London

lessons learned: paris

Studying abroad was a bigger journey for me than I expected. It seemed so simple; you live in a new place for a semester, then come back and gush about what an incredible time you had, and then continue on the life you had before you left. I didn’t expect it to add another huge dimension to my life. Another whole world that I have become a part of that my life back in Asheville and Wilmington, just can’t fully understand. I find myself constantly talking about how things compare to London, or how the food tastes better in Paris, or that super funny phrase that they use overseas. In the end I find myself struggling to integrate these two lives I have created into one. I learned so many new things abroad about myself and the world around me, that I have a hard time sharing with friends and family here. How can I explain the beauty of the eiffel tower lit up at night, or the incredibly bold taste of italian coffee, or the overwhelming excitement searching for treasures in a never ending outdoor market in Camden?

The most common question I get is, “Omg, London! Tell me, how was it?! Tell me all about it!” How am I supposed to sum up three and a half months of adventure in fifteen minutes?  I can’t. I can hardly finish describing the incredible friends I found in that time, let alone anything I ate, saw or experienced. I know, it’s a sob story for the girl who lived in London and now has to adjust to “normal” life. It’s just different. The entire experience is something I can’t explain until one goes abroad themselves. Then you kind of know.

But the more I tell my stories and reflect on my adventures the more certain themes stand out from each trip. I’ll call them my lessons learned; about myself, my friends, my life, and this wondrous world around us. Through each of my big trips, one word or theme stands out. My first real adventure, started in Paris.

Paris: love.

I was in Paris with two of my best friends, Chloe and Kait, and the one word that we couldn’t stop talking about in this city, was love. It is a city of love, from the people, to the the architecture, to the food and ending with the wine. Everything about this city just conveyed love. It was a city that had so much love for it’s history, art, food, culture and people.

I remember the three of us just staying up all night talking about love. The love we had in our lives now; which was for our friends, family and desserts as we were a group of single girls. We talked about our previous loves, our first loves, and future loves. We talked about what we thought love was, what we expected from love, and things in our lives now that we loved. The one thing Paris made me realize, is that my life is so completely full of love. I am so incredibly lucky, and just simply loved. I’ve always been the optimistic type but especially so when it comes to love.

I believe in love more than anything in the world. I believe love does conquer all. I believe love is all you need. I believe love is worth fighting for. And as Celine Dion so gracefully put it, I believe “love comes to those who believe it, and that’s just the way it is.” The one thing I always think of when it comes to love, is that it’s worth it. It’s worth everything. It’s worth the heartbreaks, heartaches and loneliness. It’s worth waiting for.  Someone once asked me to describe love: “to me love is just something you know. It doesn’t need words or a definition, you’ll just know it when you feel it. It’ll be something so powerful, complete, simple and just perfect.” In the same way I asked him to describe love: “you’re in love when you cannot stand to be without them, not even for a second. You never want to think or look at another girl because you are completely content with who you are with, wanting nothing more than her.” Something worth waiting for.

I found love in Paris, in a city so great it filled my heart.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” – helen keller.

erin.

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i think i’m becoming a londoner :)

I am in love with London. It truly is such a fabulous, diverse city that I have quickly fallen in love with. This past week has been such a whirlwind of adventures! We had the photo frenzy last saturday which was the last portion of our international orientation. We split up into groups in the morning and were given a camera, a day travel pass to use on all public transportation, and a list of clues to guide us to all the hot spots of London. My group consisted of 8 girls from germany, holland, england and italy:

….it was an awkward group. The girl beside me is Lucy, she is great. She’s from a little island off the coast of England. We got to see so many amazing places! We were in Trafalgar Square and I turn around and there was Big Ben. It was beyond surreal. Things you only see in pictures but are far more magnificent in real life. For obvious reasons. The architecture is unbelievable here. The buildings are so old and intricate and most of them are completely lined with gold embellishments.

The closest I’ll ever get to the queen…

Just an amazing day!

Starting on Monday was Fresher’s week. The university (they shorten it to “uni” here), puts on a week full of events for primarily the freshman.

Monday: The Bop – an on-campus night club held at the Union that plays dance and cheesy music. Being from Southlands College we had to dress up themed as “Back to School”…. Bradley, Tanita, myself…

Tuesday: Comedy Night!

Wednesday: The Grand – an old theatre that was renovated into a night club

Thursday: Indie Night at the Union

To come:

Friday night: Karaoke night at the Union

Saturday night: Fresher’s ball – silent disco, Ministry of Sound (DJ’s), and live performer Wagoner from the UK X-Factor

It  has been so much fun and beyond tiring! I’ve met so many new people from all over, internationals and locals, and found many that adore americans!

On Wednesday a few of us ventured into central London again to check things out for ourselves. We took the train in from Barnes to Waterloo and headed to Oxford street (London’s 5th ave.), and then to China Town. While we were in China town we ran into a commercial being filmed for British gas:

We then headed back to the London Eye and Big Ben to get a closer look!

We then made a pit stop at M&M world where their normal M&M’s are the peanut kind. They also have a fake M&M factory….

 

After M&M world we decided to take the “scenic route” to the Tate Modern. They scenic route consisted of the longest way possible and basically walking across the entire city….thank you Bradley. On a high note, because of the route we ran into the filming of a very popular British show called “Hustler”:

it was very cool.

Tonight we are off to karaoke! Classes start on Monday so that will  be nice to actually have some order again in my life but for now I’m just enjoying London 🙂

“One day your life will flash before your eyes, make sure it’s worth watching.”

love,

Erin

Look right, look left, look left, look right

I’m in LONDON!!!! It’s simply fabulous. It has been such a whirlwind of a few days though. I guess this is only my third day here but it already feels like it’s been weeks! (good thing). I flew over with a friend of mine, Chloe, which was really nice considering my lack of experience with everything international. We arrived in London Wednesday morning around 10:30 London time, and 5:30 am Asheville time. Womp. We immediately met a few boys from Norway and quickly learned that the majority of international students here (175 total) are either from the states or Norway. After waiting in the airport we took a bus to campus and tried to get settled in to our flats. I met my flat rep (RA in the states), her name is Tanita and she’s from England. I live with three others as well: Kait from Cali, Adonas (sp?) from Greece, and Bradley from England (he moves in Sunday with all the other England students). They are fabulous! I have quickly realized how horrible I am picking up accents though. Adonas and I have the hardest time understanding each other, I speak too quickly and his accent combined with his broken english is impossible for me to understand. We smile and nod a lot and he often tells me to repeat and slow down. I’m working on it! My parents will be pleased that it’s not just them who can’t understand me either! haha

So the first day we were here Tanita took us to Asda, which is the British version of Walmart. Overwhelming! It was also our first time on the bus. Everyone travels by Oyster cards here which is just an electronic card you swipe on the bus and reload whenever you need to. We didn’t have those yet since it was our first day. Because of this we got thrown off the first bus because the driver didn’t want to deal with cash, and then got hard times by the other two drivers. After Asda we unpacked and headed to one of the on-campus bars for out first legal drinks! The university is made up of four smaller colleges, mine is Southlands (pictures to come), and each college has their own cafe/bar. The main bar is called The Union which is on Frobel which is definitely the prettiest campus…

Gorgeous right? So we headed to the bar… this is my flat mate Adonas and I having a local drink called Pimms. It’s like a lemonade/cider/beer mixture and quite yummy!

We called it a night around midnight here so I had been up for a total of about 35 hrs and was exhausted.

Day 2: This was the beginning of our official orientation, we woke up for a welcome session and skipped the next two about visas and things that didn’t pertain to us. The plan was to meet back for the campus tour but we somehow missed it and decided to venture our campus and the nearby towns for ourselves. It ended up being a mix of students from the states, holland, norway, russia and australia. Some fun we had…

We ended the night with an international student social of dinner and drinks and ended at The Union bar again. On our way back to the flat we ran into some friends and hung out outside until we were presented with the tempting offer of date cake…new to me but it was deliciousssss!

Day 3: Ok this was today and then I will be all caught up! We had a few info sessions today about different travel packages, cell phones, organizations and various things. We had the day to ourselves though so Chloe, her flat mate Jo (from Hungry) and I ventured to Wimbledon and Richmond park. Wimbledon was a fail since we didn’t have our student cards it would’ve been really expensive so I’ll just have to go back…

Then we walked to this nearby town called southfields…

 

We then took a bus to Richmond which is a cute town and has a park right on the Thames river. On the way we encountered our first time on a double-decker bus!

 

We found a beautiful park on our way to Richmond park full of flowers and cows!

 

 

It has been such a wonderful past few days! It is almost eleven here so I am going to head to bed. Be on the look out for a good post coming up! Tomorrow we are going on a “photo frenzy” of London!

I miss you all!

Cheers!

Erin.

a bittersweet symphony

On July 27, I grudgingly moved out of Wilmington and back home to Asheville.

Leaving somewhere is alway bittersweet. Sad to be parting from such a wonderful place full of friends, memories and the beach, but returning home is always a comforting feeling. So, I’ve been home for a month now and to be honest, it’s been more bitter than sweet. I kept thinking it feels like I’m just quitting school to move home with the parents and work at the trusted neighborhood ice cream shop for the rest of my life. After a few weeks home I took a week off work and jumped on 40E for my farewell tour.

I adore Wilmington. It has become a place I can call my own, it’s my home. I was nervous to head down there with everyone starting school and finding a routine while I’m simply there to visit. Being in Wilmington felt natural, but being at UNCW felt more than just different. For the first time I was there with no agenda, no meetings, no classes, nowhere to be. I felt like an outsider watching all my friends’ new year begin. I felt like my life was on hold while everyone else was beginning their new journey with a new year. I laid on the beach all day while others took to classes and meetings. Not a bad life, but the bitter feeling just grew.

It was amazing seeing my friends, my big ambassa-family, my CAIC family, and the beach! It is the hardest thing stepping away from something so amazing and so familiar to go somewhere brand new. I will miss my Wilmington family more than words can even express. The first goodbye was the best and the hardest, my goodbye with the beach. Knowing I had to cut the trip short to avoid Irene, I spent the last night with great company laying on the beach. It would be my last time there for a long time, so I just soaked it all in. The cool salty breeze, the vast black ocean, waves tumbling, cool soft sand, millions of stars and the boy who has become one of my best friends. The first goodbye was the hardest.

Best friends are hard to come by. I’ve been lucky enough to have found several in Wilmington. To say Wilmington would not be the same without them is an understatement. There is nothing I want more than for them to jump on a plane and fly to London with me.

I’m going to London. Two weeks from today I will be on a plane to London. The words don’t feel like real life yet. I’m going to London! England! How can anything be more bitter than sweet right now? LONDON! This is what I wanted, to go somewhere completely foreign to me and have an adventure all to my own. I wanted to explore, to grow, to learn and to evolve as this trip undoubtedly changes me. I wanted this. I want this. So no, not more bitter than sweet, it’s more like incredible, unreal, amazing! So two weeks is all I have to get ready, to pack! ….how to fit my closet into a suitcase… my current adventure.

So thank you Wilmington. Thank you for being my home, for preparing me for this adventure, and for waiting for me with open arms for my return. But now I am home, my real home with mom and dad and I’m gonna have to say, it’s pretty sweet 🙂

I love you all ❤

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.

Erin.