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Sharing my London World

This past week my parents flew out to visit me in London! I am so fortunate my parents were able to make the far trip, especially since they are traveling to China next week to visit my younger sister, Marci, on Semester at Sea.

The first two days were spent showing them my favorite London spots: The Museum of Natural History, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Hyde Park, Harrods, St. James Park, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Soho.

We saw two theatre shows: Backbeat and Legally Blonde. I love Backbeat - the story of the Beatles before they were famous. Backbeat focused on the tragic story of 5th Beatles musician before his eventual exit from the band. My Dad and I enthusiastically sang along to early Beatles songs and took pleasure in watching John Lennon and Paul McCartney brainstorm lyrics to “Love Me Do.” 

Next, my parents and I boarded a two hour train to Bath. The ancient city boasted gorgeous curved buildings and historic Roman Baths emitting scalding water from the Earth. We took advantage of the peaceful town, touring the Bath Abbey church, ancient baths and a two-hour outdoor bath and spa treatment. Especially since my family was disconnected from our 3G internet on our mobile phones, I felt especially engaged with our surroundings and was able to fully embrace the culture.

Finally, my family and I traveled to Stonehenge! While I understood that I was in the presence of a historic monument, in reality, it was just rocks.

Here’s what my sister emailed me from her Global Architecture class in India: “okay this has been my favorite of all the buildings we studied! im so jealous u get to go! its made entirely out of megalith rocks, MASSIVE stones that are impossible to move. they stones took months to move and they dragged them to the building site just by tons of men pushing together for months. each one is a ton or half a ton i cant remember.

its the most famous of the neolithic monuments. it has these aubrey holes on the inside which show that there was once proof of cremation burials.
its an example of trabeated architecture which means it has a vertical post on the top supporting a lentin. it has an extremely low tensil strength- meaning a low capacity to ben without breaking. made in 2700 — 1500 BC. the people of salsbury plains in england felt that is was their axis mundi or “center of the world”

Check out our video at Stonehenge:

Overall: it was an incredible week and I am so fortunate my parents were able to visit!

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Reflection: Steve Jobs and Yom Kippur

Making my final rounds scrolling Twitter at 1am Wednesday night in my London dorm room, I stared at my dimly lit MacBook screen, stunned as the Steve Jobs tweets started pouring in. I quickly glanced at my sleeping roommate then outside to the Kensington Streets in London, expecting riots to disrupt the quiet suburb. But life remained still and I felt an urgency to tell someone in London, talk to someone, to communicate and make sense of the chaos. But I couldn’t – everyone was asleep. So I opened my MacBook, iPhone3Gs and reached out to my friends and family in California and Boston.

I wondered why Steve’s passing affected me so directly. When I moved 3,000 miles from California to Boston and now another 3,000 miles to London, I deeply relied on Apple products to keep me in touch with my loved ones and the communities I’ve built for myself. Remembering my early freshman days of the first Boston snowfall, I missed San Francisco more than I ever have before. Laying in bed, I turned my iPhone over and read “Designed in California,” soon calming my nerves that a little bit of home was with me wherever I went.

This week was a harsh reminder that bad things happen to good people. At age 56, Steve’s losing battle with cancer sharply ended his young life. As I reflected on Steve’s accomplishments across Apple and Pixar, I combined my grief for Steve’s passing and the approaching Yom Kippur fast in a few hours. How did Steve inspire others? How did Steve build relationships and understand the human need? How have I positively impacted others? Teaching guitar lessons to a friend? Opening doors for people? Performing well in my classes and internships to make my family proud? How have I failed? How can I improve for this next year? What do I really want after graduation?

As I begin the next 24 hours of soul searching and meditation, I am fortunate to see an outpour of Steve Jobs inspirational quotes and videos to encourage and motivate me to have an easy fast and a meaningful upcoming year.

Thanks Steve, for connecting me to my loved ones when I needed it the most.

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Everyone I meet might not be Hugh Grant

There’s a funny thing about the British, they all sound incredible educated. and polite. and correct.

But what about that helpful cashier at the supermarket missing his teeth? Yes, yes he’s definitely sophisticated. Or that boy in the bar that told me I was a gorgeous lass?  Yes, must be a Oxford grad. Or that women that bumped into me, “watch out, love.” What a sweet lady.

Wait, what? Missing teeth? Creepy pick-up lines? I need to train myself how to separate dreamy accents from actual meaning.

Now that I’ve lived in London for a month, I’m starting to pick up on physical cues and decipher British dialogue appropriately to situational factors, not the dreamy accents. When I begin interning with Yahoo! UK, I imagine my supervisors will assign me tasks or provide constructive criticism and I need to be prepared to interpret the accents and extract true meaning.

In my Global Promotional Strategies class, we watched six different business people attempt to work together to solve a problem for their brand. The different ethnicities and customs of the six global employees emphasized the value of understanding other cultures. Hopefully I can continue to pursue a career in global communications; perhaps working with European media to attain top tier media coverage across international publications or developing social media strategies in an Asian country.

The more I expose myself to British and international cultures, the more I learn. In addition to going out to pubs, where it’s often hard to hold a coherent conversations, I find myself drawn to wandering around the Museum of Natural History in the afternoons, or walking around the Financial District post 5pm.

This past week I celebrated Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, at Imperial College, a local British University. Chatting with Jews from Brazil, Russia, Paris, Germany and dozens of other regions inspired me to become a global citizen. Even though we spoke different languages, we all sang the same Jewish melodies and prayers. Smiling at each other, we were happy to come together as a religious community for a few hours, speaking the same universal language.

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Amsterdam

{Elle and Ellen in the “M”}

This past weekend I traveled to Amsterdam in the Netherlands! My three-day weekend began with an early 2:30am wakeup call followed by a 6:10am flight. Ashley, Elle, Kristina, Carol and I arrived to the Amsterdam airport, a little tired but excited for our first European trip! We spent our first day roaming the small city, admiring the gorgeous architecture, thriving cycling culture and eating delicious plate-sized crepes.

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On day two I ate a mouth-watering sugar waffle and fresh squeezed orange juice in front of the Amsterdam sign. Then we went to the Van Gough museum and the Heinenkein Factory tour.

Day three was spent relaxing and people watching, ending with a long canal ride through the city. An incredible weekend spent learning Dutch, trying new foods and exploring more of the world.

{A summary of our Amsterdam adventures on the Canals!}

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Outdoors in London

This past weekend was mostly spent outdoors, enjoying some of the final remaining days of warm weather.

On Wednesday I saw Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare at the Globe Theater. The theater had an exposed, open roof, mimicking traditional Shakespearean plays. Much Ado was humorous, engaging while ending on a serious note. Even though I had read the play in high school, it was challenging to understand their thick British accents and subtle humor. When the audience burst into laughter, my American friends and I smiled and glanced at each other in bewilderment.

My professors have encouraged me to become more familiar with European media, especially reading the local tabloids and watching commercials. But a lot of British media is depressing, highlighting everyday struggles of lower/middle class citizens stuck in mediocre jobs. Whereas in America, our TV is full of glamorous, beautiful people accelerating in their careers and love life. It all comes back to our history: the English feel guilt about their empirical acquisitions and enslavements; compared to America’s youth and hopefulness. The more I familiarize myself with British history and everyday culture, it will be easier to understand current mass media trends and stories. Especially as I near my internship start date, my I am utilizing every resource to meet locals and explore London.

On Friday, I went to the Queen’s Gardens in Regant Park. The well-manicured hedges and lawns opened up into a beautiful rose garden.

On Saturday, I went to Oxford and Blenheim Palace, home of Winston Churchill. Similar to Windsor Castle, the palace was quietly tucked away, surrounded by a man-made lake and acres of gardens. Oxford was a bustling college town, full of shops and different sectors of the university. I ate a delicious pub lunch of steak and mushroom pop-over with mash and veggies and chocolate beer.

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Museum of Natural History and Hyde Park

This week I was thrown into my classes: British Public Relations and Global Promotional Strategies! My classes last from 9am-1pm, and then I have the afternoons free to explore. Yesterday after class, I walked around South Kensington, stopping by the Museum of Natural History next to my dorm. I ended up spending two hours at the Museum, in the Marine Life and Mineral rooms. The high ceilings and quiet atmosphere provided an escape from my bustling city life.


Walking to class everyday is such a treat! I live in a residential neighborhood, so every morning during my walk to classes, I spot dozens and dozens of small toddlers clutching their parents hand. Straight out of a scene from Madeline, the little children are wearing matching school uniforms. Bright purple, orange, red blazers, top hats, stockings up to their knees…adorable! It makes the early morning walk enjoyable.

On Sunday, my friends and I visited the Butterfly Gardens at the Museum of Natural History! A butterfly landed on my head!

We also walked around Hyde Park for a few hours!

Then on Sunday night, Kristina and I shared churros dipped in chocolate at the Thames River Festival!Delicious!

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Exploring Soho and Windsor Castle

The last two days have been filled with tons of exploring in very different areas of London! First, I explored the financial and theater district of London called Soho.

Soho had a wide mix of broadway and speciality British plays, thriving Chinatown, gay bars and 500-year-old churches. I heard dozens of international languages, smelled incredible scents of fresh-baked croissants and “leafy” gardens (British vocab), and gazed up at powerful sky-scrapers.

Today I traveled to Windsor Castle! Wandering a Disney kingdom was the closest feeling to describe my day. The Queen and Royal Family spend time living in the Castle, while a small town lives at the bottom of the hill. The exterior of the castle was highly well-protected in case of invasion, while the castle interior was filled with paintings, statues and fine cloth. My favorite part was seeing the Queen’s Dollhouse collection – the entire Windsor castle in mini-version. 

 

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