Here Comes the Sun

Xue_6_6For the past few days, it’s been sunny in London and I’m spotting the first signs of spring. The days are noticeably longer, flowers are sprouting from a nearby garden, and I no longer need to wear gloves. I’ve included a picture of my dorm so you can see what Campbell House looks like and what beautiful blue sky we have right now. Living on campus was probably one of the best choices I made. My roommate, also a study abroad student, is from Turkey. I’m learning so much about Turkish culture from her and now I want to visit Istanbul. Moreover, I met most of my British friends in the dorms. The British students living in Campbell are all freshmen. Campbell provides housing only for freshmen, and after that, students have to find outside housing. Most students live about 30 minutes away from campus and take the Tube to campus. London is the most expensive city (source: Business Insider), rent and housing take the biggest toll on the wallet. I noticed that food prices are the same as the U.S.’, but in a more expensive currency. Tips for future study abroad students: save up for this trip, minimize eating out, shop in Camden (a nearby neighborhood with cheap markets, restaurants, and grocery stores), and follow a budget.

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In honor of Valentine’s Day, my friend and I went to Harrod’s, an upscale department store, to eat macaroons, chocolate, and window shop. I was astonished by the store’s poshness. Shopping at Harrod’s is another experience in itself. Think New York’s 5th Ave under one roof, add a fancy Food Hall, and 32 upscale restaurants. The stop has 330 departments housing a wide range of luxury brands for women, men, children, and even pets. It’s a one-stop shop for items such as clothing, jewelry, shoes, food, furniture, and health and beauty products. There are several floors, each decorated impeccably. There is so much to see that you can spend an entire day shopping, resting by eating at one of its restaurants. There was also a Ladurée restaurant. I had to a get a macaron to see what the fuss was about over these rainbow colored confections. I got a praline-flavored macaron. It was very good and had a crunchy exterior and smooth interior. The Food Hall has a wide range of “designer” chocolates, fresh produce, pastries, high tea, and other cultural cuisine. Most of the foods are discounted 50% off at 7:30 pm, so at that time, my friend and I loaded up sweets and chocolates. One food item that London does well is pastries.

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It is currently Reading Week at UCL. There are no classes and students are using the time to write essays, study for exams, or travel. I have three essays to write, each 2,000 words, so the library has become my second home. Also, I have gotten to know my department better by getting involved in its activities. Last week, I went with the UCL School of Public Policy’s International Public Affairs Society (IPAS) to a restaurant in Chinatown called the Oriental Dragon to celebrate Chinese New Year. A surprising number of students were from the U.S. and plan on working in Washington D.C. after their one year Master’s program ends.