A Day at the Museum

With my paper nearly finished, I thought today would be a perfect day to reward myself with getting out of my shoe box of a room before my break comes to an end (*tear*). I decided to embark on a rather cultural excursion after hitting the gym this morning. Mission: Explore the museums at South Kensington. There are three museums in South Kensington, all within ten minutes walking from the tube station: the Victoria & Albert Museum, The Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. The best part is that they’re all free (donations encouraged, of course). In hindsight my mission was clearly too ambitious, nevertheless it still got me to the area to explore. I ended up only seeing the Natural History Museum, but it definitely inspired me to go back for more museum time. I tend to take for granted the fact that some of the world’s best museums are in my backyard; upon coming to this realization I have decided to make much more time for cultural experiences while I live in the epicenter. Duly noted: only in England do you run into museums that look like this (see the facade at left).

I had my doubts about my general interest in so-called ‘natural history’, but thankfully it ended up proving me wrong! It was such a cool experience and definitely lives up to its reputation. Plus, it’s definitely a great place to bring the kiddos – they have loads of interactive exhibits. Plus, they have this if you want to get out of teaching your kids about sex:

Does anyone else think this is a little too Rated R for a museum? They had an entire section dedicated to human biology and ‘how babies are made’. Literally, an entire section showing the birthing process with super-sized human models… it was a little aggressive for me; not entirely sure how a little one would take it. My guess is that they’ll be traumatized for life and never have sex. Maybe that’s the point?

Though that exhibit traumatized me a bit, I was elated when I got to the fossils, volcanos, solar system and the ‘earth’s treasury’ sections: all Grade A!

You definitely have to see this in real life to appreciate the magnitude of it, but the Earth section is seriously cool! There’s an escalator leading up into this massive globe, and then you’re inside of the earth where they have loads of goodies about the earth’s core, volcanoes, magma, etc. I’m not even that much of a geek (a point which I realize can be argued, but I digress…) and I appreciated every second of it.

The treasury… well, that was like shopping without the fear of spending. I think any woman could spend a couple of hours perusing the merchandise… er, I mean, enjoying the natural beauty of it all. They had case after case of precious and semi-precious stones. Gorgeous! I didn’t even realize how many amazing gems there are… definitely gave me some space to think about my engagement ring (*cough, cough, wink, wink*).

(Kidding.)


Plus, more importantly, I got to check out the diamond case and see what different weights look like; this display ranges from 1 carat on the left to about 1/8 of a carat on the far right. 1/8 of a carat looks like a nose stud. Seriously. So small. No offense to any newly minted brides showing off their 1/8 carat of bling.

After spending a few hours there (you could seriously spend the whole day if you’re into this kind of stuff… there was a whole dinosaur section that I sort of breezed by), I headed back home only to find that it was dumping snow outside! It had been snowing pretty lightly when I was on the way to the museum, but the skies started falling on the way back. Pretty crazy seeing London semi-snow covered!

Can you guys see the snow fall at Covent Garden?! So intense!

Despite the mini snow storm, or perhaps because of it, the museum was a perfect way to spend a few hours! Snow-free, free admission plus loads of cool stuff. Still on my list to check off: Victoria & Albert, the Science Museum, Tate Modern, and the Imperial War Museum!

Have you guys been to any of the museums in London? Any that you recommend?

Lots of love,

California to London: My Personal Case Study

This could also be entitled, “Why moving away from my homeland has been the best decision of life and why all human beings should experience the same thing: a case study,” but I thought that would be entirely too long. Also, let me define: by case study, I mean my personal experience which, herein, will be used as a case study and the base for this discussion/monologue. I suppose it’s primarily intended for those who are looking to move away for graduate school, work or study abroad, but anyone with input, please comment away!

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I spoke with a friend of mine who, rather abruptly, gave up her life in Northern California to pursue a Marketing/PR internship opportunity that had arisen in LA. She had never lived away from her family and there was no pay attached to the internship period (although there were hopes of a future job opportunity), but working in public relations in the LA area had been her goal. About a month after her move (a couple of months before my move to London), I asked her about her feelings on moving away and starting an entirely new life. The verdict? Hard at first, but ultimately the most fulfilling adventure.

Now that I’ve been living in London for nearly four months, I would tend to agree with her perspective on the move. Although I miss my family, my friends and the relative normalcy (read: monotony) of life in Northern California, I can positively say that the path that I chose was undoubtedly the best personal decision of life, to date. The move has given me new perspective on relationships, on other cultures and on life.

Tiff & I <3.

Chris & I at The Lion King!

I have had the opportunity to look intently at my relationships and realize that the connections built in life don’t need to fade away just because the distance between two individuals grows; that physical proximity and emotional proximity are not linked, even in the slightest (although I’m sure the advent of social networking sites has helped make this much easier than it would have been 25 years ago)!

National Gallery

I have also been able to experience life in a foreign country and soak up all the nuances that come with it. Living life in a cosmopolitan city (London, Paris, New York, etc.) grants one the ability to marinate and grow in an undeniable melting pot. Daily, I find myself running into people from France, Germany, Belgium, Georgia, Canada, Nigeria, Ghana (and the list goes on and on). In one term of classes, my eyes have already been opened to the vast differences in culture and individual perspectives; issues that I had been dealing with at home seem ridiculous when compared to famine and $1.25 per day that my classmates are familiar with. Moreover, it’s not just reading about these far-off places (Malawi, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Uganda) and theorizing about how life is lived there; it’s a chance for me to talk with new friends about how their lives are and how their personal experiences have changed their personal paths.

Perhaps the best part about the move, though, is the fact that I now know that I am fully capable of being on my own in the world. Despite having lived away from my family for the past five years, I was close enough to know that I could call if ever there were an issue. Now, I am in a completely foreign country with an entirely new set of people surrounding me and amazing new experiences every day and I absolutely love every second of it. I know now that I am capable of keeping my options open after graduating, and living/working abroad without feeling detached. Instead of being scared of things, I feel as though now I have fully realized that every day brings something new: new people to meet, new things to learn, new mistakes to make and new ways to be a better, more fulfilled person.

So, for anyone wondering whether a move is a good decision: what is there to lose? Really? A small bit of income that can be regained? Leaving behind some friends that you can contact via Facebook and Skype? On the flip side, think of everything that you can gain from pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. I think in this case the reward is definitely worth the risk.

Lots of love from London,

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Forecast: 30 degrees and sunny?

I’m still trying to wrap my head around London weather. Even after four months, it continues to amaze me that the typical cues of the sky (sunshine, blue skies, etc.) do not work with standard thought processes. Being a California native, I typically assume that sunshine peering through my curtains is a sign that it’s going to be a semi-warm day (70°+). Here, however, sunshine means no such thing. It doesn’t in any way, shape or form guarantee warmth. Nor does it guarantee that sunshine will be the trend for the day. Like I said, four months after moving here, it still hasn’t sunken in.

I woke up this morning, ready to have a super-productive day and the sunlight was extra motivation. About halfway through my walk to campus, sunglasses on and Jason Mraz singing to me through my earbuds, I realized that I could no longer feel my hands. With fear of frostbite surfacing, I checked the weather on my iPhone only to discover that it was a crisp 30°. Seriously?! 30°? That’s literally freezing. Yet, the sun was shining. What a false cue, Mother Earth! Of course, one must have umbrella, sunglasses and proper layers to prepare for a standard London day. Sun can easily be outdone by clouds that appear from thin air which, in turn, may decide to pour rain/snow at any given point. In any case, I’m back in my warm room, my hands are finally thawed and I am slowly re-gaining my ability to type.

Does anyone get used to this crazy weather?
How can one little area experience all four seasons in one day? Also, why are there so few hours of sunlight in a day?… I wonder if LSE offers meteorology courses. They could be of interest.

Lots of love,

Breaking Out — Is leaving HS friends really a bad thing?

Let me preface this by saying that this post is prompted by a facebook photo that I just ran across. The photo belonged to a girl (woman?), with whom I have a mutual friend; she went to my high school and graduated a couple of years before me. I wouldn’t say we’re ‘real’ friends, but I feel justified in looking through her random facebook photo albums…. please, isn’t that what facebook is for? In any case, I found it quite interesting when the majority of her current photos (posted December 2009) were snapshots of her and the same friends she had in high school. Now, I’m all for keeping friendships alive and maintaining bonds, blah, blah, blah, but really? At 26, isn’t it time that you had new friends, too? When 90% of photos are of you and the same people you were friends with at 15, I think it says something. If I had to guess, I would think it says, “I haven’t really grown/changed/advanced much in life and I still hang out with, and find interesting, the same people that I did when I was 14.”

Let me also say: a) I have no problem with this girl — she was actually very spirited and fun, so I’m not saying this out of anger/jealousy/whatever other emotions people associate with scorned women; and b) I also have a handful of friends from high school with whom I maintain friendships. It’s not the maintenance of friendships that I find irksome. I actually think it’s awesome to be able to keep in touch with people from the past and keep those friendships alive. Rather, I think it’s quite awkward when people maintain the exact same group through life without incorporating new individuals and new personalities into the group. Even if I tried to keep in touch with the same group of friends I had in high school, there would only be a select few that I would still share commonalities with. We all grew up and went our separate ways, finding new things that interested us. Some of us pursued higher education, some got married, some joined the military… some even have children. For us to all still find common ground would be a rather unachievable. The things that we find interesting now are so varied. I have no interest in spending three hours talking to my girlfriends about their over-achieving babies nor do I find interest in planning upcoming nuptials. Likewise, I find it highly unlikely that any of my girlfriends want to have a conversation with me about the effects of poverty on HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.

Now then, my question is, how does this happen? How do people continue to hang out with the exact same individuals for decades on end when their initial friendship began at such a young age? I understand the concept of adults meeting and maintaining life-long friendships, but it just seems that so much happens from the ages of 15 to 25 (high school graduation, college, college graduation, career choices, moving, marriage, children, etc.) that you really aren’t the same person that you once were. Doesn’t it say something about your growth as a person if your friends haven’t changed? Isn’t it important to meet new people and allow their perspectives on the world to open your eyes to new things?

Maybe it’s just me… maybe it’s late and looking at facebook friends’ random photo albums is unhealthy. Or maybe it really is weird to be BFFs with the kid you met in 9th grade geometry when you’re 26.

Either way, I would love input from people on this… it’s a topic that I find bizarrely fascinating/irksome.

Sleep tight,

Ringing in 2010, London-style!

I must say, there’s no better way to welcome in a new year than with people you love! Despite having been a bit under the weather, I think not going out would have been a pretty ominous way to start the new year. With all the milestones that marked my 2009, I have a feeling that 2010 will be even bigger yet. Getting my Masters, finding my life’s path (at least temporarily), figuring out where I’m going to live… This year will probably be the most influential in guiding my life (no pressure, right?) In any case, I decided to spend my last day of 2009 and first few hours of 2010 with friends in London — I can’t imagine a better way.

My flatmate, Lindsay; her friend, Cole, and I headed to Primrose Hill for lunch. Despite having lived in London for nearly four months, I still hadn’t really ventured out into the outskirts of the city (outside the central area) so it was a fun experience. After lunch, we headed to the actual hill to take in the views:

Cole, Lindsay & I at Primrose Hill!

Pretty sweet views.

Lunch was my good-bye time with Lindsay & Cole — they are spending their first few days of 2010 gallivanting around Turkey! Can’t say I’m not a little jealous. If I didn’t have papers to write and studying to do, another trip might be in order for me!

London provides a lot, in terms of entertainment, for ringing in the New Year. Our original plan was to hang out in Trafalgar Square (which is semi-analogous with Times Square in New York), but we decided to take in the views of the fireworks from the North bank of the river. There were thousands of people that had the same idea — the place was seriously packed, but the 7-1/2 minute firework show was pretty fantastic. The London Eye is gorgeous at night! I was mesmerized (as Wen can attest to), and the coordination of the London Eye’s changing colors with the fireworks provided a pretty awesome show.

And who better to celebrate with than fellow LSE kiddos?

Flatmates: Keti & I!

Wen & Alex!

Immediately following the fireworks show, it started snowing! It definitely made for a pretty magical New Year. Also, as a side note — kudos to the city of London for providing free public transportation last night. Definitely a responsible move by the city.

I’m still working on my New Year’s Resolution (I tend to be against them), but I’m leaning towards being the best version of myself. In every way. Physically — working out more and taking care of myself; academically — working hard and putting forth the best work that I can on each and every occasion; and personally — creating bonds, building more friendships and taking advantage of opportunities to socialize and grow as a person.

It’s actually a pretty lofty resolution, but I think it’s doable since it’s all under my control! Here’s to Day 1!

What did you guys do to ring in the New Year? Any resolutions?

Lots of love,

Saying Goodbye to 2009.

It’s 930A, I’m up and feeling much better than I have been the last few days. Sniffles are gone and congestion has nearly disappeared! Thank God for lots of water, soup and Bendadryl to help me sleep about 18 hours yesterday. I’ve been holed up for a few days but I woke up this morning to the realization that today marks the last day of 2009. Crazy, really. Where has this year gone?! Despite the fact that time has flown by, a lot has happened this year for me; lots of big changes that have had a big impact on my life. Time for me to reminisce a bit and welcome in 2010!

Dad & I took our first international trip together in February. We visited England to look at possible grad schools… that was only 10 months ago? Wow. I’m already through 3 months of grad school!

I don’t know if I secretly thought/hoped that my grandparents would live forever, but my grandpa passed away in March and it was the first time I had to say goodbye to someone with whom I was extremely close. It was also the first family death I had to deal with in my adult life, and it marked the first eulogy I ever delivered. Even though I know he’s not alive anymore, I often still feel like he’s here, which makes living life much easier.

Got my acceptance to LSE in April (I applied quite late)! I actually recall the moment of my acceptance with 100% clarity. I think it’s like the JFK assassination moment that everyone from that generation talks about — you know exactly what you were doing and exactly where you were. I was so elated when I got the letter, definitely changed the course of my life. Here I am now, half way through taught courses with amazing new friends and loads of fun travel stories. I can’t imagine having been anywhere else!

Ahhh… graduation from undergrad was a very bitter-sweet moment for me. It was great to be able to say goodbye to my undergrad and know that I had the opportunity to pursue my Masters in London in the fall, but it was sad graduating and not having my grandpa there for the first time. Nevertheless, definitely a milestone!

A surprise birthday weekend for Tiff & our first family vacation in forever! We planned a surprise getaway to Carmel for Tiffany’s 19th Birthday this year, complete with handmade surprises and super-cute B&B. It was the first family vacation we’d been on in years (since Disneyland days) and it was the first time we got to bring nana along! So fun!

Saying goodbye to work after four years! It was quite difficult quitting a reliable job with a steady income to welcome a life of joblessness and full-time Masters work. I’m glad now that I had the wherewithal to actually leave, but it was a bit sad… four years of bonding and relationships and saying goodbye to the full-time job that allowed me to pay my way through undergrad.

One of the biggest things that happened this year? Moving to London! I really didn’t think I had it in me to leave my family, friends, relationships and the normalcy of California life  to move to a foreign country for (at least) a year. I’m happy to announce that I did manage to say my tearful goodbyes and settle in to London life. Quite happily, I might add. I already feel so much more fulfilled & so much more educated!

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I didn’t even realize that I had experienced so many life-altering changes this year. How can a year go by so fast and still contain so many memories? I must admit, this blog has definitely come in handy! I had created it with the intention of keeping up with friends and family from afar, but I have found that it has become the best online journal imaginable. Now that I know there are people reading about my daily adventures and trips, I feel somewhat accountable to upload pictures and thoughts on a regular basis. Now, a year later, it’s fun going back and remembering the things that I would have otherwise forgotten!

Thank you to everyone who made my 2009 amazing.
Let’s get ready to take on 2010!

Now, I’m off to make breakfast and face the last day of 2009. Possibly hitting up Trafalgar Square tonight to ring in the New Year!

Love my fish.

Boo on Reality. It’s Finally Setting In…

December is coming to a close which means January is right around the corner! Before January 11th rolls around and Lent Term begins, I have a dissertation proposal to write and a summative essay to conclude. Ideally, both will be done well (let’s all cross our fingers for distinction). On top of that, real life has begun to hit me: although last term was challenging, this term is going to be a real feat. Not only do we have to concern ourselves with normal coursework, but most of our graded coursework is due at the end of this term/beginning of Summer Term, plus we have to get a substantial start on our dissertations, plus there’s the whole job/internship situation if we actually want to put our education to use (I like to think that most of us do).

Knowing that we’ll be 100% done in 9 short months is a little daunting. Most people are leaving before then — off to law school, other professional programs or back to their homelands to send in their dissertations. Theoretically, we can all go back home in July and submit our dissertations via courier. For some of the direly homesick, this is a great option. I, on the other hand, have been wanting to drag out my European excursions for as long as humanly possible! I’m loving London life (aside from the occasional mild bout of homesickness) and have thoroughly enjoyed my ability to travel and meet some amazing people along the way. Thinking of all of this coming to an end is saddening (and an impetus to pursue a PhD). So, this term is going to be a full one: normal coursework, a trip to Cumberland Lodge with my program, a summative ‘project planning’ submission, a dissertation to begin, careers to investigate, jobs for which to apply, summative essays to submit and preparation for exams in May/June. On the bright side, I also get to look forward to some special visitors this term! My cousins are coming at the end of January for a visit, Chris is hitting up Londontown in February, and my dad and sister are coming during my break for a two-week, three to four-country mini tour (England, France, the Netherlands & maybe Scotland)! Hopefully seeing all of their bright, smiling faces will help in getting through the term and alleviating a bit of my homesickness (and hold me over until I return back to the US).

Also, I must wish my friend, Pooja, congratulations on getting her first acceptance to law school! She’s the perfect example of a girl who has her stuff together: finishing her Masters and off to start law school all before the tender age of 22 — talk about motivation! On that note, I’m off to look for jobs/PhD programs to feel like less of a delinquent.

Here’s to Lent Term and to facing reality!

On an amazingly bright note, Lent Term marks the welcoming of one Dambisa Moyo, author of Dead Aid, and I am going to be 1st in line to see her! I’ve decided to make a concerted effort to take advantage of the university’s speakers and public lectures. We get some amazing visitors at our school (Presidents, Prime Ministers, Queens, Scholars, etc.) and now is the time to get to see them in person!