Tag Archives: london

Finding My Personal Style | BEDA Day 28

When I started this project, I made a list of topics I could touch upon over my 30 days of posts. One of those topics was “forming my aesthetic.”

Past Charlotte, what does that even mean? How does one fit such a whopper of a topic into one 500-word post? And which aesthetic are we talking about? Fashion? Literary? Home decor? Tumblr? Every time I return to the list, I’m not quite sure where to start with it. So I guess we’ll just go with some free thoughts on finding my personal style.

My style was pretty much the same throughout middle and high school. I was a standard t-shirt and jeans girl, particularly if those t-shirts were of the graphic variety. I’d mix it up occasionally with “punk” elements like Chuck Taylors or a studded belt (woof), but the general vibe was pretty casual. As time went on I softened up my look a bit, embracing cardigans and empire-waist tank tops with a dress or two to mix things up. My shops of choice at the time were Delia’s (RIP), American Eagle, and The Gap.

I was more willing to experiment in college, but tended to revert back to my denim comfort zone. If it took more than five minutes to get dressed, I wasn’t having it. Dresses and skirts made more of an appearance in my wardrobe, as I was more willing to embrace my femininity. Once I started to move out of the juniors department and into the world of Big Girl Clothes, though, I realized I was in a whole different category of customer, one that didn’t cater to my age group. I wanted to try crop tops and rompers, but the options in Forever 21 looked silly on me. Gaining the Freshman 15 kind of wrecked my self-esteem for a bit, making shopping even more difficult.

Something changed when I went to London, though. I stepped into a Topshop in Kensington and found that their petite section had a lot more than frumpy pantsuits. Finally, I could try out the styles I’d seen in magazines and style blogs. I’ll be honest, most of them still looked kind of silly, but just seeing that I could actually wear trendy pieces opened my mind up to new options. I started to wear brighter colors and pieces that didn’t always work, but made me feel good in the moment. For a second, I finally felt like one of the cool girls.

I now face a new dilemma as a post-grad working full-time in New York City. I can shop for work clothes without a problem and find outfits that look professional and comfortable at the same time. But part of me still wants to be “trendy” during my limited time off. I have very few “going out” outfits as I can’t find any that suit me (and I rarely “go out” as it is). I’m also just generally dissatisfied with the options available to me. The recent fare available in stores like Topshop and Zara kind of look like costumes you would find in a sci-fi movie. Culottes? Really, y’all?

I guess the key is to keep trying things on until something feels right. Or just keep perusing fashion blogs until I find a look to emulate. For now I’ll stick to my new uniform: LOFT blouses and black jeans.

Image via Enis Lebelici

#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.

Shocked by Culture Shock

Nearly every travel guide out there will tell you that there are several stages of culture shock. The more time you spend away from home, the harder culture shock will hit you, blah blah blah. For some reason, I thought I was immune to culture shock. I’ve traveled internationally, I’ve been exposed to British culture through different forms of media, and I’ve spent plenty of time away from home before. Culture shock can’t hit me! I’m super-traveler!

I was quite wrong.

Wikipedia describes culture shock as “a term used to describe the anxiety and feelings (of surprise, disorientation, confusion, etc.) felt when people have to operate within a different cultural or social environment, such as a different country or a different state”. That seems pretty accurate for Wikipedia, seeing as I’ve felt a lot of things since I arrived in London three weeks ago. I spent the first week or so in the “honeymoon stage”. I wanted to get out and do and see everything that this city has to offer. Homework? That can wait, let’s go to the Tower of London! That club is a fifteen minute walk from the tube? That’s totally worth it, they’ve got the best DJ in the city!

Naturally, I’m exhausted right now. Tiring yourself out in the first few days is probably the best way to enter stage two of culture shock, the “hostility stage”.

I feel like the term “hostility” is a bit strong, considering how I feel right now. I still love London, and I’m definitely not ready to go back to the states, but there are some things that frustrate me about being here. Things are expensive, in between school and travel plans I never feel like I have enough time for everything I want to do, and I still can’t find anywhere to get my eyebrows waxed (seriously, it’s getting out of hand).  I guess the thing that I’m most frustrated with is being so far away from the people I love. I want to share my experiences with them. However, I’ve been blessed with a great group of people to live and study with here in London, which makes this whole “hostility period” much easier. I’m not hostile, just a bit sad, particularly because the Reading Room of the Victoria & Albert Museum (where I happen to be writing this post) keeps playing songs that remind me of the states.

Of course, I’m still having an amazing time here. I’ll leave you with some highlights of the last few weeks.

I took a tour of Parliament with my classmates on Monday morning. Honestly, I didn’t think that “common folk” were allowed in Parliament. My experiences with American government buildings has been limited, and mostly experienced from the outside. Apparently anyone can come in and have a chat with their local Member of Parliament or attend a debate. The building alone is a work of art, and yet someone let me on the floor of the House of Commons. I call that government transparency at its finest. Congress, take notes.

I did the ultimate tourist thing and took a ride on the London Eye last week. My friends and I went at night when the city was all lit up and ready to party (well, as hard as you can party on a Wednesday night). The views were gorgeous enough to distract me from my fear of heights, which probably means that I’m not afraid of heights anymore. Here are a few of my favorite shots of the night.

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Last Saturday I saw Zach Braff’s new play All New People at the Duke of York’s Theatre. I went on my own, which is a theatre first for me. As much as I enjoy discussing a play after I’ve seen it with others, it was nice to just take it in and digest the work on my own. The play was a funny, yet poignant portrayal of life as a young person in such an isolating age. As this was Braff’s first play, there were some things that he still needs to work on and some writing choices that I didn’t agree with, but overall I enjoyed the show and would recommend it to theatre fans in London in the next two weeks, particularly if you are a fan of Braff’s work. I also got to meet Braff at the stage door after the show! He was really great with his fans, making sure to sign everyone’s program/Scrubs DVDs/Marks & Spencer’s voucher. Image

I leave for a weekend in Amsterdam bright and early tomorrow morning. It’s high time for a change of scenery.

A Weekend in London

It appears that I am in London. I’m not entirely sure how I got here but I have a feeling that I watched Downton Abbey on the way. That’s not entirely important. What’s important is what I’ve been up to for the last few days, and that’s what I’m here to blog about.

(It’s occurred to me that “to blog” wasn’t a verb fifteen years ago. What a strange, strange world we live in.)

I arrived on Thursday slightly delirious. I did manage to get some sleep on the plane, but that didn’t make the tube ride from Heathrow and the journey from the tube stop to the flat with my fifty pound bag any easier. Regardless, I made it and unpacked my stuff in time to take a quick nap before our tour of the neighborhood. South Kensington is absolutely lovely. Almost everything I need is an easy walk from our flat in quaint little shops. After the tour, my friend and I had an awesome dinner at Nandos  and spent the rest of the evening recovering from jet lag.

Friday was spent in orientation and shopping for the essentials: food, a cell phone, and a hair dryer. On Saturday my flatmates and I went on a tour of the city. We hit the major tourist attractions that we could see on foot: Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, Big Ben, Westminister Abbey, Parliament, The Globe, Tower Bridge, etc. It was a lot of fun, and definitely helped me further develop my list of things I want to see before I leave. We actually arrived at Buckingham Palace in time to see the tail end of the guard change. I saw the guard change during my first trip to London when I was ten, but I don’t think I could appreciate the uniformity and precision of it until now. I’ll have to see the full routine one of these days.

This city is so beautiful. It’s such a modern city, and yet it’s so impossibly old. I’m surprisingly feeling very comfortable here which says…something about me. I’m really looking forward to the next ten weeks, and taking you all along with me.

I’ll leave you with some pictures from our walking tour, featuring the infamous gray London sky.

Enjoyment

Blog, I have been ignoring you, and for that I am truly sorry. To be fair, I’m not where I thought I would be when I started this blog a few months ago, so I’m now in the process of figuring out what to do with this thing. It’s time to be honest with y’all. When I created this blog, I was seriously considering transferring to a different university. I was unhappy with how my freshman year had gone and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in the major I chose when I applied to this school. I started this blog as a way to chronicle my transfer process and the transition once I got to the new college of my choice. Upon returning to school, I realized that I didn’t want to leave and wanted to find ways to make the most of my university experience, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing when I haven’t been blogging.

So, here’s what you need to know about my life right now.

In 58 days I’m going to London to study abroad for ten weeks. I’m incredibly excited and incredibly nervous. Luckily, I’ll be joining several of my high school friends over there, which makes me much more comfortable to go over there. It’s always nice to have some familiar faces when you’re in a relatively unfamiliar place. I’m excited to travel and see everything that London has to offer. I’ll probably spend a fair amount of time stalking British TV stars. Probably not. Ok, I totally will. It’s been ten years since I was last in the UK. It’s time to get back.

While I’m waiting to go to the UK, I’m taking five pretty difficult classes. It probably wasn’t wise to load up on classes while I’m preparing to leave the country, but it was the only way I could stay on track to graduate. Two literature classes in one term is not exactly the best idea, but it had to be done. I feel like a lot of the university process, or at least my experience with it, is waiting. You wait for summer, in my case at least you wait to go on study abroad, you wait to get a job, you wait to graduate. I feel like I need to stop waiting and enjoy the moment. Of course, that’s easier said than done when you have a fair amount of planning to do.

I’ve also been participating in the Channel 4 New Year Revolution for much of this month. The little challenges I get every day have really helped with the whole “staying in the moment” goal. You can check out my videos and posts on the challenges on my YouTube channel and Revolution page.

I’m going to go enjoy the moment by finishing my chicken tikka masala and heading over to choir practice now. You are all wonderful people. I hope you know that.