Days 9 & 10- The End of an Adventure


On the last free day we all got to sleep in and we had our own plans in split groups. I spent the day with some friends walking through a park to Buckingham Palace and then going on the London eye. We had a final group dinner with Ingrid and Regina and we gave them gifts that were bought and signed as a group to show our appreciation of them. This trip was easily one of the best if not the best trip of my life and a priceless experience. It was the perfect amount of time budget wise and cost wise but wish we could have stayed longer as far as exploring and our growing bonds of friendship.

I have gotten to know so many amazing people on this trip and will forever think back to these days. Functioning as a group of 16 was very difficult at times but once we got past that, which we always did, at the end of the day we were all there for each other. I look forward to seeing what the future holds and what will be built off of the experiences of this trip. I’m able to navigate the London tube system as well so maybe one day going back will be less confusing. For 10 days London was home and for many nights room 515 was home as well. So thankful for the opportunity given by Umass Lowell and our professors for this trip, and to my family who supported me in my decision to go!

Penance Post

London was a whirlwind for me, and even still, I’m struggling to put to words the thoughts, feelings, and insights that I gathered while in the city. We did more in ten (technically eight, when you subtract the travel time) days than some people who live within the city limits have done in their entire lifetimes – as far as sight seeing, at least – and though I was awake and aware for every moment of it, still, the memories feel a little abstract and untouchable. Where words are still failing me, I thought it would be wise to show that while in London I wasn’t just an idle participant – I was, in fact, viewing the design that drenched the city streets and examining as much as I could as we bustled through the Underground and zipped through crowds to get to our destinations.

So here, today, I give you (a small portion of, all of them couldn’t fit) my¬†collection of Found Type, Logos and Posters from London!

Days 7 & 8- Hackathon


So there weren’t as many pictures over the course of these two days and the project my team made may be seen on Otto’s or Reggie’s blogs but I didn’t have any pictures at the moment and I haven’t had the chance to look at other blogs just yet! I will do less of a detailed post about the two days because that could make this longer than the kew gardens post with my memory for details… Instead I will talk generally about the experience and our final project.

Starting off you’re placed into random groups assigned by our coordinator Alex (not to be confused with our persona character). Umass lowell was lucky enough to have groups of 2-3 students per group except brave Ashley who was somehow in her own group with at least 8 or more other people! My group was one of the two smallest groups of only 6 people. Me Reggie and Otto then a women named Anna, Ye Han, and a man named David. They were total strangers but seeing Reggie and Otto’s names I felt our group still had a great chance despite being half the size of other groups! Now the more generalizing part I’m trying to get to.

The first process was to learn things from tables and report back to your groups and to accumulate it all into a general idea of the direction we were going to head into. The problem we had to solve was to help a friend of a depressed person understand or see the signs of depression in their friends. So we created a persona named Alex who was gender fluid and had a depressed friend. Now here’s there the team had to talk things out a lot. We needed ideas on where to head and I felt as if when our team got side tracked I was always able to speak up and hold my ground and aim us in the direction I felt we needed to go into. This became one of my greatest lessons and despite the long hours discussing it was one of my favorite parts of this experience. Everyone especially Ye Han and Anna had a certain idea they wanted to be touched upon more or completely. And I would stop the bickering settle us down and give each person more of what they wanted to hear to be able to narrow things further. I’d  explain others ideas when someone didn’t fully know how to articulate them to someone who didn’t understand. It may be how I’m remembering it but a great deal of the ideas in the final project were ether mine or refined by me before being proceeded with.

Day 2 it was on us to be the designers of our project for the prototype. So we invented ChatCloud (named by Otto) and the exact pitch for our presentation is not with me so I’ll summarize it for this post. ChatCloud is an app that combines all texting apps like iMessage, WhatsApp, and Messenger, into one app that you can read in one place. It used an overall data scanning technology to give a graph of positive and negative based off the linked social media and biometrics to determine if a person is showing signs of depression. It then would alert a friend to invite their friend to play a game with them that is built into the app and possibly give a subtle message about knowledge of depression or early signs of it. The game included is a augmented reality game that allows you to place an augmented item in a digital space using a camera like how snapchat uses filters. The other player had to find the item using their camera and it can be a redeemable thing such as a Starbucks gift voucher. This evolved into a game that you could make your own avatar and when you’re in the game alone you can see other peoples avatars by turning the camera on and a username but no additional information. It would be a completely safe environment and promotes the physical activity of walking around and socializing with friends by playing the game together. The app was designed to battle the early signs of depression and to re-educate and reprogram people into being more social and active. When texting the background would actually have a blurred picture of your camera and we showed a preview of this in our design which was for sure my idea lol. Some complained about battery life but really I didn’t think limiting ourselves was going to help us.

Since I didn’t have a computer with me Otto and Reggie did most of the physical design work. I showed Reggie my process of app making, which ended up taking us a long time being a bit rusty with summer and all, to make the perfect texting screen. But it was so satisfying to see what we had pictured in our heads and pieced it together into an InVision protype. Teaching one on one is something I definitely enjoy and it was exciting to see someone who was equally as passionate about app design as me. Now during all of this we had to have a 5 minute presentation to show off our work and our idea. Our team was stubborn with shrinking the time down from 7 minutes so the last minute before presenting things changed. Because of the chaos the screen me and Reggie made wasn’t shown but just finishing everything was a relief in itself and there were no worries. I didn’t present so I stayed for the questions panel and I further explained part of our app that was missing in the presentation. I thought I was shaking like a leaf as I usually do during presenting but I was told I didn’t which I found surprising. It must have been because I was too overtired to shake. Overall this was an amazing opportunity to meet new people and experience how a firm would work in the real world and I loved every minute of it. Our team didn’t win but that’s okay my friends teams did!

Day 6- Kew Gardens

The Kew Gardens were one of highlights of my entire trip. My huge interest in botany made this like a Disney park of plants for me. One of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. To start off we walked as a full group to the encased palm house which contained various tropics plants from around the world. It was here that I showed a few friends this plant I actually have seen before that when you touch it’s leaves they close up almost immediately. After this we walked as a full group still to the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art. This contained incredible works of botanical paintings that were all scientifically accurate. Our professor Regina Milan does amazing watercolored botanical paintings and it was interesting to see how various artists approached this genre. There were paintings that took up a large amount of space, seeing them in books made them look very detailed, but they actually had the least detail compared to other works. After about 40 minutes here (a place where pictures weren’t allowed) we proceeded to walk outside and head to the cafe. On our way there we were given a small lesson by a bench by Regina on how she approaches her botanical paintings and although it was optional we all stayed to listen. It was inspirational, as she usually is, and we stopped for a quick water break at the cafe.

Now that we were all on our own to see what we wanted for the day there were some decisions to be made. The groups were split on what everyone wanted to do but I drew a map and circled roughly 8 spots I wanted to go to and looked for anyone to be as enthusiastic as me lol. There was a lot of talk but no one was getting up so two of my close friends said they would go with me if we took 45 minutes because they wanted to go shopping. Little did they know this would take us 4 hours ūüôā 

So step one on the map was the treetop walkway! The map on the brochure was needless to say horrible because the roads didn’t actually match up to the signs or landmarks. After being lost a bit we made it there and took an elavator up with distorted glass that made us feel dizzy. The walkway swayed in the wind and we saw a skyline view of London in the distance. Fast forwarding and we got lost trying to go from here to the pagoda on the map. We ended up seeing a pond before turning around and eventually made it there.

So we learned the pagoda was being built still or repaired who knows, as can be seen in my picture. And that was a bit of a bummer but the small Japanese gateway house and rock gardens were a nice view. There were women feeding ducks and blocking mostly all the pictures though… 

So next was the wildlife observation center! You can guess we got lost and I blame the map because there was 3 of us and I was not solely directing but I have been known to get people lost many times over this trip (It’s just my poor sense of direction). On our way there we passed the pine trees and redwoods and all these other trees I’ve never seen before. I must have taken pictures of ever species label I saw. We saw a sign that showed how big the giant redwoods could get in relation to the pagoda and they could reach a size of over twice as tall. The trees there were not nearly that height yet so I’ll find them one day. You can probably guess why this garden took us 4 hours but the size of it was actually very large and we walked for a long time to the northern area of the park. Once we got here we were somehow a good distance to the right of where we should’ve ended up. If I was a geographer I would remake their map accurately. But this detour took up to some cool little areas.

We climbed on a log obstacle course that had the species of free written into the wood. We saw a very interesting building that was closed. There was a giant badger den replication that you could crawl in that was pitch black. I crawled through it and ended up on the other side of a hill and had to regroup after. Then we found a woodland walk way that showed how the Forrest of London was in an untouched and sanctuary state. All of which was great to see but started to get tired and had half of the park to cover still!

Walking along the northern part of the map we couldn’t get lost right? Well we didn’t for once but we came to the rhododendron dell and the flowers were already mostly bloomed and fallen off. So this step on the map turned into the bamboo garden just below it. Tried to find the azalea garden and thought we were lost but turns out the flowers had bloomed and fallen off except a few orange and yellow ones. As I took a picture of the orange flower a giant bee almost attacked me so there’s no picture and we peaced out of there. Now I wanted to keep going but someone had to use the bathroom and we got hungry so we stopped at the treehouse towers for lunch (they were umbrellas). I had some sausage and mash potatoes and the next spot on the map was the climbers and creepers.

Fast forwarding again how did we get lost, I don’t know, but we were by the queens garden and had to turn around. I’m all excited to see what I think is a building full of vines. We find it next to where we ate and it was a little kids indoor playground! So needless to say we went back the way we came from and tried to find the herbarium library and archive of extinct plants (exciting stuff I know). This turned out to be by appointment only and we didn’t notice it in small font on the map. So we turned back around and walked along this giant flower walkway with bees chasing me the whole time. We saw this hive art installation but didn’t stop to look at it because we were exhausted and ready to go. Everyone from our trip had already left the garden but we saw the most!

The rest of the day was still fun but I won’t go into nearly that much detail. We went to a shopping area and saw a flea market styled building, and some interesting performances. In fact I was apart of a 20 minute long magic show where a man put a knife through my coat and fixed it with a paper clip. Although he accidently dropped the paper clip on the ground and it had the fake fuzz inside of it when it broke. We saw a violin band, my friends ate Nutella crepes and I was just eager to get back to the hotel before we had plans to go out. Once we got back I ate at this spot next to the Tower of London which became a sort of go to spot if we needed a cheaper(ish) fast meal. I may have rested a little bit but as usual 515 was next spot and we went as a decent sized group to a club that night.

Now we had the hackathon the next day and some people were worried and hesitant about it and this night was about releasing worries and to just have a good time. It was one of the best bonding nightba as we all danced on the dance floor and completely owning this central stage before a decent amount of people actually showed up. What was supposed to be us leaving at 12:30am turned into us leaving at 1am then 2am. But we were all on time and ready for the next day afterwards!

Don’t Wanna See You Go!

Last day. Lots of hugs and good humor. Everybody was well-rested and ready to travel, met in the lobby, and we were off. The plane ride was a bit of a grind, being a couple hours longer than the flight there, but we all made it home. I met a couple of my classmates’ parents, which was cool. 

The best part of my day was seeing my cat again. We’re best friends and always miss one another when we’re apart. It was also a nice surprise to be met at the bus stop by my friend Dan. Our other friend, who was going to pick me up originally, had come down with something. Dan gives the best bear hugs, though, so I truly felt welcomed home. Then it was time to sleep. I’d been fighting a mild cough the whole trip, and didn’t think it was something contagious, but it seems my body was holding out until I got home. I woke feverish in the middle of the night and have been ill ever since. I can’t wait for it to pass, and I’m SO glad I didn’t get sick on the trip. (I haven’t heard from anyone else hit with the mystery post-travel flu, but if it turned out it was contagious‚ÄĒso sorry, guys!)

What an opportunity we had in just 10 short days. I’m into the role of humanities in higher ed, and firmly believe that the human element is where the best design comes from. After all, you’ve got to really believe in something to create the best version of it. You also have to be able to communicate and compromise with other people in pursuit of common goals. This trip perfectly balanced studying great work and technique with our growth as human beings together. We’ve been enriched by both kinds of knowledge, and I can say that because of this experience, just about all of us are chomping at the bit to make the resultant work great. 

See you in July!

Fin

After returning home and getting a full nights of sleep, I had time to truly reflect on this journey. I remember going on this trip being close with a few people and knowing others as just classmates. As the days went by we grew closer and developed a tight bond. I was always a little nervous because, with so many people you don’t know it can be hard to gauge how things will unfold. My friends have always told me while you’re abroad you’ll develop new and interesting friendships with the people you travel. That statement couldn’t be more true. Waking up early everyday and seeing London with everyone made this experience so worthwhile. As nights ended I truly looked forward to what would happen the next day planned or not because of the good times we’d all share.

Getting on the plane home I had a case of “London-sickness” because I knew that a chapter was about to end. Knowing that I’ll wake up the next day and I won’t be adventuring somewhere in London was definitely a little sad. This was my¬†first time flying without my family let alone leaving the country. ¬†Even though, I was little nervous, this journey proved to worthwhile and helped me create bonds that otherwise I wouldn’t have. ¬†On my way to work the next day my feelings of London-sickness have subsided and I can now say that I’ve made new everlasting bonds. Being home I was able to be thankful for not only being able to travel to London, but the people around me. Thank you to everyone that made this experience not only special, but truly unforgettable.

 

The Final Step

I can’t believe how fast the days flew by. With our last full in London, I woke up early and trekked to the Harry Potter store at King’s Cross with Arthur, Autumn, Sheila, and Andrea. I couldn’t keep out of my head how weird it is that our experience all together was coming¬†to an end. After the Harry Potter Store, I went back to take a much needed power nap on Autumns bed while Arthur called to have our Oyster cards fixed. After¬†20 minutes, I was woken up and ended up finishing my nap in my room. Later on, I woke up to get ready for our final group dinner.¬†At dinner, I had a full realization that our trip was over and that this was our last celebration of being all together. ¬†The italian food was amazing (thanks UML) and we shared tons of final laughs at the table. After we finished eating, we¬†presented our group presents to Ingrid and Regina for guiding us on this amazing experience.¬†After dinner, we all went out for our last night abroad which ended up being one of my favorite nights. Going to bed that night was a little hard, because I knew that my time in London was over for now.

Reflection

Now that I’ve had the time to recollect, here are the most important things I’ve learned from studying in London:

1.) Appreciate opportunity. By being in London or any new place for that matter, we often get so interested in wanting to see everything there is to see. We lose sight of why we are there in the first place; in this case: to study and learn. Learning from experience was the best thing I could have taken away from this trip. When else are you going to be able to say that you did something that made a difference in your life overseas? Just think, someone would love to be in your shoes for the opportunity you were given. Make the most of it when you can.

2.) Try new things! Whether if it’s trying new food, going to new place, or meeting new people. Life is way too short to regret something you did not do. You never know how you are going to feel if you never experience it for yourself. Try it, and if you don’t like it that is totally okay. You will be okay. There shouldn’t be an itinerary to your whole life. Your life should never be “regular” or taken too seriously. You are in a new country, try new things.

3.) Be spontaneous, but be kind. Of course you can do whatever you please, but don’t forget to be a decent human being. It is instinctual to put ourselves first, but what about other people that surround you? We get so focused on our well-being and state of mind that we don’t realize how we make others feel sometimes. You never know what a person could be dealing with in their personal life. We are told this from a young age, but do we listen?? If you expect people to take you under consideration, you should do the same for them in return.

4.) Communicate. So many of our problems can be solved if we take the time to find the right words to say. There are several approaches to getting the message across. Be clear and concise, but also be civil. Given the chance that something feels wrong, talk about it. A person can’t fully understand that they have done something wrong if you don’t tell them directly.

This trip has made me look at these four things I have always kept with me in a different light. In just ten days, we were able to take away physical and mental experiences. Studying abroad is a great experience to have, but don’t forget about your values and the things that make you, you.¬†I am thankful to have been able to study in such a beautiful city with my peers and two dedicated professors. We’ve all worked so incredibly hard. I am grateful that we had a safe trip there and back. If I was given the chance to study abroad again, I would take it in a heartbeat. Long live Lab 103!

-Sheila

Monday Blues

It was Monday. 4/5 of the worlds least favorite day…I made this up but it very well could be in all ways true. Mondays are the days that it usually rains, or your favorite coffee shop is closed. Well this Monday was our last full day in the City of London together as a newly formed inseparable bond. We were told it was a free day which was in some ways a sigh of relief since it followed the two days filled with brain power and mental exhaustion, but in other ways felt surreal because this meant it was near the end of our journey. We were given the option to rest our tired little minds by sleeping in which unfortunately I grew weak to instantly. I love sleeping in more than ice cream at times like these. After my great nights slumber, I met up with a group that decided to make way to the Buckingham Palace. We spent a little while there, admiring the beautiful golden sculptures and large black gates. We then made our way to the London Eye, stopping frequently to oooh and aaaah at the geese, swan, and pigeons–

 

I decided to not take part in the London Eye experience but I enjoyed a nice noodle lunch with a friend from our group who had the same interest! After all of this goose observing, walking, and noodle indulging, I returned to THE room 515 to check in on our groups secret surprise. Everyone had taken part in a little something to show just a small amount of how we felt to the two that made this trip worth everything! We each took a few minutes to reflect on our experience(s) here in London, and thank both Ingrid and Regina for everything they did for each and every one of us. During our ‘last supper’, we presented the two prints to them, overwhelmed with¬†appreciation. I still cannot begin to explain just how important these two were during this whole trip! They were great company, mentors, teachers, friends, and sometimes even tour guides.

Not only were both Ingrid and Regina super amazing during this trip– but the rest of the crew was pretty damn rad as well. I got to spend time with all 13 of them in one way or another and in just ten days, learned some of the most valuable and memorable things. I’ll share a couple with you—

  1. Steven has really good reflexes
  2. When given blocks on blocks of sticky notes, don’t EVER underestimate the power of the outcome
  3. Big Ben is a bit smaller than I had imagined
  4. Autumn is basically a traveling Tarot card mentor
  5. Reggie is always willing to high five me after being told “you’re being too loud”
  6. Nina has sick dance moves
  7. Referring to our hotel room as ‘home’ got kind of cute
  8. The Umass Lowell Art and Design Department contains some of the most inspiring, unique people you could ever hope to spend ten days with.

My numbered list could go on to the hundreds but I think my blog would get removed… so enjoy a few that sum it up in my eyes. I am so beyond thankful to have made the decision to go on this trip and pull it off. I feel like this was an experience of a lifetime and one that I will reflect on for the rest of my life. I learned more than I could of imagined learning especially within this timeframe. I am sad that this Monday (that actually wasn’t rainy) had to happen eventually but also extremely happy with the friendships that I walk away with and that beats any Monday filled with rain and closed coffee shops.

Blurry, but we tried

Hack-a-What?!?

Sometimes, you push yourself and in the end it was worth the blood, sweat, and tears… and in this case the brain mush that began to slowly ooze out of our ears. Earlier in the week, Regina and Ingrid had informed us that there was a slight change in the itinerary due to the arise of opportunity. At first, this looked more intimidating than anything but as we collected more and more information on the switch, I grew more excited. We were now given the chance and opportunity to work at Big Radical in groups that were randomly selected. We worked for two days straight in the efforts to create a prototype, informing and helping those who formed a circle around an individual whom suffered from depression. Sounds and feels much like a mouthful if you asked me.

What got me interested was the topic that the Design Jam team decided to zone in on. We talked a lot about stigma of depression and just within those discussions you could bullet point reasons as to why this topic was so necessery and ever so important. Its hard to be human, and not everyone gives each other the credit that we all truly deserve… and without acknowledging this, we lose sight of the importance of being. Depression is a silent, dark place that nobody should have to go through alone, and the fact that Big Radical pulled something like this Design Jam together, really trying to bring discussion and positivity towards this issue was a major step upward and onward. I am so thankful to have been given the chance to meet the people I did during these two days. There were lots of moments of deep thought and silent observations as all the teams created something quite brilliant at the end! It all started with sticky notes and random thoughts, but these began to transform into possible app features and product. Everyone presented their pitch, which followed with a raised glass in company with a toast to all that took part. It truly was amazing what we all witnessed unravel in those two days. I soon realized that this Design Jam held a lot of lessons within it, some different than others but towards the end it all seemed like a lesson worth learning.

After the two hack-a-thon days came to an end, our upbeat selves tempted to do so as well. Our brains felt fried, and our eyes heavy, but we pushed through this to enjoy yet another night of each others company in the infamous Room 515.