As a small town girl from Chico, CA, I moved to Los Angeles to attend college at CSU Northridge. Studying abroad began as a small idea I never thought would be possible for me, because I needed to keep a job through college to pay for school. However, I learned more about the affordability of the program, began saving money and worked hard to make it a reality. I am now graduating in the spring after only four years with a double major in marketing and finance and could not be happier.
As part of a British Life and Culture class that was recommended for incoming American international students at Kingston University, we took many trips to English historical sites. We took a tour of Parliament in London, saw the Roman Baths in the city of Bath, King George IV's Royal Pavilion in Brighton and learned of the journey of the gigantic rocks that created Stonehenge. These trips allowed for me to interact and share experiences with other Americans, while learning about British culture and becoming more acclimated to my surroundings in my first semester abroad.
Kingston upon Thames would not be complete without the Thames. I enjoyed some of my favorite days on the river—weather permitting, of course. England is far different from California in that you learn to take advantage and really enjoy a clear, warm weathered day. Many of my fondest memories of my time in Kingston involve sitting near the river with friends, enjoying a pint of cold beer or my favorite milkshake from Shakeaway called the George.
The fantastic view of London from the top of the London Eye was an amazing experience. The opportunity to take a picture with Big Ben from a different perspective was the best part of the hour-long journey all the way around the Eye. Big Ben quickly became my favorite landmark in London, which was only a 25-minute train ride from the station near my halls in Surbiton. Of course, Big Ben is actually the nickname for the bell inside of the clock tower, not for the tower itself, even though it is often referred to as such.
Living in the halls was one of the best decisions I made during my year abroad. Most of the friends that I had were people I lived near and I was able to become very close to them throughout my time there. We were all able to share different aspects of our cultures, and I now have friends all over the world I can visit when I get the chance. I was able to make one of my favorite meals for my friends from Germany, Spain and Norway in the kitchen in my halls. I still keep in contact with many of the people I met while abroad and they became some of the best friends I've made in my lifetime.
I had never seen snow that stuck to the ground without melting until living in England. This was only a precursor to the shock I would get when spending Christmas in Norway with my best friend that I met in the halls. Christmas away from my family was hard, but I would never give up the experience I had with my new adopted Norwegian family. It was a real "White Christmas" and was one of the best holidays I have ever had.
One of the most unforgettable moments I've experienced in my life was the Royal Wedding. I watched from a big screen amongst a huge crowd of people in London's Trafalgar Square. During my stay, I noticed that the United Kingdom does not have as great of a sense of pride in their country as we have in America, but during the time of the Royal Wedding this was not true. The excitement and happiness felt on this day will forever bring me joy. Not to mention, the celebrations afterward brought people together from all over the world.
I could not have fully experienced England without seeing a football game. I attended a Champions League game in which Chelsea played MSK Zilina at Stamford Bridge Stadium in London. The sport creates a sense of pride among the fans. Pubs are hubs for people to enjoy football and rugby matches without actually being at the stadium. They also serve as a great place to meet with friends, and enjoy a meal and a few drinks. When asked what I miss most about the United Kingdom, pubs and pub food are among my top answers.
As a Californian, I am an ultimate lover of Mexican food, which is a needle in the haystack among English food options. However, it is making its way into the British palate. As much as I enjoyed being immersed in British culture and eating more cultural food, I was able to treat myself to one trip to Taco Bell in far East London during the year. There is also a Chipotle in London that I visited and often took my international friends that had never had it before. The staff of this newlybuilt addition to the food court thought we were absolutely insane, but it was definitely worth the trip and excitement.