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Sofia - RWU Class of 2013

White Chocolate Chunk Cookies… and Other Things

After hunting for the perfect (i.e. cheap) restaurant, I finally had my first proper English breakfast! It was certainly different than the typical hearty “American” breakfast and consisted of fried eggs, sausage, bacon, baked beans, a grilled tomato and a choice of either a portobello mushroom or black pudding (I won’t disgust you with an ingredients list of the latter…).

english breakfast

English Breakfast

Since I’m a vegetarian and I’m a bigger fan of French toast, we’ll just say that I’m happy I had it, but have no desire to have it a second time.

I also went to Portobello Road, which is about a two-mile long street market selling all sorts of food, clothing and miscellaneous items. I spent probably a good three hours there and walked away with loads of stuff for hardly any money at all! It was so much fun and I’ll definitely be visiting there again.

portobello

Portobello Road

We also visited Covent Garden, which was a fruit, vegetable and flower market for over 300 years. In 1980, the Victorian halls were transformed into a main tourist attraction filled with shops, restaurants and street performers.

Covent Garden

Covent Garden

It’s such a lively atmosphere there and we found an amazing cookie place there called Ben’s Cookies…the white chocolate chunk was heavenly.

The Social Programme I am enrolled in took us to see Phantom of the Opera last week at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Piccadilly Circus. It was an incredible performance! The theatre itself is really small, but they really worked the stage and made a great use of space. I haven’t ever seen this particular performance in theatre and I haven’t seen the film version since high school, so I was surprised to find myself singing along with them (in my head), and I could even understand the opera verses!

theatre

Theatre

Before we got to the theatre, we decided to make an evening out of it and go out to dinner too. We went to a really popular chain restaurant called Bella Italia… and I died. I’ve found that the Italian food here is particularly yummy and the chain restaurants are not your average Olive Garden’s, it’s REAL Italian food. I can’t wait until I actually go to Italy—I might never return home.

Went to a club over the weekend, had so much fun and met a cute English boy who saved me from creepy men and danced with me all night long. Found out later his name is Mike and lives in Northern England so I’ll probably never see him again, so sad. The night went from great to awful as I stepped outside of the club in negative degree weather and got lost getting home. That night I honestly thought I was going to die and cried in the middle of the street because I was so cold. Needless to say, I will not be going out again until it gets warmer.

Over the weekend, I finally went to Harrods and decided that I’m moving my family to Kensington. It sounds fancy and it’s even better in person. All the high-end shops, restaurants, and museums are within walking distance from each other and Harrods is smack dab in the middle of it all. I thought it was just another high-end department store, but oh no, this place puts Niemen Marcus to shame.

harrods

Harrods

Step into seven floors of designer heaven stretched over 4.5 acres, where you can buy everything from shoes to clothing to makeup and perfume, all by top name brands. They even sell children’s clothing (designer only, of course), evening gowns (I’m talking red carpet), costly housewares (as in £900 for a fancy bowl), and a whole floor devoted to fine food/wines! There’s also a Harrods gift shop, bookstore, furniture, home entertainment, bed & bath, and almost an entire floor appropriately titled “Toy Kingdom.” There are also an astounding 25 café’s and restaurants inside including Café Godiva, an ice cream parlor, a steakhouse, a sushi bar, and a pizzeria! We went to the famous tearoom and paid an outrageous amount of money for a pot of tea and a couple of scones… but I loved every second of it.

teatime

teatime

On Sunday, I felt super fabulous because I got to go to an International Fashion Show at the Saatchi Gallery in London called Scoop. It was awesome because I asked a lady at the tube how to get to the gallery and when she told me it was closed for a private event, I got to tell her that I had a VIP pass, BAM!

purplecarpet

purple carpet for Scoop

We arrived at the gallery and walked down a glamorous purple carpet, and once we entered the doors, I knew this was legit. Three floors of fashion and brand representatives treating you like royalty, hoping that you will buy into their brands and sell them in your store. My co-worker and I were at the event representing Henrietta Ludgate (my internship) and because she doesn’t sell other brands in her store, I was tempted to buy for myself! All the top brands were promoting their new collections at discounted prices up to 60% off… but I managed to retain my self-control and left with only the goodies they gave us. It was a fun experience and I got to learn how to approach and sell to customers, since I will be doing the same at London Fashion Week (which officially starts tomorrow by the way, I’m dying).

On Tuesday, I celebrated Valentine’s Day for the first time without a boyfriend (or my daddy) and it was actually one of the best. We went to the Haagen Dazs Café in Leicester Square and I had a Caramel Banana Crepe served with one scoop of Banoffee and one scoop of Dulce de Leche topped with sliced bananas, warm caramel drizzle and caramelized hazelnuts… I’m drooling just thinking about it.

dessert

dessert

My valentines and I then went to the Odeon movie theatre and saw The Artist, which is a silent movie set in the 1920’s. Everyone has been raving about this film and how great the little dog is, and I wasn’t disappointed. It was so fun and unlike the usual romantic love story. Go see it!

Booked a trip to Dublin last night for mid-March and currently counting down until my trip to Amsterdam after fashion week… can’t wait to start traveling! Keep you posted, I’ll try and take as many pictures as I can at Fashion Week, fingers crossed I can attend a couple fashion shows!

Cheers!

XX

Abbeys and Tea and Parades, Oh My!

This is so crazy to think about, but I’ve officially been here one month! I didn’t realize how quickly time would fly, even when I am missing my family and home. My dad just celebrated his 55th birthday on the 31st of January, so it was really hard for me not to be there for it. But, we skyped, and we are going to celebrate again when I come home! (By the way, shout out to whoever invented Skype… I don’t think I would be able to study abroad without it!)

Anyway, I said I would talk more about my traveling and sightseeing in this post, so let’s get right into it! I’ve made myself a bucket list for two reasons: I’ll use any excuse to make lists and it’s probably the only way I’m going to do everything I want to do, since I’m here for such a short period of time. I’ve crossed quite a few things off, but my list is still about two pages long, categorized by shopping, museums, places to travel, things to do, sights to see, restaurants, and bars/clubs. It’s quite a daunting list, but I’m determined to do and see it all!

I’m signed up for a Social Programme that the university offered for international students for a chance to visit places we may not get a chance to see. They are taking us to see Phantom of the Opera next week and eventually Stonehenge and the Olympic site!

One of the first things I got to do here was take a weekend trip to York, which was so beautiful but freeeeeezing! We got to tour around town the first day and see Abbey Ruins, old castles and the one and only York Minster—(hard to imagine, but the inside is even more beautiful than the outside!).

York Minster

There is also a cute town centre with lots of shops and café’s, including the famous Betty’s Tea Room! I didn’t actually know this until a few days ago but Betty’s is apparently the oldest and most famous tearoom in London. The one we visited in York was the very first and opened in 1920! I was so thrilled this is where I had my first “proper tea.”

Last weekend, we celebrated Chinese New Year in Chinatown, which is right in the heart of London. We had to get up super early to see the parade, but it was so worth it! I got some amazing pictures and it was such a fun atmosphere to see everyone coming together to celebrate the year of the dragon.

parade dancerslanternsfireworks

There was a dragon dance later on with other performances, delicious street food, and vendors selling paper lanterns, toy dragons, and firecrackers. That was also one of the greatest days because on our way through Leicester Square, we accidentally ran into M&M World!! It was amazing and I swear the M&M’s were the best I’d ever tasted…

M&M

And if you’re wondering if I watched the Superbowl on Sunday, of course I did! I’m a diehard Patriots fan, and even though we lost, I had an amazing time at The Roadhouse in Covent Garden. It was so much fun to be surrounded by fellow American football fans (and some extremely confused English people). The game didn’t start until 11:30pm here, so needless to say, it was a long night (and even longer literally running around the city trying to find the night bus…)! I don’t think I got to bed until about 5:00 am! It’s all about the adventures.

To end things on an awesomely positive note, I am OFFICIALLY going to London Fashion Week!!!!! My life is complete.

More updates soon! Cheers!

X

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

I’ll start out by saying that basically everything I was told about studying abroad and London was wrong. The people are not rude, the fashion is not drastically different, the food is not gross and I do not need $5,000 a month to live. I have weekly homework, I do have to attend class each week and I do not have an absurd amount of free time. Also, I’m almost positive people never sleep around here and the Mondays really are messy. Oh, and people are more obsessed with William and Kate than you could even imagine…

William & Kate

But some things, I suppose, you just have to dive into head first and figure everything out on your own. This is what you would call growing up.

So I’ve been here about three weeks now, and I’ve got to say it feels like two months. I don’t mean this negatively, I just mean my days have been filled and I hardly even have time to keep my room clean– at the moment it’s looking more like a construction zone. But I’ve gotten myself settled, and that’s the most difficult part I would say. I’ve found the nearest grocery store, I’ve gotten myself a cell phone, I’ve found all my classes and I know how to use the public transportation. (The few times I’ve gotten myself lost or was unsure about what direction I was going, the people here helped me get wherever I was trying to go–they are amazingly nice.)

bus

I’m living just outside Central London (20 minutes to the city by tube) on the Harrow campus, which is where the Media, Arts and Design students live. After much trouble and irritation with the Administration/Registry Offices here, I am finally enrolled in Arts & Entertainment Journalism, Fashion Trends and Contemporary Culture, Fashion Journalism, and Personal and Professional Development. Begrudgingly, I have to take the latter class in order to be enrolled for an internship.

So far, I really love all of my classes (maybe that’s a bit enthusiastic for my internship class), but I am starting to notice how different the education system is here compared to in America. First, I find the students to be pretty rude here. The lectures are three hours long and after about an hour usually, we get a “biscuit break” for 15-20 minutes. Many of the students do not return after the break and the ones who do are chatting and hardly paying attention to the tutor (that’s what they call professors here). Students will also get up and leave whenever they want, even if the tutor is in mid-sentence!

This may be explained by the class lectures, however. My notebook at the moment is pretty much empty, which is an extremely unusual thing for me. I have not taken a single note for two of my classes. In one particular class, we spent almost the entire 3-hour lecture listening to popular music through the decades and how much better Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade” is better than “today’s rubbish”. If any information is useful enough to write down, it’s already on a PowerPoint slide and posted on Blackboard. My assignments list for the entire semester takes up one side of a small piece of notebook paper. I guess I shouldn’t be complaining, it’s just extremely different and unusual for me. On the plus side, my two journalism classes are taking us to visit museums, exhibitions and even to the theatre to write reviews like real critics! I guess I just have to accept that this semester is going to be filled with a lot more fun things than work… I’m not too mad about it.

I also started my internship with Henrietta Ludgate. I was surprised to see that it’s not at an office building, but actually at a mall! It’s a store, office and workshop, all in one space. My first day there, I was already so hands on—literally. We moved furniture around the shop to make it more interactive for the shoppers to see the clothing actually being made. Customers can buy clothing off of the floor or have it specially made for them, having the option to choose their own fabrics and colors. It’s a very small company because Henrietta is an up and coming designer, but I love working so closely with someone who is such a creative entrepreneur.

fashion

Because Fashion Week is coming up, I’m working every weekday I don’t have class (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) but each day is a new adventure and something exciting and new. I’ve been cutting out patterns, picking up fabrics and dropping off pieces to customers (I even got to go to Colin Firth’s house to drop off a dress for his wife to wear to see the Queen!). There was a photo shoot in the workshop last week and I even found out that Henrietta was the winner of the Fashion Innovation Award at London Fashion Week last year! I am eager to continue this internship and learn more about the business from someone growing so quickly.

As far as sightseeing is concerned, I have gone to a couple of markets and landmarks which I will talk about in my next blog post. But one really cool thing that I did was go on a night cruise, which was organized by my university for all of the international students to get to know each other more. I actually met a large group of girls from Harrow AND we got to see the Tower Bridge! Simply breathtaking…

London Bridge

Well, I think that’s enough for now! Promise I won’t forget about you all while I am conquering London.

Cheers!

X

Just touched down in London town.

The day had finally come for my trip to England, January 6th 2012. Unfortunately this was also on the day of my mother’s birthday, but I was happy that I got to spend most of the day with her until my 7:40pm departure time.

We celebrated with an early birthday dinner at mom’s favorite restaurant, Atlantic Fish, and headed over to the airport. Naturally, my father got lost, and getting lost in Boston means getting stuck in traffic and going about 30 minutes out of the way… so I didn’t get to the airport until 6:48pm. This was definitely cutting it close, but definitely enough time to get through check-in and security.

Or so I thought.

A (not-so-very-nice) check-in employee named Meghan (not-so-very-nicely) informed me that check-in time closes promptly 1 hour prior to departure time and they gave away my seat to someone on stand by.

January 6th 2012 was the evening I had my very first panic attack. I was 8 minutes late, and there was nothing I could do. Meghan was not being sympathetic and she could care less about the fact that I spent $400.00 on this (apparently pretend) plane ticket, I had to check-in to Westminster in the morning, and I had planned to meet Clara at the airport to take a cab to Harrow together.

After I (sort of) composed myself, I called my ticket distributor, Student Universe, and had a few choice words for them. I managed to get myself another ticket for Sunday evening with only a $100.00 charge. Better than Meghan’s suggestion to buy a whole new ticket because the one I had was “worthless”.

That weekend went by at a snail’s pace. I had been so ready to leave on Friday and it was the biggest buzz-kill ever to have to drive back to my house that night.

But Sunday eventually came, and saying goodbye to my family was as hard as I imagined. It was hard to be excited when I was significantly more scared and terrified of getting homesick, but I had the flight to give myself a pep talk and compose myself. (BTW Virgin Atlantic is the coolest airline ever! But I’m flying First Class next time… reclining chairs with footrests, Champagne, and hot towels!?!) I watched Friends With Benefits and slept on my purple Hippo pillow pet (shout out to my roommate Michelle, best present ever!).

I made it a priority to get a driver with a sign with my name on it, and I was so relieved to see him when I arrived! He helped me with my bags and drove me to school, talking to me along the way about his life and kids. He even let me borrow his phone to call my parents to tell them I had landed! He also gave me his number when I arrived to call him if I needed anything or had any questions. A nice gesture, but I’m a little leery about it.

As much as I wanted to go to sleep, I had to find my room, drop my things, and head to orientation. Thank goodness Clara knew the way, because I was half-asleep and there was no way I would have been able to figure out the tube on my own!

After three long hours, too much information, and too many pamphlets and brochures, I headed back to my dorm, skyped my mom, and went to bed. Day one was VERY long and finally over. Top of my agenda tomorrow: get a phone!