The Last Little Bit

Hey all,

Congrats on being done exams! I myself have just handed it all my work at KCL in London… but I’m still here for 7 weeks! There’s really no reason for me to be here except for the fact that I’m paying my residence fees until the end of June, so I thought I might as well live in London for the time being. I’m also planning on traveling quite a bit more while I’m still in Europe. But before I look forward to the next weeks and adventures to come, I thought I’d look back on my favourite memories from my time abroad so far.

From meeting my flatmates to discovering London, to experiencing Christmas time here and having a proper English roast and afternoon tea, to taking an impromptu trip to Amsterdam, to visiting Dublin and Berlin and Paris, to going to Platform 9 and 3/4 and meeting Rupert Grint, to seeing more plays than I can count, and to being in a play myself. I can’t believe how much has happened in such a short span of time. I’m actually worried that next year will be boring compared to this one, but I guess there’s no point thinking about that now.

Leisure aside, my courses at King’s College London were interesting and engaging. I was very impressed with all of my professors and the standard of education here. I wouldn’t say the classes were taught that differently but studying English literature in England has its advantages… for example, in first semester I had classes at the Globe Theatre. I may be happy to be done with my coursework now, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my classes.

Now, all that’s left to do is frolic around sunny London and go traveling. So far, I have plans to visit Lyon in France, Edinburgh and Isle of Skye in Scotland, Lisbon and Setubal in Portugal, and Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon in England. I’m sure it will be a whirlwind!

It feels weird saying goodbye to this blog now, but I do want to say thank you to those people who have read these posts. I hope you’ve enjoyed them and they’re brought you some sort of insight. And I definitely hope that they’ve inspired you to think about studying abroad, whether it’s for a summer course, a semester, or a year.

Thanks again for reading! Cheerio! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

-Veronika

 

Skiing in Val Thorens

Hi again!

I’m writing this from Toronto where I’ve been spending my break living in Robarts along with everyone else.

It’s funny to think that just a week ago, I was skiing in sunny France. Actually, it’s sad, not funny. My friends and I were looking forward to our ski trip for months, and now it’s done and I don’t know where the time has gone! I guess all that’s left to do is reminisce.

I had never been skiing in actual mountains before. The view was beautiful… but also blinding. You couldn’t leave indoors without sunglasses or goggles on. The weather was perfect, if not too warm. Every day we’d eat lunch on a rock and just hang out in the sun.

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It was cloudy and windy just one day, and because of that, many of the slopes were shut down. As someone that’s used to skiing in Canada, it was a bit funny.

Skiing was admittedly difficult. My friends were used to skiing in the mountains so they were better than me and I struggled to keep up. I still managed to have fun, though, and not kill myself, which is always good. And the mountains were gorgeous!

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Unfortunately, it was a ski trip organized by a student committee so the accommodation wasn’t great. The walls were so thin it felt like there were constantly people in our room. What can you do. Luckily, we didn’t spend much time there. We were too busy, between the slopes and student events at night.

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Outdoor club

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Bundled up on the slopes

From hearing stories from my friends who are also studying abroad, it seems like going skiing is some sort of rite of passage, something you have to do while on exchange. I’m not sure that that’s true, but I sure did enjoy myself!

It was nice to have a short break before delving into my final essays. If you need me to find me, I’ll be crying over my computer at the library.

Good luck everyone!

– Veronika

 

Why you should befriend a Parisian

Hi everyone!

The past two weeks have been an absolute blur of play rehearsals and classes, so I can’t report much from London. However, last weekend I managed to get away for a few days with my friend Grégoire to stay with his family in Paris.

I’ve been to Paris a few times before, but I’ve never had a Parisian show me around. I felt like I was doing it right this time – staying in a French apartment, gorging myself on croissants and bread and cheese and wine. And who can resist a good pastry?

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Not me. In between all the eating, we walked around the city, basking in sunlight. We avoided most of the tourist spots, but we did go up to Montmarte, one of the highest points of Paris from which you can see the city.

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Montmarte village is one of the older parts of the city, with artists, musicians, and French restaurants everywhere.

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It’s very quaint and traditional – definitely go if you’re in Paris!

At night we walked around the city, undisturbed by the hoards of people that are there during the day.

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Seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle never does get old.

The highlight of the trip was going up the Arc de Triomphe, something which I’d never done before. If you’re a student, you get to go up for free! The walk up is a struggle but it’s worth it in the end. You can see the whole layout of the city…

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Champs-Élysées

Cue this music… www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAMuNfs89yE

We were pretty content. Even the Parisian who is not easily impressed.

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But the best part was the sunset. We just stood there in awe for however long it took for the sun to set.

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I’m not sure there’s anything that could top that sunset.

Every time I go to Paris, I uncover something new just when I thought I had seen everything.

Til next time,

Veronika

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Berlin: A Must-See

If you ever find yourself in Europe, deciding where to travel to, consider Berlin. It’s one of the most visited cities in Europe but there’s nothing overrated about it. And for such a busy city, the pace of life is surprisingly leisurely.

If you don’t know where to stay, I recommend looking at places at Airbnb. You can find a place almost anywhere in the world, it’s much nicer than a hostel, and cheaper than a hotel.

So, if you happen to find yourself in Berlin, navigate yourself to the Berliner Dom. It’s the largest cathedral in the city, and it’s quite a sight. I’ve come to think of it as a better version of St. Paul’s in London.

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There, you can pay 4 euros to go inside and marvel at this beauty…

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 2.25.42 PMIf you’re feeling adventurous, you can also climb all the way to the top, where you’ll get an amazing view of the city.

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 2.25.52 PMUnlike St. Paul’s, nobody will rush you along. You can take your time and catch your breath.

Near the cathedral, there are a bunch of museums in a cluster called Museum Island. We only visited one of them, The Pergamon, but the rest were quite impressive from the outside.

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Of course, you must also see the Brandenburg Gate. You can take a 20 minute stroll down Unter den Linden, one of the main streets, to get here from the church. My friend and I did this walk three days in a row, watching the sun set at the end of the street by the gate. By the time we got there, it was usually night time.

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One time, it wasn’t.

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 3.18.22 PMAnd then there’s the sight that everyone comes to see. The East Side Gallery – part of the original Berlin Wall. The piece of the wall extends over 1km and it makes for quite a nice walk on a sunny day. There’s far too much art to capture and it changes daily, with people adding their own contributions to the murals.

Friends will be made, laughs will be had.

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Once you’ve covered all the tourist bases, you have to have a picnic in a park. It’s the Berlin way, after all. Perhaps you’ll be lucky and you’ll end up in a park next to a flea market, where a jazz funk band accompanies your lunch and there’s not a cloud in the sky.

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 2.26.56 PMAnd then if you have time, check out the Berlin Zoo.

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Just go to Berlin. Trust me, you’ll have a blast.

Talk soon,

Veronika

Dublin

This past week I had a few days off from uni so I decided to visit my friend Kat in Dublin. She visited me a few weeks earlier in London so I happily returned the favour. She’s from U of T as well and she’s doing a semester abroad at University College Dublin. I can honestly say the city Dublin was not what I expected. I don’t know exactly what I thought it was going to be like, but I remember thinking it was a lot bigger and nicer.

Even though it’s still February, everything is starting to bloom already. UCD is a campus uni with lots of modern buildings and green space. There are even a few ponds – it’s all quite lovely!

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Making friends with the swans

I think I would have been perfectly happy doing an exchange at UCD. To anyone considering it, it has my seal of approval. And I’m a stranger on the Internet, so I know that must mean a lot.

Whilst there, I also visited Trinity College Dublin, famous for its library containing the Book of Kells. We weren’t allowed to take photos of the book, but the library itself is stunning. It reminded me of the Hogwarts, so naturally, I never wanted to leave.

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I would have happily sat and read in this place… but sadly, the library is no longer in use and all the books are untouchable archives.

The next day, we hit the streets. I think the best way I can describe Dublin is hip. I would love to spend at least a month there just so I can try out all of the restaurants, cafes, and pubs. This is one of the more famous Irish pubs in the city:

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We also wandered into the Irish Parliament house…

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And a medieval church…

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The best places are always the ones you don’t expect to go to.

And of course, before leaving Dublin, I made Kat take me to a proper Irish pub, with live music sung by a cute musician and all. I had a pint of Guinness and regretted it sorely. I don’t know how people drink that stuff (sorry Ireland).

Overall, Dublin was a blast, and if anyone’s considering visiting – you won’t regret it.

Next stop, Berlin!

Talk soon,

Veronika

Rediscovering London

Staying put for a long time can be difficult. I find that I get comfortable and forget to explore my surroundings. Luckily, two of my close friends came to visit me in London (one after the other) so I got the opportunity to rediscover the city that I live in.

First, my friend from Toronto came to visit. Because she had never been to London, I took her to some tourist attractions that I hadn’t been on myself since I was quite young.

Unfortunately, being a tourist isn’t cheap, but it was fun nonetheless.

Here’s a shot from the London Eye:

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And one of Westminster through the rain:

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Big Ben

My friend visited for a week and she still didn’t get to see everything she wanted to. That just shows that when you’re travelling, you have to plan out your time beforehand. Of course, getting everything done gets hard when it’s raining and all you want to do is sleep in! Nonetheless, we made it to Westminster, Covent Gaden, Oxford Circus, Picadilli Circus, Soho, and Chinatown. We even managed to go to Cardiff for a night. Talk about exhausting!

Before I could relax, my other friend, who goes to U of T and is doing a semester abroad in Dublin, came to visit for the weekend.

She had been to London before, so she was more interested in seeing the parts of the city that are less touristy. But we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stop by Platform 9 and 3/4 at King’s Cross station…

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Off to Hogwarts I go!

Quite hilariously, there’s a man who wraps a scarf around you and then waves it around for a photo. How does one obtain this job? Must look into it.

Following our Harry Potter excursion, we got into the spirit of Valentine’s Day and got our own love lock in Covent Garden for charity.

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Kat and I

At some point or other (my memory is just jumbled), we took a cute stroll down Carnaby street, stopping in some shops along the way…

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Not sure what this is for but it’s awesome

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Rule Britania

These past few weeks have been absolutely exhausting but so much fun! It’s always great to see familiar faces, and I got to introduce old friends to new.

Now if only I could catch up on sleep… but with school work and play rehearsals, that doesn’t seem likely. Ah well.

Til next time,

Veronika

Adventures in Amsterdam

Last Wednesday a few of my friends and I decided to go to Amsterdam that very weekend. I don’t think I’ve ever done something so impromptu. Though it was fun, it was more of a learning experience than a holiday.

For starters, we immediately regretted our decision to take an 11 hour bus. The bus driver was rude, it was absolutely packed and the seats were tiny… But the fun really began around 5 am, when our driver decided that he didn’t want to drive anymore because he thought someone on the bus was drunk. He then attempted to kick a guy off the bus in the middle the night, somewhere in Holland. An argument ensued, which nearly everyone on the bus became a part of. We ended up sitting there for about an hour while people stood around outside, trying to convince the bus driver in any way they could to keep driving. In the midst of this, two fist fights broke out (I wish I was kidding). The police eventually showed up to kick some people off and thankfully nobody got seriously hurt (though my friend and I were almost accidentally punched in the face). We then continued our journey to Amsterdam.

The struggle didn’t end there. We had booked a hostel online that, judging by the pictures, appeared to be fine… when we got there, we realized it was definitely not. The stairs were essentially a ladder, there weren’t enough beds for us in this tiny room with ten people smushed in, there was drywall on the floor and the “free breakfast” was bread. They wouldn’t refund us for the person that was no longer staying with us, nor for a night that we didn’t spend there. The photos on the website did not correspond to the reality of the place at all. We left after an hour. To say it was awkward would be an understatement, but none of us could see ourselves staying there after the journey we had. We happily checked into a cheap hotel and began our day, sleepless but happy.

Amsterdam is unlike any other city I’ve ever been to! It’s hard to put into words, so here are some photos instead:

House boat

House boat

Van Gogh museum

Van Gogh museum

Floating flower market on the right

We spent a total of two days there, roaming around the city in a sleep deprived state. I’d love to go back with more time to spend there, especially since we never made it to the Anne Frank museum or Vondelpark.

At the very least, the weekend was an exciting one. The bus ride back was awful, but at least nobody got punched in the face.

Back in London I haven’t been up to too much. Just taking it day by day.

Oh, but this happened.

Yes that really is Rupert Grint and no I can't breathe

Yes that really is Rupert Grint and no I can’t breathe

No biggie.

Talk soon,

Veronika

 

London Revisited

Hi again!

Veronika here, reporting from London.

I hope you all enjoyed your break (minus the ice storm if you were in Toronto) while I was slaving over my final essays. I finally handed them in a week ago, so I had a full five days to relax. Not optimal, but I guess it’s still something.

I’m back in London now as of Sunday and it’s been weird getting back into the swing of things. I expect I’ll be tired for about a week while I adjust to the pace of life here. But even so, I’m happy to be back! I missed the cafes, the pubs, and, of course, my friends here.

I’ve only been here for two days, so not much to report, but I did take a few snaps…

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St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

I just love the mix of architecture in London.

I also made it to the top floor of my university building and found out that it has quite a nice view (as well as a library I didn’t know about)!

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Gorgeous

London, you stunner. Guess I’ll be spending more time on the top floor in between classes.

But as much as I like where I live, I plan on travelling a lot more this semester. Ideally I’d like to go to Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Amsterdam, and Paris. But I’ll see where life takes me – and I’ll be sure to blog about it.

Til next time,

– Veronika

 

 

Reflections from Home

Hi again (and for the last time this semester)!

I’m writing this from the Great White North, back home with Timmies in hand. It’s definitely good to be back for the holidays, even though this semester abroad has been incredible.

I’m happy to see my family and friends, to have a proper shower and heating, to have a break from cooking, and that I don’t have to walk everywhere.

That being said, I do miss my friends and flatmates in London and I’ll be happy to see them again come January. To each his/her own, but I’m glad that I chose to do a year abroad, rather than a semester. I still have so much more to explore in London and so many places to travel to.

Sadly, I still have four essays due beginning of January, which means I don’t get a proper break. I much prefer having my work due before the break, so those of you at U of T – you should feel lucky that you’re done (or will be soon)! I’ll be slaving away by the warm glow of my laptop.

I’m stuck between looking back on the good times I had this semester and looking forward to the times to come, which isn’t a bad place to be. If anyone reading this is considering doing an exchange in London, there are a few things I can tell you that might help your decision along.

1. London is a huge city. If you leave your room, it’s almost guaranteed that you won’t be bored. However, it can be intimidating at times. You should consider it if a fast paced life is what you’re looking for.

2. You’ll be surrounded by people constantly. People on the street, people in cafés, people everywhere!

3. It’s incredibly expensive, but it is possible to find good student deals. The UK is much more accommodating to students and student life.

4. You’ll pretty much always be busy.

5. As with anything, it’s what you make of it. If you make an effort to meet new people and explore, you should have an amazing time.

That’s all the advice I have for now. It really just depends what you’re looking for in an exchange. London was the right choice for me, but you should decide what you want to get out of studying abroad.

Well, I should get back to my essays. Words, words, words. (Some Shakespeare for you Lit students).

Happy Holidays everyone!

Talk to you next year…

– Veronika

Crunch Time

It’s my last week in London before the holiday break which means I have a lot of researching to do for my final papers, but also a lot of activities to squeeze in before I leave on Saturday. I’m torn between my desire to frolic around the city and the knowledge that I have papers that won’t write themselves (unfortunately).

However, one can’t sit in the library all day long. Especially not when there are so many other more exciting options. Study breaks are important, after all…

Thus came about the decision to go skating at the National History Museum.

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National History Museum

National History Museum

It was a fun night, but skating in London almost isn’t worth it… First off, it’s expensive. This was the cheapest rink we could find, with a student deal of 8.50 pounds for 50 minutes. Secondly, the rinks are tiny and over-crowded. I’m actually excited to go skating back in Toronto, where the rinks are free and there’s space to move!

However, something we don’t have in Toronto is Winter Wonderland, which happens every year at Hyde Park. My friend was visiting London so we decided to check it out. It was quite a sight to see! It’s essentially a huge carnival with rides, a skating rink, a Christmas market, and pubs. Lots to do, but you’ll have to pay an arm and a leg to get on one of the rides. So, my friend and I just walked around, sipping hot cider and ogling the pretty lights.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

 

The next day, we headed to Portobello market, which is one of London’s most famous markets. It’s up in Notting Hill, which is a lovely area to get lost in.

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Portobello Road

Portobello Road

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When we went, the market was having an antique fair with stalls all the way down the street.

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The area was bustling until late at night when the market shut down. It really is one of the must-see attractions in London.

Admittedly, I may have overdone it with the study breaks, which I will definitely pay for later. Off to the library I go!

Good luck with revision to all…

Until next time,

Veronika