Words cannot even begin to describe the emotions I have felt in the last 24 hours. Three months may seem like a long time, but I woke up today feeling like I had just landed in the UK yesterday. By no means did I do it all, yet I would say I got a lot done. The most important thing I did was learn to love Norwich.
I texted my mom telling her, "I am so sad to go. But I feel done. I am happy with what I got done while I was here." That is the most important point. I was here. I went from CA to NY 3 years ago, never having left the state, and I truly made Norwich my third home. Every day was something new and it was exciting. The people I met here were the greatest part of this experience hands down. I met new friends, and I feel like I formed lifelong friendships. I joked that I came here to be an American Icon. I think I sure did come close.
Last night, it was my last time at the LCR, UEA's on campus club. It was an end of term Christmas party where everyone went all out to celebrate the end of school. However, for myself and dozens of other erasmus students, it was our bittersweet goodbye to UEA and all those we met here. I really did try to enjoy my night and dance and drink, but seeing a lot of the friends I made for the last time took priority. Granted, nearly everyone at the LCR was pissed, and I saw a few people chunder in line for the bathroom, but it was this aura of adolescence, grime, and camaraderie that made UEA such a special place to me. I will forever gag at the idea of spilling as licking, tossing VKs, and screaming, "Oi Oi!", but I am gonna miss everything else.
The Brits I met here were the defining factor in making my semester at UEA one of the greatest times of my life. From the Nelson Court kitchen, to the always packed Colman House, and my cozy (slightly grimy) home of Norfolk terrace, I got a good view of a lot UEA had to offer. Honestly, living with freshers was also the most amazing thing I could have done. My flatmates in particular, made me always feel so at home and so important to them. It was endearing, and honestly heartbreaking, as I had to start saying goodbye to them in the last few weeks. My floor was my home, and my friends here became family. Madi's flat, Hannah's flat, and all the people I met along the way were so great to us. I cannot be more thankful for having been part of their first semester in college.
Whether it was me copying, and failing, at a British accent saying, "Oh my Gad!" to learning how to properly queue for the bus, there are so many things from being here that I will take back with me.
I could spend all day writing down the people who made my time here amazing, but that wouldn't do justice to the depth and effect they really had on me. Even though I'm a junior in college, I still grew so much alongside the freshers I met. I was there for many of their firsts, just like they witnessed many of my firsts in a new national context. To say I'll miss them is an understatement, I loved my friends here so much.
I hate saying goodbye, I vow that this is only a see you later to Norwich and the gems I'm leaving behind. To my flat, thank you for loving this American slag. To my Hannah and Madi's flats, thanks for always being excited when the Americans showed up to pre. To my fellow international friends I made, thank you for always tagging along for the good times. To all my British friends, cheers on making this the greatest 3 months ever.
When my friend Cynthia, whom I have know since freshmen year, told me that she was studying for a year abroad in Bremen, Germany, a bit of confusion set in. I was not questioning her decision to go to Germany, or to be gone for a year, instead I thought, 'What is Bremen?' Similar to when I visited Bilbao, Spain, I was eager to visit the less known city in order to both see my friend and get a good feel for the country's culture. Yet, just like when I went to Rome, I am sad to say that a weekend was not enough time to get a good feel for the richness in culture that my friend was fully enthralled in. Despite being there for such a good time, you're damn sure I still had a good time in Germany!
Getting to Germany was one of my easier trips, and this is because I finally have learned how to properly get to London. The night before I flew, it was Thanksgiving and my friend Fatima's birthday. Of course, I went out and lived it up. But, because I remember how terrible I felt when I left to Spain, I reigned in the party and got home by 2 AM. Everything was packed, and I was simply waiting for 9 AM to hit and grab my bus.
I'll skip over the part where I was bored in the airport.
When I landed in Bremen, I was greeted by a 5 foot tall blonde haired ball of sunshine. Cynthia had taken the train from her house to meet me at the airport. We easily got back to the house she is staying at and in that time we caught up and laughed as we thought it was so funny to think that yesterday we were freshmen running around in JPR, and now we are juniors running around Europe. I was not feeling as depleted as I imagined, and so I told Cynthia that I was interested in going out for the night. She told me that she was all for it.
Our night began with Cynthia taking me to a cute bar, whose name I cannot remember, but it was fully decorated like a living room. There were couches, and even a bunk bed in the back, for people to sit on. Cynthia had told me that this places speciality were cocktails by the fist full. She settled for a mojito and I tried something that I could not even pronounce. While she was ordering, I was approached by some people who tried chatting me up. I quickly asked, "Do you speak English?" before the ship sank more than it already did. The people did, but only a lick of it. This is when I whispered under my breath, "Oh sh*t." A German friend of mine had told me that in most parts of the country people could speak English, but he didn't expect Bremen to be like that.
After a nice drink and catching up, Cynthia and I went to a nearby club where her friends were. Friday night was student night, and that meant we got in for free! I cannot stress the point enough at how shook I was by the music section in this club! A lot, and I mean every song for almost an hour straight, was in Spanish. I literally knew every single song that was queued, and most of the people there just bobbed to the rhythm in the back. If someone can find out why this is, please let me know. We got a cute picture, and before it got too late we got kebabs!
For my full day in Bremen, Cynthia had planned ahead and got us tickets to tour the Beck's brewery. I am not at all a beer person, but it was interesting learning about the history of the first major international German beer. It was also fun as Cynthia and I compared this tour to our experiences at the Heineken and Guinness factories. One thing that surprised us both was the value in the ticket. For only 13 euros, we got both the local and Beck's beer, the 4 speciality brews, and we still had another beer of our choosing! Needless to say, we left pretty pissed. The consequence of this was a mini shopping spree at H&M that went very well. Cynthia had also offered to make dinner for the night, and she was so excited about it too. When we got back to her place, it was adorable seeing her landlady set up her Christmas decorations! Cynthia's housemate was also very nice and we spoke about our experiences also being abroad.
After a nice dinner of chicken and ciabatta bread, Cynthia and I decided to have a nice drink before it got too late. We ended up at this trendy little bar that gave me cabin vibes. The night was bitter cold and so going home was not a bad idea. From there, we both prepared for my early leave at 4 AM.
Cynthia was more than helpful in aiding me find my way around Bremen, and in also giving me a sense of familiarity in a brand new place. From laughing at our freshmen year memories, to sharing a few hours together, it was a great mix of the old and new. Thus, while I leave the U.K. in 2 weeks, Cynthia still has a year left. But, it's a year I know she'll make the most of.
I started looking through my camera roll today and I thought to myself, 'Wow I take a sh*t ton of photos!' The truth is I always take photos, but especially when I am somewhere I never want to forget. Usually I save the videos and bursts for events like concerts, but everyday that I have been in the U.K. has proved to have something memorable. That is why it's so surreal to imagine that in less than a month my abroad experience will be over and I'll be headed back to Los Angeles, and then Geneva, NY.
I cannot tell you how fast my time here has flown by. While I thought that starting school in mid September would cut my time, I found that I have had enough time to get a good feel for British life. In my first month abroad, I did not travel because I wanted to acquaint myself with Norwich and British culture. Granted, I still have not seen enough of Norwich, but I feel more oriented when someone asks me, "You alright?" Honestly, that used to offend me so much! Like yes I'm alright, what am I being stupid?!
I was telling one of my flatmates today that I was actually really tired and I felt ready to go home. He asked me why this was, and I explained it as, "I feel like I am ready to go back to a place I feel familiar." I explained to him, and to you, that I do not get home sick. When I won the Posse scholarship I won it without ever having left California. Thus, being halfway across the country for college has made me resistant to being home sick. It's a luxury I kind of cannot afford to have.
Regardless, I think that by the time I leave, December 17, I will be squeezed finically, mentally, and physically. Being here, I have tried my hardest to push myself and constantly try new things. From going out on a Tuesday, to afternoon tea and the hour wait it takes, I wanted to make sure that I did things I could only do here.
While being in the U.K. I have had the opportunity, thanks to my parents and their support, to visit Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, and soon I'll be in France. I truly cannot believe that I am both in England and touring the nearby regions of Europe.
Being abroad is an experience that many students in America share, but it is really each person's own experience. Some of my friends are coming to Norwich next semester and I know that their time here will cater to them just how I shaped my time here for me. Even between my peers from HWS here at Norwich, we are each enjoying our time in our unique ways. I look back to my classes and I think too of how useful my time at HWS has been in preparing me for my courses at UEA. All of my classes are relevant to my degree and I have had the opportunity to see content that was brand new. From watching British TV for the first time, to engaging with complex media theory, to talking about music videos, my academics at UEA have been something that I am grateful for.
I looked at my calendar yesterday and I couldn't imagine already having to start packing up for when it's time to leave. My anxiety begins to creep up on me as I envision how hard it will be saying goodbye to the friends I have made here. I can vividly remember the first time I met my British flatmates, and the first time I truly got pissed at Mercy Nightclub. With the two weeks I have left I am both eager to go home and heartbroken to leave a place where I truly found my corner.
Camilla Cabello's heart is in Havana, and I can say part of mine will be left in Norwich. I can firmly say that once I leave it will not be a goodbye to the U.K., but instead a see you later. Lizzy girl save me a seat at afternoon tea when I'm back.
Ailyn and I connected on Instagram because not only did we both land an internship at FremantleMedia North America, but we also lived in the same part of the San Fernando Valley. Hard work really paid off later on when we were both then nominated and accepted into the inaugural year of The Academy's Academy Gold Intern Program. We car pooled to work, to Academy weekend screenings, and this afforded us time to both bond as friends and really become each other's anchors in our summer in entertainment. I have 1000 percent faith that when I become a media personality Ailyn has my legal back.
This past week, I turned a recurring joke into a reality. I, along with some good friends from Norwich, came to visit Ailyn in her corner of Spain for a week full of sightseeing, great food, and incredibly priced drunks.
Bilbao is in the north region of Spain, and it is on the border to France. Bilbao is the largest city in the Basque Country, and the fifth-largest urban area in Spain. Some of Bilbao’s attractions include the Guggenheim museum, Casca Viejo, the colorful city where we stayed, and La Alhondiga. Unlike my trips to places like London or Rome, I allotted more time for my stay in Bilbao. I was there from Thursday until Saturday. With 2 full days, I was able to balance tourist and exploratory experiences in well.
I came to Spain with my friends Hannah, Shyla, and Katy, and we were the Fantastic Four of travel buddies! The girls and I were always willing to get lost and find something interesting. Luckily, we did not always have to wander because Ailyn found us and showed us around to her favorite spots in Bilbao.
My first day in Bilbao was breathtaking. Everyone we met stressed how gorgeous the week was. It was. The sun was bright, and this highlighted the beauty of the old city and its multicolored edifices and the abundance of flowers. Thursday morning was amazing because we found a nearby place that served breakfast, and we were introduced to the best orange juice we had ever had. If you ever go to Spain, make sure you order OJ! After that, we made our way back to the old city for some light shopping. I fell in love with this fringed denim jacket and I swore I had to leave with it. But, my credit card, and mom, said otherwise.
When we met up with Ailyn it was in a plaza near us, and I could not believe it was her in the flesh. We all did some quick introductions, and she wasted no time in introducing us to real Spanish sangria.
That sangria cannot be described in words, but I will try because if I cannot write then what will I do with my life?
The sangria we got was tart, thanks to the actual lime and lemons bits chopped in. It was refreshing and sweet. It was potent as hell. After just a glass, Ailyn and I messaged each other, “Are you spinning too?!” Just like the OJ, a Spanish sangria is a MUST do.
While we are on the topic of food, let me share the greatest Spanish dish I tried. In Latinx culture, a tortilla is made from wheat or corn. However, in Spain a tortilla is a mixture of eggs and potatoes molded into a cake shape. IT IS DELICIOUS! During my stay in Bilbao I had 3 types of tortilla and my palate never got bored.
In Spain, the biggest meal is dinner. Dinner cuisine in Spain is also what Americans would consider breakfast, like eggs, potato, and pancakes. The food culture in Spain is all about eating small portions throughout the day. This is why the siesta is so important, and this is when you take advantage and try all the different pinxtos available. Spain and Rome both have a huge food culture, and it was interesting comparing the two. In Rome, meals are a ritual and they seem to dictate how people organize their day. In Spain, food is more casual but still expected to be a respected time of relaxation and camaraderie.
As you can probably tell, food was a huge part of this trip. Of course, we went clubbing and to bars, but the quality time we shared with each other was over our meals. From ox tail, to payata, and Spanish wine, our appetites lead this trip. I loved coming to a place where I had a friend to guide me. Ailyn knew what to get and where to get it! Her friends also helped us find some really tasty places, where drinks were also incredibly good. The vodka lemonade in Spain is served in something like a goblet, so I have no reason to complain when its only 2 euros.
I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to be abroad in England, and I am truly blessed to have the ability to travel throughout Europe. Thank you to my travel buddies, to Ailyn for leading us, and to the good vibes and good friends I have everywhere that continue to help me do great things like this.
Like Julius Ceaser once said, "Veni, Vidi, Vici," I too had a quick victory here in Rome, Italy. Food, art, and architecture are all staples of Italian culture, and lucky for me I had friends with a free weekend and an empty couch!
This is my third trip while abroad, including London and Cambridge, but I consider this my first major trip. While my time here was short, my weekend was full of great food, gorgeous landmarks, and enough walking to shave off all the pasta and pastries I had to try. I left Norwich, England on Saturday morning and spent the majority of the day whipping around the U.K. to get to the Gatwick airport. Honestly, I was so tired when I landed in Rome Fiumicunio. Can you imagine how shook I was when I got out of the airport to realize the taxi driver I ordered didn't speak any English?! Spanish couldn't cut it.
If it wasn't for Shantell, Eliza, Madi, or Mikaela I couldn't even be here! I owe them so much for letting me stay with them, and for showing me a Roma good time. When I arrived to the girl's apartment it was so surreal. Shantell ran down to get me and said it; "You're in Rome."
It was nearly 11 PM when I settled in, and the night was young! While the girls organized our night, I wasted no time in changing and downing the cheap vodka I found on the kitchen table. Remember, when in Rome!
The night started with us arriving at a local bar, G Bar, and having the "Saturday Special." That meant two cocktails and two shots for 10 euro. I got the sense that a night out in Rome consists of bar crawls and constant claustrophobia. The bars here are very "cozy" and when you commit to getting a drink, you commit to standing there as long as it takes! Even if the queue is a 30 min wait. Walking to the next location, the club Sharivari, was a real mission. In Rome, it is all cobble all the time, and I had to make sure I didn't twist my ankle. I know it may sound like I'm vilifying this place, I swear I am not!
When we got to Sharivari I was beyond excited. The club looked like an exclusive venue, and everyone was dressed to a T. I was way underdressed.
The night went on like any night would, but only a lot more Italian. When I would pay attention to the music I realized it was different from any club music I had heard before. In America it's about pop, in the U.K. you got grime, but here it was very eclectic. One minute it was Calvin Harris and the next an Italian song I had never heard of. Definitely, if you have the chance to go out a night in Rome it's worth a try. The social scene here is it's own standard.
When we finally got home, I got some pasta and head to bed. Sunday was my tourist day, and I wanted to make sure I was ready.
Sunday afternoon I left the apartment and Shantel was my guide. I told her to take me to the most iconic places, and we wasted no time. We head to the Coliseum first. When I say I was in awe, I mean I couldn't speak for a good minute! I was in front of one of the most famous landmarks in the world. It was all stone, giant, and just gorgeous. After a lunch break, we preceded to head to the Pantheon.
Rome reminded me of London in the sense that getting to monuments was fairly easy. Most of the spots were close to each other. But each spot had its own aura. Where the Coliseum was open and grand, the Pantheon was in an alley. It was more secluded and it felt more intimate. People would stand in front of it an take in its beauty. Honestly, art history paid off because that is how I heard about this edifice.
Shantel was most excited to take me to the Trevi Fountain. I wanted to save this for the end, because I knew I would spend the most time there. When we got to the fountain I finally had my Lizzie McGuire moment!
The fountain was gorgeous and it felt magic! People stood near it with their partners, family, and some people went alone. Everyone was appreciating the presence of the grand sculptures, and getting their coins ready to toss in.
As Shantel explained to me, you turn around and toss the coin from the right hand over the left shoulder. The myth is that if you do this then you will return to Rome. I hope the myth is right because this weekend was just not enough!
If you had asked me 3 years ago what I would be doing, I would not have said studying in the U.K., and I never would have guessed going to Rome! I got to speak to the girls and we all shared the same sentiment. We could not believe that we were actually in Italy, let alone Rome. Rome is an ancient city that preserves its history. I could tell that Rome was the real deal, and it requires an appreciation for the culture.
A weekend was not enough time for Rome. But it was a good start!