So Long, London

“I came to London.  It became the center of my world.”

HWS kids by London Bridge. January 2011.

For four months, London has been my home.  Going to classes, exploring the city, and joining the workforce, I let London run my world.

Yes, enrolling in classes and entering the British workforce served as crucial components of my experience, but the trips to Harrods (“Are we in Knightsbridge?”), the afternoons at Camden Market, and the Thirsty Thursdays at Whole Foods I’ll remember forever.

Emily and me by the Thames River. March 2011.

Overall, I think I had a very atypical study abroad experience.  Aside from a handful of conversations with locals, I didn’t truly interact with the Brits. (My classes were with American students.) However, I hoped things would be different at my internship.  No such luck.

Don’t get me wrong—my semester abroad wasn’t a total disappointment.  I made some great friends, and I confirmed a lot of things about myself:  I’m a type-A person who adores the American workplace; I need to be surround by a culture that values fitness, nutrition, and health; and, March is a pointless month without the Madness.

My 21st birthday celebration. February 2011.

But would I repeat this experience?  Yes and no.  I believe studying abroad and experiencing a different way of life is a necessary component to a college education.  London is a multicultural metropolis, and throughout my time here I kept comparing it—consciously and unconsciously—to New York City.  I know London isn’t NYC, but I thought it was going to be much more similar.  I was anticipating a bustling city that remained open 24 hours, a city that contained some kind of fitness culture, a city that was much more friendly.  I’m definitely a city girl, and I’ve learned London is not my city.  Fair enough.

If I could press the rewind button, I’d study abroad in France, South Africa, or Thailand.  When I went to Paris, I realized how much I miss studying a foreign language.  Unfortunately, it’s too late for me to pick it back up as a senior (yikes!).  And South Africa and Thailand epitomize foreign and exotic; how can I not be intrigued? (I also love Thai food.)

The Arc de Triomphe at night. April 2011.

As I sit in my bottom bunk bed typing away, I still can’t believe I leave tomorrow.  These past 120-ish days have seemed to both drag and fly by.  It’s been an interesting and entertaining ride to say the least, but I’m excited (and ready) to come home.


In the isango! office, whenever a coworker becomes stressed, tired, or bored, a cuppa tea always seems to solve the problem.  A social tension alleviator and a mental physical pick-me-up, tea appears to be God’s gift to England.  It’s like Windex in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”—tea cures everything.

But, not for this working girl.

I’ve chugged mug after mug of peppermint and green tea in hopes of pacifying my less-than-ideal internship experience.  Alas, even copious amounts of caffeine couldn’t cure my craving for the American workplace.

At isango!—a dot-com travel company that offers everything from holiday tours to attraction tickets in more than 50 countries worldwide—I worked as a content writing intern.  During the course of seven weeks, I wrote product descriptions for the company’s “microsites.”  isango! has been working toward launching several of these mini-websites for its most popular tour destinations, and I worked on the New York City, Los Angeles, and Orlando microsites during my internship.

Welcome to isango!

The microsites rely on “marketing journalism” as I’ve coined it.  The company believes the best way to boast about the products is to use flowery language—cliché adjectives and adverbs. (There’s nothing worse than an overused word.) In the descriptions I wrote, an adjective preceded nearly every noun or noun phrase.

Exhibit A. I'm embarrassed to post this excerpt. Please, don't judge me.

Exhibit B. I'll let you know if Ernest Hemingway in Writing Hell.

These characteristics constitute poor writing; it was a challenge for me to knowingly disobey everything my college professors taught me.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up in Writing and Rhetoric Purgatory.

Because FIE keeps its students separate from the Imperial College student body, I was hoping to meet and interact with British people in the workplace.  However, the company’s reliance on Skype instant messaging—used to communicate with workers both internationally and in the same room—shattered this expectation.  Typing replaced talking.

This lack of person-to-person interaction, coupled with a vague office hierarchy and glacial work pace, intensified my desire for the American workplace.  With this international internship completed, I’m more than ready to trade in my Twinings tea bags for Starbucks iced coffee.  New York City, here I come!

One thing I'll miss about London is enjoying lunch in Hyde Park.

As London’s most renowned wholesale and retail food outlet, Borough Market defines exceptional British and international produce.  Located beneath the railway viaducts between the river Thames and Borough High Street in South East London, the marketplace has become a haven for anyone who cares about the quality and provenance of the food they eat—chefs, restaurant owners, and everyday foodies.

Aiming to serve as a sustainable, independent, quality food market that's rooted in the local community, Borough Market houses more than 75 food stalls.

My “Food, Society, and Culture” instructor encouraged our class to visit the Borough Market during our four months in London.  And, as one of the final bullet points remaining on my London checklist, my two friends and I perused the market on Saturday afternoon.

Sprawled around a series of mazy streets and narrow walkways, Borough Market contains a slew of self-contained bazaar sections—artisans sell French pâtés and meat pies, bakers offer traditional homemade British breads and sweet treats, cheesemakers produce cheeses from all over the UK and Europe, fishmongers catch scallops from Devon and native oysters from Essex, greengrocers grow everyday organic and local staples, and butchers offer seasonal British game and exotic specialties.  In short, this food heaven houses something to please even the pickiest eater.

Ah, the power of cheese.

As I weaved between bread displays, homemade tea samples, and fresh seafood on ice, I noticed a diverse mix of people milling around.  It is Borough Market’s exceptional food that draws people from everywhere.

Fresh-baked artisan breads.

The customer population is diverse—buyers spoke English, French, Spanish, and Italian—and the stallholders’ community hails from all over the United Kingdom and Europe.  This melting pot of cultures, foods, and cooking techniques has helped the market transform from a simple food venue to a vast marketplace of discerning culinary knowledge.  A place to explore, ask questions, and discover new foods, Borough Market maintains a unique atmosphere that’s perfect for gluttonous gastronomes, discerning epicureans, and plain ol’ food lovers.


The Tuileries Garden outside the Louvre in Paris, France.

Paris, je t’aime.  Pendant le weekend passé, je suis allé à Paris avec mes trios amis.

Although I traveled to Paris in high school, I didn’t think I’d visit again while studying abroad this semester.  There are so many other cities and countries I want to see—Dublin and Ireland, Florence and Italy, Madrid and Spain.  I thought I’d get to those destinations before seeing Paris a second time.  But, I’m so glad I did.

After an extremely early morning departure on the Eurostar—an incredibly easy journey; I highly recommend it—my three friends and I arrived in Paris prepared for a weekend filled with breathtaking sights, iconic landmarks, and delicious food.

With its clear skies and warm weather, the city was perfect.  We saw all the major sights the on the first day:

Notre Dame.

Me and Emily, my roommate, sitting outside the Louvre.

Arc de Triomphe.

Sacre Coeur.

We spent Sunday seeing the Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel Tower.

On the high school trip, my class went to the top at night.  This time around, I saw the city during the day.

View from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

While I was gazing at Paris, I realized how much I miss studying French.  I started in 5th grade and continued through senior year of high school, but I didn’t enroll in any French Department classes at HWS.  Why didn’t I pursue the language?  Maybe it’s the soon-to-be rising senior in me, but I can’t believe I didn’t study any foreign language in college. (For a significant amount of time I mean—I took two semesters of Russian as a first-year; it wasn’t by choice.) But with or without actively studying a foreign language, I definitely appreciated Paris more the second time around.


Indian food heaven, aka Tayyabs Restaurant in East London.