Today’s content is provided by 2009 Casey.
I was in Michigan last week visiting my family and as I was cleaning out some old bins from high school and college I came across a PRINTED copy of my first ever blog. It was called “Across the Pond” and was basically a diary of my semester studying abroad in the United Kingdom in 2009. For some reason I had the wherewithal to print my posts before I deleted my Blogspot account. Hallelujah!
Technology in 2009 was not what it is today. I didn’t have a smart phone or data, just a phone card and a flip phone for emergencies, plus the time difference made it hard to connect with my family for phone calls. So at the end of every day I would come back to the flat and type out a blog post for everyone back home to read. (Guess I haven’t changed that much ha.)
It’s been ten years since I studied abroad, caught wanderlust and fell in love with traveling. You can see from my Where I’ve Been page that I’ve tried to make the most of those years. What better way to celebrate a decade of adventures than with a special Throwback Thursday tribute to the OG blog that started it all with some highlights and hot-takes from 21-year-old Casey.
Listen, I was a small town girl attending a university 30 minutes away from home. I hadn’t seen much of the world and was due for some culture shock but my observations are so superficial it’s hard to tell sometimes if I’m joking or serious. I immediately referred to home as “the states” and the locals as “Brits.” I was THAT girl. Signing off every single post with “Cheers!”
Here is an excerpt from my first entry on Tuesday, May 26, 2009:
Oooooh the flight to London. It was sooo long! I think it was about 6 hours, shorter than they predicted because of tailwinds. I sat next to a chatter. Her name was Lucy, she was a nice old lady who liked to talk and was really excited about me going to London for the first time. She was just coming for the weekend to go to a wedding that she had to wear a hat to. She was sweet but eventually I just wanted to sleep. And when I finally did, she made sure I still got my breakfast when the flight attendants came around.
We arrived in London Heathrow at 8:45 a.m. We had been told our traveling professor Sue Carter would be there, but of course no one was there to tell us that she had already left. Sam and I decided to take matters into our own hands and get on the tube (known as the subway in the states) to our flat. While we were waiting in line to buy our tickets we spotted Maggie because of her Michigan State shirt, she is in our program and also didn’t know where Sue was. The three of us took the 45 minute tube ride to Russel Square which is right next to our flats. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take possession of the flats until 2:00 p.m. so we dropped off our luggage and sat in Russel Square for a couple hours.
We finally got settled in. Our flats are pretty big. They have two bedrooms each with three beds in each room. Sam, Maggie and I are in my room. There are 23 people in our group and we have all gotten acquainted and are getting along very well.
On Sunday, we took tour buses all over London and saw almost every major attraction you can think of. Everything is so old here. It seems weird that the buildings and stuff are hundreds of years old. At one point, we got off and took a boat up the Thames river which was very cool. It’s only been three full days but I feel like I have done so much.
Our “class” meets once in the morning and once in the afternoon. All we really do is listen to guest lecturers. They are all involved in some of London’s biggest media enterprises. So far we have met a man from NLGN, the BBC and an extremely successful MSU grad who went on this same study abroad 27 years ago.
Ok. Not too bad. Semi-informative and an okay introduction to Studying Abroad. I’m afraid it’s mostly downhill from here. The next day:
We had another guest lecturer this morning. Some guy from a newspaper, he was pretty boring and it was really early so I’m not sure which one exactly. It was 9:30 a.m. here so that’s like 4:30 a.m. back home. I was not at my best attentiveness to say the least. We broke for lunch and met back up to head to Bloomberg.
Bloomberg is AMAZING! Their London office is second largest only behind New York City. We went through more security than we did at the airport. It was six stories of awesomeness. Everything is glass and all the desks are the same with 4 computer screens, everything is the best technology there is. People just work wherever, managers right beside their subordinates, that sort of thing. They showed us how their system works and it is very high-tech and impressive.
There were huge fish tanks on every floor and sitting areas where employees could relax. On the first floor was, get this, a FREE cafeteria. And not a crappy one like at school, it was coffee, fruit, snacks, anything you can think of besides full meals where they all go to get free snacks throughout the day. Obviously, this was my favorite part.
“He was pretty boring and it was really early so I’m not sure which one exactly?!” I’m dying laughing at this now.
I then went on to complain about how boring soccer is and the next day I dedicated an entire paragraph to Indian food and gave the British Museum a two-sentence mention. Killing it, Casey.
By Sunday, I was back to slice-of -life commentary:
Went shopping in London this weekend. The stores are really cool but there were a ton of people so it was pretty overwhelming. We tried to stay away from the usual stores like H&M and American Apparel. My favorites were Hyper Hyper and River Island. I got a really cute dress that I am going to have to find someplace to wear. Don’t worry Dad, I didn’t go overboard…yet.
A few things I’ve learned about London so far…
- Drivers are so crazy! They will NOT stop. I fear for my life most of the time. Thanks for the advice Uncle Phil, getting hit by a car will not be on my to-do list. Although, with the Hot Wheel sized cars here I’d probably just walk away with a bruise on my shin.
- Everything closes really early. Stores by 7-ish and pubs by 11 p.m. Shocking and depressing for us East Lansing-ers.
It was a lazy Sunday but the weather has been beautiful. We all sat in Russel Square and did our homework and readings for the week. Sam and I did some tumbling and got a few claps and pictures taken by our admirers. I also saw a mustang Shelby and it made me think of my dad.
After class today, the usual four girls (me, Sam, Jamie and Maggie…we call ourselves The Quad) went to Camden Market. It is basically the Chinatown of London. It was a bunch of really cheap stuff like clothes, jewelry, fake/stolen designer stuff, the usual.
I am known as The Mom around the flats. I mass produce grilled cheese and I am always cleaning.
It’s so amusing to me the things that I found shocking or annoying. Starting with the fact that I thought a 6 hour flight from Boston to London was “sooo long!” and how my first time shopping in a major metropolitan area was “overwhelming.” Fast-forward a few years and I end up living in downtown Chicago.
We took a two-hour train ride to Wales on Wednesday morning. We stayed in Cardiff, which is in Southern Wales right on the ocean. Welsh people are so much more nice and friendly than Londoners, it was a much needed change.
When we arrived we had a little bit of time to look around. The Quad ended up going to this little Welsh shop called Castle Welsh Crafts that sold wooden love spoons. Our first experience with a Welsh person was at this shop and I’ve loved them ever since.
We were taking pictures of their spoons and were approached by the spoon maker. In London, we would have gotten in trouble for taking pictures of “private” property. So as he walked up we were nervous, but all he wanted to do was show us the World’s Smallest Love Spoon. He was so friendly and answered all of our questions. He ended up giving me a free postcard! Like I said, sooo nice.
After that we went to Cardiff University. We heard from some really boring speakers but once that was over we were able to hang out with the locals for the rest of the night.
This morning (Thursday) we went to the National Assembly of Wales. This was another terribly boring lecture but we did get to see Cardiff Bay.
We had a few hours before the train left to bring us back to London so the Quad toured Cardiff Castle. It was extremely beautiful and can only be explained through pictures.
Was there any part of the actual classes and program that I DIDN’T find boring? My parents back home funding and reading these had to be so please with their investment in my education.
Now here is the ENTIRE post from my visit to Stonehenge on June 6, 2009:
Sam and I took the bus to Stonehenge today. It was a chilly day but thankfully it didn’t rain on is while we visited the historic site. It was pretty windy but very peaceful. I feel so fortunate to have gotten to see this place.
That’s it. That’s all of it. I gave a Welsh love spoon maker an entire novel but that’s all I had to say about Stonehenge?! Moving on…
Palace of Westminster
We are officially halfway through our program. I can’t believe it. This week especially has gone by extremely fast.
Today, we went to Westminster, the building connected to Big Ben where the House of Commons and Lords meet. It is a really big and old building and we talked to one of the Members of Parliament (MP). Afterwords, we sat in on the Parliament meeting they were having. It was just like in the movies! There were people standing up, yelling, booing and ripping on each other. The Mistress lady in charge kept yelling “Order! Order!” I wish I could’ve taken pictures. It was very exciting.
Aha! Something semi-educational that I actually enjoyed. Your girl is evolving.
We were then shipped up to Edinburgh, Scotland for a week. Most of my post recapped the fact that we arrived and there were no rooms available for us. The horror. The rest was pretty top line. Maybe I just didn’t have anything to talk about besides all the beer we drank.
We went to the Royal Mile, which is a strip of road from the Queen’s Palace to Edinburgh Castle. Sam and I explored and went to a creepy graveyard where there was a tombstone of a man born on my birthday in 1792.
We also saw one of the coffee shops where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter. I thought that was pretty exciting. There really isn’t much else to do in Edinburgh but go to pubs, those Scots like their whiskey.
There was a small mountain next to where we were staying that I wanted to climb the second I laid eyes on it. We ended up sprinting to the top one evening and stayed up there until midnight. That was probably one of my favorite moments of the entire trip.
Ok – it wasn’t a “mountain” it was actually a hill formed from an extinct volcano and is known as King Arthur’s Seat. Great job explaining all of this to your followers Casey.
Towards the end of the program, my friend Sam and I finally took a weekend trip away from the rest of the group. My father generously allowed me to fly to Rome, Italy and helped with the accommodations so he wouldn’t have to go Liam Neeson on anyone if I was taken.
Our hotel was really nice and located within walking distance from all the major attractions. The first day was extremely hot. I’m not sure how hot exactly because they measure degrees in Celsius.
We went to the Colosseum and a bunch of other monuments, fountains and statues. We ate authentic Italian food outside a café, it was the best pasta I have ever eaten! We were in bed pretty early because we were exhausted from the early morning. The only station on TV that was in English was CNN so we are now caught up on current events.
Saturday, we had breakfast on the rooftop terrace of the hotel. We went to Vatican City and spent most of the day taking a tour of the museum, church and the Sistine Chapel.
We went to dinner and had some more amazing pasta and wine. We went back to the hotel before dark because we are chickens and didn’t want to navigate Rome at night.
Sunday, we went to breakfast and headed back to the airport. It was a long day of travel, with a few delays in the morning but we finally made it back to London.
I just wrote a paper that is due tomorrow and I’m working on a few more things for class. This is our last week here. I am sad it is coming to an end. Tomorrow we are eating dinner at our professors house. Apparently, he lives next door to the guy who plays Dr. House on House. I am soooo excited to see that. Other than that, this week is just a bunch of homework assignments, quizzes and wrap up.
There are so many details I wish I would have given about Rome. We accomplished a lot in 48 hours and most of it wasn’t preplanned but worked out perfectly. I wish I would’ve mentioned that you can drink out of the street fountains there. How rare is that?!
Furthermore, the tour we took of the Vatican was led by some random lady standing outside the entrance gathering English speakers. She wasn’t official but she gave a great tour! I also should have noted that because we didn’t plan ahead, we wore completely the wrong clothes to the Vatican. I had to purchase scarves to cover my legs and shoulders.
It all ends very abruptly after our weekend in Rome. Maybe I didn’t wrap up my blog once I returned home or I could just be missing a few pages. We’ll never know.
As uninformative and silly as my writings were, I’ll give myself some props. I had never been away from home or to a foreign country and Sam and I probably saw and did the most of anyone in our program. We were the go-getters.
I also found my copy of Fodor’s London 2009 with accompanying map that I carried around with me absolutely everywhere. That map was a lifesaver! I was the only one in our group of 23 students who ever knew how to get anywhere.
It’s so amusing how comfortable I was in Cardiff compared to London because it was small and the “people were friendly” but by the end of the program, I was in Rome with just one other girl and totally comfortable outside of my comfort zone. That’s more of who I am today.
Reading these pages not only shows me how much I’ve changed in a decade but how much I never want to change. I don’t want to lose the excitement of going to a new place just because I’ve done it so many times now.
So I’ll wrap it up here with one last “cheers” to a decade of adventures that all started with a girl clicking on a link for a study abroad program. Thank you 2009 Casey, for putting us on this path. I can’t wait to see where we are in another 10 years!
Cheers! Hwyl! Ciao!