29 September 2010

My programme

First off, yes - I'm trying to work on my UK English spelling!

Well, I've officially decided what my programme here at UCL will consist of. Technically, it will be a Master's of Science degree in International Public Policy...obviously I've known that since applying. However, there are a few ways to personalise and modify your program, by way of choosing your own optional modules. There are a few compulsory modules, including Research Methods, International Organisation, Public Policy Economics and Analysis, and Dissertation. Then each person has three modules that they get to choose, one from a set of three modules, and the other two from a bigger list of elective modules. Mine are: International Peace and Security (from the set of three), and Terrorism and Conflict Resolution and Post War Development (from the larger elective set).

I was torn between taking the Conflict Resolution and Post War Development module and a British Government and Politics module. However, after some thinking, I've decided that the modules I've chosen form a more cohesive program, having the focus be on terrorism, violence, and development. I think I'm really going to enjoy it. So in the end, I will come out of this year with a Master's of Science in international public policy, with a focus on terrorism, security, peace, and post-war development.

It's actually kind of strange - my American friend on the program, Katelyn, is doing the SAME program. I guess it's no surprise that we get along well...we have very similar interests! It will be so nice to have someone to discuss readings with (because there sure are a LOT) and to study with. And of course, I'm sure we'll fit some pint drinking, coffee dates, and other fun things in there. :) We're actually on the hunt for 'our spot' right know, that quiet spot where you can sit all day with your laptop and books and just focus. I know, some would probably say, "why not go to the library?" Well, the library IS quite impressive. However, the room allocated to Public Policy and Politics majors is pretty small, so it's basically guaranteed to always be relatively busy. Also, as I found out today, they do not allow coffee/tea/beverages in the library. What?!? Don't coffee and tea go hand in hand with studying? The whole situation seems quite contradictory, but such is life. So yes...the hunt continues. I'm confident we'll find it eventually.

As for tonight, I'm going to get another good solid hour of reading and outlining done, then I'm going to head to the gym for a de-stress session. Then it will be back to the books.

28 September 2010

Two weeks

Wow, I've been here for two weeks today! So sorry for not being able to update my blog for a few days. I've been quite busy with a few things the past four days or so.

Induction week officially started yesterday. Basically, it's the first week of the term, but there are no lectures - it's just meetings and introductions to things such as the IT system here at UCL, the libraries, and so forth. I still don't have a firm grasp on how things work in my program, but we don't have our intro to the IPP program until Thursday. Hopefully by then, I'll understand better and will feel more at home here. I can say that I at least have a general understanding of the schedules/timetables and how things like the online Portico and email system work. I guess that's a start!

Katelyn and I have been meeting for coffee (tea for me, please!) each morning before heading to our meetings for the day. It's so nice to have someone that I can relate to...she's an American studying here on the same program. We seem to have a lot in common, so that's great! We actually went out for our first pints on Saturday night at the Rocket, the pub that my fellow study abroaders and I frequented last summer. I think we're going to get out and do something fun this weekend too, in mourning of lives that are about to be lost to UCL.

On a not-so-awesome note, I got an email from the loan supervisor here saying that the U.S. government claims I did not file an MPN (master promissory note) for one of my loans. Um, ok're right, I didn't do that. It's just an imaginary file that I'm opening in my account saying that I did it TWICE back in June. Oddly enough, there weren't any problems with my other loan. Argh, government stuff can be really frustrating. On top of this, the U.S. also decided that the U.K. schools would not be allowed access to their online information again until next week, so I have to wait for it to be sorted until then. Super fantastic. Hopefully by next week it will be sorted and I can get my loan money, because I'm going to need to pay my accommodation. I have some of my own money, but that's really supposed to be "just in case" money. Bleh.

Speaking of money, I was finally able to spend some on myself today! I have not bought a single item of clothing or any accessories in the two weeks I've been here. Honestly, I can't believe it either. But, I can say that I genuinely do need a book bag. I plan on spending enormous amounts of time on campus - studying, researching, staying away from the 17 and 18 year olds in my dorm - so I needed a bag that can fit my macbook, a few text books, my wallet, and a few other odds and ends. I finally came across the perfect bag today! And best yet, it doubles as a purse. It's pretty patent leather purple and I absolutely love it. Wish I could post a picture, but the website won't let me link to it. Anyhow, I got it at Debenham's, a large department store over here.

Oh, and I also bought three of the books that I know I'll be needing for my compulsory modules today. We still haven't gone in the system to choose our optional modules, so I'm holding off on those...but I took care of the required ones today. Well, kind of. For every class, there is generally a few books that you need your own copies of, but then there are about a million and one journal articles, chapters from other books, online articles, etc. that are also required reading. It's basically impossible to purchase everything you need for one class. And the reading lists are EXTENSIVE...hence, my belief that I'll be spending countless hours reading and copying in the library.

On top of everything that's been going on, I think I'm getting sick. I hope I'm fending it off the best I can...right now it's basically a sore throat and a bit of a cough. We'll see how this plays out.

So yeah, just a little update from London. Things are ok right now. I miss my family, friends, and dogs a lot...but I'm starting to make my friends here and hopefully that will help with the homesickness.

24 September 2010

It's been a few days since I last posted, and to be honest...I haven't done many exciting and fabulous things since then! However, I have been doing *important* things, so it is what it is.

Let's see. Wednesday was another glorious day here, so I took advantage of it and went back to Regent's Park. Well, after my appointment at the bank that morning, that is. This time, I packed a bag with a book, my notebook, a sheet, and some food so I could just plant it somewhere and relax; rather than walking all over the park like I did last time. It was nice...I didn't stay as long as I wanted to, but it was a good way to get outside and get some fresh air.

Speaking of my bank appointment...OY. That's really all I have to say about that. It is so unbelievably inefficient (at least for international accounts). I was in there for an hour and a half, and I still don't even have my account number, a debit card, or an account period, really. When I first went earlier in the week, they gave me a seven page application to fill out, so I did that before I went in. The appointment consists of sitting there while the banker inputs the information into the computer...and my banker was a one-finger typer. Arrghh! He also kept talking about the strangest things, like how when he was at university, the program was so competitive that a classmate stole his tiger painting that he I need to watch my bank. Duly noted, sir...I will keep a close eye on my tiger paintings. I have my second appointment next Tuesday, and I pray to god that it will be the final appointment and I'll have everything I need after that.

Yesterday was enrollment day for me. And go figure, it was pouring buckets most of the day. I decided to head over to campus a little early, and I'm glad I did because they let me just go right ahead and do everything then. First I had to sign a consent form: five minutes. Next, I got my IT user name and password: three minutes. Finally, I got my picture ID card: five minutes. All very simple and no waiting. The girl who did my ID card told me that once more students get on campus and get ready to enroll, they queue for hours and hours to do all of that stuff. I guess there's one perk to being an international student! After I got all of that sorted, I came back to my room and tried to figure out my schedule a little. It's still really confusing, but I think I understand it a little better. I also found an induction week schedule for next week. We have no classes, but we basically have a schedule of daily events we have to attend for each day. I've made plans with a girl from my program to meet up for coffee before our first meeting on Monday, so that should be good. It'll be nice to have someone in the same boat as me.

Since I finally had my ID card in hand, I decided to head over to the Union to buy a gym membership. Thank the heavens above that I can now get back in the gym! Not only does it help me physically, but I just feel mentally better when I go a few times a week. Plus, it will add a little bit of routine back to my life.

Today is another rainy day...I woke up this morning and had breakfast, after sleeping about NINE hours last night! I originally set my alarm for 7:30 to get to breakfast early, but I bypassed that one, along with my second one at 8:30, because I was just so tired and sleeping so well! Sheesh. I won't question it though. I swear, it's the nature sounds album on my ipod, ha! The crickets at night track really reminds me of's been helping me sleep the past two nights. Anyhow, I finally woke up and went to breakfast, then I waited a little bit before heading to the gym. The equipment is nice, and it's literally right across the street so I think I'll be very happy with it. There's also a pool, which is pretty rare in London. I got in a nice workout, came back and showered, and ventured out for lunch. Now I'm just being lazy...the rainy scene outside right now just isn't really calling me! I may get up and go to the British Museum for a bit if I feel like getting out, but that's right down the street and I can go anytime so I feel no rush. :)

21 September 2010

One week

Today marked the end of my first week in London. It's crazy how fast the week flew by, but I guess that's to be expected when you're running around doing a million things, especially in those first few days.

I've done some pretty cool things in the past week, including seeing the houses of Parliament and the Eye both during the day and at night, walking along the Victoria Embankment down to St. Paul, crossing the Millennium Bridge over to Tate Modern, shopping on Oxford Street (several times!), spending the day in Regent's Park, seeing Queen Mary's gardens, going to the London Zoo, sitting on top of Primrose Hill, walking through Green Park, seeing Buckingham Palace, walking down Pall Mall, wandering through Covent Garden (and Seven Dials, a cool shopping district there) and Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square, sitting in the grass outside the huge main entrance to the National Gallery, exploring Bloomsbury, walking over to King's Cross/St. Pancras (and in turn, passing The Rocket, the old haunt of '09 study abroaders), seeing UCL's main quad for the first time, and shopping in Russell Square. I've had a really good first week!

Tomorrow is supposed to be yet another amazing day, so I plan to make the most of it! Who knows, it very well could be the last summery day we have here. I may just end up back in Regent's Park...I loved it there and can see myself packing a day bag and spending the majority of my day out there.

Trafalgar Square (and Covent Garden, and Leicester Square...)

I feel like a broken record, but today was yet ANOTHER gorgeous day here! It is so strange...I've seen maybe three total raindrops in the week that I've been here. I'm definitely not complaining (though the rain doesn't really bother me), but it is odd.

Anyhow, today I decided to venture over to Covent Garden. I wanted to check out Seven Dials, which is a cool little shopping districts with a bunch of interesting boutiques and vintage stores, among the usual large, mainstream stores. It was pretty nice - I definitely see my sister and I spending some time there when she visits in November. She especially likes those types of small boutique stores. I didn't happen to take any pictures in Covent Garden (or Leicester Square for that matter...shocker, I know). I guess I was just in my shopping zone.

After a bit of wandering, I headed over to Trafalgar Square and took a seat in the grass outside the National Gallery. That building never fails to amaze me. It's just so grandiose!

I sat there for a while and read one of the gossipy rag mags that are handed out outside the tube stops. Once I got up, I ventured around the square a bit before walking through Leicester Square and then heading home.

I love the lions. :)

Green Park & Buckingham Palace

Yesterday was another beautiful day here in London, so I decided to head to another royal park to enjoy it. This time I chose Green Park, which is set right next to Buckingham Palace.

I am obsessed with the greenery and landscaping in the's just beautiful!

The gold looked so cool with all of the sunshine on it.

Buckingham, of course. The flag is flying, so that means the Queen is there.

The Victoria Memorial statue outside the palace.

Another kind of cool shot, with the sun hitting it in a different way.

Gardens outside of the palace.

Pall Mall

Buckingham Palace really didn't do a lot for me this time around. I feel like it's one of those things that you really only need to see once, and I did visit it last summer. It was pretty cool to see the Victoria Memorial statue with the sun blazing down on it though...the gold was stunning! Last summer when we were there it was raining, so I guess it was nice to see everything in the lovely weather.

19 September 2010

My room

I've had a few people ask me to post pictures of my room, so this post will be dedicated to that.

This is my desk's huge with lots of room to work with, so I love that. To the right of it is a big wardrobe where I have some things hanging, and I keep all of my many pairs of shoes in there.

This is my dresser/shelves where I have 90% of my clothing. The door with the mirror is the bathroom door. I was so happy to see there was a full length mirror in the room!

This is my cute little pink bathroom. Obviously this is the vanity. The shelf and sink provide just enough room to keep everything I use daily in the bathroom...other toiletries and cleaning supplies etc. are in the top shelf of my wardrobe. Oh, and the toilet and shower are to the left, just not shown in this picture.

This is my bed and nightstand area. I plan to put more pictures on that cork board as well...I'm going to get a bunch printed tomorrow.

And finally, this is the view of the room from the main door. The bathroom is to the left, large wardrobe is on the right.

I genuinely love my room. It's big enough for me to feel more than comfortable in, plus I have the added security of knowing that there is someone on reception 24/7 downstairs, and you can't get into the hall with a valid key card. The reception staff gets to know you as well, so even if someone has a key card that belongs to someone else, they would question that person coming in if they don't recognize him or her. Living in a major city by myself, this is very important important to me. Had I gotten my own flat or shared with someone else, I wouldn't have that added luxury of feeling as safe as I do here. Plus, I don't have to worry about cooking for myself! It's the perfect situation for me. I thought I would feel a little lame being nearly 23 and living in a dorm, but my whole floor is comprised of mainly graduate students like me.

I hope that satisfies everyone's curiosity!

17 September 2010

It's gonna be a bright sunshiney day!

Well, it already was, but you get my drift. It was an amazingly beautiful day in London today! Right around 60 degrees, mostly sunny with a few clouds, a little breezy...perfect weather for my basic uniform of skinnies, tank top, sweater, and scarf. Since it was so nice, additional pieces to the uniform were shades and sandals! Just perfect.

Anyhow, I slept well for the first time since I've been here. I went to bed at about 1:00, and woke up at 8:00....went downstairs, had breakfast, and came back up to get ready to conquer the day! I decided since it was so nice outside, that I would take my book and head over to Regent's Park for a relaxing afternoon in the sun. Umm, relaxing it was not...but that's just because there was SO much I wanted to do and see.

Once I got there, I went immediately to the Queen Mary Gardens, which were beautiful. There were lots of interesting flowers, and tons and tons of roses! Many different kinds too...I think I read somewhere that there are over 400 different kinds there.

After exiting the gardens, I decided to head up to the zoo which is also in the park, which was about a fifteen minute walk or so (yeah, the park is that big). Along the way I saw some pretty things.

To be honest, the zoo was a bit underwhelming for me. I'm still glad I went, but I think the Detroit Zoo is better! 

Then I went up to Primrose Hill, which offers one of the best views of the London cityscape. On such a gorgeous day, it was stunning! In the first picture, you can see the eye to the right, and St. Paul's, a little left of center.

Finally, I decided to walk back to my place...four and a half hours later! I walked back a different way through the park, so I would see new things.

So yes, it was a super nice day...long, and my feet hurt a little bit from all of the walking (I would say I walked at least twelve miles today) but fun. And hence, the blog to end all blogs is done with. Friends and family: I hope you're not getting too spoiled from all of the pictures. In about ten days, I'm going to be so busy with school and won't be taking/posting nearly as many! :)

16 September 2010

Night walk

Today was another lovely day in London. It was around 60 degrees and partly sunny for most of the day. I started out the morning by waking up just in time to catch breakfast downstairs, and then I came back up and went back to sleep for two more hours. I'm still having a bit of trouble with the jet lag, but I didn't nap at all today and should be able to get to sleep at a reasonable time tonight so that should help.

Once I woke up and got ready, I decided to head over to Oxford Street again, this time looking for a fall jacket and a new bag. I only brought one purse here, and the zipper is broken on it's probably time. Also, I didn't bring a jacket so I'm thinking that's going to be a necessity. Oddly enough, I didn't find ONE thing that I loved after going through Topshop, H&M, Primark, Miss Selfridge, and Accessorize! Not one thing. I guess that is probably a good sign though, that I'm not impulse shopping like I was last summer. I'm not just going to spend my money on things I don't love. I did pick up a new moleskin notebook though. I had one last summer and just wasn't able to write in it as much as I wanted to...those five weeks were just too jam packed. But I've resolved to try and write a little something each day in my new one. I know I won't be perfect and there will be days where I'm too busy or I just forget, but I do want to have something the majority of the time. I know I'll really enjoy reading it in the future.

Tonight I decided to head down to the river again - I was dying to see Parliament lit up at night. That was one thing I didn't do last summer, believe it or not. It was really reminded me of why I decided to come back here.

This city is so beautiful. I love how the lights aren't obnoxiously bright and neon-like like in some other cities.

I'm really loving my alone time in London...I can just do whatever I feel like doing, whenever I feel like doing it. It's nice to be able to be a tourist in the city again...these sights never get old to me. In a couple weeks, it's going to be all about the school, so I don't know how much time I'll have to do things like this.

15 September 2010

Today's walk

Here are some pictures from today's walk along the Thames, and a couple from the main quad on the UCL campus.

Parliament and Big Ben

Big Ben (well, actually Big Ben is the bell itself)

The London Eye

Tate Modern and the Millennium Bridge

St. Paul's Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge
Main UCL Quad

Greenery at the quad