31 October 2010

Borough Market (and a few other pics)

As promised, here are a few shots from our adventure to Borough Market.

About to devour my amazing veggie burger! I see a new addiction forming...

At a jam stand. There were SO many delicious jams...and if you know me at all, you know how much I love jam...ahhh!!

Taking in the general amazingness that is Borough Market.

Also, last night I ended up going out for a bit with Charlotte again. It was another "fancy dress" night, so we just recycled our costumes from the night before. First we met up for a drink in Camden Town with a few of her friends, who also go to UCL but are not in our program. Yay for new friends! They were lovely and I'm excited to hang out more in the future.

Char and I again.

In the hot pink room! We were pretty excited.

After being with Char for a while, I left to go meet up with another friend at a bar on Old Street. We had a good time too. :)

Ok, warning - about to get a little sentimental. It's just crazy to me that you can know people for such a short period of time and genuinely really care for them. I absolutely love my new friends here - I have such a blast with them and I think we all really connect well with each other. I'm pretty much always in a state of laughter...that has to be a good thing! :)

Halloween pictures

Just thought I'd share some pictures from our Halloween social. :)

I was a cat...creative, I know!

My friend Charlotte was a 1940s housewife!

And Abbey was a Roman pretty is she??

This is Abbey and I with our friend Jason.

Annnnd this is the best part of the night - shots with our professors!

Our professors are really amazing, I love them. Four of them came to our event, and stayed for about four hours. They're so intelligent and bad ass in their fields, but definitely know how to have fun! 

Surprisingly, after about ten shots, a mixed drink, and the two glasses of wine we started off with before the party, I wasn't really hungover at all yesterday. For those of you who know me, that's truly a miracle...but I'll take it.

Charlotte and I went to Borough Market yesterday afternoon. Umm, it's the best place in the world. Literally. We are trying to figure out a way that we can just live there, all the time, in the market. We tried samples of just about everything - jams (my favorite!!), salsas, cheese, caramel, cinnamon and chocolate almonds, and a million other things. Then we got out of this world veggie burgers at a stand...we were quite possibly the happiest girls in the world at that very moment. Pictures later to truly document our joy at Borough Market.

Now on to reading ALL day long. It's going to be a bit of a rough week; I have a presentation and more reading than normal to do. 

29 October 2010


Until about a week ago, I had just accepted the fact that London (and the UK in general) doesn't really "do" Halloween like we do back home. There's hardly any decorations out and about, no trick or treating, no crazy aisles at the grocery stores devoted to bags of's just different here.

But, in a stroke of genius, my friend Charlotte, who is also the chair of the Social Committee of IPAS (our student run society) thought to have a Halloween social as our first event of the year. Brilliant! So tonight is the event - and we are still scrambling a bit to get everything together. It's being held at The Fitzroy Tavern, which has a pretty cool history I must say. I really wanted to be Little Red Riding Hood, but in true Hayley fashion I procrastinated a bit too long and couldn't find anything I needed for it. So, I'm being the most boring and uncreative thing in the world...a cat. Oh well, it was cheap and easy to put together. Charlotte is being a 1940s housewife, and Abbey is a Greek goddess. They're going to look beautiful! Unfortunately, Katelyn and Paloma are both unable to attend, so that's a definite bummer. It should still be a good time though. :)

24 October 2010

Good week!

So sorry for the lack of updates recently...I've been so busy with school work and being social and having fun. :)

Anyhow, it was a good week - classes were fine, I was relatively productive, and of course there was no shortage of excitement. Friday night was probably the highlight of the week overall - after classes were done on Friday, the girls and I met up at a place called Benito's Hat for some Mexican food. Think: Chipotle meets...umm, a bar; but with fresher food. It was super yummy, and they have pretty good margaritas as well. Even the Texan in the group (Ms. Katelyn), who has had more than her fair share of authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex food in her life, loved them. Well played, Benito's.

After dinner we headed over to the UCL Union, where a bunch of people from SPP were meeting up for drinks. The group was huge! But fun was definitely had by all - maybe a little too much, if that's even possible.

Most of us were feeling less than stellar yesterday morning, so it was a very unproductive, lazy start to the day. Around 4ish, Katelyn, Charlotte, and Abbey came over to my place to hang out for a while. We ended up grabbing a bite to eat, watched the new Grey's, hung out at Charlotte's for a while listening to some old school music, and then we decided to venture out for a bit to go smoke some hookah. Umm, I had never done it in my life! Crazy, huh? It was fun though...we found a cute little cafe that's a bit off the beaten path, and only 2. I think we'll definitely be going back.

I found myself in bed by 11:00, once my hangover exhaustion kicked in. But, I woke up this morning feeling very refreshed, and went to the gym first thing. Go me! Then Katelyn and I met up for a three hour study session...I got four articles read for this week and I'm feeling pretty accomplished. Now to just try and ride out this motivation...

I'm definitely ready for a new week, and already can't wait for the weekend! Our public policy society is throwing a Halloween social on Friday - so I'm super excited for that. I *do* need to work on a costume this week though. Any ideas?

18 October 2010

Weekend recap

Another weekend has come and passed in London Town. It's hard for me to believe that tomorrow, I'll have already been here for five (!!!) weeks. In some ways, it feels shorter, because things just happen quickly here. Life in London certainly moves a lot faster than it does in Port Huron or Grand Rapids - which can be both a good and bad thing. But at the same time, it almost feels like I've been here longer. I've made some great friends, had lots of fun nights, spent lots of time in the library, am in the thick of some challenging yes, I can see both sides. It's just...weird. So far the experience has been what I expected it to be: fun, different, difficult, and rewarding.

Anyhow, now that it's Monday and we're into the third week of formal lectures, I really need to buckle down and get serious about my classes! Not that I wasn't serious before, but I'm finding myself to be a bit...intimidated (that may not be the exact word I'm looking for) compared to some of the other people here. There are some serious big shot students here - some that have interned for major organizations, some that have worked in the high levels of government, some that have worked with the equivalent of Supreme Court justices in their respective countries, etc. I'm just a little midwestern girl who happens to be a good student who likes political science. So, I want to step my game up and really contribute more and speak out in seminars. Aside from the fact that I don't feel I'm necessarily on the same "level" as some of my peers, I'm also a little shy - so speaking up doesn't comes naturally to me. But, one of my reasons for moving here was to really step outside of my comfort zone, so that I shall do.

This weekend was another good one, unsurprisingly! By the time Friday rolled around, I was just exhausted from the week. I honestly didn't have the energy to go out, so I planned a pajama night in, and got caught up on my Grey's and Jersey Shore. The rest was definitely necessary.

On Saturday, the girls and I got together for a house warming/birthday party for some of our classmates out in Elephant and Castle. We decided to get together at Charlotte's for a couple of drinks (I know, I said I was stopping...oops...) and to catch up a bit before heading out.

Me, Katelyn, Charlotte

Abbey, me, Katelyn

This picture makes us all laugh because we look SO happy! 
Me, Katelyn, Abbey

The party ended up being some people from our program, and other programs at UCL. It was fun, but we didn't stay very long because we got such a late start due to wine drinking at Charlotte's, and we wanted to be able to catch the last tube back into the city. I think our favorite part of the party was the freshly baked brownies we devoured!

I was home by about 1 a.m., a far cry from the 5 a.m. night out Katelyn and I had on Tuesday!

Yesterday was just a typical, relaxing Sunday. Katelyn and I went to the library for a bit to get some reading done, and that was really the only productive thing I did. But hey...relaxing are what Sundays are for!

Oh, and here are a couple bonus pictures from our dinner party last week. We had a Mexican theme!

I made the fresh guac, yum!

Katelyn, me, Paloma, Abbey - Charlotte is taking the picture

Back on the grind today. I'm about to head off to the gym for a workout, then it's back here for the night to get some reading done for Public Policy Economics tomorrow - bleh - probably my least favorite class.

15 October 2010

Happy birthday the most wonderful woman in the world, my mother!

I love you mom, and I hope you had a lovely birthday. :)

13 October 2010


Well, my grand plans for detoxing myself were a pure and utter failure (ha!). Maybe it doesn't help that I essentially have two weekends in one week - the standard weekend, and then Tuesday night through Friday morning.

Last night, the girls and I had a Mexican dinner much fun! We made fresh salsa and guacamole with chips, shrimp fajitas, a beautiful salad, and apple crisp for dessert. I think we also made our way through about four bottles of wine. The food was super yummy, and I think everyone had a good time making and enjoying it. We're hoping to make this a semi-regular thing - with kind of a theme each week. One week we want to do like cheeses, fruits, and wines; another week we might do Italian.

Katelyn and I had to leave a little earlier than expected because one of her neighbors couldn't get into their cluster of flats and needed her to help her. But, Katelyn's book was in my room and we needed to back there first, so I ended up just going with her. After we took care of that little fiasco, we made the grand decision to keep the happenin' Tuesday night going, and went back down to The Sports Cafe for students night. Oy.

It was a TON of fun - cheap drinks, sports on the TVs, beer pong - felt just like home in a way! For reasons unbeknownst to us, we stayed until closing time at 3 a.m., and didn't make our way home until about 5 a.m. What?!?! I know, I know. But, on the plus side (I guess?), I felt pretty awful today and it really opened my eyes to the fact that I need to calm down and get into my school routine! I was completely unproductive all day today, and that just can't happen.

I'm such a dork, but I'm excited to get to bed at a decent hour tonight, get up early, and get a fresh start tomorrow. Real life starts tomorrow. Sure, I know part of this amazing experience is getting out and enjoying the city nightlife, but that's not everything. I really want to focus on my studies and make the most out of my program, so that needs to come first.

10 October 2010


Well, I've had an eventful few days since I last posted! I'm currently in a state of detox, which needs to last for at least two weeks - ha! No, I'm not too bad...I just indulged myself a little more than I normally would or planned to this weekend. But, I must say, it has been a very good weekend and it was very fun!

Let's see, I last posted Wednesday. Thursday was fairly uneventful...I don't have classes on Wednesday and Thursday, which is actually pretty nice. It's almost like having a weekend in the middle of the week - go to a couple days of classes, have a couple days off, one more day of classes, then a couple more off. I like it, I'm a fan.

So for Friday, a few of the girls in my program and I decided we should go out to celebrate being done with our first week. Any reason to celebrate, right? My friend Charlotte had heard good things about a bar called Aqua, which is off of Regent St., so we decided to head there and check it out.

Since it was a beautiful night out, we sat out on this desk up on the rooftop (five floors up).

These are the IPP girls - Charlotte, Abbey, Paloma, Katelyn, and yours truly!

There was a huge bull in Aqua that we all loved - he was very intense.

After a few drinks at Aqua, we decided to head over to a bar called The Moose, which is off of Oxford Street. We weren't there for too long, but it was fun! Interesting aside, and something that I learned last summer - the way to tip the bartenders here is to buy them a drink. So, here is our bartender taking a shot with us!

All in all, it was a good night and I really love the girls in my program. I think we'll have a fun year, when we're not too bogged down with research methods, qualitative and quantitative studies, international security, and our dissertations. No biggie.

So yesterday ended up being one of relaxation...I caught up on my Grey's Anatomy and Jersey Shore (thank you, itunes!), slept, and didn't touch a piece of schoolwork. Oops. In all honesty though, I pretty much have everything read that I need to read for my Monday and Tuesday classes. Now I'll have Tuesday evening, Wednesday, and Thursday to prepare for my Friday classes. Did I mention that I really love my schedule? I do.

As everyone back home knows, the Michigan State/Michigan game was yesterday. I initially planned on staying in, maybe streaming it live on my computer or keeping track on game cast...until Katelyn, my evil partner in crime, pointed out that she found a sports cafe type bar that was playing the game. Um, yes. We're there. Her team (TCU) was also playing, but unfortunately the bar wasn't showing it.

So we go to this place called The Sports Cafe, near Piccadilly Circus.

Hello, new second home. They were playing hockey, American football, soccer (football!), some type of motorcycle racing thing...lots of sports. And I do have to mention the fact that this place was packed with good looking guys...good looking guys who like sports! Perfect. Katelyn and I were in heaven. We're sports chicks - we need this stuff in our lives.

Imagine my happiness when we find out they're playing the Michigan State/Michigan game in a semi-closed off area of the bar, with it's own bar, about four TVs, and a SLEW of Michigan State and Michigan alumni! It was so awesome to be surrounded by people from back home, who support the teams I support...just 4000 miles away! We met lots of new friends, many of who went to MSU and are now living in London doing various things. We also met a few girls from UCL, one who went to MSU and is also in a program in the School of Public Policy - very cool. We had a blast...and it doesn't hurt that MSU womped Michigan 34-17. Denard who?

All in all, it was a lot of fun. We had a bit of a struggle trying to get home on the bus after the game - Piccadilly Circus sure is crazy at about 12:45 a.m. on a Saturday night...who would've guessed?

Today is a beautiful day in London - about 64 degrees and sunny sunny sunny. I'm thinking a trip to Regent's Park to see the fall colors is in order. I'm trying to compile some photographs that I think would be really pretty to get enlarged when I get home and maybe hung seems like an ideal day to get out there and find some color, and also a good way to start my detox. Ha! Love from London! xx, Hay.

06 October 2010

Wednesday: chock full of good news!

I've had quite a nice little Wednesday here in London Town. :)

I started my day by getting up early to get to the gym. Being back in a regular (or at least semi-regular, heh) gym routine feels really good.

Then I came back to my room for a while, ate some breakfast, showered, talked to my mom on skype before she left for Arizona, and did a few other random little things. After all that, I walked over to Pret to pick up a sandwich wrap and some fruit for lunch, then headed to the library to meet Katelyn for a day of studying...or so we thought.

We decided that we needed to find our own little study place where we can just plant ourselves with our books and some coffee. However, this is proving to be super difficult. First we checked out the Senate House Library, which is very close to my place. Holy moly, it is impressive.

There was a whole signing up and registering process that we weren't really feeling up to doing today, so we skipped out on that idea. We next headed over to the British Library, where we figured we'd be able to find some quiet rooms to study in.

Wrong. You also have to have a membership to be able to use the reading rooms there, and even if you do get one, you can't take pens and highlighters in the rooms with you! Um, okay...oh, and no free wireless. Major negative.

So then we headed to a small public library, which proved to be just as unsuccessful as the first two trips. By this time, we had been searching for about two and a half hours! We were striking out on all accounts. We ended up back in the regular, main UCL library, where (shocker!) the Public Policy room was full. We kinda just searched around until we found a pretty cool room to read in that wasn't too we plopped ourselves down and did about an hour and a half of reading. Not nearly as much as we wanted to get done, but we sure did get a lot of exploring done!

After that whole ordeal, we were both starving, so we went wandering around Goodge Street in search of something cheap, yet yummy and somewhat healthy, to eat. We wound up at a Thai takeaway place, where we got a little container that could fill up with as much stuff as we could for £3.50. It was actually really good...lots of veggies, little bit of rice, little bit of beef. Katelyn got a couple questionable things (which we later found out was duck, looked like cat intestines) but aside from that, it was pretty tasty. 

And here comes the best part of the day. After dinner, we both decided we were seriously craving some frozen yogurt. Now, frozen yogurt in London is not entirely easy to come by. It's a relatively new phenomenon here, so it's starting to pop up in more places and it's getting really popular. But we had no idea if there was a place anywhere remotely around us, so we just wandered...and alas! We came upon Yog, a new frozen probiotic yogurt chain in London! PERFECT! It's actually really healthy - not too sugary, not overly sweet, low calorie, fat free, and yummy toppings. I had plain yogurt with strawberries...delicious! We were honestly in heaven for the twenty minutes we were sitting there. And yes, we did get a frequent buyer card while there...I have a feeling our free 10th Yog will be in the not too distant future.

Once I got home, I found that my coat had been delivered. Yay! - it's been getting chilly. Also, I had an email that my loan check was finally ready for me to pick up.

It was a GOOD day! :)

04 October 2010

Sirens, sirens everywhere

I just realized this, and thought it was a semi-interesting little tidbit: a couple of weeks ago, I was complaining about the sirens all of the time, at all hours of the day and night. Now, I'm starting to find them oddly comforting. I can hear a little bit of street noise, but not much since I'm facing the garden...but the sirens come through loud and clear! I live a few blocks away from the UCL hospital, which explains that.

Just something that hit me tonight. Interesting. :)

First day of classes

Today was my first official day of lectures, and it went well! Education over here certainly is different. The total number of contact hours that I have in a week is between eight and nine, whereas in the states I was averaging about twelve per semester or so. They really seem to focus on independent study, and they expect you to pursue your own research of more specific topics that interest you that will not be covered heavily in class. And I can't even emphasize how important the readings are! I spent more time in the past week getting this week's readings done than I will spend in class...and I know that is definitely the norm.

I am excited for the challenge, though. I just feel that my undergraduate career didn't challenge me too much. Things came easily to me then, and I didn't have to study often. I graduated a year early, with high honors. It definitely will not be easy this time around, and I look forward to that! I'm ready to be challenged.

Tomorrow I have one class (both lecture and seminar) - Public Policy Economics and Analysis. I'm then done for the week until Friday! That should be interesting. I'm sure Wednesdays and Thursdays will end up being biiig reading and revising days. Katelyn and I are still on the hunt for our perfect study hangout. We're going to work on that this week.

In other, non-school related news, I finally took some initiative and bought a jacket. I just couldn't find anything that really caught my eye. I wanted a raincoat, since it doesn't get frigidly cold here most of the time...but I couldn't find anything waist length, or even above-the-knee length. Fail. Then I kind of started looking and pea coats and trench coats. But then I decided I really needed a hood, because I HATE using an umbrella in an area where a million other people are using umbrellas. That is just asking to have your eye poked out. So I switched my focus and finally found a suitable jacket at Dorothy Perkins...and it sure didn't hurt that they offer a 20% student discount and free shipping on online orders! Done. Plus, the one I chose will be good for both fall and winter, so that's a plus.

It's weird, but sometimes Mondays put me in a very good mood. It's like you get a fresh start, and a new chance to allow yourself to have a good week!

01 October 2010

Living situation

At the beginning of this week, I was extremely stressed out with my living situation. If you've read anything here before, you'll know that I'm living in a dorm that is extremely close to my campus (it's across the street). I had a few bad days where the noise of the undergrad students, the sometimes terrible food, and things like that were getting to me. My mom made a good point that I just needed to settle into my routine, see how much time I'll *really* be spending here, and then reevaluate the situation. I, in my hasty nature, started trying to find a private flat somewhere around here, only to realize that: a) they were pretty picked over - by now, most students had already taken up the decent ones; and b) the ones that were left, although usually inferior, were crazy expensive! I soon realized that it probably wasn't an option, at least on my own, to try and find a flat around campus.

Well, I did start to get into my routine with induction week. Although we didn't have lectures or seminars this week, we did have some meetings and introductions...and I've also had a ton of reading to do. And it truly has helped me feel better about my living situation. When I went to the meetings, I pretty much just had to step outside my front door and cross the street. When I go to the library to study or check out books, same deal. When I need to print something, I hop on over to one of the many computer clusters around campus. When I work out, I go to the union that is on the same street as my dorm.

The benefits of living here are really starting to shine through again. Sure, it's frustrating when I can hear people screaming and partying on the floor below me. Or when there are thirty minute lines to get food at dinnertime. But, I've made a resolve to try and find remedies to those types of situations as they pop up. When it's too noisy here to read, I'll pack up my things and go to the library. When the lines are too long or the food isn't ok for me to eat (I'm allergic to wheat), I'll go get something somewhere else, or I'll make an effort to be down at the cafe right at the opening time. I've realized that I really have to put my effort in too...things aren't always going to be perfectly catered to our liking. Sometimes you just have to adapt and find solutions to the problems.

I'm probably going to eat my words a little bit later tonight, when all of the undergrad students will be going out to the clubs for their first weekend here in London, while I'm sitting in my room sick. :( Calm, deep breaths...

First experience with the NHS

Well, today I had my first experience with the National Health Service here in the United Kingdom. It's funny, because for the past few years, I rarely ever get sick. I've had such a strong immune system, and for me to catch even just a minor cold was pretty rare. So, when I knew that I had to register with a doctor here in the UK as soon as possible to be able to receive treatment in the future, I admit...I put it off a little bit. Partly due to the fact that I wasn't sure exactly what I needed to do. It couldn't truly be as simple as filling out a one page form and handing it over to the reception in my hall, could it?

Yes, it could...and it was. Earlier this week I filled out a form with my general details, nothing out of the ordinary. It took maybe all of two minutes to complete, put in an envelope, and hand over to reception. From there, they send the forms to the practice and voila, you're registered with the NHS. Pretty awesome, huh?

My hall affiliates with a very close-by practice - it's about a two minute walk from my front door. I also had the option to register with the UCL practice, but hey; I figured this was closer, and they probably accept a heck of a lot less patients than the UCL one. So I went with the one my hall recommended.

Now, like I said, I rarely get sick. I was honestly questioning whether or not I thought I'd ever need to see a doctor here. Oh, naive little Hayley. I guess I hadn't thought of the fact that I'd be in close quarters with 350 other students from all around the world, bringing new germs that I hadn't yet been exposed to. //palm-to-face.

I've been feeling a little under the weather for the past week, and I woke up with some wheezing this morning. I used to have problems with chronic bronchitis in my teen years, which involved nebulizer treatments and the whole nine yards, so I thought,'s Friday. I should nip this in the bud and get it checked out in case it gets any worse over the weekend and I won't have options other than going to Accident & Emergency (similar to the emergency room back home).

I went to walk-in hours at my practice this morning, and had been sitting in the waiting room no less than five minutes before a doctor called me in. Wow! That is already vastly different from home. She listened to me thoroughly explain my symptoms, asked me a few questions, examined me and listened to my breathing, and fully discussed her diagnosis with me afterwards. The trip was no less than exceptional...well, as far as doctor's visits go.

Now, I'm writing this mainly because I wasn't sure what to expect from the NHS. Sure, I've studied it a bit, and have talked with people about it; but I wasn't sure what a personal experience for an international student would entail. Some say that since the system is "free" (though it obviously isn't quite for UK nationals - taxes go towards it), the quality is lesser than health systems in countries like America. I can honestly say that I have no negative aspects to report, whatsoever. I know it was just a small and minor appointment, but if any future visits (god forbid) happen to be deemed necessary, I will be going into the office with confidence that they truly do care about helping me, and will do so with a good quality of care. I also find it very commendable that international students are able to utilize the system (depending on certain factors such as the length of one's academic course) like pretty much any other UK citizen can. I guess the British government realizes that these students are spending a considerable amount of money to study and live here, so they deserve the health care that the system has to offer. I think that's a terrific policy.

Kudos, UK!