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Traveling and thriving

One of the things I was most excited about in coming to London was the proximity to Europe. As an international studies student (and self-proclaimed wanderlust), I am most happy when I am traveling. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to get to the Continent for a weekend trip (or shorter).

A few weekends ago, a few friends and I decided to take a weekend trip to Paris! The most cost-effective choice was a coach bus, so we took an overnight coach to the city. Once there, we explored all of the major sites: Notre Dame Cathedral, the Latin Quarter, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysee, the Spanish quarter, and Sacre-Couer Basilica.

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The view of the east end of Notre Dame Cathedral – look at that buttressing!

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Walking along the Seine

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Paris was home to some of the most significant intellectual movements throughout history – of course we went to a bookstore! This one is Shakespeare & Company Bookshop in the Latin Quarter. I wanted all of the books, especially “Seventeen Contradictions” by David Harvey

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Priscila, Jenna, myself, and Avery, with Notre Dame’s west front in the background. Thank you to Catie for taking the picture!

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We locked our love on Lovelock Bridge!

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A perfect day in Paris
(L to R: Jenna, Priscila, Avery, and Catie)

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Fun fact: the Eiffel Tower is a relatively recent addition to Paris. It was erected in 1889 and a lot of Parisians thought it was a hideous addition to the city. It goes to show the healing powers of time – the tower is now a universally lauded symbol of the city.

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Easily my favorite place we visited – the Sacre-Coeur basilica in the Spanish quarter. In addition to being a gorgeous basilica, there is an incredible view of all of Paris from the steps.

We had an incredible day in Paris and ended up taking an overnight coach back. Such an efficient, albeit tiring, way of traveling! I just couldn’t get enough, so the next weekend, I decided to go to Amsterdam!

I ended up going by myself, which was a little daunting but I knew I could do it. I initially took myself on a tour of the city, which was surprisingly walkable. I saw Dam Square, Magna Plaza, Anne Frank’s house, Rembrandt’s house, and a lot of beautiful Dutch, Gothic, Renaissance, and neo-Renaissance architecture. I then headed over to the Museumplein, a plaza of some of the world’s best museums, all located in Amsterdam.

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One of the first things I saw when I got off the coach at Amstel station. Perfect weather in a beautiful city.

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I walked about 2 km from Amstel station in southeast Amsterdam to Centraal station, which is in the heart of the city. The great thing about Amsterdam is that it really is a walkable city – I was amazed by how many people were walking and biking.

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The glorious Centraal station.

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of course, I had to find a cafe to get a hot chocolate and write some postcards!

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Why yes, I amsterdam! Note the incredible Rijksmuseum behind the sign. The entire Museumplein (Museum plaza, in Southwest Amesterdam) was awesome, but I spent about 4 hours in the Rijksmuseum obsessing over Vermeer, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Monet…such a great museum!

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[das me]

A few months ago, maybe even a few weeks ago, I would not have believed myself capable of going to a foreign country alone, but I did it! There is nothing more self-affirming than putting yourself in a situation where you have to rely on yourself and be resourceful. Traveling is disorienting; immersing yourself in an entirely new culture, frequently an entirely new language, can be scary. Still, I think nothing helps the soul grow more than traveling, than learning about different cultures, than experiencing the way someone else lives. I can think of nothing I enjoy more.

I have learned so much already in my time abroad, not only about the new places and people I have interacted with, but also about myself. I feel as though I have grown so much in these few months. That’s the point of studying abroad, I think: to uproot yourself from familiarity and to discover that you can in fact thrive somewhere entirely new.

-P

Field Trips!

Growing up, I always loved the excitement of field trip days. Field trips meant leaving the tedium of the classroom and getting to explore somewhere new. While I’ve certainly come to love the classroom environment, I never outgrew that desire to break out of the ordinary and explore (I am studying abroad, after all).

Something I have been absolutely loving about this program is how frequently the classes I am in allow for such opportunities to explore and learn firsthand. Already, I’ve been able to trek across the city of Westminster (the administrative borough of London – it’s kind of confusing to understand how the boroughs of London function, but I’m starting to get the hang of it), explore the Tower of London, visit Rochester (a small town in Kent), tour the BBC headquarters, and attend four different theatre productions!

My contemporary Britain course took us on a tour of Westminster, where we walked along the Northern bank of the Thames (providing a perfect view of the London Eye), saw the Ministry of Defense — perhaps I’ve been reading too much Orwell, but I’m sure I counted no less than 3 police officers looking at our group suspiciously when we stopped to take pictures of it– and visited the Houses of Parliament. The Ministry of Defense is actually located where part of Whitehall castle once stood — as an avid fan of Showtime’s The Tudors, it’s hard to imagine that at one point in history, the place where all of these civic buildings now stand was occupied by a huge castle. In typical English style, we then went by Sara Levine (our program director here in London)’s house for high tea and biscuits.

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The Eye and I.

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House of Parliament

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Some of the class — I have a tendency to make people pose for photographs against their will.

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Just after the sun had set :)

I visited the Tower of London with classmates from my Medieval English History course. It was a pretty strange visual contrast to see the cosmopolitan, modern buildings of London juxtaposed with the ancient structure. My favorite part was easily the Royal jewels, which supposedly belong to the people of the Empire. Yet another reason why the American colonies should reclaim our part in the Commonwealth…

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Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

The Tower complex

The Tower complex

With my Architecture class, we took a day trip to Rochester, a small town in Kent, to visit Rochester Cathedral and Rochester Castle. The Cathedral was massive, encompassing almost the entire town. It was particularly interesting because of how many converging architectural styles were represented in the interior: the nave was almost entirely Norman while the transepts were early English Gothic and decorated Gothic. There were a few features of perpendicular Gothic and a splash or two of Victorian as well.  [I had no background on English architectural styles before this class - you can tell how much I'm learning!] We also got to climb up to the top of the castle, a Norman structure built in 1140, which was very cool (and exhausting).

Rochester Cathedral

Rochester Cathedral

A creeper shot of my architecture professor, Jon, taking a picture of the castle.

A creeper shot of my architecture professor, Jon, taking a picture of the castle.

Rochester, from the Castle (look at that shadow)

Rochester, from the Castle (look at that shadow)

An interior castle shot -- 12th century spiral staircases are not my friend.

An interior castle shot — 12th century spiral staircases are not my friend.

Architecture class selfie

Architecture class selfie

My roommate, Priscila, and  I :)

My roommate, Priscila, and I :)

I was so excited to be able to visit the BBC headquarters with my British Mass Media class. As an faithful subscriber of all things BBC, it was very cool to see where a lot of the news and media is broadcasted from. The organization has been instrumental in changing the way that world news is broadcasted and received – as a Communications minor (and International Studies major), I found it incredibly fascinating (so fascinating that I forgot to take pictures — sorry!).

Finally, I’ve seen four shows thus far with my theatre class: Blurred Lines (at the Shed, a temporary venue at the Royal National Theatre), Rapture Blister Burn (at the Hampstead Theatre), Oh, What a Lovely War! (at the Theatre Royal Stratford East), and Happy Days (at the Young Vic). I am so glad I decided to take this theater class because besides being able to see critically-acclaimed plays in the theater capital of the world, it’s reminded me how much I love literary analysis. I’m going to have to squeeze in an English class once I’m back at Hollins; I’ve missed it too much!

Recently, the weather has been beautiful here in London (66°F! and sunny!) so I’ve been taking advantage of it and spending a lot of time outside. Fingers crossed it lasts!

a beautiful day in Highbury; when the sun comes out, so does all of London :)

a beautiful day in Highbury; when the sun comes out, so does all of London :)

-P

Weekend Trip to Bath

This weekend, the program organized a weekend trip to Bath, Somerset. Despite an incredibly wet season (according to experts, England has experienced the most rain this season, since records began), we were lucky enough to get a sunny two days in Somerset.

We took the national railway train from Paddington station (yes, of Paddington Bear fame!) to Bath, which gave us the opportunity to see some of the western countryside.

Upon arriving in Bath, we checked into our hotel and headed straight for the Roman Baths, of which Bath gets its name. I find it quite funny to hear about how some names are established — my English Medieval History professor told us that the location of the Battle of Hastings in 1066 (in which the Normans defeated the Anglo-Saxons) was then named Battle. I’m starting to wonder how a place near my hometown of Raleigh, NC got its name: Duck, North Carolina.

Roman Baths!

Roman Baths!

The Roman baths were very well preserved and I loved the interactive museum we toured. After the tour finished, we had lunch and went on a walking tour of the city. I had a minor Austen-induced moment when we visited the filming location of BBC’s Persuasion. We went on to see the Assembly Rooms and tour a very cool fashion museum.

The filming location of Persuasion. It looked like a Windows XP desktop image.

The filming location of Persuasion. It looked like a Windows XP desktop image.

Soon after, we were able to tour the Bath Abbey which is an absolutely breathtaking piece of architecture. As a aficionado of ecclesiastical architecture (and with the influence of the English architecture class I’m taking), I was astounded by how magnificent the abbey was. Gothic structures were created to mirror the image of the sublime; it’s honestly difficult for me to grasp that humans constructed it.

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey

Another shot of Bath Abbey

Another shot of Bath Abbey

The gorgeous interior

The gorgeous interior

The next day, we visited Longleat House, the home of the eclectic Marquis of Bath and a beautiful example of Elizabethan architecture. Bizarrely, the family ended up opening two amusement parks next door to the manor, resulting in a very strange visual juxtaposition. We traveled on to Wells, a small city near Bath, to visit Wells Cathedral. Wells is a tiny city in Somerset – in fact, it has very little in it besides the church. In the UK, a city is still defined as a town that has a cathedral, so Wells qualifies!

Longleat House

Longleat House

Wells Cathedral

Wells Cathedral

We also visited the Bishop’s Palace, which looked like something out of a Hans Christian Andersen story, and the Vicar’s Close, an ancient avenue where many ecclesiastical affiliates lived.

At Bishop's Palace

At Bishop’s Palace

We got lucky to have such beautiful weather!

We got lucky to have such beautiful weather!

A bunch of us hanging out at Bishop's Palace :)

A bunch of us hanging out at Bishop’s Palace :)

I had a fantastic weekend and am excited to travel more within the UK and the Continent. Since the UK is a small, old country, it’s easy to stumble upon pieces of history almost anywhere! I look forward to continue to uncover more!

P

London Calling!

I had an amazing January term interning at Estée Lauder! Despite being jam packed with touring the city, meeting alumna, and work, the month flew by.
Less than 12 hours after flying back home to Raleigh, I embarked on a new adventure: LONDON!

Somewhere over Ireland

Somewhere over Ireland

I’m spending my semester abroad in the UK through Hollins’ 30-year old London Abroad program. This program was established by Hollins so the classes I’m taking are taught by professors affiliated with the school. This semester, I’m going a little easier on myself and taking only (only?) 5 classes: Contemporary Britain, English History Through the Middle Ages, English Architecture, The London Stage, and British Mass Media. As an international studies student, taking classes that provide me with such a holistic understanding of British culture, history, and society is very exciting! Moreover, all of my classes are fairly hands-on: we visit museums, churches, libraries, theater performances, even the BBC headquarters!

The view from my window. I'm staying in a homestay near the Highbury & Islington tube station (NE London, zone 2)

The view from my window. I’m staying in a homestay near the Highbury & Islington tube station (NE London, zone 2)

Buckingham Palace aka my future home once I marry Harry ;)

Buckingham Palace aka my future home once I marry Harry ;)

So far, my adjustment to British life has been pretty smooth. I still frequently look the wrong way when crossing the street, so I’ve resorted to risking minor whiplash while looking both directions as I walk. I find myself missing my car and Target (there’s no single place in London where I can buy food, clothes, DVDs, and get Starbucks!).

I'm still getting used to the pound! What a fitting name -- all of these £1 and £2 coins, despite their cool old world aesthetic, weigh a lot.

I’m still getting used to the pound! What a fitting name — all of these £1 and £2 coins, despite their cool old world aesthetic, weigh a lot.

Still, I’m also finding that I like the way in which a lot of things are done here. The entire unspoken custom of queuing is something I wish I could take back with me to America. I love how casual the approach to celebrities is here — I’m pretty sure I saw Andrew Garfield (of The Amazing Spider-man franchise) walking the opposite direction on a tube platform. Given the celebrity culture of America, it’s a nice change to encounter famous people being rather ordinary. I’m a massive fan of the band Queen, so I’ve been crossing my fingers and hoping to encounter Brian May. Hopefully I’ll be able to remain as nonchalant about him as other Londoners seem to be about celebrities. :)
I’m having a great time and am so excited to do some traveling! We will be going on a class trip to Bath, Somerset, so I look forward to sharing that with you!
P

For January term 2014, I have been interning at Estée Lauder’s Global Corporate Communications office in New York City!

I can already feel myself fitting into the culture of the office. Since there are no typical days, my assignments vary depending on what needs to be done. One day, I helped my coworker Chris organize, package, label, and ship books to international executives of affiliate offices that had attended a global leadership forum hosted in Shanghai. On another day, I helped my coworker Kerry go through the corporate intranet and find and record glitches in the system. I also helped Jill, who directs international PR for the corporate offices, research different international media sources that had requested press releases and interviews with Estée Lauder. Even though these assignments were seemingly mundane, I really enjoyed them. I have been able to apply a lot of the skills I acquired through my communications classes and have felt challenged enough that I am fully engaged while still feeling capable of completing the tasks. Plus, as someone who is very meticulous, I will seize any opportunity to make a color-coded spreadsheet (as I did with all of these assignments). :)

My assignments at work are becoming increasingly more creative and I am loving the freedom that my supervisors are allowing me! I’ve been working with the corporate intranet, copywriting news articles, and brainstorming more innovative forms of philanthropic giving!

First day of work!

First day of work!

My ELC ID! :)

My ELC ID! :)

Morning commute from Columbus Circle to the GM buidling on 5th Ave.

Morning commute from Columbus Circle to the GM buidling on 5th Ave.

The GM building! I work on the 42nd floor.

The GM building! I work on the 42nd floor.

I still am so in awe of this beautiful city. Despite the frigid temperatures and supposed “polar vortex” that has been encompassing the island of Manhattan, I’ve taken the time to explore.

The view from Penn Station during the last leg of my commute home!

The view from Penn Station during the last leg of my commute home!

A little redundant, but the Empire State Building is so beautiful! This is the view from 5th and 44th.

The Chrysler Building is so beautiful! This is the view from 5th and 44th.

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Being a tourist

Still being a tourist

Still being a tourist

Times Square after work :)

Times Square after work :)

How incredible is this city? This was on my way to Penn Station one Saturday morning :)

How incredible is this city? This was on my way to Penn Station one Saturday morning :)

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World Trade Center memorial -- an incredible experience.

World Trade Center memorial — an incredible experience.

at night :)

at night :)

the view from Brooklyn :)

the view from Brooklyn

Holy Cannoli!

Holy Cannoli!

I look forward to sharing about my adventures in the Big Apple!

Pavithra

November

Where did November go? As quickly as the month was ushered in, it seems to have slipped away. This has been probably the busiest month in all of my time at Hollins. Luckily, I like to keep busy. November brought fall to Hollins, arguably the most beautiful season on campus. I think the entire campus had the realization that the semester is nearing an end. First-years no longer seem like new faces on campus and I’m trying not to remember that all of my senior sisters are almost a semester away from graduating.

Still, this month has brought so much joy! Hollins Activity Board had our Fall Formal at the beginning of the month. It was a fantastic event, hosted at the Taubman Museum of Art in Downtown Roanoke. I honestly did not think that any future event could be as beautiful as our Spring Cotillion last year, but HAB seriously outdid themselves in the execution of their most recent formal. Early on, I discovered the photo booth, which resulted in some strange, albeit memorable, photos.

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I also got some exciting news in November: I will be interning for Estée Lauder’s global communication firm in New York City during J-Term! the Estée Lauder internship is one of the many alumni-sponsored competitive internships that students can apply and interview for through the Career Center. I’ve spent a lot of my month in the Career Center, having Ándrea proofread my resume, obsessively meeting with Ashley to ensure my interview outfit was “mature, but not too mature,” and just making excuses to come in so I can chat with Ms. Carolyn.

I also have been meticulously planning my next semester. I’m officially studying abroad in London next semester! I’ve been planning out my classes and making travel arrangement. It still doesn’t feel real.

And suddenly, Thanksgiving break crept up on me. Before going home to North Carolina, a few of my classmates and I went to Chicago to attend the American Model United Nations conference. Hollins represented the delegation of Spain and I sat on the Historical Security Council of 1994. HSC 1994 was particularly interesting because of the global topics we discussed: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, Georgia, Haiti, Somalia. The entire council was a simulation of how the council would have functioned in 1994. We received news updates, wrote and debated over resolutions, and even had 1 am emergency meetings! As a self-proclaimed Model UN geek, I had a lot of fun.

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In the AMUN General Plenary session

I’m back at Hollins after a productive yet restful break. Exams are quickly approaching but I’m trying to soak in the remainder of this crazy, wonderful semester.

-P

Potlucks and planning

While Hollins has countless fall traditions such as First Step, Tinker Day, Ring Night, one dear to my heart is the International Studies/Political Science department potluck. It is an salon-style evening full of intellectual discussions, homemade eatables, and eclectic music of the indie rock persuasion (thanks to DJ Bohland).

My love for IS is evident through the fact that I MADE A PIE for the potluck! Okay, well it was a ready-made pie crust and Jell-o instant pie filling, but I assembled it! A for Effort!

My love for IS is evident through the fact that I MADE A PIE for the potluck! Okay, well it was a ready-made pie crust and Jell-o instant pie filling, but I assembled it! A for Effort!

As a sophomore this year, I will very soon be declaring my major! I was accepted to study abroad in Hollins’ London Abroad program in the Spring so I will be declaring my International Studies major and Communication Studies & Spanish double minor in the next few weeks. I can’t wait!

The IS/PoliSci department is full of fantastic professors and wonderful peers who all challenge me to be the best version of myself. Only at Hollins can you take selfies (for those of you who are not familiar with my hip jargon: to selfie is to take pictures of yourself) with your professors! Like any avid Instagram user and socially-networked young person, I always jump at the opportunity to take selfies.

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Left to Right: Professor Bohland, my best friend Maya, and myself!

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Professor Lynch, an IS/PoliSci professor. He will be leading our Model UN class to the AMUN conference in Chicago! We’re representing Spain; Maya and I are on the Security Council.

Professor Barbieri :)

Professor Barbieri :)

As I’m figuring out what I’m doing for J-Term and getting together everything I need to go abroad, I can’t help but get a little nostalgic. This time last year I would have never guessed I would be who I am now. I’m flabbergasted that I’m already in my 3rd semester here. Time is flying by.

With that being said, I am SO excited for what I have ahead of me. I’ve been planning out the classes I want to take in London (3 classes at London Metropolitan University and 2 classes at London Southbank University) and all of the places I want to travel to (Barcelona, Prague, Istanbul, Vienna).

I’ve also been planning my summer — I’m applying for a few different international service-based programs, including one that would allow me to work on a cross-cultural women’s development project in South Africa! As always, I’m so excited to see what the future has in store for me!

Pavithra

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