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parliament

#TBT: Memories of London | BEDA Day 7

Around this time four years ago, I was gallivanting around London as one of the many study abroad students who arrive in the country each year. Studying abroad was always part of my undergrad plan, but I wasn’t sure where (or when) I would go. In the end I went with what now seems like the safest option in retrospect. I didn’t have to learn a new language, I was familiar with the culture, and the time difference wasn’t as bad as somewhere like Australia. The safe option turned out to be the best choice, though.

My 11 weeks in London were some of the best of my life. I know how typical that sounds: “I studied abroad and it changed my life! OMG I’m so CuLtUrEd!!!” Seriously, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. There were challenges along the way – I did get homesick and the classes were difficult. I came home feeling much more independent, though, and ultimately felt really comfortable in the city. Plus, I had the best group of flatmates around.

In honor of #tbt, here are a some of my favorite memories of my time abroad, in the form of crappy photos pulled off of Facebook.

stonehenge london study abroad

My parents did a bit of traveling of their own while I was abroad. They met up with me in London for Mother’s Day weekend before heading off on a two week tour of Ireland. While they were in town, we decided to take a day trip to Bath and Stonehenge, because you can’t go to Southern England without visiting Bath and Stonehenge. My folks don’t do anything half-assed, so we booked a tour that allowed us to get up close and personal with the stones after the park had closed to the public. This is definitely the way to go if you can swing it. Of course you can’t actually touch the stones, getting so close to something so ancient is really freaking cool. Also there are lots of sheep.
elephant house edinburgh london study abroadI so wish you could actually see out the window in this photo. One weekend in April, a couple of us took an overnight Megabus (not recommended) to Edinburgh to see what Scotland had to offer. We arrived around 7am, before most shops and cafes in Old Town opened. After some frustrated wandering, we found The Elephant House, empty and just opening for the day. I believe Jo Rowling herself was shining her light on me at that moment because a) I was starving and exhausted and b) as the “birthplace of Harry Potter,” The Elephant House is almost always packed. We got an amazing seat with a view of Edinburgh Castle and stuffed our faces with eggs. As you can tell from the above photo, I was very content.

franz ferdinand limerick london study abroad

Sometimes your favorite band announces that their first set of shows in a few years will take place in Ireland. While you’re studying in London. And your friend (also a huge fan) is living in Glasgow. You have to go, right? Right. That’s exactly what I did. I spent a total of 48 hours in Ireland, 4 of which were spent on buses between Dublin and Limerick, the site of the concert. It was so worth it, though. Dolan’s Warehouse is a much smaller venue than the ones Franz Ferdinand typically plays in the states, and we ended up standing just a few rows from the front. The new songs, which eventually made up their 2013 album “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action,” sounded great. I saw them again when they headlined the Field Day festival in London a few weeks later, which means I’ve officially seen them play in three different countries. Does that make me a groupie? Who knows.

climbing lion trafalgar square london study abroad

Everyone has to climb a lion in Trafalgar Square when they come to London. It’s a rite of passage, apparently. On my last night in London, a friend of mine invited me to help him shoot something for his webseries in the wee hours of the morning. We ended up staying up all night and found ourselves in Frafalgar Square at 4am. It was far from deserted, but as I was flying home in about 8 hours, I figured now was my chance to ride one of these majestic iron creatures. With a little help from my friends, I conquered the beast. Later, we watched the sun rise along the Thames, perfectly lighting up Parliament. Somehow I still made my flight.
I’m ready to go back to London right about now. If anyone has a job for me over there, or a couple thousand dollars lying around, hit me up.

The 3 Best Indie Albums…Of My Middle School Years

 

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The ladies who taught me all I know about music.

The majority of my favorite musical acts were most active around 2003 and 2004. When I was in middle school. What does that say about me? Don’t answer that.

I spent a lot of time on my own in my early teens, lost in the world of my headphones. I spent my afternoons combing through iTunes, looking for my new favorite musical act. They couldn’t sound like the pop artists and emo bands the rest of the school was listening to, but they still had to be palatable for my 13-year-old brain. I was in a band with a group of awesome, tuned-in girls who would make me mix CDs and lend me copies of SPIN magazine, turning me on to the next big thing. I was far from cool, but at least my iTunes library didn’t suck.

I kept looking for new music as I got older, but I’d always come back to the indie hits of the early aughts. I still do. I hate to sound like an old fart but music was just so good then. The acts that debuted around then are also still active and making great stuff. I mean, have you heard the new Brandon Flowers album? It’s amazing.

In honor of my decidedly dated taste in music, here are some of the albums Middle School Charlotte was rocking out to from 2003 to 2006.

Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand (2003)

If my memory serves me, I believe I first heard Franz Ferdinand in the car with my dad, heading home from a day at Coney Island. I could just be combining formative memories here, but bear with me. “Take Me Out” was unlike anything I’d ever heard before, but still sounded so familiar. Between me and my friend group, this album got a ton of play. We giggled over “Darts of Pleasure,” danced like crazy to “This Ffffire,” and commiserated over all the boys and girls we hated to “The Dark of the Matinee.” I’ve since seen the Glasgow boys play four times in three different countries. My love for this band has outlasted a good portion of my relationships. Good choice, Middle School Charlotte.

The Killers, Sam’s Town (2006)

Technically, this album came out when I was in high school, but I hadn’t matured that much upon entering freshman year. We’ll count it. Sam’s Town was actually the first Killers album I bought and I drained my iPod battery more than once listening to it on repeat. At the time I really clung to the album’s strong theme of growing up in (and getting out of) a small town. Today, I love how big every song on this album sounds. I can’t really find a better way to describe it. Sam’s Town didn’t get great reviews when it first debuted, but now it’s popping up on all these “underrated album” lists. Welcome to the party, people. Glad you’re coming around. Have some guac.

Arcade Fire, Funeral (2004)

I will never not love this album. If you told me today that Win Butler sacrificed a cage full of bunnies during the recording process, a) I wouldn’t be entirely surprised, and b) I would still be obsessed. Arcade Fire can write songs that are perfect for tiny basement hangs and huge stadium concerts at the same time. This has to be some kind of dark magic. Funeral totally blew my middle school mind, and I find something new every time I give it a listen.

It’s one thing for me to rave on about these tunes, but I’d rather just let you hear them for yourself. Check out the Spotify playlist below with some of my favorite indie jams of middle school. Share some of your favorites songs of yesteryear in the comments!