britain study abroad // 01

Hello! As most of you know, I’ll be starting my Britain study abroad program in just a few days. I can barely contain my excitement! I’ve been staying in the UK for the past week, and I can already tell you that I love British people.

As part of this program, I will have assignments that need to be completed, but when I saw that a majority of it includes writing blog posts summarizing each company visit, I was beyond thrilled because obviously, I’ve been a blogger of six (!!) years now! We will be visiting technology companies in the UK like Amazon, 3D Print UK, F5 Networks, and more. Keep your eyes peeled for those posts!

Before I start my program, I want to discuss what I’ll be expecting as well as my goals:

The Company Visits

I am truly looking forward to the company visits, as I want to learn as much as I can during this program. Some companies I’ve heard of, some I have not. Regardless, even though I was assigned to research and compile a company briefing for 3D Print UK, I still want to do my own research on each company in addition to listening to my classmates’ presentations. I think this will instigate my questions and put my learning to its greatest potential. The more knowledge I have about a company, the more questions I’ll be able to ask.

Because we’ll be visiting 10+ companies, I expect that I’ll be vigorously taking notes in order to remember the details for my blog posts and future reflection paper. I also tend to absorb information better if I am writing it down rather than just listening.

Business etiquette in the UK is focused on punctuality and it actually seems like they are more formal overall, but I’m looking forward to visiting companies that differ in their structure and operations, like 3D Print UK, which has less than ten employees.

I hope that each company visit will inspire me to look into a new topic every time, and allow me to decide which industry I enjoy the most. I am intrigued by technology, and because Seattle is a fast-growing tech city, I am looking forward to comparing London & Seattle’s economic and technological growth.

The Culture & People

In my almost full week of spending time in the UK so far, I already really enjoy the people. Did you know that most people say “cheers” in place of “thank you” here? I absolutely love that. Even though the UK is an English-speaking country, I expect there to be some lingo differences, but not too much else. So far, I haven’t been called out for being “American”, but I’m nervous as I start living in London that the people in the city will start inquiring about the tumultuous state America is in at the moment, which I’d rather avoid talking about. However, I’ve been following British news on BBC every morning as I eat breakfast and the updates on Brexit are a rollercoaster ride itself – I’ll continue following it closely.

I definitely want to live in the UK at some point in my life, so I want the most genuine experience I can get, and that starts with being open-minded. It’s easier said than done, but earlier this summer in my Rome study abroad program, I realized that I was able to enjoy the city so much because a) I was living like a local and b) I was quite open-minded and relaxed. I hope to repeat that mindset in my time in Britain.

That’s all for now, talk soon!

Jen

dear brussels

Whew, I’m pretty much all caught up on my travel posts after this one! I didn’t think I could do it, but here I am! After Amsterdam, my family and I took the train to Brussels, Belgium. We got off at the Brussels-Midi station and walked through Stalingrad. It was drizzling again when we got to Belgium (at this point, we were super used to the rain!). Not going to lie, the area felt a little sketchy but not overly so. We stayed at The Augustin hotel, which was really nice inside! We all dozed off for an hour or two since it was such an early morning for us.

After our little snooze, we visited Manneken Pis, or the “little man pee”. There are a ton of legends behind this statue so I’m not 100% sure which one is true, but the sculpture itself is pretty funny. He’s placed on a corner of a street really high above a fountain, and there are constantly a ton of tourists taking pictures with him. He was wearing khakis, a red shirt and a hat! As we got closer and closer to the city center, the city felt a little less sketchy and more lively with tourists. The entire street was packed with chocolate and waffle shops, it was overwhelming! I had bookmarked a few waffle places I had heard great things about, so I tried out The Waffle Factory. It was delicious! Belgian waffles are truly amazing.

IMG_1198

Next, we walked to the Grand-Place, which was absolutely beautiful. The gold, you guys, the gold! Then we walked to the Galerie du roi, a little shopping strip with even MORE chocolate shops and random hat/clothing stores. We pretty much just did a lot of walking around, to be honest. We passed by the Royal Palace of Brussels and also walked through the Parc de Bruxelles, which I really enjoyed. We walked by the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral as well. As you can probably tell, not a lot of it made a strong impression on me.

IMG_1201

What did make an impression on me was our dinner! It took us forever to figure out what we wanted. We walked into a pasta place but they were fully booked for the night, so I opted to try out a mussels restaurant that had pretty good reviews. It was Chez Leon, and man, oh MAN was it good!! I fell in love with mussels in Italy, and #MusselsInBrussels are up there with the Italian mussels. One of the best meals of the summer.

IMG_1222

After dinner, we walked around some more and then stopped by the Grand-Place at night, since  the square is all lit up. On our way back to the hotel, we passed Manneken Pis again and this time, he was naked!! I’m so curious who takes care of him throughout the day..

IMG_1226

The next day, we checked out of our hotel and took a train to Cologne, Germany! Right when we got out of the train station, the Cologne Cathedral was waiting for us. It’s huge y’all! I went inside with my sister and it was a little different from the other cathedrals I’ve seen this summer. Alas, it still isn’t as impressive as St. Peter’s in Italy. It was a great break from the rain though!

IMG_1232

Then we walked across the Hohenzollern Bridge, which has a ton of love locks on it, like possibly a couple million. It’s so cool seeing all the locks! For lunch, we stopped at Fruh, which is a super cool tavern-like restaurant that serves pig knuckles. It’s really delicious meat! I had a sip of beer that my parents ordered and I understand why people drink beer from Germany now.

IMG_1234

At 3pm, I got on the train back to Brussels! This was the end of my traveling for the summer with my family. It was so sad seeing them standing on the platform while I left the station. I actually shed some tears when they were out of sight. Hey, you can’t blame me: it was raining outside and I was alone on a train, staring out the window…

I checked into my Airbnb right next to the Grand-Place when I got back to Brussels. I had to lug my suitcase up a few flights of very narrow stairs, but the room was really cute and home-y. I got ready for bed really early and waited for my friend Sophie to show up! It wasn’t until 8:30pm; when I opened the door for her, we’re pretty sure there were drug dealers lingering outside our apartment.

We caught up and then quickly went to sleep since she had been traveling for so long. The next morning, she woke up at 6am and went out to explore a bit before I woke up at 9am, but then we left to go get pastries from Carrefour and got coffee at Peck 47. I drank a cappuccino and we caught up on her internship experience this past summer! Sophie is going into public accounting, which is essentially what my goal is at the moment, so she pretty much talked about everything she learned this summer through her internship, it was so cool! I love talking all things accounting and recruiting – can you tell I just want to start working already?! We literally went to a park just to keep talking about accounting. We’re such nerds!

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetIMG_1095

For lunch, we decided to buy a baguette, salami, and some cheese from Carrefour again and to eat it at our apartment. We wanted to save some money! When we got back to our apartment, we were shocked to see… a drunk man passed out in front of our apartment so we couldn’t get past him to get inside. We were super sketched out and luckily, two police officers walked by and we flagged them down to come help us. The police officers removed the guy but Sophie and I were still shook.

After a delicious home-made lunch, we did a lot of exploring: bookshops, jewelry, random stores like that! I showed her Manneken Pis (he was naked but wearing a floral swim cap this time). We stopped by the Grand-Place and they had set up for the Flowertime festival! To satisfy our chocolate cravings, we went to a few chocolatiers to pick up free samples. I brought Sophie to the St. Michael Cathedral and we went inside this time. There’s a really nice lawn right in front of the cathedral, so we sat outside (and got free lemonade!) and chatted a while.

IMG_1219IMG_1259IMG_1261IMG_1265IMG_1270IMG_1272For dinner, we went back to Carrefour again.. lol and got food for a healthy salad and some rosé! We went to bed pretty early because she was still jet-lagged and I needed to wake up early the next day to catch my flight!

To sum up Brussels, I have to say it’s definitely do-able to see the city in a few hours. I’m glad I had a chill day with Sophie where we were just catching up because I had already seen everything with my family the day before. Brussels has a lot of French people but it definitely doesn’t have the same vibe as Paris at all. In fact, I felt pretty unsafe in Brussels the entire time. Perhaps that was culture-shock for me? I’m not sure, but Brussels probably isn’t somewhere I’d recommend to people to put on their must-see list.

dear amsterdam

Hello! How is everyone’s Monday going? I don’t want to reveal which city I’m in just yet since it’s a smaller city, but I’m loving it so far! I’m staying in a single hostel room and it’s just like being back in the college dormitories again.

But on with the Amsterdam recap! My family and I took a flight from Copenhagen to Amsterdam with Norwegian Airlines again, and this was the first time that my flight was delayed. After waiting an extra hour, we boarded, but then we had to wait in the plane for another hour due to technical issues and flight traffic. The air cabin was piping hot; luckily, I was sitting near the front door so it was cooler but the people in the middle were near to passing out. They let passengers go outside for fresh air, thank goodness.

We ended up getting into Amsterdam pretty late, and then took the wrong train to our hotel, so we didn’t check in until 11pm. We stayed pretty far from the city center, but the hotel was really nice and the reception guy was super helpful (not to mention cute!).

B7C9677A-1DBF-419F-AED6-2EF9C2DF0437.jpg

The next morning, we took the metro to the city center. The canals in Amsterdam are so beautiful. Having been to Venice, I have to say that I like the canals in Amsterdam better because there’s more space and the bridges are longer. The water is a dark green and there are usually flower pots on the bridges – so pretty! And there are a TON of bikers in Amsterdam, might I mention.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetIMG_1066IMG_1068IMG_1073

We stopped by The Pancake Bakery for breakfast, a popular place in the city center. I got the Dutch pancakes which were so, so delicious (with cinnamon ice cream!!) but so sweet. I definitely couldn’t finish my own portion! Afterward, we took a train to Zaandijk, a farmland area 15 minutes out of the city center where there are really pretty windmills and a wooden clogs museum. The area is really quaint and adorable. We spent a few hours there walking around, admiring the wooden clogs, and shopping around for souvenirs.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetIMG_1094IMG_1127IMG_1130

We made it back to the city center, and that’s when it started raining pretty hard. I thought the Zara coat I bought a few weeks ago was rain-proof, but that’s the moment I learned that it really wasn’t, lol. But I refused to have the rain ruin my time in Amsterdam! My family and I walked through the Red Light District, which wasn’t as freaky as I thought it was going to be. If you don’t know, prostitution is legal in Amsterdam, and it’s clear which buildings are the brothels: they have a red light on and red curtains.

We walked through Dam Square which was very meh, and then walked over to the American Book Center! I spent a good hour in there; y’all know me and my bookstore obsessions. When I was able to dry off a bit, we went back outside, and the rain had slowed down to a sprinkle. My sister and I scouted out The Fault in Our Stars bench, expecting it to be crowded, but it was deserted. We knew it was the bench immediately when we saw the love locks on the bench and a few “Okay? Okay.”s scratched on the bench. I wish I could have sat down on the bench but it was wet from the rain.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetProcessed with VSCO with hb1 presetIMG_1147

Then we ventured over to Bloenmarkt, a hanging flower market! At first, it appeared to be just tent after tent of vendors selling seeds and fake flowers, but the last tent in the row actually had flowers hanging from the tent’s ceiling! It was gorgeous – and they were selling real flowers, too. I was in flower heaven.

D0BC381C-6B48-4009-8CF7-F568567BD884.jpg

For dinner, my family and I ate at Sumo, a Japanese buffet. It has such a cool concept! You basically pay for the buffet and then you order 6 different rounds of food on a tablet, where each round, you can order 20 dishes. It was so freaking good; I used to hate sushi, but call me a huge fan now.

After dinner, it started pouring again but I had yet to make it to the I Amsterdam sign. So my sister and I ran to the sign, took pictures, and ran back to the metro stop. The pictures didn’t turn out too great though because we were soaked to the bone (lol we tried).

IMG_1168.jpg

We went back to the hotel early and I kid you not, two minutes after my shower, the hotel’s fire alarm goes off. We all evacuate the building, while my hair is still wrapped up in a towel and I’m stomping out in my pajama shorts and flip flops. Oh, Amsterdam.

That’s it for Amsterdam! We were only there for one full day, but I truly loved it. Something about being SO close to the water, y’all. I wish I could have spent more time there exploring the coffeeshops and the multiple bookstores – one day, I’m coming back for you, Amsterdam!

dear copenhagen

Hey again!

My family and flew Norwegian Airlines from Budapest to Copenhagen, Denmark. I was super excited about Copenhagen just because my mentor studied abroad there and absolutely loved it. After coming from Budapest, my family and I were SO ready for cooler weather. We stayed pretty far from the city center in a small town called Lyngby in the Scandic Eritmitage. It was a cute little hotel, right next to a few shopping centers.

We arrived in Copenhagen pretty late but we all wanted sushi, so we stopped by at the Sticks n Sushi near our hotel. When we were seated, we saw that the sushi was way too overpriced. The menu looked amazing, but it just wasn’t something we wanted to pay for. We slipped out and went to eat at the Butterfly Restaurant instead, where I ordered a salmon fettuccine (I’m a HUGE sucker for salmon in pasta, in case you haven’t noticed).

IMG_0825.jpg

The next morning, we ate breakfast at the hotel (live love buffet breakfasts) and then took the train to Frederiksborg Castle. One thing I must say about the Copenhagen trains is that they are so much better than most trains! The seats are so cushion-y and overall a better experience (Seattle, get on it). When we got to the lake next to the castle, we were in awe. It’s gorgeous out there and we opted to take a boat to the castle. It started to sprinkle a bit when we were on the boat and I was low-key triggered (tbt to the Milos boat ride).

9748465D-7888-41D3-BA2F-4DBA3ED0A24C.jpg

We spent a long time just walking around the castle – there was so much to see, and it was so gorgeous! It was pretty brisk and windy that day, but it was so worth it. Eventually, we went inside. I don’t know much about Danish royal history at all, but it was really cool to look at!

IMG_0842

IMG_0867

IMG_0868

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

IMG_0919IMG_0926

We headed out of the castle for lunch and randomly picked Café Valentin. It ended up being really good, they pretty much serve every and all types of comfort food. Since we loved the Frederiksborg Castle so much, we went back after lunch and walked around the perimeter of the lake this time to the adjacent garden, the Frederiksborg Slotspark. Absolutely stunning, and one of most beautiful parks ever.

IMG_0933.jpg

We took the train to the city center because I wanted to see Nyhavn, the 17th century canal waterfront in Copenhagen! When we got to the center of the city, we noticed a ton of bikes, like so many!! The row of colorful buildings was so adorable. We didn’t spend a long time there though because we got hungry and made our way to dinner.

IMG_0958.jpg

While we were waiting for our train to come, two Chinese girls approached my family, asking us how to buy tickets back to Sweden. They had tried buying tickets but their card wouldn’t work and wanted us to buy the tickets for them, since they didn’t have any Danish Krones on them. Y’all, pro tip: never travel to a foreign country without having some of that country’s currency in cash form!! It was so frustrating trying to help them because they didn’t know the area very well and overall didn’t know what they were doing – they had to be younger than 18 years old. I ended up walking them over to the Metro station to help them by tickets, and thankfully, their card worked and we let them go find their way back to Sweden. It was annoying at the time since we spent more than half an hour helping them when we were hungry and just wanted dinner, but in the end, #randomactsofkindness. It never hurts to help other people!

We finally made it to Wagamama, yet another ramen place (can you tell I love ramen?). The ramen was really good but pretty expensive; I’d say nothing beats Seattle’s Kizuki Ramen.

The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel again and then took a few buses to Kronborg Castle up north. It’s so crazy because once you get there, you can literally see Sweden across the water! The area was so refreshing; there’s something about docks, boats, and water that I just love. The castle itself wasn’t as magnificent as the Fredericksborg though: we went inside and everything looked very staged and unnatural. Something super cool though was that they were showing reenactments of Shakespeare’s Hamlet right in the center of the castle all summer, so I watched the first scene. It was pretty funny actually, and the actors interacted with the audience beforehand.

IMG_0978.jpg

After visiting the castle, we grabbed a quick lunch at one of the restaurants near the water, where I had my first fish and chips! I had wanted to try it for the first time in London, but whatever – I loved it. Then we took the bus back toward Copenhagen, where we visited The Little Mermaid bronze sculpture. There were a ton of tourists, but we were able to enjoy some ice cream by the water. Copenhagen is seriously so, so pretty!

IMG_0991.jpg

We walked to the Amalienborg Palace and tried to see the changing of the guard. They were pretty much just standing guard the entire time we were there. It’s a really gorgeous square though! We made our way to The King’s Garden and were able to walk outside but we couldn’t go inside since it was already closed. For dinner, we went to Dalle Valle. Can y’all guess what I ordered? Yep – fettuccine with salmon. I will NEVER tire of pasta, even after a month in Italy!!

IMG_1012

On our last morning in Copenhagen, we checked out of our hotel and made our way to Tivoli! I had no idea it was a garden PLUS an amusement park! It was so cute – it felt like Disneyland but less branded. (Also, Tivoli backwards is I Lov It!) We finished off Copenhagen by walking down the longest shopping strip in Europe, Stroget. It was pretty underwhelming though, to be honest.

IMG_1021IMG_1040

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetIMG_1063

All in all, I really loved Copenhagen. I would definitely go back and visit, probably when I have a solid job because it is SUCH an expensive city! More so than Paris for sure. People in Copenhagen are so nice though (and very blonde-haired and blue-eyed); I got a great sense of their culture when I was there! I have to say that Copenhagen is up there with my favorite cities of Europe so far. So long, Copenhagen!

 

dear budapest

Hey, it’s me, writing again! What are you all up to this weekend? As this post is going up, I’m probably somewhere on my way to the UK! But that’s for a later time – onto my Budapest recap!

I haven’t seen The Grand Budapest Hotel, but I was sad to see that it’s not a real place. I was still looking forward to visiting Hungary though just because I literally knew nothing about the country! After getting off yet another train from Vienna, we made our way to our apartment. It was stifling hot in Budapest, y’all. As our apartment host led us to our room, we were dripping in sweat. The apartment itself was cute and new, but there wasn’t air conditioning.

For lunch, we went to Menza, an authentic Hungarian restaurant that was really nice but also had no AC (at this point, we realized that it was going to be a regular thing). I got the Hungarian Beef Stew with Homemade Pasta and ohmygoodness, it was so heavenly. Probably one of the best meals I’ve had this trip!!

IMG_0682.jpg

Afterward, we took a bus across the Chain Bridge and took the funicular up to the Buda Castle complex. We got pretty high up, and the view of Pest (Budapest is bisected by the River Danube, splitting into the Buda district and Pest district!). We took our time walking around the outside of the complex, and for some reason, I was so, so sleepy while walking around (probably from not sleeping on the trains and instead working on blog posts!). I ended up taking a quick 20-minute nap on a bench, haha.

IMG_0701.jpg

IMG_0704.jpg

IMG_0705.jpg

IMG_0714.jpg

Next, we made our way up to the Trinity Square, which has the beautiful Matthias Church and Fishermen’s Bastion. A lot of beautiful views, for sure! We spent a few hours there before heading back down. Since we bought a 24-hour metro ticket, we decided to take the M2 and just went around the city by train and saw a lot of the city with that. Overall, Budapest just seems like a very hot version of Paris; there’s actually quite a lot of people in this city!

IMG_0728.jpg

IMG_0760.jpg

For dinner, we went to the Café New York Restaurant, which is deemed “the most beautiful café in the world”! Once we set foot inside, I could see why. The ceilings are beautifully adorned with frescoes, just like in a museum. The chandeliers, orchestra, staircases, everything. I was in love. The dinner… not so much. It was really pricy for how weird the food tasted. We got a dessert which was quite good, but other than that, the café is definitely known for its aesthetics.

54D826D9-E382-4E17-9A78-C78BB4D6048F.jpg

FC5B063F-255A-4D1E-A22E-92E7F84AF8A4.jpg

IMG_0796.jpg

That night was probably the most uncomfortable night’s sleep ever. I don’t think I’ve ever been forced to sleep in such heat! Since there was no AC, it was around 85 degrees in our apartment. Right when I got out of the shower, I started sweating again and had to take a cold shower right before going to sleep. We had to shut the windows for security, so I was literally dying. I never want to experience that again.

The next morning, we got on a plane to Copenhagen! To wrap up, I want to say that I really enjoyed Budapest. There isn’t much to see other than the sweeping view of the River Danube, but I just liked the overall vibes of the city, probably because it felt so much like Paris, just a sweltering version!