Friday, January 31, 2014

21 in London

Well guys, as of Wednesday I am now 21 years old. Isn't that crazy? Where did all of that time go?

Spending my birthday in London was really nice. I kind of worried that I'd be sad all day because being away from home on a special day like that is extra tough. I slept in, took a shower, and met up with Anna around noon to make some travel plans. We ended up booking our flight to the south of France for April. We still need to plan the rest of the trip, but I'm looking forward to it now that I know we're starting off somewhere so beautiful!

After booking our flight, Anna headed out to see a play and I went back to my building. I had a package from Harrods waiting for me and I was really excited to see what was inside. I got up to my room and opened it, and I found an adorable teddy bear and lovely card from my aunt and uncle. I still have to come up with a good name so let me know if you have any suggestions! :)


I spent most of the day being lazy and watching movies in bed (which was really nice) and then got ready for dinner. I met my friend, Amy, downstairs in the lobby and we took the tube to Piccadilly Circus. I had made reservations for me and eight of my friends to eat at Nonna's Kitchen. We had gone there during orientation and loved it so I figured it would be fun to go back. It was definitely a good choice!

I ordered the 8" parmigiana pizza and it was so good! It was basically eggplant parm on pizza. I followed up the delicious meal with two scoops of Nutella gelato and it was SO good! I was almost done with it when they all started singing Happy Birthday to me. The manager/waiter placed another two scoops of gelato with a candle stuck into it right in front of me and I was so surprised! I didn't know if they did that over here but I guess they do.

Some of us headed to the pub next door and I got a pint of cider. We snagged a booth/table in the corner or the tiny pub and some more of the group headed out. It ended up being me, Anna, Amy, and Megan and we had a really good time talking and sipping on our drinks. The pub we were at is the same one I met Rupert Grint at so around 10:15, a lot of people from the show were trickling into the pub. The crowd grew and thinned out again quickly, but two of the cast members were sitting really close to us. One was Brendan Coyle from Downton Abbey, and the other was Daniel Mays. Anna really likes Downton Abbey so she introduced herself to Coyle and I took their picture. Rupert didn't come in that night but we did talk to a really nice British guy named Cru, who came over and introduced himself to us. He's from Carlisle, which is in the northern part of the UK if I'm correct. He was so excited that we were American. He was really friendly and gave us fliers for his band. He wants us to come see them perform next Thursday.
Me and Amy at the pub after dinner!


After about two hours in the pub, the bartender rang the bell for last call and we decided to head home. I really enjoyed the evening and even though I didn't go crazy for my 21st it was just my kind of night.

Other than my birthday, I've been going to class, grocery shopping, watching a ton of movies (Her, Catching Fire, The Book Thief, Frozen, The Spectacular Now, etc.), hanging out with friends, and trying to plan some more trips.

So far I know I'm going to Ireland, Scotland and the south of France. I think we're going to try to go from Nice, France to Italy, and then hopefully to Greece or maybe Croatia. I also need to plan a day trip to Paris and I'd love to get over to Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Prague, and a few other places before I leave.

In early April, I'll be staying with a host family for the weekend. I just got the e-mail yesterday and I'll be staying with John and Christine in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire which is about halfway between Birmingham and Manchester. I'm so excited to meet them and to experience a different part of the UK. Turns out Christine loves Hanson so I'm sure we'll get along really well!

Ed Sheeran most recently toured with Taylor Swift. 

The most exciting news at the moment is probably the purchase Liz made this morning. We're going to see Ed Sheeran at the Royal Albert Hall in March and I'm SO excited! I can't believe we're finally seeing him live and in London of all places! It's a benefit show for the Teenage Cancer Trust and our tickets were quite pricey but I think it'll be completely worth it. I've been dying to see him for such a long time.

The weekend will undoubtedly be a lazy and hopefully productive one for me. It's hard to resist starting another movie but I'm getting a little dizzy from sitting in my bed for so long so I might go take a walk to Waitrose for some groceries. I really need to do some laundry and start on my statistical analysis for my American history class.

Anyway, this weekend might be uneventful, but next weekend Liz is visiting and I think we're going to go to the Harry Potter Studios. I'm looking forward to everything that lies ahead and I can't wait to update you guys with more exciting adventures.

I always love hearing from you so send me a message sometime. Enjoy your weekend everyone!

xo Sheila


Mmmm, Nutella gelato!
Parmigiana pizza at Nonna's Kitchen. So yummy!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The story of how I met Rupert Grint, and some other random things

When Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone came out in theaters, I was terrified of it. I never imagined reading the books or seeing any more of those horrifying movies. But here I am, years and years later and about a week from turning 21, and I am proud to say that Harry Potter changed my life. Countless people have said the same thing so I'm sure I don't sound very unique, but that doesn't really bother me. I'm happy to share the magic with so many other people. After reading all of the books (numerous times) and seeing all of the movies (a bazillion times), the boy who lived has a very special place in my heart. More importantly, I've always had a huge crush on his redheaded best friend, Ron Weasley, and the actor who played him, Rupert Grint.

Well my friends, last night all of my dreams came true when I met Rupert in a London pub.

I've been in London since early January and during the first few days of orientation, I found out that Rupert was in a play called MOJO in Picadilly Circus. About a week ago I came across really cheap tickets to see the show before it closes on February 8th. I went for it and bought a ticket for myself for Friday, January 24th at 7:30PM.

I had been looking forward to the show all week so when Friday evening rolled around I made myself some chicken parm (my favorite) and got ready to head to the tube. When I got to the theatre, I claimed my ticket and went up to the Moonlight Bar. I ordered a cider and walked back towards the stairs leading to the balcony. When the house finally opened, I found my seat in the last row of the highest balcony in the theatre. Surprisingly, I could actually see the stage pretty well. I leaned forward in my seat a lot but I didn't mind. The theatre was beautiful and I didn't even mind how steep the balcony was.

The show was really good but to be completely honest, it was really difficult to understand what was going on half of the time. The accents were really heavy and the play takes place in the 50's so there was a lot of slang and fast-talking dialogue that I couldn't keep up with. From what I gathered, it was about the aftermath of a murder of a man who owned a music club in London. There were about six cast members, all male, and they were all very good. Colin Morgan (BBC's Merlin) was also in the cast and I think his and Rupert's were my favorite characters.

When the cast took their final bows, I practically ran out of my seat to get out of the building before the crowd. I made it outside and found the stage door area, but it was raining and there were already a bunch of girls lined up to meet the cast. I remembered hearing from some other study abroad students who had seen the show that the cast all exit out of different doors and Rupert usually goes out of the front. I also heard that he goes to the pub right across the street a lot. I wanted to increase my chances of meeting him, so I stood on the corner where I had the perfect view of the stage doors, front doors, and the pub. While I was standing there I met two girls who had seen the show as well. Pheobe, 18, was from England and Juliana, 23, was from Germany. They were both hoping to meet the cast as well, so we waited for about ten minutes. Ben Winshaw, one of the other cast members, came out and Pheobe talked to him for a minute. She was so excited and while she was freaking out about meeting him, Rupert walked outside with three friends and headed straight for the pub across the street.

I couldn't even breathe properly so it took a good minute for me and the girls to walk over towards the pub. We stopped outside the doors and I quickly took my hood down and tried to put my hair in a decent ponytail. I was so nervous!

We finally went inside and it was really tiny. The atmosphere was really cheerful though. I saw Rupert standing near the bar and he was talking to his friends but no one was crowding him or asking him for pictures. It was a lot of older people in the pub so no one really noticed him standing there. Eventually I made my way through the crowd towards him and when there was a break in his conversation I gently tapped his arm.

Breathe, Sheila. Breathe.

He turned and looked me right in the eyes and watched me intently as I tried to form words.

"Hi, Rupert. I'm sorry for bothering you. I honestly have no idea what to say to you except that I think you're wonderful. You did great in the show tonight."

"Oh wow, thank you! Cheers!"

He was smiling at me. I was dying.

"Do you mind if we have a picture?"

"Sure, of course!"

This one's a classic. Ha!
I moved around towards him and extended my arm to take a selfie, but it was awkward and not working at all so Juliana took my phone and took the picture for us.

He had one hand on my back and one around his beer and I was slowly melting into a puddle of mush.

"Thanks so much. I'm so sorry for bothering you! I also wanted to say that I really love Driving Lessons. My dad does too!"

Wait... what did I even just say? I liked Driving Lessons? My dad does too? I was malfunctioning. I guess it was better than saying that Harry Potter rocked my world or Thunderpants was a cinematic treasure.

"Oh yeah? Driving Lessons? Cool. Thanks so much! Cheers!"

He was so sweet. Instead of looking at me like the nerd I am he smiled really big and laughed cheerily.

Someone was trying to squeeze by me so I took Juliana's phone and snapped a photo of her with Rupert as well.
Driving Lessons is in all honesty, one of my favorite films.

"Thank you SO much!"

I think you've thanked the man enough, Sheila. Time to go home.

He smiled at us one last time and we turned around and made our way to the door.

A woman stopped us and said, "Excuse me, but is that the famous guy from Harry Potter?"

We laughed and told her he was and she was really excited to get a picture to send to her friend.

We left the pub and stood outside and talked while Juliana had a cigarette. Rupert walked out about five minutes later and got into his car with his friend.

Once she was finished, we walked to the tube station together and said our goodbyes. It was really nice meeting them and I definitely wouldn't have had a good time standing around in the rain without them. It was nice to be able to share that moment with new people. The whole tube ride home I was smiling like an idiot.

Anyway, it was probably one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me and I thought I'd share it with you guys!

Eeeeeeeeeeeek! (I thought this caption out really well)
Other than that, life has been pretty good. I've had each of my classes twice now and my first assignment is due February 11th. I went to Kensington Palace this morning with Arcadia and it was really cool to see where Prince William and Kate Middleton live, even though we weren't allowed near the residential quarters. I got to see Princess Diana's gowns and old items from previous Kings and Queens. It was a beautiful day as well so it was lovely walking around the grounds after our self-guided tour. I've also recently been to the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery which were both really interesting and beautifully designed. I've also been cooking a lot and I can't wait to find some more easy, affordable recipes to make. Someone actually stole my pots and forks so when that's all sorted out I'd love to spend more time cooking and baking.

I think tonight I'll take it easy and Skype with Steph for a while. Tomorrow I should plan a few more trips and find the books I need for my classes.

Only 4 more days until I'm 21!



Chinatown

This picture was taken at Kensington Palace. It was so exciting to see her gowns!

Kensington Palace is the official residence of William and Kate.


I absolutely loved this window seat. It's located in the Queen's apartment in Kensington Palace.

Write soon!

xo Sheila

Monday, January 20, 2014

Breathe and Adjust


A stroll through Regent's Park is a great cure for too much time in the city.
So I've now been in London for nearly three weeks and I'm starting to adjust to the differences more and more each day. When people talk about study abroad, they rave about the landmarks they see, the friends they make, the food they eat, the classes they take, and all of the traveling they do. Now, there is definitely a lot to say about those things, and so many positive things can come of being abroad, but not many people talk about the negative things... Well, not even necessarily "negative," but the things that no one tells you when they're describing their glamorous life abroad. (Some of these might pertain to London more than other places)

1) Smaller showers, bigger drinks: I think this one is pretty self-explanatory, but basically showering is like getting an MRI and ordering a cider or beer is expensive, but really sizable. The alcohol is stronger as well so I'm always good with one or two drinks per night out. Plus, drinking is expensive, which leads me to my next point.

2) Everything is expensive: Traveling from place to place- even getting to class- can cost a fortune. I feel like I'm constantly running low on funds between grocery shopping, laundry, sight-seeing, the tube, drinks, and other miscellaneous things.

3) Everything sells out: You need to get tickets for plays, movies, comedy nights, etc. far in advance or it's pretty much guaranteed it will sell out. It's hard to just see a movie on a whim unless you want to pay over 10 pounds.

4) Life without a meal plan is tough in a foreign country: I'm always struggling to come up with creative, healthy meals that don't cost too much. Grocery shopping is harder here because they arrange their stores differently and I never know what I want to cook before I go shopping for the ingredients. I'm probably going to be hungry and dehydrated a lot more than I'm used to at home. Pasta every night used to be a dream of mine...

5) Crowds, noise, and fast-paced living: It's weird being away in a foreign place but especially being in a huge city. I've never been a fan of crowds so going shopping, riding the tube, and going to pubs on the weekends has really tested my patience. It's hard to feel safe and calm when people around you are rushing to wherever they're going. I often feel lost and nervous when I'm out. I guess that's something I need to embrace and eventually get over.

6) Public transportation: It's literally the only way to get around here in London so I've been learning to use it as effectively as possible. It's expensive to take the tube so I got myself a student oyster card. That takes about 30% off of all my tube rides. The tube is usually pretty fast, easy to navigate, and there are stops everywhere. The downside is that it's hot as hell down in the platforms and there are mice running about the tracks in most stations. Sometimes I feel claustrophobic when I'm walking through the winding tunnels to get to the right platform. It's fun people watching and seeing the occasional performer though. Buses are another beast altogether. They're nice if you want to see more sights and they're less expensive than the tube, but it's been confusing trying to figure out which buses stop where and every time I've stepped foot on a bus it has taken off super fast and I've nearly fallen on my butt.

7) You're going to have down-time, so how are you going to spend it?: It's weird not having a class everyday of the week. My schedule is Tuesday and Thursday classes only so I'm off the majority of the week. There's a lot of independent studying required of us but for the first few weeks there is a lot of time to kill when I don't have classes. I'm basically alone in Marylebone so I find myself watching more Netflix than I ever planned on doing while in London. I know it sounds bad, but if I walk out of my door I'm bound to spend money on something and I don't always feel comfortable going places alone so it's probably necessary to spend a few days being lazy here and there. Today I had some down time so I headed to the British Museum by myself. It was a beautiful day and I really enjoyed it a lot, but the museum was HUGE and I'm definitely going to need to go back. At least admittance was free!

8) Lack of communication: So maybe it's just me, but since I've been here I've felt like I'm constantly struggling to communicate with those around me. Whether it's trying to make plans with my friends on the other campus, attempting to text on my crappy UK phone, or leaving a note on the fridge in hopes of meeting some of my hallmates and receiving basically no responses. I'm often feeling lonely and trust me, I love my alone time just as much as the next person, but being stranded in my room or even walking the streets alone all of the time will get old really quickly.

9) Independence: This is such a double-edged sword. I love being independent and taking care of myself. That's why I wanted to go abroad. I want to work on loving myself more and I want to leave here being able to live independently in any given setting. But it's also hard to be away from home. I know that it's only temporary and I'd be going nuts if I were home 24/7 but it's weird knowing that I can't just call up my dad or drive to a friend's house. All of the people I love and care about are scattered across the globe. Life goes on for us all and we will be reunited soon enough, but it's definitely not going to be easy living without seeing friends and family every day. As lame as it sounds, I need some more hugs! I also need to find someone who will be sarcastic with me and laugh as much as I do. Liz came for her orientation last week and I had a blast being with her. I felt so comfortable and happy because she waited for me at the ATM and laughed at all of my jokes. She asked me how I was and actually cared when I told her. I just want to feel that more often. I'm sure it's just because I don't know anyone well enough yet to have those connections but the fact that I'm lacking that is making me anxious and uncomfortable.

10) Sometimes you're going to make mistakes: For example, I got on the wrong tube the other day even though I had taken the tube to the same place at least three times prior to that day. Also, I tried to pay with coins at a Pret the other day to practice and the cashier was clearly annoyed. I just kept putting coins on the counter and looking up at him for approval. I got it eventually. I guess the funniest mistake of all happened in my sleep two nights ago... I totally fell out of my bed. That was the first time I've done that since... maybe ever.

Don't think I'm depressed or hating my time here in London, because that's definitely not the case. I'm learning to overcome and adapt to these little frustrations and differences each and every day and even the bad things make for great stories. I can't wait to go home in May with a whole new perspective on this place and all that it has to offer. I'm sure I'll be missing the tube and the crowded streets the moment I step foot on the plane.

That's it for now, but you'll be hearing from me at least once a week from here on out. I'll leave you with some pictures I've taken recently around London.

(PS: I booked a trip to Ireland with my friends Megan and Anna for the last weekend of February. So excited!)

Regent's Park is really close to my building and it's so beautiful.
The flowers in Regent's Park are definitely not in their prime but I spotted a few on my walk.
I went to the British Museum today and the sun was shining which made for some nice pictures!
The British Museum is home to the Rosetta Stone and other amazing artifacts.

The gates to the museum were really pretty and reminded me of Buckingham Palace.

The inside of the museum was beautiful!
The light coming through the window near the stairs was incredible. I had to take a photo!
I love watching the sunset from my window.

Hope you're all doing well! I'd love to hear from you and if you would like to know about anything specific regarding my life in London, I'd be happy to address those things in future posts!

-Sheila

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Whoopsidaisies

"Notting Hill" has always been one of my favorite movies, and yesterday I found myself walking the streets there after all of these years. It felt really surreal to be there, and I enjoyed every moment of it!


Anna, Matt, Sam, Megan and I had our registration appointments on Wednesday morning (Jan. 8) and met up afterwards to take the tube to Notting Hill. My appointment went really well! I was nervous because I wanted to switch two of my classes and when I told Nicola, my Westminster adviser, what my back-up classes were she checked and all of them were either full or clashed with my other two classes. I was starting to get discouraged but we figured it out and my schedule seems like it'll be great now. I only have class on Tuesdays and Thursdays which will be so perfect for traveling. I have each class once a week.

On Tuesday morning I have Photographing the City: London on the Harrow campus from 10am-1pm. I will then take the tube back to Oxford Circus and walk to the Regent Street campus for my Modern America: Social and Political Change 1850-1920 from 1pm-5pm, with a break between my lecture and seminar from 2pm-3pm.

Portobello Market has really great shops and food.
On Thursday morning I will be back at Harrow from 10am-1pm for Film Theories: Hollywood and Genre. I'll take the tube back to the Wells Street campus for my Writing London: Creative Writing About London class from 2pm-5pm.

All of my classes are level 4, which I've heard is not too demanding. Level 4 is what most first year students here take so I'll probably be with students younger than I am.

Okay, so now I'll get back to Notting Hill. We got off the tube at Notting Hill Gate and walked to Portobello Road. We saw all of the pastel colored houses and as we got further down the road we started to see the shops and kiosks. Many of the products sold at Portobello Market are very touristy, but they also have a lot of handmade jewelry, bags and clothes, as well as fresh fruit and vegetable stands. I got some asparagus, grapes, and baby spinach. I'm really excited to cook now! I was so tempted to buy some of the dresses I saw which were only about 5-10 pounds. I'm already going to have to ship a ton of things home so I don't want to keep adding things to my inventory. I'm sure I'll cave by May.

I ended up back at my room for a few hours so I did a load of laundry, showered, and ran to Tesco Express around the corner for some more groceries. Laundry is really annoying here because the machines only take certain coins and they're really finicky. A load of wash is two pounds and 60 pence and a load in the dryer is one pound. I'm definitely going to have trouble with that this semester.

After my laundry and shower were out of the way I made myself a PB&J sandwich and planned to meet up with Anna, Megan, and Matt at their campus by 7:30pm to see a free comedy show nearby. I was on my way down the stairs at the Baker Street tube station and I saw the train there with it's doors open. I wasn't going to run for it so I kept walking, but the two women near me started to run. I figured maybe I should too. I was literally and inch behind the second woman and the doors of the tube hit me from the side. Don't worry, it didn't hurt, but it knocked me over a bit and everyone was laughing at me. I guess I was bound to embarrass myself in public sooner or later. Oh well, at least I have a story to tell you all now. Ha!

The comedy show was great and we saw a lot of funny people. One of them was an American woman who lives in France, so that was really cool. There was even an elderly woman who said some really dirty jokes and had us all laughing pretty hard. I also had a Briska pear cider to sip on throughout the show and it was so good. After the show I caught the tube back home and got ready for bed. I Skyped with my dad for a little while and couldn't keep my eyes open long enough to write in my journal.

Tonight I have a boat cruise on the Thames with other Westminster study abroad students. It should be a lot of fun! I can't wait to see the sights from the water.



Since I shared my "whoopsidaises" tube moment with you, it only seems right to leave you with some dialogue from my favorite part of "Notting Hill"...


William: Whoopsidaisies!
Anna: What did you say?
William: Nothing.
Anna: Yes you did.
William: No I didn't.
Anna: You said "whoopsidaisies".
William: I don't think so. No one says "whoopsidaisies" do they? Unless they're...
Anna: There *is* no "unless." No one has said "whoopsidaisies" for fifty years and even then it was only little girls with blonde ringlets.
William: Exactly. Here we go again.
[He falls off the fence again]
William: Whoopsidaisies. It's a disease I've got. It's a clinical thing. I'm taking pills and having injections. It won't last long. 
 
Notting Hill (1999) was actually filmed in London! According to Wikipedia: Richard Curtis (writer/developer) chose Notting Hill as he lived there and knew the area, saying "Notting Hill is a melting pot and the perfect place to set a film"

I'll definitely be using this for grocery shopping from now on. Love it!
Write soon!
xo Sheila

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Rain, knight buses and crinkly old bags.

Day Six:

I'm sitting in my bed, looking out of my window at the beautiful view of London on this dreary day, and I'm still full from my breakfast of Frosties (Frosted Flakes), a buttered roll and orange juice. I do not have anything planned for today so I slept in (not really, unless you consider 9:15am sleeping in). I'm still feeling a bit overwhelmed by the transition to a new country and all of the stresses that come with it, but I also feel much better now that I have my room set up and all of my kitchen supplies are purchased. I think that I've been having a good time but it's so hard to tell how I feel because every day so far has been planned and filled with sight-seeing, shopping, walking, meeting people, etc. I think I'll be more content when the first week of classes is over. I start them on Monday, Jan. 13th. I'm sure some of you are wondering what I've been up to since arriving last Thursday, so I'll write a little about each day.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014 (Departure)

I packed up, said my goodbyes and left for JFK around 4:30pm. We arrived with plenty of time to spare so my dad and Maggie sat with me for an hour or so once we checked my bag. After we said goodbye, I went through security without any problems at all and waved to them one last time as I walked towards the gate. So here's where it gets interesting...

I was sitting at the gate writing in my journal and thinking about how easy the whole pre-departure process had been when I realized that it was getting really close to 9:10pm, which was final boarding call for my flight. I looked around and thought it was strange that not many people were sitting near my gate. All of a sudden people started to exit from the gate that I was at. I sat there confused and all of sudden it hit me- I was at the wrong gate. I jumped up and grabbed my bags and ran as quickly as I could from gate 7 to gate 4 at about 9:09pm. I had mixed up the numbers because I was in terminal 7 and leaving from gate 4. I got to the flight attendant who asked me if I was Sheila Bogan and I said yes and told her what happened. She laughed and told me that it was fine and I proceeded to the plane. I was in row 30 and I was supposed to have a window seat. When I got to my row there was a woman sitting in my seat. I was so flustered from my mishap that I just wanted to sit so I took the middle seat. On the other side of me was a senior in college named Brad who was going to study abroad in Ireland and we ended up talking a lot during the flight. He helped me with my bag and it was nice getting to know someone instead of worrying about silly things the whole flight over to England. Plus, the window seat wasn't that great. The wing blocked our view.

Thursday, January 2nd (Arrival/First Day)

My first pint! (Princess Louise Pub)
We stayed at the St. Gile's Hotel.
I arrived at Heathrow around 9:15am and had to make my way from terminal 5 to terminal 3 with all of my luggage. It was really easy to find but my bags were really heavy and frustrating to maneuver around. After about twenty minutes or so of lugging my bags through hallways and lifts, I met up with the Arcadia staff in terminal 3. I left my bags with them and took a seat while we waited for the shuttle to the hotel to arrive. It didn't take long, and the ride to the hotel was really fun. I didn't see any massive tourist attractions on our route, but I got to see a lot of interesting buildings and shops.

When I arrived at the hotel, I received my room key and went to the 3rd floor to settle in. I was the first one to arrive in the room so I put my stuff down and looked around a bit. It was quite small but not too dirty or unkempt. I was only there for about 15 minutes when my roommate, Anna, came in and introduced herself. It turned out that we had already spoken on Facebook prior to the trip. We both took naps and around 4pm we made our way to the lobby to meet the Arcadia staff. They had bumped the time to 5pm so a few of us walked around near the hotel to kill time. Once we met with the staff back at the hotel, we headed to the Arcadia center in Holborn and had a brief meeting about our first few days. After that, we all went to Wagamama (a Japanese restaurant) for dinner. It was very different from I expected. It was more like a fast food place and the design was very simplistic. The waiters were all English and the tables were long and thin like a cafeteria. After dinner, the girls I sat with and I headed to the Princess Louise pub nearby. I got a cider and Anna and I went upstairs to get out of the crowded atmosphere down by the bar. We found a table with some comfy chairs and stayed there for about an hour drinking our cider and getting to know one another. When we got back to the hotel we were pretty exhausted so we went right to sleep.

Friday, January 3rd (Orientation/The 39 Steps)
On Friday morning we went back to the Arcadia center in Holborn for our orientation. We learned about Britishness, what to expect from our classes here, traveling, shopping, budgeting, health and so on. It was pretty interesting but towards the end we were all yawning and getting restless, especially because of our jet lag.

After orientation a bunch of us grabbed cell phones at the Carphone Warehouse and then took the tube to Piccadilly Circus. We had about 45 minutes until we had to be at The Criterion theater to see The 39 Steps so we rushed to find a place to eat. We ended up at Nonna's Kitchen which was absolutely delicious and we had a really friendly waiter. He made sure we were served quickly so that we would make it to the show on time. He also told us to come back for some cake sometime. When we left the restaurant I realized that there was a show called Mojo right across the street. Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley from Harry Potter) was one of the actors in the show and now I definitely want to try to see it!

The 39 Steps was really funny and definitely different than shows I've seen in America. The theater was really pretty too! When we got back to the hotel I bought an hours worth of wifi and struggled to make contact with my dad and Maggie because they were both getting ready to go out. I was just happy to be able to check Facebook and update some people on what I was up to.

Saturday, January 4th (Tower of London/Move-In)

The Tower of London was really fun to go to!
We woke up and headed to breakfast downstairs on Saturday morning. I had a bowl of chocolate cereal and then a little bit of eggs and toast. When we finished eating we met up with some others and went to the tube station. We had to get to Tower Hill and meet up with Arcadia to get our tickets for the Tower of London. It was raining most of the way there and while we approached the Tower. Once we were inside, we all split up and roamed around for a few hours. Anna and I stuck together and saw everything from the Bloody Tower to the Crown Jewels. I was really excited to see everything and I took a bunch of pictures (you can see them all on Facebook).

When we arrived back at the hotel, we packed our bags, rested for a bit, and then headed down to the lobby to check out and meet the coaches that were to take us to our respective residence halls. I boarded the bus to Marylebone and said goodbye to Anna and my other friends who are living at Alexander Fleming about fifteen minutes away. When we arrived at Marylebone, we got our room keys and waited about half an hour for the lift since only one was working. The building is twenty floors and there are normally two lifts. Each goes to different floors, one to mostly odd and one to mostly even. The one that goes to my floor, 16, was still working so I'm really lucky. When I got out of the lift I walked a few feet and then followed the sign for rooms G-L. I swiped my room key into the slot next to the door and proceeded into my hallway. My room, L, is to the right all the way at the end of the hall. I keyed in, and opened my door.

When I saw the view of London outside of my window I literally gasped and ran into my room to get a better look. All of my exhaustion and frustration faded because I absolutely loved the set-up and breathtaking view I have. Soon after I moved into my room I headed back out to get sheets and a duvet. I walked with Sam and Tori (both Arcadia students as well) to Primark on Oxford Street. It was about a twenty minute walk and when we arrived the place was swamped with shoppers. Everywhere I turned there was a person blocking an aisle or bumping into me. I felt really overwhelmed and cranky. I just wanted to get out of there. Finally, after about an hour of shopping and waiting in line, we left the store and started to walk back towards Baker Street. But nothing is easy when you're tired and frustrated so of course my bag ripped at the bottom and all of my items fell onto the muddy sidewalk. Sam and Tori helped me gather all of the things that fell and put them into their bags. I still had one big bag so I swung it over my back for more support. We walked home and I was so happy to shower and lay down after such a long few days. Unfortunately, I had nothing to distract me from my homesickness and stress because I had no wifi! I asked the receptionist about it and she said that there actually is no wifi in this building and that won't be changing anytime soon. When I was out earlier with Sam and Tori I purchased a router because the receptionist also said that many students do that to get their own wifi. When I got back I tried to set it up for a long time but the ADSL light was not going on. I was so stressed that I eventually gave up and started decorating and listening to music instead. My cheap UK phone started ringing around 9pm, just seconds after the shelf in my closet collapsed. I was sitting on the floor staring at the heap of my clothes and the stupid shelf when the phone rang. I got up to see who it was and my heart jumped when I saw it was my home phone in New York! I answered and my dad was on the line. He told me that under their Optimum plan they could talk to me for 4 cents per minute. Incoming calls are free for me so it was perfect! I slept a lot better that night knowing that I got to talk to my family.



Sunday, January 5th (Self-Guided Tour/WIFI/Dinner with Britt)

On Sunday morning I took the tube from Baker Street to Old Street to meet up with Anna, Megan, Matt, and Noelle for a self-guided tour of London's main tourist attractions. I grabbed a blueberry cheesecake muffin at Sainsbury's and we all headed back to the tube to start our day. We went to the Monument, the London Bridge (which had a beautiful view of the Tower Bridge), Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, and Buckingham Palace. My favorites were probably Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. Both were so gorgeous and amazing to see in person after years of reading about them in books. I was really tired after the tour and grocery shopping so I went back to my room and Sam and I attempted to set up the router. I had no silverware yet so I sat on my floor and buttered a roll with my finger (don't worry, I washed my hands first). I figured that would be my dinner so I continued to try to sort out the router with Sam. We spent a long time on it and eventually we gave up for the night. I had met my neighbors, Britt and Bryan, during a trip to the kitchen (which is right down the hall) and they were setting up a router too. They offered me their password for 12 pounds and I told them I'd think about it. Right when Sam and I gave up for the night, Bryan came to my room and told me he got his router working. I was clearly frustrated about having no wifi so he felt really bad and gave me his password. I was so nice of him to do and I ended up paying him the 12 pounds anyway. If this works out the whole semester that would be great and 12 pounds was a good investment. I now have wifi on my computer and phone in my room. I was so relieved! I got to Skype home and it was really nice to see my family. While I was Skyping, Britt knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to grab some dinner with her. I finished talking to my family and then met her at her door. We walked to Baker Street and stopped at a little Italian restaurant. I got margherita pizza which was so delicious and we got to know each other better. I found out that she's from California and she's a journalism major too! It was so nice knowing that my next door neighbor has things in common with me and is super nice as well.
Buckingham Palace was really nice and the guards were wearing blue/gray coats instead of red because of the season.


Photo courtesy of Anna Alexander: (From right to left) Noelle, Anna, Matt, Megan, and me.

Monday, January 6th (Westminster Orientation, Shopping, Rest)

I got a Crinkly Old Bag at Pret!
Monday morning was Westminster's orientation so Sam, Tori, and I headed out around 9am and walked to Little Titchfield St. which is about 15 minutes away. We stopped for some Starbucks and got to the orientation a few minutes early. We received big pink folders with our ID's, info booklets, and tons of other things that we will need this semester. The auditorium filled up and we all sat through a presentation that must have lasted at least two hours. I'm not going to lie, I was really bored towards the end, but I'm glad I got all of the information I'll need to live here for five months.

After orientation, a group of us walked to the Regent Street campus and then headed to Oxford Street to get some things at Boots (like Walgreens and CVS). After we got what we needed, we went to lunch at a Panera-like place called Pret a Manger and they are located just about everywhere I've been in London. When we finished eating we went to the tube station and some of us went to Argos for home goods. Argos is a catalog store, so you go in and order on iPads and they can deliver to your home or you can collect it there at the store. I got everything I needed, including plates, bowls, and a set of pots and pans so I had a lot to carry. I didn't know how big everything would be so I asked an employee before buying everything. I said "Will I be able to carry all of this on the tube?" and he said "Oh yes, definitely." I took his word for it and paid for my items, and then he went into the back to pull them for me. When he loaded up the bag and double bagged it, I was a little nervous but figured I'd be fine on the tube with what I got. Then he got ANOTHER sizable, heavy box out and before I knew it I was standing outside on the curb with two huge Argos bags and a Boots bag. Thank God Sam was there to help me because getting back to Marylebone was horrible. We took a bus to Oxford Circus and then a taxi to our building. It was a nightmare trying to find the right transportation and carrying around such heavy things. The bags were ripping and I was so nervous! The taxi driver we got was really nice and since we only needed to go a few blocks the fare was about 6 pounds. I was just relieved to have arrived at my building safely and in one piece. It was also really nice knowing that I had silverware and plates to eat off of finally.

I took a shower right away, set up my new hamper and unloaded my boxes and bags. I did some dishes in the kitchen and re-heated my leftover pizza from the night before. I watched one episode of Dexter and Skyped Stephanie for a long time. After we hung up I talked to my family on the phone and I spent a while on Facebook. I was really tired so I fell asleep around midnight. That was definitely the best sleep I've gotten yet.



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Anyway, that was a lot of information and I won't always blog like that, but now you know what I've been up to! If you have any questions or want to keep in touch, these are the best ways to reach me:

Address:

Sheila Bogan
Room 16L
Marylebone Hall of Residence
35 Marylebone Road
London, NW1 5LS

UK Number: (US dial 011+44+ drop first 0 before number that follows) 077-4699-7661

E-mail: sbogan@mail.smcvt.edu

Skype: sheila.bogan

Instagram and Twitter: imjustsheila

Facebook Messenger and Viber App work really well too!

(I only really have wifi in my room so I'll answer whenever I can!)

The best time to Skype is usually between 2pm and 8pm U.S time. That's about 7pm-midnight for me.

I'll definitely be blogging again soon. I think today I'll rest some more and maybe walk around on my own for a bit. Cheerio!

-Sheila