Day 5- V&A and Natural History Museums

On day 5 of our journey we went to the V&A Museum and the Natural History Museum. Inside the V&A Museum we had tickets to see the Balenciaga fashion show. Now I’m not hugely into fashion especially dresses but I took a lot of pictures for my friend who is. It was interesting to see but I was more interested with the looped video they projected on a beam of the dresses morphing from one dress to another in an animation. Continuing through the museum we saw large sculptures and enormous paintings. I couldn’t comprehend the size of the paintings from art history classes even when we were told the scale is larger than our projection screens. This museum also had some interactive exhibits that would tell you a story of the paintings or as my pictures show, provided a dress up station to have some fun with. We walked through exhibits in smaller groups after the fashion exhibit and my group went through the Asian sculpture collection, paintings, silver and gold crafting, medevial weaponry and clothing, and even a modern designed exhibition.

Our groups split again and some of us went to explore the central courtyard and fountain area outside while others went over to the Natural History Museum early. My new smaller group went to the courtyard area which was a bit windy and cold and then straight to the gift shop. We shopped around for a bit and regrouped with a few more people. (My souvenirs from here are being shipped from the hotel because I somehow left them behind). Then we started our walk over to the Natural History Museum. On our way there it started to slightly rain but it went away fast and we saw a street performer playing recent popular songs on a saxophone who was very talented.

We regrouped again with more people inside the Natural History Museums entrance. A giant dinosaur skeleton stood at the bottom of a large escalator that went up into a meteor. It was a cool installation and then we realized what was actually going to be in this museum (we had no clue beforehand). I originally thought it was a museum of just really boring history class-like things because I was told it wasn’t going to be one of my favorites. Little do people know my love of science and my rock collection made this one of my favorite museums. We didn’t spend a lot of time here however which was okay in the grand scheme of things for this day. Our group split and some of us went to the Earths Treasures exhibit that contained gemstones and crystals all over the place in cases. Then we proceeded to the gift store and spent a long time looking at the collections of trinkets, stones, and scientific yet artistic books.

After we settled on what to buy which took about 30-40 minutes, we went outside to the butterfly exhibit. This was tropical room filled with butterflies that we paid 6.5 pounds to get into and it was worth it. A butterfly landed on me and stayed on me for at least 20 minutes while walking through. We saw passiflora flowers along the walls in huge vines which I’ve never seen before. Overall we had many laughs in there and I pointed out almost anything that looked cool over and over (much like the botanical garden in a later post).

Now leaving the museums the group of friends I was with went to find lunch and we passed some street performances. We watched as a magician put a lit cigarette into a mans sweatshirt and then there was no hole, it was unbelievable. Then we watched a dance group of men that looked like they were in their early 30’s and one in his early 40’s do flips and trips and danced nearly on top of two of my friends. Of course I took videos of both performances and we tipped them some pounds for each. We then went to two different places for lunch and I swear I ate at the oldest plance in London and had grilled chicken that was not very good. But my friend got milkshakes and other friends got Mexican food. We then went to a few shopping stores in the area and in one store several people bought tarot cards because we were going to have a tarot reading night in our friends room 515 where we would meet at the end of the day most often.

This was one of the best moment of the trip. Most of us hanging out in 515 where everyone was invited and just genuine bonding time between us. Once we were back at the hotel some us had dinner with Regina and Ingrid at an Italian restaurant with homemade pasta. The pasta and eggs were yellow in London which was weird but the food was delicious after I figured out how to order spaghetti with meat sauce that wasn’t on the menu. After dinner we had rested maybe 30 minutes to an hour before getting onto more plans. That night we did several tarot readings in 515 and the accuracy was unreal this became a theme to later nights. But by 3am it was of course time to sleep and prepare for the next day of fun.

Last Day in Paradise

Yesterday, I ventured out on my own to eat lunch with my aunt who has lived just outside of London for the past 11 years. I had risotto at an Italian restaurant near Oxford St and Bond St. It was amazing, I missed my aunt so much. It was so nice to get to see her during this time. After that I went to a Dr. Martens and then ventured over to the Tate Modern. I meant to to visit and see some of the exhibits but I found an art book store across the street. I spent almost an hour in there. I probably would have bought the entire store if I had the space in my luggage. But I knew I didn’t so I only bought two.

We went to dinner as a group later and had amazing Italian food.

But alas the day has come. Today  we get on a plane and go home. I don’t want to leave, I want to stay. London has been amazing. I can’t wait until I have the chance to go back.

Day 10 – What an Experience

Well sadly, today is the day that all of us head back to the airport and leave the beautiful city of London. I don’t know what to say besides that I had a wonderful time here and wouldn’t change anything. From visiting all of the museums and going out to explore the city, this trip allowed myself to do everything I have ever wanted to do when I had the chance to visit London. When looking back on this trip, I can say that I am glad that I chose to participate in this opportunity months ago. After visiting all of the museums during this trip, I would have to say that visiting the Design Museum was my favorite. Being able to walk through and see designs from their beginning to their present look allowed me to better appreciate the dedication and change that designs have to go through to meet with current standards. While at the Design Museum, we had a thirty-minute design challenge that allowed us to all of us to come together and design a logo that represented family. This was an easy logo to design because the family that we had to represent was the family with one another. I believe I have been able to get closer to everyone on this trip and create better bonds that will last for a lifetime. When going to all of the museums and other fun activities that were planned for this trip, I don’t know how it would of been if any of the people that were on this trip had decided not to go to London. Everyone was a key factor in making this trip amazing and everyone was able to put in their own creative input.

Speaking about creative input, the Hackathon that we all participated in allowed all of us to put our design skills to the test. This allowed me to see why I chose this career path and how everyone I have been with on this trip is incredibly talented. The Hackathon allowed myself to see what I am able to do in a less than a forty-eight-hour period and see how I am able to work on a big project with a limited number of group members. The Hackathon has also allowed myself to create new connections with my group members that I can contact when having to do a project in the future. I believe that the Hackathon was a good way to end the week because it allowed all of us to just sit down and just focus on design work. After walking to every destination that was on our itinerary for the first five days, it felt nice to just sit in a nice air conditioned office space and create artwork for a product that needed to be made. Even though that the Hackathon wasn’t on our original itinerary, it was always on my bucket list. My roommate during the school semesters has been participating in Hackathon’s since he was a freshman and has always said that they are fun and exciting to participate in. After finally being in one of them, I can now say that I completely agree with him. The Hackathon wasn’t the only thing that I was able to check off my bucket list on this trip. Seeing the Broadway musical Wicked was something I have ALWAYS wanted to do and was successfully able to check off my bucket list. Being able to see the famous Broadway musical here in London is something I will be able to brag about to my friends for ages. This is something that I won’t be able to do in a very long time or even for the rest of my life. I am very thankful that I was given this opportunity and can’t thank Regina and Ingrid enough for being able to find time in our busy schedule to fit this show in. Being in love with theatre, it has always been my dream to see a famous Broadway musical. The show was amazing as I have always thought it would be and I am still singing the songs to myself to this day. Having these opportunities become available to you on a once in a lifetime trip only makes it more special.

Overall, I do not believe that I would of been able to gain these wonderful experiences if I have had gone to another college. This London trip has been everything I could have asked for and more. Being able to have both constructed time for activities in the morning and early afternoon and free time in the late afternoon allowed for all of us to follow a consistent schedule. This would allow us to understand how each of our days would be planned out and how all of us would be able to plan our free time when it was available. I believe that this was the perfect combination for this study abroad trip because it allowed for people to go out to visit the parts of the city that we wouldn’t be able to cover on the itinerary as well as allow for people to not to become tired with constant mandatory trips every hour of the day for the full nine days. We could either go back to the hotel after our mandatory morning trips and relax or we could go straight to our next destination afterwards, which I found to be the perfect combination for all of us. I would like to say thank you to the UMass Lowell for creating this study abroad opportunity for students just like myself to participate in. I would also like to thank the two professors that came on this trip; Regina Milan & Ingrid Hess. Without you two, this trip wouldn’t have been as awesome as it was. Both of you were able to use your amazing personalities and found a way to make this trip exciting for all of the students. I would like to thank my parents who have shown their support for me and my passion for art. Without them, I don’t know where I would be today. I would also like to thank my friends and classmates who were on this trip. If it weren’t for all of you, I wouldn’t have had the awesome experience I had here in London. You guys rock! This trip was a fantastic experience and I can’t wait to tell everyone about my trip. Once again, thank you UMass Lowell. I owe you one.

The Best Group of People You Could Ask For

It was our last day here in London, and I didn’t really have any plans after waking up. Some people went to do some more sightseeing, some went to shop, but I just stayed in the hotel and grabbed some food and hung out with Ashley and Kaity.

The next thing you know, it’s dinner time with the group. We had a really nice dinner at an Italian restaurant, and we give out our gifts that we stealthily bought, for Ingrid and Regina, the best mentors we could ask for on the trip. We all raised our glasses and cheered, for it was the end of our trip.

I thought that was gonna be the end of the night, but boy, was I wrong. All of us minus the profs went out to a club — mind you, I have never been to a club before. I was never a party person, nor am I a very outgoing one, either. But this was the greatest time of my life. Great dance music with friends, which relationships that I’ve been able to build more in this trip, and bright lights; what more could you ask for a great night out?

This trip has been such a blast for me. I came into the trip on a sour note with all the personal things that have happened to me in the past months, and I can feel like I am such a different person now. I don’t feel this heavy weight on my body as much, and I have more great friendships and network than I started. I experienced way more than what I can muster myself to do on a daily basis, and I will cherish these moments forever. Thank you to everyone that has been a part in making this trip happen. Thank you to my everyone who went on this trip, because you guys are the MVP, and made this trip really enjoyable for me.

Last Day

Today was our last full day in London. I accidentally slept in and missed out going to platform 9 3/4 but I needed to catch up on sleep. I started the day by packing and going out to lunch. Later on Sarah, Sheila, and I went on the London Eye right before our last dinner as a group. At dinner, we presented Regina and Ingrid with prints we had all signed just to say thank you for all they had done for us on this trip. Later that night almost all the students went out for one last adventure.

The next day we all woke up bright and early, packed up our final stuff, made our way through the airport, and embarked on the eight-hour journey back home.  I was excited to go home to the people I left behind but I was also sad that I had finally gotten comfortable with London and everyone on the trip. This trip was by no means an easy breezy experience for me. I had to learn to adjust and be more flexible on this trip, it’s really hard to plan for a group of sixteen to do anything. Despite being so far outside of my comfort zone I really was blessed with such an amazing experience with the greatest group of classmates that I now can call friends. This trip taught me more about being a professional, functional, enjoyable adult than I could have ever imagined. Not to mention the unimaginable amount of exposure to design and experience in design thinking. I would not trade this trip for the world. I am so grateful to the people who made our time abroad such a rememberable experience.


Until next time London

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.

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.


Cheers, London

It’s exceptionally bizarre to think that, come tomorrow, I can lay in bed and not go anywhere, or do anything. Come tonight, actually – we’re sitting in Heathrow airport right now, and where this entire trip has been nothing but chatting and giggling and intermittent, excited conversation, now there lingers a sort of moroseness over everyone. Last night, we went out as a group, even those of us who don’t really find the party scene particularly intriguing, to celebrate the last night of a trip that – not to sound corny – changed our lives.

For me, the trip taught me something exceptionally invaluable; I am capable of more than my illness tricks me into believing. When I first signed up for the study abroad trip way back last semester, it was with a sort of terror-tainted trepidation – I wanted, badly, to challenge my personal limitations and try to overcome the hesitance, anxiety and fear that kept me locked in my bedroom for the better part of the last few years. Happily, I can say I did just that; I spent every day socializing, leaving my phone – and my digital support network of friends from across several countries – alone save to take pictures required for the projects we have to do on our return, going out and connecting with the people that we went on this trip with and just going out in general, all of which is very foreign for me. Though the last day left me totally overwhelmed and in desperate need of alone time to recharge, the idea that this trip is over hasn’t fully hit me. Despite how hectic it was these last nine days – running across all of London, trying to cram as many sights and as much history and intrigue as we could into every day – coming to a sudden standstill, and being away from the new friends I made is a bizarre thought. Going home to America is an even worse thought.

I wanted to say something at our last dinner that I couldn’t quite get out; the thought of drawing attention to myself in such a selfish way when everyone was riding on a high of great humor and camaraderie felt in exceptionally poor taste, but to those of my fellow students who happen to see this blog post – thank you. You made the last nine days amazing for me. For the first time in a long time I felt loved and welcomed in a group of people, despite how odd and sort of introverted I can tend to be. You never failed to extend an invitation to every event you attended, and even though I was often silent or failed to turn up, just being asked and invited was massively important to me. You all reminded me of the value of having people, real, physically present people, in my life who can listen and converse and share ideas and craft their own microcosm of humor. This past semester was the worst one I’ve ever experienced; there were more than a handful decisive moments that might have made going on this trip impossible. The thought of this trip, at times, was all that kept me going, in a hope that sometimes felt vain (for no fault of your own, not a single one of you was a person I dreaded to spend time with, but a mental illness does funny things to your senses, most of all your sense of foresight) that this trip would be enjoyable and able to kick start some positive change in my life. So, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for blowing away my expectation by being kind, caring, supportive, and overall brilliant for every moment of this trip, from start to end.

Cheers to you, London Study Abroad Group, 2017 – Cheers, Lab 103, and Cheers 515! Until we meet again next semester,

Last But Definitely Not Least

I definitely prefer the London Underground to the T. Look how thoughtful and well-lit their stations are!

The last full day in London.

What could I possibly write to sum up my experience in this magical city?

On my last day, I got to see Buckingham Palace in all its touristy glory. I walked through St. James’s Park and ate lunch at a noodle bar. I had dinner with 15 amazing Americans and then (in a rare excursion for me) clubbed with 12 of them. I rode in an Uber for the first time and fell asleep at 2am.

My last day here was amazing, as were the 12 days that preceded it. I am so beyond grateful for the experiences I’ve had here and for the new friends that I’ve made–American, English, Lithuanian, and Argentinian–that all share my passion for digital art, empowerment through design, and typefaces (I’m also thankful they’re open to being nerds about it in public, because most people don’t appreciate it when I look at a menu and start discussing a lack or surplus of white space).

I’d like to extend a thank-you to all of the following people (and more) for making this adventure a reality:

Grammi and Grampi: Thank you for being such huge supports in my education and personal life, and especially for helping me navigate the obstacles of air travel.

Grandmaman: Merci beaucoup pour votre amour et des bisous. Je t’aime!

Regina and Ingrid: Thank you for being such amazing professors. The students, faculty, and entire design program are so blessed to have you and your insightful leadership. Regina, thank you for letting me visit you in Scotland and for exploring Edinburgh and travelling with me. It was absolutely amazing! I’ll never forget it.

All my new friends: Thank you guys so much for accepting me and being amazing people and artists! I know I can be a pain sometimes but I really enjoyed getting to know all of you and can’t wait to see most of you in the fall.

Big Radical: Thanks so much for allowing us Americans to participate in your Design Jam! It was an awesome experience and we look forward to keeping touch with you for future events and opportunities. I’m open to internships!!! ?

Mom and Dad: My two biggest supporters. Thank you so much for letting me go on this trip, despite all the mayhem that has been taking place in the past year. Thank you for believing in me and trusting me to be a smart traveller in a foreign country. And thank you most of all for allowing me to pursue my dreams and help me transform them into reality. I love you both so much and I can’t wait to see you!!!

And thank *you*, UMass Lowell, for letting this entire trip happen in the first place, and for keeping tabs on us when the environment became tricky. I’m so proud to be a Riverhawk!

Self-Reflection (Hackathon)

I had my doubts in working with this project at the hackathon because of how close the topic of depression is to me: I have experienced depression in the past, and more recently, too. In the end, this event was such a great learning experience and pushed my boundaries and helped me grow.

The first day started with briefings, meeting our respective group members, and learning more about depression. Big Radical, the development studio that hosted this event, also gave us great insights on depression and on the tools that we can consider for the project. My team consisted of a couple of researchers, a digital program lead, and three graphic designers: Steven, Reggie, and myself.

During the insight stage, I was reading through the stages and symptoms of depression; and looking back, I can see myself going through the same moments in my depressed times. It was self-reflective and reading about it didn’t make me feel lonelier, instead it made me feel better. All I can see from that graph is that there are different ways and times we can help people with depression.

After understanding more about depression, we head straight to coming up with ideas. This was probably where most of our time and work was put into, since it took a lot of back and forth between all the members to agree on a solid idea — and be on the same page. We were supposed to come up with a team name, which didn’t happen; but at least by the end of the day, we came out with a pretty solid idea.

The second day was like a really long work day. We had to work on prototyping the idea/app itself. We had some small changes and additions to the app/idea that needed to be worked on. What I disliked from our group, however, was the fact that one person kept insisting on focusing on the language and features of the app when we need to be focusing on other things. It seemed like she doesn’t get the fun or basic idea of what makes our app appealing. We must’ve spent a couple of hours in total arguing from both days — a couple hours which would have been more valuable in discussing the underlying idea instead of the finer details. We also had to work on presenting the idea to everyone at the event, and will be judged.

We were the last to present our ideas, and we came up with the name Cyan Wolves just two hours before the event ended, which to me was kinda meh. The awards were given out to everyone, and then the judges announced Altru to be the winner. Then it was photo time! And then it was time to leave. I was really sad and happy: sad that the event is coming to an end, and happy that I got to go to this wonderful event.

I am really happy and thankful for the opportunity to meet and work with different people, and therefore growing as a person for the better. I learnt so much in just these two days. I learnt that a good leader is really crucial in how productive the team can be. I learnt that I am not the best, still, at trying to express my thoughts and ideas. I also learnt that I cannot be as passive of a person in these discussion and debate situations. When compared to working alone, working with other people is much harder, but it is really fun, collaborative, exciting, and very informative on human behavior. We learn so much from each other, and from situations that are out of our comfort zones. What I noticed also is that design thinking is very helpful in almost all situations, especially when trying to come up with a more tangible idea.

I would definitely do these sorts of events again in the future. They really bring out the best of people, and help us as a group and community grow.