Today is the day. Today is the day we leave London. We’re all packed up and ready to go. It was an easy laid back morning, but it was definitely bittersweet. This trip brought me so many new and interesting experiences that I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams. Of all the things I gained from this trip the most valuable thing I gained are the friendships that I created, or grew, while here in London. As a commuter student at UML I typically only come to campus for my classes and then head back home right after. Although I’m perfectly content with this I’ve never had the opportunity to grow my friendships with my classmates until this trip. Words can’t describe how grateful I am for every single one of them. There’s so much humor, talent, and caring among us and I’m happy I got to experience getting to know each person better. I’m going to miss our little family and I’m excited to return to school in the fall and see everyone again. Until next time London, thanks for the memories.
Normally Mondays are something that we dread in the US, however for our study abroad experience it is something to be rejoiced. As today is our final full day in London we have the day to explore. I decided to use my day to visit Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross (if you can’t figure it out this is the platform from the Harry Potter series). I was surprised in learning that this is a physical place that exists, though as to be expected it was more of a tourist attraction over anything else. Following this I went with a few others to Treadwells Bookstore, a bookstore that is known for it’s rich literature on Wicca and other various religions. I was extremely interested in visiting this store as I continue to work on research for my upcoming senior studio. At the bookstore I purchased a London specific tarot deck, as well as a book on the Lore of London. I think that this book will be a valuable resource to have, as the puritans from GB who arrived in the US were the source of Wicca arriving to the states which lead to the infamous Salem witch trials. This book should give me an interesting back story to Wicca’s origins in the US and I can’t wait to get home and read it.
Following my trip to the bookstore it was time to get back to reality and start packing because tomorrow is the day that we all leave London. I myself will be off to Stockholm for a couple of days before I return to the US. In tribute to the last day of our trip we had a group dinner and were finally able to present Regina and Ingrid with gifts that we had been creatively hiding over the course of our trip. We all wanted to give them something special to show them we appreciate them as mentors who helped provide us with such an amazing experience. We gave both of them prints from places we visited over the course of our trip and we all signed the backs and left little notes. They were extremely surprised, their reactions were rewarding to see after all of our work to keep the gifts hidden.
To top off our last evening in London our group of students went off to explore one last time to commemorate our final evening. We finished off our night with some amazing memories.
The last two days have been the craziest most rewarding whirlwind experience. Our study abroad group participated in a Depression Design Jam, or hackathon as it is sometimes better known. Going into the hackathon I was eager to tackle the problem at hand, helping to create a tool that allows people around my age in the UK to identify and support friends who may be struggling with depression. For me this was a topic that hits close to home. My Dad has struggled with depression for my entire life, and when I was younger he attempted to take his life twice. It’s not always easy to identify the signs of depression, and even if you do identify it trying to open up communication to talk about depression is an entirely new battle.
On the first day of the Design Jam we were split into groups. Of our study abroad group I was working with Sheila and Regina. Additionally we were working with four or five other people. Following this we split up to research specific areas, similar to what happens day to day in a creative environment. I was sent off to gain knowledge on depression. Though most of the information discussed were things I was already aware of regarding depression I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the stigma surrounding depression in the UK. In the US we’re more open about our feelings and depression is something we’re educated about (at least I was from middle school through college).
Once we had gone and collected our data we returned to our groups to start brainstorming to solve the issue at hand. This was when things got tricky. Although there were an abundance of good ideas within my group several of my teammates did not present their thoughts and ideas in a respectful way. Several of them came off as condescending and misogynistic. They would dismiss the ideas that myself and several others brought to the table. They would talk over us, talk down to us, and tried to control the direction conversation when we were supposed to be in a place of open brainstorming and communication. Experiencing this left me feeling defeated and extremely discouraged about returning for day two. By the end of day one after a lot of arguing we came to a conclusion on our hypothesis. After much mental exhaustion it was time to call it a day.
After day one I needed to return to the hotel and recharge, this day had been filled with a lot of uncomfortable feelings and I had an overload of human interactions and just needed a break. Following a little relaxation I talked with both Regina and Ingrid to try to figure out the best solution for what to do on day two. I was honest and open with them, I said that I felt this experience was not valuable to my education and that with the limited time we have in London that I’d rather spend it doing something more interesting and beneficial. We talked back and fourth for a while and both Regina and Ingrid gave me some helpful life advice in regards to situations such as these. By the end of our conversation I decided to return for day two, and if it was unbearable I would leave when I felt it was necessary.
Upon arriving to day two, everyone was refreshed and ready to go. Though I was extremely skeptical I did my best to be positive and contribute to conversation with our group. Our day started off smoothly and things seemed to be going in a productive manner for once. I was finally starting to feel good about this experience. And then things took a turn of the worst once again. It seemed as if the things that had been agreed upon by the group had now started to be altered by one half of the group and this created tension and disagreement. The day prior I had kept silent to keep the peace. But today I didn’t have it in me to let my thoughts be brushed aside, it was time to stand up for my opinion against those who were dismissive of my ideas. Although it was still a battle I felt somewhat better from no longer staying quiet for the sake of keeping the peace. And though we still were not all on the same page by the end of the day, we were able to solidify an idea and present it to big radical and the other teams.
It was amazing to see all of the ideas and products and services that each group developed. All of them would be useful tools in the fight to aid those with depression. We finished off the day with awards and drinks. Although our group was not the winning idea there were still awards to give out. Surprisingly I won two awards, one for being our groups “Superstar” and the second award was the “Tigress” award for “extreme boldness”. In all honesty I didn’t expect to receive awards, however it was rewarding because they severed as an affirmation that I did the right thing by defending my ideas and standing up for what I believe in.
Over all at the end of the day, I am extremely thankful and happy for the experience I gained at the Depression Design Jam. The reality is that once I graduate from college this is the type of environment I’m going to be immersed in. It’s going to be collaborative, fast paced, and challenging. More likely than not there will be times when I’m require to work with people I disagree with or may not get along with, but that’s just part of life in general. The best thing I can do to combat difficult situations is to be vocal and stand strong on my opinions and beliefs. This hackathon allowed me to put real world skills to use and for that I am extremely thankful (as well for my mentors who encouraged me to be the best version of myself during this experience).
Today we went to visit the Kew Garden. The Kew is definitely the largest garden I have experienced in my entire life. While at the Kew I realized they have terrible wayfinding, and thus found inspiration for my wayfinding project for my study abroad trip.
The Kew had many different types of flowers, trees, and other various plants. However my favorite part of the Kew was the rose garden. I have always found myself to be interested in things that pertain to Alice in Wonderland, so experiencing the rose garden made me feel as if I was experiencing Alice’s journey. The Kew also had a tree top walkway, which brings guests high up among the trees. This made me feel like Alice yet again, because in her journey she eats a mushroom that increases her size/height astronomically. Over all the Kew was beautiful to experience and I was extremely happy to have some nice weather to experience it.
Today we visited the natural history museum and I was in heaven. They had an amazing geology exhibit. I enjoyed seeing all of the rocks and minerals, especially with their large scale. We also decided to go walk through the butterfly tent that was located outside. We were able to get some really nice photos with the butterflies which was awesome. Experiencing both of these things was really enjoyable because I draw inspiration from nature in my paintings. I also bought a really cool book on herbs from the gift shop which I intend to use as a reference when I start to work on my senior studio project.
Today was an extremely busy and jam packed day. We went to check out the Design Museum located in London. Right now they have California on display. California, Designing Freedom, places emphasis on technology, art and political movements, and design within the US (In California duh). It was really interesting to see because I was not aware of how many things had originated in the US. I was also really excited to see some works that I learned about in my aesthetic of graphic design course from the spring semester. I was most interested in seeing the issues of Wired that were on display, a magazine that we frequently talk about in my classes. It was surreal to see the first issue of the magazine in person.
When we moved on to the third floor of the Design museum we were immersed in the Designer Maker User exhibit. This exhibit had similar themes to the California exhibit, however it presented a more global perspective as it displayed technology, art and political movements, and design from multiple countries. In this exhibit I was most interested in the display on the London underground. It showed the process of it’s creation (sketches, etc) which I found really interesting. In design we frequently see the finished product without ever seeing the process, both of which are of equal importance. As a design student learning more about process is what helps us grow and succeed.
Lastly, we finished off our day with seeing Wicked. This was the first large-ish scale play that I have ever attended and I was very impressed. Specifically with the theater itself and the singing/acting of the performers. This was a really nice addition to our trip for us to all do as a group and I would definitely see this play again.
Today was another day filled with adventure. We started our day off with a visit to London’s wax museum. I have to say that originally I was not excited to go, but once we started to go through the museum I was pleasantly surprised. My favorite exhibit in the wax museum was the royal family, it was cool to see what they’d look like in person since we won’t get to see them in person while in London.
For the second part of the day we went to the British Museum. Our professors had warned us in advance that there was no way we’d make it through the whole museum, and prior to arrival I thought they were exaggerating. But I have to say that I have never seen a larger museum in my entire life. It was so surreal to see works of art in person that I’ve spent the greater half of my college experience learning about. I don’t have any photos of the museum in this post because I wanted to focus on being present in the moment while at the museum. There are thousands of photos online that I can easily reference, but being in the presence of those works again is not as easy to relive. I hope to go back to the British Museum again over the course of our trip, because there is still so much that I did not get to see. I’m still in awe thinking about it.
While in the museum bookstore I found the book photographed in this post in the bookstore. I was really happy to find it because I’ve been looking for some good historical references to refer to when researching for my senior studio thesis, where I plan to create my own tarot deck. Over all today was full of inspiration. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the trip has to offer.
Yesterday was our first full day in London and it was full of adventure! We started off our day with an amazing breakfast and then we took off to start our bus tour. Our tour took us all around London and we got to see some of the major sights. We were pretty lucky with the weather, it only drizzled a little while we were on our boat tour and the rest of the day was only overcast. It was really bizarre to see landmarks that we’ve spent years learning about in person. The scale of these buildings and monuments were larger than I could have ever imagined.
After an afternoon of sight seeing we all hopped off the trolly to explore London. We all got lunch together and then shopped around in some gift shops. After a long first day we all went back to the hotel to take naps and recharge before dinner. It was definitely an exciting and eye opening first day in the city!
After a long 24 hours of traveling it feels amazing to finally relax in our hotel. The last day has been pretty stressful to say the least. I found out about the attacks in London when I was in line boarding my flight at Logan airport. At the time I didn’t quite realize the severity of the attack, it wasn’t until I landed in London that I realized how much damage had been caused. I chose to fly separately from the rest of the group, which meant that once I landed I needed to navigate to the hotel on my own. Unfortunately the directions I had written down were of no help as a good portion of the city’s public was not running, but after a couple hours of navigating London I was able to make my way to the hotel and fuel up on coffee.
Following checking in a couple of us went to explore an old church (All-Hallows-by-the-Tower) located across the street from our hotel. The Church is open to the public and has a crypt with extremely old artifacts. It was interesting to be immersed in the crypt, but all of us felt a weird energy with all of the history that had happened there.
Later on in the afternoon we went as a group to have our first meal. We went to an English Pub and enjoyed all types of specialties that London has to offer. A couple of us started to doze off once we were full from being sleepy and jet lagged so after dinner it was time to go back and relax at the hotel. When in London relaxation is done best with a cup of tea.