Thursday, 18 September 2014

London Living!

Hey, Mates!
I have finally settled into the rhythm of what I like to call “London Living.” Never did I imagine that London was filled with so many kind and diverse people. Throughout this week, there were many highs followed by many lows (adjusting to public transportation). One of my highs this week was meeting and interacting with my home stay family. 
Even though I met my home stay family merely a week ago, I feel like a member of their family. My “parents” aren’t like normal parents-they have really cool jobs! Carroll, my “Mum,” is a musician and has her own recording studio in her backyard. Actually, the entire neighborhood is filled with musicians and sometimes when my roommate (Jay) and I are walking home from school, we can hear our neighbors playing the violin or the piano-we are so lucky! Dotun, my “Dad,” is a book publisher as well as a radio talk show host for BBC. Yesterday night, he took Jay and I to the BBC studio and gave us a tour. The family I am living with is quite big and always on the move. Carroll and Dotun have three children; the oldest is in his late twenties and he lives in the house with his expecting girlfriend, Flo, so in less than a month we will have a baby in the house! Carroll and Dotun also have two daughters Temi 16 and Lewa 13. Temi and Lewa go to an all girls school and are very musically talented. They play the Cello and the piano. The house Jay and I are living is very spacious, so the family has enough room to also host their Great Aunt from Nigeria and their Grandma from Jamaica. The first night that Jay and I arrived, the family took us out for a classic Fish and Chips dinner, was it yummy? Let’s just say I enjoyed the chips more than the fish. The entire family has been so supportive and welcoming. For instance, I bought raw chicken the other day, but didn’t know how to cook it, so Flo showed me how to bake the chicken and make a nice meal for myself. And Mum always asks us how our day was, and to clean our room-just like any mom would. I am so thankful that I don’t feel like a stranger in their home, but a member of their family! Oh! And they have a trampoline!!! Weeeee!
Even though I am so blessed and excited to be in London, I do miss home a lot and have come to appreciate it so much over the past week. Never have I been away for such a long time, but I keeping thinking, “if I feel uncomfortable, I am growing.” That has been my mantra this past week and I hope to continue to learn and step outside my comfort zone. 
Also, when I am homesick, I try to look forward to different activities. For instance, this week I am going to Stratford-Upon Avon (birthplace of William Shakespeare), House of Parliament, and Buckingham Palace (I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for pics with the Queen ;))



Made Chicken and veggies with Flo!

View outside my window. 

Walking to school is always an adventure!!
This blog entry is from Monica Hamilton.  For more from Monica, please visit her blog at

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Our Little Common Interest

When arriving in another country, pointing out obvious differences is pretty much second nature. They have funny accents, they say lift instead if elevator, peanut butter isn’t as common as peanut spread, along with a wide range of mannerisms and sayings uncommon to those from the United States. In admiring this beautiful city, I came to notice that people that are from London, don’t pay attention to the things almost every tourist does. I’ve began to pick up on who’s from around here and who isn’t, which I guess is close enough to becoming a local, right? But tourists and visitors will always look up, no matter what they’re doing or where they are, they are always looking up. As opposed to Londoners, who are focused and hardly ever making direct eye contact with other people. But if you think about it, that’s the one similarity every person around the world shares. We don’t pay attention to the things others admire about our hometowns. Whether it be hundred year old buildings or never ending mountains, there’s always something we take for granted. I suppose we have more in common with each other than we thought.
This blog entry is from Jessica Clemons.  For more from Jessica, check out her blog;

Monday, 15 September 2014

Foreign Transition

To clear my head, I make sure to take a walk every morning before class around the street I reside in. Amongst the many things I pass, the most cliché things about London always stand out. However, this time it is different because I have come face-to-face with the icons of the city. What makes these international symbols that are used to characterize London so unpredictable is their capability to remind me that I am in fact in another country. Seeing a red telephone booth or the Big Ben is simply picturesque and it induces a trance within me. This is what makes my experience strictly non-native.

However, I have learned that regardless of cultural differences and red telephone booths, we are really the same. In my opinion, there isn't that crucial of a difference between this city and my hometown in California. For example, everyone has an ambition, a reason to wake up in the morning, people to see, and places to go...just like at home. Luckily, because of this observation my transition into the city has been quite effortless. Cheers.

This blog entry is from Alexander Aprahamian.  For more from Alex, check out his blog at;






Thursday, 11 September 2014

Week 1: Pre-Tour (Better Late Than Never)

Hello from London!!
I know this is long overdue, but I have been trying to adjust to my new lifestyle in London and haven’t had time to sit down and write about Week 1, so here it is.
Last week was Week 1 also what I like to call the “Pre-Tour of Europe.” As soon as I arrived in Paris, my first instinct was to buy a Nutella crepe (thank GOD the Crepe stand was across the street from my hotel…or what else would I have had for dinner?) and who would have thought that Nutella crepes would be my staple the two nights I stayed in Paris? Paris was exactly how I pictured it would be-so beautiful and romantic! Each direction I looked there was something new to see.  In one direction, I could see locals catching up with friends while drinking wine along the canal; on the other side, I saw couples riding bikes with Baguettes in their baskets-I know, it sounds cheesy. My eyes were in a trance, but surely my sense of smell was not. Yes, the rumor is true, Paris smells…atrocious…like urine more than anything else. What is the reasoning? Some Parisians think it’s appropriate to pee on the streets. Something even more magical than the liberating feeling of urinating on the streets of Paris is the Eiffel Tower. It was the highlight of my short trip to Paris, the Eiffel Tower is dazzling; every first 5 minutes starting at 8pm the Tower will light up. Along with visiting the Eiffel Tower, some of the other highlights of my time in Paris were: the Notre Dame Cathedral, Love Lock Bridge, a Boat cruise along the River Seine, and the Louvre where I had a chance to take a selfie with the Mona Lisa. 

Dancing in front of the Eiffel Tower

Selfie with the Mona Lisa

After my short stay in Paris, I traveled to a little town in Belgium called Bruges. Bruges was my favorite part of the Pre-Tour, it is a peaceful, quaint medieval city-much different from Paris. Bruges is known for their historical brick buildings, cobblestone roads, delicate lace, and delicate chocolates. While in Bruges, I window shopped, went on a boat tour through the canals, a Brewery tour, and found time to relax. As you all probably already know, I love talking about what I ate, food, fine dining etc.  SO, in Bruges, I sampled Belgium beer, a savory Belgium waffle with chocolate sauce and banana toppings, and a dish called “Frieten met Stoverij.”Frieten met Stoverij reminded me of my mom’s beef stew on top of french fries.  Bruges is a place where I hope to retire someday with my future, Flemish husband. 
I highly recommend Frieten met Stoverij!
Took a picture with a nun riding a bicycle...BEST PHOTO EVER!!

The last stop of the Pre-Tour was Brussels just a hour and half drive from Bruges. Brussels is a cosmopolitan city filled with a wide range of street art. For the day I was in Brussels, I went on a yummy Chocolate tour and a walking tour through the city. While walking through the city, Brussels reminded me of New York-dirty and filled with culture. In my opinion, Brussels isn’t the most comfortable and luxurious place to spend your vacation, but still an adventure!
Belgium chocolate child. 
Street art in Brussels. 

And then, I ARRIVED IN LONDON!! An update on my first week in London will be coming very shortly! I can’t wait to share how my first week of school went, what my home stay family is like, and all about my new home. Love you all!! Also, check out more photos of my trip on Facebook!
This blog entry is from Monica Hamilton.  For more from Monica, check out her blog at;

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

September 9, 2014

Today marks the fifth day of living in the London and second day of studying abroad. I’m slowly savoring the taste of the British lifestyle and learning the fundamental ways of what it is really like to be a so-called ‘Londoner’.

It’s outrageous that it’s only been a mere week since I have left home, in California. I hadn’t realized it until another student mentioned so, but I am beginning to become homesick. Although, this illness isn’t overwhelming, it’s very different to wake up in an unfamiliar atmosphere.

The relationships I’ve created here so far have been substantial. I’m ecstatic to have chosen to attend the pre-tour as prior to landing in London, I’ve already established many friendships and comfortability with others. The AIFS Staff is very helpful and accommodating to any questions and concerns I may have. I only to hope obtain more relationships with others as I continue to journey across the United Kingdom.

Transportation around London has been one of my many favorite things about ‘The Old Smoke’. Back in my hometown, not many of us use public transportation. It’s either you drive or have someone pick you up, nobody ever walks. The use of the Underground ‘Tube’ has been one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had since living here. I love being able to take out my Oyster card and slapping it onto the yellow ticket machine pad. It feels great to be able to walk everywhere, rather travel consistently via automobile. 

The classes I am taking are very flexible to the schedule of the students here. Professors understand many of us are looking to venture out and do things on our own time rather spend an entire evening in our flat writing a paper or studying for a test. The trip from our flat to the University of London Union building is quite simple and very easy-going.

I look forward to seeing more of the city for myself, as I am not a fan of tours. For now, I’ve just been taking everything slow and settling in. In due time, more places will be discovered, explored, and remembered.

This blog entry is from Justin Hien.  For more from Justin, check out his blog at; 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Finally Here!

I’ve been here three days so far and I absolutely LOVE it. It’s been a little chaotic getting all settled in and adjusted so i’ll [try to] go over everything that has happened so far in summarized form. This is my first blog post ever so hopefully its actually good and easy to read!

I’ll also try to write with English terms to make myself sound like a true Londoner.

So we landed at about 10:45 am here (2:45 am in California) and from there we took a coach from the airport to the center of the city. We stopped at our school for a bit and headed to our flats which are located in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Once unloaded off the coach, we were sent up into our rooms to get organized. The first night was calm being that we were all tired from traveling.

Kensington and Chelsea is a cute but busy little borough. The street is always packed full of honking cars and hurried people. I love the architecture of old buildings revamped and modernized throughout the entirety of the city to fit the lives of the busy Londoners today.
More specifically, I am off of Earl’s Court from the tube (the Underground- similar to the Subway). This street is so unreal; best described it looks like the backlots of Universal Studios! I also have an amazing view of the best parts of the borough from my balcony, which is also above Earl’s Court.

The next morning we had orientation at school which didn’t last long which was actually easy to enjoy. A local police officer spoke to us and kept our attention by incorporating some british humor that kept us laughing.

At night, Daria, my friend from Temecula who moved to the outskirts of London a few years ago, came to my apartment. I am still excited and thankful she was able to come. She Showed me and my friend, Angie, around Westminster (where Parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye is located), Leicester Square (the club scene of the city) Picadilly Circus (which I learned that is named because the original streets were formed in a circular formation rather then it actually being a circus) and also walked through ChinaTown.

The following day, I woke up early and went out to explore part of the city by myself. I decided to be whimsical and choose a random station to get off of from the tube and essentially force myself to get lost and make myself find my way back. I ended up in Covent Garden which is populated with locals and isn’t a big tourist spot. Being it a Sunday morning, the street was completely packed of shoppers and street performers. They had a little farmers market sort of going on though the streets off high class shops. I was able to blend in and get a real vibe of how the natives live. I took plenty of pictures that I will post soon.

Later that afternoon, the whole program went on a bus tour around the city. We stopped at all popular tourist locations including Buckingham Palace, London and Tower bridge, Roman London, Saint Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster. It was extremely interesting to me because I love history.

After the tour, a few of us decided to head to King’s Cross Station to visit the infamous Platform 9 and 3/4. After our magically journey to Hogwarts, we made our way back into the Muggle world to have dinner at a local pub. Exhausted from our busy day, we went home soon after to rest for our first day of school in the morning coming.

This blog entry is from RyleeAnn Leavitt.  For more from RyleeAnn, check out her blog at;

Friday, 11 April 2014

The London Eye

As part of my farewell London tour, my friend and I went to the London Eye to take a last look at the beautiful view. It was a Tuesday night so there was basically no line and we got on right away. It was a perfect time, since we got to see the view when it was both light out and when the sun went down and it was dark with all the buildings lit up. I’m glad I got to go on the famous London Eye before I left and when I knew all of the buildings! It was a great time, but it also reminds me how much I’m going to miss all these beautiful sights when I leave. 
This blog entry is from Lizzie Ahnen.  For more from Lizzie, check out her blog;