Day 9 – Last Day for Tourist Adventures

Sadly, the day has come and this is our last full day in London before we head out to the airport tomorrow to go back to the United States. It’s a bitter sweet moment, because I would love to stay here for longer. Only having nine days to do all of the adventures we have done is possible, but if we had more time I believe we would of been able to visit more destinations. Also, since being here I have adapted to the culture here in London and believe I have started to fit in with the locals. Before having to think about the disappointing fact that I have to leave tomorrow, I was able to use my time wisely and enjoy my last day here in London. My day started off with going out for breakfast around the corner from the hotel, since my roommate and I caught up on some sleep and just missed the breakfast provided by the hotel. Once we finished, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the two most important destinations on our trip; Buckingham Palace & The London Eye.

Buckingham Palace was just a few Tube stops away, which wasn’t that bad. When walking around Buckingham palace, it was nice to see the building and how amazing it looked. The statue in front of the building was also beautiful and worth all of the pictures I took. The Buckingham Palace was a short trip, since there wasn’t that much to see because we weren’t allowed into the building. When myself and the group I was with were finished taking pictures, it was time to walk to the London Eye. When walking to the London Eye, we had to walk through a park, where we saw many types of birds such as Pelicans, Pigeons, Ducks, Geese, and Swans. I was amazed at how many birds we saw on such a short trip! After walking through the little park, we were able to find the London Eye and started making our way over the bridge to get in line. Once we had crossed the bridge, we made our way down to get to the gate to get in line. We had bought our ticked before hand so we wouldn’t have to have the hassle of purchasing them on the spot. The line was short, so it didn’t take long for the three of us in the group who had purchased tickets to get right on. The whole London Eye experience took about 25-30 minutes, where we were able to see many beautiful skylines and lots of perfect picture opportunities. I believe that the London Eye was a great experience and I am happy that I chose to partake in this activity since I probably will never have this opportunity again. After the London Eye made its 360-degree loop, it was time to get off and head back to the hotel. It was great to experience these last two things that were on my bucket list for this trip. I now believe I have done mostly everything I have ever wanted to do if I had ever traveled to London, and I can’t thank UML enough for giving me this great opportunity.

Once getting back, my roommate and I started to relax before we had to head to a group dinner at Mattarello to think about all of the great times we had and new friends we made on this trip. To thank Regina & Ingrid for all that they did for us on this trip, we presented them each a present that we thought would mean the most to them. When looking back on this trip, I would say that everything was perfect and I wouldn’t change anything that happened. Having Regina & Ingrid on this trip made this trip a lot better because all of us have had them as professors for so long before this trip. For one last hooray, 95% of us in the group decided to go to a club to finish this trip out with a bang. It was a lot of fun and I’m happy that we were all able to go out together as a group and celebrate the time we had here in London. It ended the night off perfectly and will be able to leave a nice lasting memory when thinking back on this trip. For today, I would give it a 11/10, which would bring the total trip score to 93/90.

Family Dinner

For our last day in the city, we bad more or less free reign, with a group meal planned for the evening. A few of us woke up early and went to King’s Cross station to visit Platform 9 3/4, of Harry Potter fame. I was over the moon that we got to do this. Sheila and I had been geeking out here and there all week, and we got to take our pictures with a trolley halfway through the wall. I also picked up a bunch of HP souvenirs for my cousins and a couple coworkers. I’m totally of the Harry Potter generation and it’s always been important to me, but even I was shocked by the excitement of visiting that attraction. Everyone in line was excited, too, and I heard our neighbors chattering away. We spoke various languages, but you can always recognize “Harry Potter”, which  brought us together in that spot. It hardly felt like waiting in line.

Lunch was cider and pie! So good!

After that I took a quick nap. I had the chance to hop across the river and visit the Globe super briefly, which I knew my theatre-geek friends would love, and one of the Tate gift shops. We didn’t have time to go in, but whenever I can make it back, Tate Modern is probably my first stop. I got to pick up a couple flyers with interesting typography, and we did find wrapping paper for the gifts there. A little more downtime followed before it was time to get ready for dinner. 

Earlier in the week, we’d picked out gifts for our professors, and tonight we’d be presenting them at dinner as a memory of the trip we all shared. Autumn & Otto did a stellar job of making sure everyone contributed their share and had a chance to sign them beforehand. We all poured the gratefulness and affection we had for Ingrid & Regina into those gifts. It was like seeing the culmination of our growth as a team come to life when the last signature was marked and we started to wrap them on the floor of room 515. A few of us made sure to get to the restaurant well in advance so we could hide them from view. The look on their faces when we pulled them out made us all smile and laugh. It was truly a team operation, too—we had a group chat without the professors, and made sure when we were in those gift shops that someone was keeping tabs on what they were looking at (and making sure they didn’t get the same for themselves). A couple of our original gift ideas were vetted by this process because the person acting as mole was able to warn us—”Regina already owns that!” and we all had a slice of the fun in being sneaky. It went off without a hitch.

After dinner, the others went out together. It sounded like a great time! It’s not my scene to be up late or around a lot of noise and people, so I was more than happy to tap out and pack my things. But I was stoked to see members of the group who hadn’t joined in on group activity much throughout the trip go all in and have a blast together. Their excitement was infectious. The motivation from this trip will fuel me to do my best with all the work, and the relationships I got to form will, hopefully, be part of the rest of my time at UML and beyond. 

Day Nine

Well, there ya have it folks.

It’s our final night here in the city of London. I am finding that 10 days was the perfect amount of time to spend here, for me at least. Yesterday I would’ve said that I wasn’t ready to leave, but now I am.

Upon leaving for this trip, I had been in San Fran for 5 days and then home for a few and then I was off and flying again. You could say I am certainly ready to relax at home. This summer has already been one of the busiest yet, but I love it. Reflecting on this study abroad trip, I am so, so grateful for the experience.

I think there is slight a divide between students in our major who commute and those who live on campus. I did live on campus, but I was the only one who lived on east campus out of my whole class who lived on south. I definitely felt like that distanced me from those students as well, which was really difficult for me. They all became close from living in the LLC together when I ended up living on a business student floor on the other side of the city. Most of my closest friends are now business majors, not that that was a bad thing, but it took away from the relationships I feel like I could’ve made stronger if I was there all the time. Living on east campus drew me away from south campus which I purposely chose to do because, at the end of the day I wanted to separate myself from where I spent so many hours in class. That just works better for me.

This trip though, brought those from all locations together. I am so happy to say I can walk away from this experience with 15 close friends, the professors included. My relationships grew stronger by the day, and the older I get, the more that matters to me. I would say that I am a pretty shy person upfront, but I like to think once I’m warmed up, that part of me subsides.

I will never forget London by Design, and I hope to make it back here one day, who knows, maybe one of the connections I made at the hackathon will convince me to get on out here for work.

Aside from the pretty gloomy weather, this trip was hands down amazing, and I feel as though I’ve grown as a student, designer, and friend. Thank you UML for making all this possible.

Peace, and love.


Last Day in London

Today is our last day in London and it is a very bitter sweet moment.  It has been an amazing experience to come to London and to see everything that we have on this trip.  There is so much to see here in London that I was not able to see everything I had wanted.  For our last day here, I decided I wanted to see to see Buckingham Palace and London Eye before we left.  Buckingham Palace was a lot bigger to see in person than I had expected.  Everything about it was elegant and beautiful.  The architecture was really neat to look at because it had so many fine details.  My favorite part about Buckingham Palace was the sculptures/statues in front of it.  They were amazing works of art to look at.  The statues were made with such beautiful details and were massive in scale.  The center statue was my favorite. It was so captivating to look at I felt like I could just stare at it for hours.  After I visited the palace, myself and a few other students walked through a very pretty park.  It was so peaceful yet very busy at the same time.  There was tons of ducks, pigeons, pelicans and swans everywhere that would come up to people walking in the park and interact with them.  It was unusual to see these animals so comfortable with people.  After we took our stroll through the park, we headed over to the London Eye.  At first, I was skeptical and did not see why this ferris wheel in particular was so special.  But once we started approaching the top of it, I understood why.  The London Eye had the most amazing view of the city.  It overlooked all of London and the River Thames.  We could see all the major and iconic landmarks through out the city.  I wished I could’ve stayed at the top forever.  Having the London Eye as the last place I visited was a fantastic way to end the trip.  I will forever remember the awe-inspiring view I had overlooking all of London.


Monday Fun-day

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.

Big Rad(ical) Hackathon

DAY 1:

Waking up was extra rough this morning (Being out until 3am doesn’t help), but it was the first day of the Hackathon. I woke up a passed my alarm clock, but I eagerly got up and ran downstairs just in time to trek to Big Radical. I know there were some people a little peeved by this impromptu Hackathon, but I was overall excited to see how an agency works and to dip my toes in UX. Although I was excited, I was also a little nervous due to my huge lack of UI/UX experience, but it only motivated me to learn and perform to my best ability. Getting there I was teamed up with Otto and Steven, which gave me comfort because we all had tons of strengths that would easily help us collaborate together. I was also paired with David, Yihan and our team leader Anna who were in business, data analytics, and marketing. Interestingly enough we all meshed and our ideas were flowing. After 9 exhausting hours of brainstorming we were finally able to conjure up an interesting idea that utilizes Augmented Reality to tackle depression. After a couple beers, we all went to the hotel where everyone pretty much just relaxed after a very demanding day.

DAY 2:

This morning I woke up on time  and got a full breakfast. I was super excited for day 2 because, it was time to make our idea come to life. As soon as we arrived, we split into our teams and started working. Otto, Steven, and I worked on prototyping while our other teammates worked on the presentations and the analytics on how this product would work and effect the public. While 9 hours seems like an immense amount of time we slowly realized it wasn’t. We were working very quickly, which made me learn a lot on the fly about UI/UX at a rate I’ve never before. As the hours went by we finally developed our platform, “Chat Cloud”, and presented it to the judges. Overall this was an amazing experience and I would love to participate in more Hackathons in the future. 

hacking a problem not a computer

Saturday and Sunday were spent at a Hackathon hosted by Big Radical. There were six groups trying to find the best way to help people who are trying to be supportive to a person with depression. I found the first day much more enjoyable than I had anticipated. I learned a lot about the process of creating ideas and being patient with individuals who may not know as much as you do about a certain subject, like depression, but feel the need to constantly talk. By the end of the day, we created Lola who was our client and Ava who was a personable program that can provide play by play support during a conversation. Ava can also simulate practice conversations for people who are nervous and want to run through difficult conversations before talking to the person they are trying to support. I found our idea rather safe and like done before but our more daring ideas definitely had privacy conflicts and conflicts with a diagnosis coming from a machine.

Day two was much more stressful. We had to now make our idea a physical prototype and half of our team just didn’t come back for day two. I also was personally drained from doing extrovert activities the day before that I personally wasn’t prepared to be super helpful day two. I was also pushed over the edge with an activity called extreme yoga, never again am I going to crawl on a floor under a bunch of strangers on video. Day two ended with presentations. I didn’t feel prepared or proud of our product. I actually had a really hard time standing behind it during the presentation. Finally, we got through the award ceremony and I could go back to the hotel room to be alone and recharge.

The weekend as a whole was a great experience which resulted in good connections for UMass Lowell as well as individual students. I am more confident in my ideas but and now extremely worried about my future as a designer being as anxious and introverted as I am. I’m sure everyone took something different away from the Hackathon, but I know we all got at least one positive lesson, experience, or connection from it.

Regina’s group presenting their idea.

Day 8 – Hackathon Day 2

Look at this…we’re back at the same place that we were at yesterday. Back at the Hackathon at Big Radical! Today, we were going to design our project and make it come alive! When coming together in our groups though, four of my partners were there….but three were missing from yesterday. It wouldn’t have been bad if they told us if they weren’t going to be there, but they didn’t tell us and they had all been working together about the story of our project. Even though they weren’t there…we gained someone very important! Our team gained INGRID HESS! Once Ingrid joined our team, it was time to start rolling. After many hours of work, and a exercise that killed my legs and made the whole Hackathon crawl on the floor, our project was complete. I was very proud of how our project and presentation came out and thankful that I was able to survive the two days. Everyone had to present a five-minute presentation about our project and tell the three judges what it does and what it would do to to help people better understand depression. It was great to experience these presentations because it allowed myself to gain experience for when I have to give more presentations in the future.

After all of our presentations, the judges went and decided who would be the winner. After they left, it was time to relax and wait till they came back. When they gave out the awards, it was fun to see who received awards for their hard work. Even though my team did not win and I didn’t receive a singular award, I had a lot event at this event. Once the awards were over, groups took pictures together and we all set our separate ways. After getting back to the hotel, it was time to relax after working for two days straight. It was nice to be able to cool down and not have to think about anything. When looking back at this event, I can say it was a great experience and I’m really happy that we were able to participate. I was able to create some form of branding in an app for our group before I scrapped the idea. I will continue this app design for my portfolio and will try to work on it for the rest of the summer. I would give today a 10/10, which gives the trip an 82/80 so far. I’m really disappointed that this trip is almost over. I have enjoyed everything that we have done so far on this trip and I wouldn’t change anything I have done on this trip. I’m hoping tomorrow goes by slow as it is my last day before having to take a seven-hour plane ride back to Boston. I am going to miss London.

Ingrid working on illustrations to be photographed for our presentation.

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!


Trust the Process

The past two days have been so incredibly draining. I have never done a Hackathon before and yes I was very weary about it, but it taught me some amazing things. I was a little nervous about being thrown into this event with only a few days notice. I was also nervous about the team situation, and how many people would be on them, and what was expected of me. I feared letting my team down.

One time I was asked to really think about this question: What is your biggest fear? After a lot of thought, I’ve narrowed it down to this: I am afraid of not being good enough. And I mean that in all aspects of life. But this weekend in specific, I was afraid I would not be a good enough designer, teammate, communicator or even leader in some instances.

What helped my comfort level during the Hackathon was that my entire group in which I traveled with was there, two classmates were even in my group! It was nice to have familiar faces around and people I felt at ease to talk to.

Of course as one of the three graphic design students on my team which had the beautiful and creative name of BlueSky (haha) I enjoyed the visual parts of the project the most. Our solution for the issue at hand was essentially a chatbot (Ava) who could direct a conversation with someone who has a friend that could be showing signs of depression or who are depressed by consulting and advising each situation in a unique way.

Circling back to the part that I enjoyed the most, I was a soul believer that naming our service was a very important part of the process and would take a lot of thought. We wanted it to simple and straight to the point but also friendly and approachable. Searching for keywords that fit well with our product we came across the word Avail. Which means help. Stemming from that word we got Ava. Ava is also in the word available which she is, 24/7 through any social media platform. It’s as easy as friending her page.

I also had so much fun designing a logo for Ava aside my teammates. Looking at the process is one of my favorite things and it makes me feel very accomplished. Here is how we landed on the final version.

Starting with something like this, except an extremely rough version which was scribbled out on a sticky note:

Adding color and leaving shape but taking away the lines we got to this point (are you seeing fortune cookies too?):

Then one of my teammates suggested we look at the shape that is created once we combine both the A and V of the previous design:

Refining the inner structure of the shapes we then got to this point:

After realizing it resembled that of an easter egg we gave the shape a more round appearance, trying many variations of color to still give it a playful appearance we landed on this:

Finally, giving it a bit more dimension and sophistication with the spaces that we created between each opacity we agreed on our final logo:

I’m extremely proud of my team and all that we accomplished in the past few days and I think it was a great experience for us all.