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!


Final day in London

Today for our final free day I went to Platform 9 3/4, Camden Town, and The London Eye.

Platform 9 3/4 was probably one of my top experiences here. A group of us woke up early  to take the tube to King’s Cross to avoid the lines. We walked between platforms 9 and 10  and there it was. Arthur and I geeked out the most and we were so excited to take our pictures and then go to the gift shop. Here I am with the Gryffindor scarf and Hermione’s wand (OF COURSE).

Camden Town was the spot to shop and also a place for people of all cultures. There were a bunch of things to choose from due to the fact that the amount of clothing shops/kiosks and food stands/trucks was never ending. It reminded me of a village. I got street food and it was very tasty and cheap. You could even pay a small amount to take a ride on a gondola down the stream. Camden is colorful with culture, I loved it.

After going to Camden, I went to The London Eye. The London Eye was on my to do list when I got to this city. I finally had the free time to go. The line went by fast and it only cost 26 pounds for a ticket. The view from the top was incredible. I loved seeing all there was to see. I bet it looks even better at night with all of the lights. I would love to come back and see it for myself.

After the London Eye, I went to dinner with the entire group. We went to Mattarello where they hand make their pasta. I ordered the tortellini with bolognese sauce with a side of grilled veggies. I inhaled that meal in under eight minutes. During the dinner we gave Regina and Ingrid presents and it was flattering to see how happy they were when they received them. A huge thank you to Regina and Ingrid for all their hard work and dedication! The most memorable moment of the dinner was when we all said what the best/important thing we learned from the trip. I said learning how to further communicate with people not just with people I don’t know but with people I do know. Traveling with a big group of students and the Hackathon taught me this lesson. There were definitely times when situations could have been solved quicker if we communicated with each other in an efficient way. As long as you have people that are willing to meet you half way when communicating, you’re set.

London, you have been a dream.


THE Hackathon

Day 1

Walking into the building where the Hackathon was going to be held was definitely intimidating. I had a pretty brief understanding of what to expect from the conference and even though I was nervous, I was more excited to learn. We were split into groups and I was with my friend Autumn and five other people. To our and her surprise, we were supervised by our group leader, Regina!

With a notebook and pencil in hand, I jotted down a ton of notes regarding process and ideas. Our goal was to create a product that would help people of the ages 18-24 overcome or deal with depression. We were given many exercises that would help us come up with a solution to the brief. The more we started communicating with each other, the more ideas we got.

Here is the thing about sharing ideas. Not everyone is going to agree with each other. As people, we all know that. In a setting where you have a certain time frame to complete each task, it can be extremely challenging. It was hard to please everyone while staying in the constraints of the brief, but to me that was the reality of it. This is what people do every day no matter how frustrating it may get.

One thing I liked the most was that we were a diverse group. The others all had British citizenships but most came from different countries like Chile, China, Singapore, and Venezulea. The most surprising thing that I learned was that the UK doesn’t have the resources that America has when it comes to mental help/health. People in the UK are so afraid of being labeled and admitting to having a problem that they do not go to get help. Even if they do seek help, they have to wait at least six months. Six months is a very long time for a depressed person. In America, we have facilities everywhere and could even walk into clinics or offices. We are also more open when talking about our issues and having our close ones reach out to us when they see a problem. The others in our group were so shocked to hear that we were that open and prepared. We really needed to come up with a solution to help these people.

Nine hours later, we were done for the day without a definite direction. We were all fried and stressed, but I was still hopeful for the next day. I came back from dinner and fell right to sleep.

Day 2

With a full nights rest, I was ready to pump out this project. The day started off way better than it did the day before. All group members were being cooperative and productive. We finalized our idea at the beginning of the day. We wanted to create a platform for students to go on and register to connect with others through a social, academic, and well being platform called WellU. “U” implying “you” or “university.”

The design wouldn’t be targeted to just one university, it would be a system for all universities to use. It would be a mandatory task for students to sign up for this site during orientation. Students will be notified of what there is to do on campus, what resources they can use for help, and where they can go for help. They will be able to further connect with a tappable device which they can choose from either a bracelet, key chain, and card that will be activated on the WebU website. The tappable device can connect you with other people by sharing your social media info and also could be how they tap into getting in buildings and paying for their meals. That way they have to wear it.

Here is a rough of what the homepage will look like: Untitled-2

I’m glad we did not go with our chat bot idea because a lot of other groups made a chat bot experience. We didn’t want to point out depressed people as a whole, we wanted to create something that would get people out of their usual routines to get to know new people given the chance that they maybe depressed.

There were a lot of bumps towards the end of the time we had to work. We all had to bang out information and design in the last half hour. We had to work fast because we were the first ones to present!!! The time came and we presented our project. I was overwhelmed with emotions. These two days taught me a lot about working with others and learning the importance of process. I am proud that I was true to myself when times got really tough. I did not want to give up, I did not want to be discourage, and I definitely did not want to lose my characteristic of being patient and focused. I am very happy for the group that won today!! Overall, we ALL did a great job coming out of our comfort zones by delivering solutions. I am proud I was able to represent UMass Lowell along with my talented peers. A huge thanks to Big Radical, the company that held this event. They were the best with keep us entertained and focused. Lastly, I am very thankful to my professors, Ingrid and Regina, for giving me this opportunity. I could not imagine doing this without them. Much love!


Free Day

This morning at 8:20 we had our first conference call. The conference call was regarding what we should expect at the Hackathon that will happen tomorrow and Sunday. After hearing what we should all expect in the next two days, it made me even more excited to participate.

After having breakfast at the hotel, we went to the Kew Botanical Gardens in Richmond. The Garden covered 326 acres of land and it took Nina, Steven, and I five hours to look at mostly everything. There was a gallery there that had many paintings and drawings of plants that were very realistic and detailed. I can’t imagine painting in gouche paint; it is a pain to work with therefore I have respect for anyone that has the patience to work with it. I enjoyed seeing plants I have never seen before. Regina, who is also a botanical painter, explained her process when trying to paint a subject. The tip that I found most helpful was painting the subject in it’s natural habitat. Regina mentioned that being an artist and designer could benefit from each other. I agree with that statement because it is important to have another artistic talent that doesn’t involve a computer that way you are learning new techniques. These new techniques can apply to design or any other medium and gives the eye a break which is a huge plus. Here are some pictures I took at the Gardens:

After our five hour exploration at the Gardens, Nina, Steven, and I went to Covent Garden. Covent Garden reminded me of Quincy Market in Boston which is one of my favorite places to go when I am back home. Covent Garden had places to shop (high and low end), tons of places to eat, unique kiosks, and of course they had street performers just like Quincy Market. Steven was apart of an entertaining magic trick show where he had to hold up his own jacket for the magician to stab through it with a knife. The magician then used “magic” to fix the hole. Fun fact: Performers at Covent Garden have to tryout in front of judges to claim a time slot to perform.

Now it is time to rest up for the big day at the Hackathon tomorrow. I can’t wait! Talk to you soon!


How is it already Thursday??

For this lovely day we went to the V&A Museum and the Natural History Museum. The V&A was my favorite of the day mainly because there was a variety of things to look at but also I never got confused finding my way around. The V&A is known for their wayfinding and I believe it.

There was a fashion exhibit on fashion designer, Cristobal Balenciaga. He is said to be the king of shape. He created many pieces with all sorts of shapes, forms, and patterns. He always found a way to reinvent himself and as graphic designers, we must do the same but still stay true to ourselves like Balenciaga. Here are some of my favorite dresses that I saw:

I came across this piece by Raphael and it was HUGEEEEEE. Just look at my body language to see my reaction to it. You probably can’t see it but my jaw was dropped.

The Natural History Museum was definitely the opposite from the V&A when it came to wayfinding. All the signs were confusing and some signs didn’t even lead to the actual destination. It needs work. Here is an example of a vague and confusing sign that I thought was hilarious because no matter what direction you went to go down the stairs, you still would not be able to find anything.

Their material and exhibits were great and well designed when it came to posters and descriptions but not their wayfinding.

I find myself being weirdly attracted to orange brick buildings with cream accents. I’m not kidding, I have over 30 pictures of just different orange brick buildings.

The remainder of the day was spent buying souvenirs, exploring, and going to dinner. The dinner was the most memorable dinner I have had here. Thank you so much, you know who you are! Tomorrow we will have to wake up at 8:20am for our first conference meeting and then we are off to the Kew Botanical Gardens. Our time here is going by so fast, I don’t want to leave. Goodnight from London, but good evening to the States!


Design Museum + Wicked = the perfect combo

Let’s start with the Design Museum. The Design Museum is located in Kensington. It covers product, industrial, graphic, fashion and architectural design. The museum did not disappoint for it had a wonderful atmosphere and of course, clean design. We went into an exhibit called California: Designing Freedom.

Some of the things that I enjoyed seeing were the posters and inventions. I was able to see the poster, “We the People” by Shepard Fairey and Ridwan Adhami. This poster was used to protest against the election of President Trump. This poster made headlines because it featured women of different ethnic backgrounds: Native American, Muslims, African American, and Latinas. When this poster came out, it made me proud to be a first generation Vietnamese American woman against the current political events.

I also saw the first Rainbow Flag that was made by Gilbert Baker in 1978 for the San Francisco Pride Parade. It was made with dye on cloth. The flag has reduced to six colors by removing the pink and indigo and replacing the turquoise with blue. Each color has its own meaning: red (sexuality/life), orange (healing), yellow (sunlight), green (nature), blue (art/harmony), violet (human spirit). Today the flag is a symbol for the LGBT community and has appeared more frequently across the entire world.

I even saw the first Macintosh computer that was made in 1984. We’ve come a long way from where we were before. Just look at that mouse!

We also had an exercise to create a logo for “Lab 103” and then we had to present to the group. We were timed and were given guidelines. Here are some logos I came up with.

Lastly, to end the night we went to Wicked right off the Victoria station. This just so happened to be my first live musical and it was fabulous. It’s funny because before this trip I was actually thinking about buying tickets in Boston, but decided that I would buy it when I came back from London. Now that I have already seen it in London, it all worked out in the end! Hearing the music and dialogue in person with British accents was quite the experience. Listening to “Defying Gravity” live was indescribable because it was so spot on from what I’ve heard on Youtube; I had chills during most of it. I admired the costume design and of course the choreography. Watching Wicked has made me want to see other musicals live. I couldn’t have asked for a better day!


Round 1 of Museums

For our first round of museums, we visited Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and The British Museum. The weather was not on our side this morning. It was pouring and the wind made it even worse, but what do you expect? It is England after all. Today we also learned the hard way that the British walk on the left side like they drive on the left. Take the left stairwell whenever you visit London, it is a must especially when it gets really busy. The wax museum was definitely more for fun. It was scary seeing how real some of the sculptures actually looked. I even mistook real people for sculptures. Whoops!

The British Museum was my favorite of the day because I was able to see what I’ve  learned about from my college art courses but also what I’ve grew up learning about my whole life. Here is an example:

These are the Human headed winged lions from ancient Assyria. I remember learning about this first semester of sophomore year in Art History I. Seeing it in person was better than seeing it on a projected screen. The detail and the scale of it added to the effect of being extraordinary. Every person when they were kids was fascinated by mummies, so seeing the mummy of Cleopatra felt unreal.

We walked a bunch today and I cannot feel my feet at the moment. But that’s okay, they will adjust one way or another! There will be more walking tomorrow for we will go to THE DESIGN MUSEUM! Can you tell how excited I am??

I find myself taking pictures of orange brick buildings with creme accents. I have a problem.


The Double Decker Bus


For our second day in London, the class took a ride on the iconic double decker bus. We each had tickets that could get us a ride on any double decker for the entire day. Before boarding the bus, we had our first time experience with the transit called the Underground. We were able to get our own Oyster cards and put money on them just like how we would at home in Boston to take the T. We took the train to the Victoria stop and boarded the bus.

The bus took us to go see monuments that included the Horse Guards Parade, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye.

A group of us chose to get off at Piccadilly Circus. Piccadilly Circus is known as the Times Square of London. Seeing all the big banners and new buildings being mixed up with the old style looking buildings looked funky, but in a good way. There we escaped to a cute pub where I have been dying to eat my first plate of Fish and Chips. It was delicious although I have to say that I am not a Mushy Peas kind of girl.

After eating, my group and I walked down cozy cobblestone roads that took us to different book stores, art shops, and cafes. There was one point where we walked into a book store and probably spent a little bit close to an hour just looking at art and design books. Such great students we are.

Probably my favorite part about Piccadilly was finding London’s Chinatown! I am a sucker for going to Chinatown in every city that I visit. It’s really cool seeing how each Chinatown I see has similar but also different characteristics. You are usually always welcomed with an arch or arches that are decorated beautifully. Then you can choose from a ton of places to eat. What I love about Chinatowns are that they don’t just have Chinese establishments, but Vietnamese, Indonesian, Thai, Korean, Japanese, etc. cuisines that bring a wide variety of people together. I personally think food is the best way to connect with others.

This is for you mom!

Tomorrow we will be going to the Wax Museum and the British Museum. Interested to see how I can apply my Art History knowledge to these museum visits.


First Day in London


Leaving for London was something hard to grasp after finding out about the attack that happened only a couple hours before our departure. I was nervous to set foot in the UK, but now that I am actually here I have decided to stay positive during this trip. Fear will ruin my experience and get in the way of my education if I let it. I plan to be attentive and cautious, while also putting in the effort to have a great time here in London.

Today after getting settled in the hotel, I was able to explore the area with Nina and Andrea. We walked around the Tower of London, walked across the Tower Bridge, and saw buildings that had interesting architectural designs. To finish the day off, we all ate at The Dickens Inn which was our first real meal of the day. It was good; so good that no one said word once we all started eating. With our tummies stuffed, it is time to rest and get ready for the next day!