Thursday, 23 October 2014

Falling 500 miles in love with Scotland

Haggis, kilts, and a deep range of lovely accents. Can you guess where I spent my weekend? That’s right! In the inexplicably stunning Scotland, where rain comes down in sheets, sheep and cows roam every plain, and happiness is of high abundance. Upon arrival in Edinburgh, we made our way to hostel number one. I’ve never experienced staying in a hostel, and I must admit, it wasn’t as horrible as I had anticipated. We spent the night doing a haunted walking tour, and running around the quaint little town, making the most of the short time we could spend there. But surprisingly, it wasn’t simply love at first sight. The second day, we explored more of the mysterious land of Scotland on a Wild and Sexy bus tour, which is where we learned stories about bad fairies hidden under stones, the history behind abandoned castles, and the irn bru song, along with much needed and plentiful stops for photos. I can easily say that around this time, the love began to sink in, 500 miles and 500 more. We finally made our way to our second hostel, the ever so lovely Saucy Mary’s on the Isle of Skye. We spent the night living like locals, listening to some great Irish music in the Yes Pub, getting to know some interesting Scottish people and teaching each other a little something about our differing cultures. The third day, we spent seeing more of the breathtaking landscape, stopping to stare out into the vast openness of all nature had to offer in this remarkably untouched gift of purity and solitude, and snapping a quick picture to have it with me forever. As if my memory wouldn’t be enough. With toga parties at our middle of nowhere Loch Ness hostel, climbing up to Dun Beag Broch, trying some authentic haggis and deep fried mars bars, seeing and hearing the stories waiting to be heard at the Culloden Battlefield, and talking with Scotsmen making fun of Cali girl accents, getting back on that train to London wasn’t easy. Scotland was so astoundingly charming, leaving so abruptly didn’t seem right. I think it’s fair to say that loving Scotland came effortlessly, and 500 miles on repeat wouldn’t change a thing.
This blog entry is from Jessica Clemons.  For more from Jessica, check out her blog at;

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Eating Abroad Without Devouring Your Budget

I am currently studying abroad in London through the American Institute for Foreign Studies and one of the most common difficulties for anyone traveling abroad and especially students on a low budget is how to eat properly in a foreign country. There are two unfortunate categories that people tend to fall into. The first group is the people who are so worried about saving money that they only survive on simple things like instant noodles or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and never get to enjoy anything more satisfying. The second group are the people who throw caution to the wind and eat anything that catches their eye which often results in blowing through their budget long before their trip is over and they end up falling into the first group against their will. As with everything else in life, the key is finding a balance and I have some ideas to help you out.
Virtually all study abroad programs will either offer free or reduced price meals at a cafeteria or they will offer you access to a kitchen to prepare your own meals. If you have access to free or cheap meals through your school, please take advantage and eat as many meals here as you can. This will free up your spending money for times when you have traveled too far away from school to eat there and the occasional nice meal out at restaurants. For the rest of us who have access to a kitchen rather than already prepared meals, don’t worry we can survive too. This is important: as early in your trip as possible, go to the grocery store. But don’t make the mistake I made and go to the first one you see because it might turn out to be the most expensive fancy grocery store in town. Ask around and find your basic nothing-special store where you can do the bulk of your shopping.
There are a couple of things to consider before you start pulling items off the shelf and throwing them in your basket. First, how much storage space do you have? Most countries don’t have the amount of space we are used to in the cabinets or in their appliances. Make sure that big box of frozen whatever is going to fit in your little freezer. Second, don’t assume that inexpensive items from back home will be the most affordable in your foreign country. Conversely, don’t assume that foods that you generally can’t afford at home will be the most expensive abroad. For example, the type of open space required for cattle farms is not as available in England as it is in the United States so a portion of beef that is cheap back home could be quite expensive in England. On the other hand, lamb is often too expensive for college students back home but it is actually quite cheap in England. If you aren’t comfortable doing all this comparison work in the store yourself, walk past a restaurant and check out their menu. Try to find a place that offers the same dish with different proteins. For example a Mediterranean restaurant in my London neighborhood sells a lamb kabob for less than one made with chicken . Check out which meat will cost you the most (or the least) to get in a burrito and those prices comparisons will generally apply to the grocery store as well.
Now that you’ve figured out which protein is most affordable, you can use the same idea to pick out some of your favorite vegetables. Depending on what is available in your kitchen you will probably want to buy some basics like butter, vegetable oil, and your favorite spices including salt and pepper. Buying spices can seem expensive but remember that the little jars you are buying now will probably be more than enough to last you the entire duration of your stay in that country. Another good thing to buy is dried rice or pasta, or both. These are very cheap and can help create filling and balanced meals without taking up any storage space in the fridge. My favorite trick is to cut up all the meat and vegetables as soon as you get home and divide them up into re-sealable bags and freeze them. When I leave for school in the morning I take one bag of meat and one bag of vegetables out of the freezer to defrost and they are ready to cook when I get home. Boil some pasta and you’ll have dinner plus leftovers.
Of course when you don’t feel like cooking, there is nothing wrong with the occasional frozen entrée or instant noodles or a simple sandwich you can make at home. But if you are really craving some food that you don’t have to prepare and you have some money to spend, rather than a fancy restaurant consider looking for some street food. These can be trucks or carts that are parked on the street or in designated areas and are often delicious and affordable. A good tip here is to go with a group of friends so you can try food from several different vendors without having to order several meal-sized portions all by yourself. This is a great way to sample foods from all different parts of the world without having to walk more than a few feet. One gathering of food carts I found in London had vendors selling Chinese food, sausages, Venezuelan arepas, Cajun chicken strips, barbeque pork and beef brisket, New York style buffalo wings, and Indian curries. No restaurant is going to offer you that kind of variety, and only by sharing street food with friends can you afford to sample food from all over the world in one day.
Hopefully these tips and ideas can help you find a balance so that you can eat well during your time in a foreign country. With a little bit of effort and planning you can avoid going hungry – or broke!
This blog entry is from Brandon Stone.  For more from Brandon, check out his blog at;

Monday, 20 October 2014

London Myth Busters

Well, I am a little over the halfway mark for my stay in London, and I can proudly say that I have learned so much about the culture in such a short period of time. 

Before arriving to London, I had a few expectations about the lifestyle. I thought British food would be awful, Londoners only drink tea, the British people are standoffish, and that it would rain all the time. Let me tell you, I was soooo wrong.
British food is not awful, there is too much of a variety of food for it to be awful.  You can find anything from Indian curry to Fish’n’Chips to a hot dog. Some of the best places to have lunch? The local markets!  Walking around the markets with a nice baked good in my hand while browsing the other foods on display is one of my favorite activities to do in London.  BUT, I will say this.....the Mexican food here is not like at home; nothing like home. My friends and I bought guacamole from the store and it looked like this;

I question myself and ask if there are actual avocadoes in this plastic, squeezable bottle!
One of the many markets in London
I don't know what this is but it was so delicious!
Londoners only drink tea. Once again, I was wrong.....I find that more people drink coffee here than tea.  It seems that every other shop I walk past is a coffee shop.  One of my favorite places to have coffee is a modern, hipster independent coffee shop called “Shoreditch Grind”.

So far, I have had some of the best experiences with the British people.  The other day while I was waiting for my bus, I had a conversation with a man and I discovered that he had recently visited America, so I asked him, “What do you miss most about America?”  His response – “the CORN MUFFINS!!”.  He doesn’t miss the warm weather? Beaches? Mexican food? Cute American girls? But he misses the corn muffins?! Are you serious? I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.  The locals are actually quite funny and always willing to help.

As for my assumption about the rain, I discovered that the weather is absolutely unpredictable.  For the first 4 weeks, London was nothing but sunshine. Flo even joked that Jay and I (the Californians) had packed the sun in our suitcases and brought it to London.  Now, as Autumn is taking its course, it does rain, but not for very long. Sometimes it will pour for 20 minutes while other times the clouds will sprinkle for 5 minutes, it all depends on how God is feeling that day. I used to check my weather app every day, but now, I see no point.
Jumping in the puddles on the way to school.

Some days, I forget that I am in London because it feels like home. I am a Londoner now and I have never been happier.


This blog entry is from Monica Hamilton.  For more from Monica, check out her blog at;

Friday, 17 October 2014

October 13, 2014

Agh, it’s Monday, again. But, never fear, for it’s another day in London.
This weekend was very exciting as I had the chance to link up with several photographers from London. Ever since I’ve been on Instagram and have been traveling, I always make it a goal to meet some of the locals from wherever it is I am.
Last Saturday evening, I met up with four guys by the names of: Rich, JC, Esubmiah, and Tobi. When I had the initial meeting with them, it was exactly what I had expected, very friendly people that all share a taste in photography.

We spent the entire evening roaming around London and just taking pictures of whatever comes to our eye. It was great getting to know them and learning their perspective of London as well as what they thought about photography in Los Angeles.
I’m a bit saddened by the fact that I met them this far into my stay, but I’m hoping to have many more opportunities to shoot and get to know them better.
Today was a very mellow day, as it rained all afternoon and is continuing to pour as I type these words. I spent the evening in a coffee/tea shop named Yumchaa that Charli recommended. I have to admit, the atmosphere is great when you want to accomplish something or just productively allow your creative juices to flow.
I feel very organized when I’ve done something with my time, other than surf the internet. Along with finishing up some homework, finding new music, and taking a look at the shots (PICTURES NOT ALCOHOL) I took over the weekend, I came across some concerts I was interested in. 
I found tickets for Porter Robinson and Slow Magic, along with a massive amount of other guests, and of course I immediately bought them. After posting this entry, I’ll probably head back to the flat, shower, and catch up on The Walking Dead as the new season just aired last night!
Monday has treated me well, so far.
This blog entry is from Justin Hien.  For more from Justin, check out his blog at

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

5 Weeks Down, 5 To Go

This week marks the halfway point into my studies here in London. At some points, life seems so surreal - I really cannot believe that I have been here this long! The homesickness is definitely prevalent sometimes but it doesn’t compare to the amazing time I am having. My close friends from home, Alyssa and Austin, gave me a journal as a going away gift to document my time while here. I’ve been writing in it consistently everyday. I describe everything from the fascinating outings I go on, like Stonehenge and the Roman Baths to the simple calm moments I have just embracing the atmosphere here. I am not one to write my feelings, only my experiences. I write in it to have something to look back on later in life; using it as an extensive memory of my young travels.
I have always had the urge to travel and explore the globe. I guess I have my parents to thank for that; I am so lucky they gave me the opportunity to experience different cultures in the world at such a young age. Those travels set a fire within me; with age it grows, longing to learn more, see more. If I have learned one thing from this experience so far, it is that I am so incredibly eager to grasp the world which is at my fingertips.
The world is so vast. Why would one not want to discover all the edges, hidden spaces and open places? My life fulfilment will not be reached until I uncover as much as I can.
This blog entry is from Rylee Leavitt.  For more from Rylee, check out her blog at;

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

6 Reasons to Visit Iceland

1. The view of downtown Reykjavik from the top of a church tower.

2. The soothing sound of the Faxafoss waterfall.

3. The unique Blue Lagoon, and its relaxing flow of warm spring water. 4. The picturesque landscape and pure isolation of Icelandic nature.
5. Snow!

6. Friendly wild horses.

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

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

One euro, one euro, one euro?

One of the incredible things on the endless list of adventures to do while studying in London is the opportunities we have for traveling. Earlier this week, my mom and best friend came to London to visit, so we decided to take a trip to Paris for the weekend. Which still baffles me that simply hopping on the train and going to another country for the weekend while I’m here is a casual thing.

Nonetheless, we had a memorable time. Paris is beautiful city, generally at the tourist attractions, but beautiful regardless. We navigated our way through the incomprehensible metro stations, and managed to hit every destination we had planned. From getting lost in the Musée du Louvre, admiring the Notre Dame, posing in front of the Moulin Rouge, dodging every person holding a bottle of champagne or a ring of cheap Eiffel Tower key chains repeating one euro a thousand times before you say no, and having wine and baguettes with cheese in the grass in front of the Eiffel Tower, being as cliche and picturesque as we could possibly be. What else are you supposed to do in Paris?

Even though staying the weekend in Paris was a great adventure and a pretty fantastic way to spend my weekend, I couldn’t wait to get home to London. Other than missing the grand simplicity, there’s just something about London that will always draw me back.
This blog entry is from Jessica Clemons.  For more from Jessica, check out her blog at