Posts Tagged ‘Friends’

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

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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.

Malta, Days 3 & 4

So, now that we’re finally settled, it’s time to re-cap days three and four in magnificent Malta. Wednesday was a visit to the beautiful Blue Grotto in the morning (a place that came highly recommended by my grandmother and my late grandfather), followed by an evening of family fun with Sylvana & Joe and a night out in Paceville (pronounced Pah-tchay-ville).  We spent Thursday exploring the capital city of Valletta, followed by our last supper, courtesy of Teddy & Angela.

Wednesday’s weather made for a perfect sight-seeing day. Though a ferry to the Blue Grotto wasn’t really on the agenda (it was too blustery), we had an amazing view and got some great shots of the water from above — the area was seriously fantastic; definitely a must-see for anyone in Malta!


After our Blue Grotto trip, we checked out some other old (3500 years-plus) temples and got a pretty sweet glimpse of the island of Filfla (you can see it in the background)! It’s super tiny and uninhabited — it looks like a big rock floating in the water <3.

Our dinner on Wednesday was super delish & entirely too much fun with two kiddos running around.

For one of the first times since my grandpa passed away, I was reminded of how much I miss seeing him and talking with him. I felt an urge around day two to call him and use my newly-acquired Maltese skills and suddenly remembered that he wasn’t there anymore… definitely made me a bit sad, but it was nice being able to see where he was born and where his family came from.

After our dinner and family time, we headed out for a far-too-late night in Paceville, courtesy of one Paul Sebastian (aka best tour guide ever). After getting home at around 230A and enjoying three qaghaq tal-ghasel, I felt I had done my work in annihilating my poor family’s kitchen.

We hit up Valletta on Day 4 and it definitely ties with Mdina for being the cutest city! There are so many fun shops there and loads of cute cafes & eateries (and gorgeous views)! We had a seriously delish lunch at Cafe Jubilee before departing. Paul had mentioned the Maltese chain earlier and it definitely lived up to expectations — good food and totally affordable!

Missing the sunshiney days and happy people of Malta already!

To see the whole Malta album, click here!

Where in the World is Shannon Elizabeth?

This is a story all about how
my life got flip-turned upside-down.
Now I’d like to take a minute,
Just sit right there —
I’ll tell you how I became a
victim of a traveling scare.

So, where in the world is Shannon Elizabeth?

Would it be weird if I said I didn’t know the answer to that? Heh. Well, that’s not entirely true, I suppose. I do know where I am. And I most definitely know where I’m not: I’m not in London like I should be. Here are some pictures of the madness that was my day. See if you can put this together and figure out what’s happening in my life.

Fun story: Our flight from Malta to Gatwick was cancelled due to poor weather conditions (read: London’s inability to deal with snow). Quite problematic, mind you, because I had a trip to Edinburgh planned for Sunday and Alex has a trip to California planned for Monday. All flights to Gatwick were cancelled and we were left with two options: fly to Newcastle today or fly to Newcastle or Gatwick on Monday. Unfortunately, Monday won’t work for either of us, thus we were left with one viable option and grabbed the flight to Northern England instead.

Where did we go from there? Well, that was a feat as we navigated the cold wintery weather up North (thank God for iPhones, laptops & Wi-fi). We hadn’t planned to end up in Newcastle and neither of us really had a plan of attack (or proper cold-weather clothing). We were offered a transfer from Newcastle to London via coach, but considering the gross weather and the 25 mile per hour ride involved with taking the coach, that would put us in London at around 3AM after a 7 to 10 hour coach ride. Ten hours on a stinky, stuffy coach is not my idea of fun.

Instead, we decided to take a train from Newcastle to Edinburgh, a much shorter ride than the one that we would have experienced from Newcastle to London. While we were in the train terminal at the Newcastle Airport looking at the train map someone stole my huge bag from literally behind my back! I noticed within 20 seconds that it was gone and Alex and I chased the culprit down and managed to retrieve my bag (thank God)!

After we arrived at Waverly Station in Scotland, we had to scale three sets of  these ridiculous stairs with huge 45 pound bags:

After getting to the top of the stairs we spotted a hotel across the way from the station — perfect price, Wi-fi, showers & warmth! Fortunately, I had over-packed for my Malta trip and have a load of extra clothes to wear in Scotland + my computer + chargers + my books, etc. Now Alex and I are warming our souls with Marks & Spencer salads and music to re-ignite our spirits after this soul-wrenching day. At least our window comes with a pretty gorgeous view:

Love from Scotland,

PS. Thank you to the best family for staying with us at the airport during this whole fiasco! Love you guys! We appreciate all of your support!

PPS. Paul & Charlie – I know you guys read this occasionally, don’t be afraid to comment on my blog; I love blog comments :)

Goodnight, Moon.

London at Night

How is it that despite putting serious effort into getting to bed before 11P, I am still up at 1240A? Sadly, this is not a rarity. Having just gotten back from the Social Policy party and a concert that I attended with my flatmate, I’m finally getting ready to get some shut-eye and prepare for the very last day of term tomorrow. It’s a bit insane to think that ten weeks have already come and gone; a bit bitter-sweet, in fact. It’s actually amazing to look back on how much we’ve gained in such a short span of time and, at the same time, a bit sad to say goodbye to some friends as we go our separate ways for the holidays. That being said, I have a lot going on between now and Friday and I have some grandiose plans for the coming holiday. I tend to think that if I put all of my plans up on a public forum, I’ll be a little more inclined to follow through! Also, side note — Lindsay & I hit up Scala this evening to catch The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, a New York-based band that came into London for a show. Both the venue and the band are worth checking out!

My week is semi-jam-packed with mundane daily chores like cleaning my room, doing my laundry, packing, etc., but I’m aiming to hit the gym tomorrow, Thursday, Friday and Saturday before leaving for Malta on Sunday. Being there for five days, followed by Scotland for four days leaves me with very little time to get a proper workout in… I’m gonna bring tennis shoes on both trips to see if I can somehow get myself to go for morning runs! With tomorrow being my last official day of class (although I do have to be on campus both Thursday and Friday for other commitments), I plan on using my last few days in town to do some exploring before heading to Malta! Borough Market is on my schedule for Thursday, while Portobello Road is slated for Saturday morning! I haven’t been to either yet, but I’m hoping to find some fun gifts for the holidays… nothing makes me smile like spiced cider, vegan goodies and shopping.

I’ll share my plans for Edinburgh with you kids tomorrow — suffice it to say, I have a few things in mind and Edinburgh has some awesome Christmas markets to keep my busy! I’ve checked out a ridiculous amount of foreign aid-focused books from our library to take with my on my trips for a bit of easy reading in the evenings. I figure if I can give myself a few productive hours a day between readings, my dissertation proposal and essay-writing, I should be in good shape when Lent Term begins in January!

Catch up with you tomorrow — I’m going to leave you with this song that I can’t get out of my head.
Crooked Teeth by Death Cab for Cutie… an oldie, but a goodie.

Good night, friends!

Dick in a Box

PS. Chris asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I sent him this video… if you’re easily offended it might not be that funny, but if you think Justin Timberlake + SNL make for a funny musical duo, this one’s timeless.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yesterday marked the first Thanksgiving that I have ever had to spend without my family. Despite missing my family like crazy, I think our expat celebration in the UK turned out quite well! It definitely brought a bit of home across the pond.

We made it a potluck celebration, so everyone brought their favorite Thanksgiving dish. I was slightly worried that we wouldn’t have enough food, but we actually ended up having leftovers, which was pretty amazing! Check out some of our goodies (wish I would have taken more pictures!) :

Lindsay’s Pumpkin Pie! Note to those celebrating in the UK: stores don’t sell canned pumpkin here. You have to buy a whole pumpkin and actually mash it and make a real pumpkin pie… a bit intense. Fortunately for Lindsay (and for everyone involved in the eating process), her lovely mom shipped a can + evaporated milk + crusts across the pond. Mmmmm!

Here’s Aaron cutting into his fierce Turbaducken, which was essentially a turducken (duck inside of a chicken inside of a turkey) with layers of bacon, andouille sausage, spinach and stuffing inside. It was definitely a feat (12 hours of roasting + ridiculous prep), but I think Aaron definitely ran away with MVP. His turkey looked great plus it fed EVERYONE there!

I made a vat of candied yams since sweet potatoes are my most favorite food in the world! Unfortunately, the bag of marshmallows were a mix of pink and white (the only ones I could find in the store!) and I had to use the pink ones because there weren’t enough white to cover everything. Thus, my potatoes look like a Valentine’s Day dish instead of a traditional Thanksgiving fare. Still quite good!

With Sean & Wen, a couple of our guests! :)

This picture of Ronan & Pooja is probably my favorite of the night! Love these two <3.

I’m so thankful for everyone that came and celebrated, it definitely felt a bit like celebrating with the fam. To everyone back in California: miss you, love you and hope you had an amazing Thanksgiving!

xoxo,