there was going to be 20-25 people, there were over 100. It was 2 hours of math. But not like fun, lets solve this problem together math. It was more like - remember when you learned this pre-calc stuff over a decade ago? To be fair, for a lot of the students it was probably only like 4 years ago. Thursday evening I returned to Meltdown for the Nerdist meetup with Jessica Chobot

She hosts their news channel and also has a podcast on weird supernatural things. I told her I am going to Romania to see Dracula's castles for Halloween and she gave me her business card to email her pictures! Her Insta gets way more likes than mine. 

Day 6:

I went on my first run and discovered an Oktoberfest in a nearby park. So I went there to throwback a liter and listen to the craziest German band ever. 

They were so fun! I knew some of the songs thanks to Busch Gardens. And then there were a lot of interactive songs that required large and ridiculous hand motions. Right up my alley. 

Day 7:

Saturday I took the tube one stop to a giant Sainsbury's to grocery shop and get the rest of the toiletries I needed. Then realized it was a 10 minute walk back to my flat so skipped the tube home. #poorplanning. Later I headed south of the Thames to meet up with my Australian friend Jo and her Canadian coworker Amanda for drinks. It was 2 for 1 cocktails so we had a fun time. The Rugby World Cup is going on and we watched Canada lose horribly to Ireland which was also fun because I know nothing about Rugby. 

All in all it was a good first week. Had some ups and downs but I am feeling relatively settled and am starting to make some friends. I also no longer need to use my phone for navigation 24/7! Longer battery life FTW! 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Adventures in Packing

How does one pack for a year abroad? Not easily.

Look how big the suitcases are these days!!! An adult human can literally fit inside one. (As you can see from my lovely models) Chelsea did suggest I should forget the clothes and just pack her instead. But fat chance I was going to do that after all of the fabulous clothes I just bought!!

Along with a new suitcase I bought a bunch of back-to-school clothes. I was having some serious flash backs to shopping for the first day of high school - trying to get the perfect outfit that will make all the cool kids like you. Thank god my sister is a fashonista and picked most of my clothes out for me. If I were left to my own devices I would own a lot more outfits like this:

(Which I LOVE and 100% bought) Chelsea also helped me decide what to pack and what to leave behind. Some of the clothes that didn't make the cut this time around will be accompanying me back to the UK post Christmas. I actually fit almost all of my clothes in the new suitcase!

It weighed 48.8lbs. That's 1.2 lbs to spare!!! I packed another large suitcase to check, a smaller carry-on suitcase, and tote bag and managed to get everything in. SKILLZ. Getting to the airport with all of my stuff was easy since my family and BFF Megan came to see me off/helped carry all of my things to the check in counter. The woman at British Airways took pity on me and ended up checking my carry-on suitcase as well so then I just had to carry around my tote!

After 1.5 hours of standing in the longest customs line ever at Heathrow, I finally got down to baggage claim and collected my hoard of luggage. I totally felt like Harry Potter with the cart. (minus the owl and plus a lot of pink and purple) My friend Henry picked me up from the airport and helped with the luggage on this side. Basically I would be a very sad person with out the help of all of my friends and family and may not have packed quite as much stuff.

Monday, September 7, 2015

London Calling

I swear coming up with a blog name is like trying to pick something to watch on Netflix - you spend hours and hours combing through possibilities, flagging some, and then never end up watching anything. I thought about starting a blog all summer and here, at the bitter end of it, I finally got around to choosing a name and diving in.

SO! London!! I'm moving there on Saturday for grad school. It seems so far away and so close at the same time. Right now I'm sitting in a condo overlooking the ocean in Myrtle Beach so its hard to imagine that this time next week I will be in England where the weather is already in autumn. My goal is to get as tan as possible before I leave, so for me I'll basically be a slightly darker shade of very white. At least I will be in good company.

I've spent the last 9 years in DC, the last 8 years in the same house, and the last 6 in the same job. Basically I hit 30 and decided it was time to make a change. I've always wanted to live in the UK (thanks to the countless number of britcoms my family watched growing up and my love of all things Austen, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who) and thought now is the perfect time.  It will be weird being away from my family and friends for a year but I am looking forward to meeting new people, experiencing new things, and sharing my adventures with you all!!