A World of Differences

I spent 30 days in the wonderful city of London, and the experience has left a permanent mark on me and the way I view the world. This may sound like hyperbole, but rest assured, there is veracity in every ounce of that statement.

When I first arrived back home in San Diego, I was shocked by the immediate differences that I noticed between an American and a Londoner. (Yes, a Londoner and not a European. Most Londoners don’t like to be referred to as Europeans.)

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No Smiling: It’s a London Thing

Being from Southern California, I’m used to smiling. I smile at my 65-year old neighbor walking her dog, the young store clerk as he hurriedly puts my groceries in my bag and just about anyone I encounter on my daily routine. I thought smiling was a widely accepted gesture in all parts of the world—I was wrong.

Not even a day into my study abroad program in London, my preconceived notions were immediately shattered. Nobody smiles here. If you did try to smile, you would be greeted with scowling looks from the locals. And that’s exactly what happened to me on my first day in London.

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I Miss My Bed

It’s Week 3 of my journey throughout Europe. This is the most traveling I’ve done on my own in my life, all within this short period of time.

Earlier in the semester, I went some places as well, but those were more of the easy weekend or day trip variety. I’m used to this kind of trip. Back home I’d often got to LA or Sacramento (my hometown) for the weekend. I’d leave San Diego Thursday or Friday afternoon, escape the daily grind of college for a bit, and return Sunday night ready to resume the normal routine that is life.

Here I’ve followed that same formula for a while; the only difference were the destinations: Ireland, Scotland, Manchester, London, among others. Those trips were the same as back home. Easy, efficient, short. With a familiar bed to look forward to at the end.

Now it’s April, and we have five weeks off of school to travel.

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März, der Monat der Ferien (March, the Month of Holidays)

If I had to describe my March in one word it would be “busy.” So much has happened this month, from moving to my new study abroad destination of Ulm, Germany, to going on three vacations within two weeks. In my opinion, March has been the best month of my study abroad experience so far because I’ve done so much and I feel very satisfied with all my experiences these past couple of weeks.

While I do want to write about my impressions of living in Ulm, I wanted to spend this blog post highlighting my three vacations and my favorite aspects of each place. I will write a blog on my experiences in Ulm once I have more time to explore the city, since I haven’t really had much time there so far.

But for now, I’ll start by discussing my first trip in March, in which I traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland!

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A Month in Europe: The Plan

Planning, planning and more planning. It has consumed my life over the past few weeks. Some of it quick, easy, efficient. Most of it long and excruciating.

With the big five week break approaching in April (time UK universities give you after the end of classes, but before exams in May), my classmates and I have been tasked with figuring out what we should do with all of our free time. We have a month in Europe. A month in Europe with the luxury of not having to worry about missing school or work or any real responsibilities.

It’s an opportunity that some people dream of having.

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The Experience

I write this on Feb. 23. I’ve officially been here for more than a month. That’s more than a month of school, more than a month of being around the people, more than a month of getting used to the area.

It’s enough time to reflect on what I have been through since I arrived here in mid January. It’s enough time to really understand what it’s like to live here, to realize what I miss (and maybe don’t miss) from back home in California. The daily life, the night life, the food, whatever it is. I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on the whole experience right now. And I’m going to share that with you.

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Slow Down, Look Around

“In for Amsterdam next weekend?”

Of course.

“Paris the weekend after?”

I’m in!

“Why not Berlin or Barcelona one of these weekends too, they’re really not even that far away, we can do it.”

So down.

And how could I not be? After being stuck (lol) in California for the majority of my life, with a bit of travel to a few different states, and only having once been out of the country to Mexico for a few days, I’m finally here. I’m young, I have money saved up from years of preparing, and I am in a destination hours away from some of the most desired tourist attractions in the world. As someone who has always had a passion for traveling and a strong interest in different cultures, the thought of being able to explore those places that you hear so much about has still yet to cease from engulfing my mind.

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Holidays Away from Home

It’s cliche to say, but the holidays really are my favorite time of year.

Many of you are probably still eating leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner. I would ask you to save me some, but I’m not sure they’ll make it to next month (let alone next week). Now that Thanksgiving is over, Christmas lights and decorations will finally be making an appearance in parks and shops back in the states! Spoiler alert. They’ve been up since the beginning of November here in the U.K. I know, crazy talk!

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