Hello Boston!

I’ve been back at school for over two weeks now, and while I’m glad to be back with my friends I am feeling the travel itch! Thankfully there is tons at BU to keep me occupied, from challenging classes, to working at the Boston University Admissions office, to serving on the community relations committee for the Boston University Global Day of Service, hosted through the community service center. One of the best thing about being back has been seeing all my friends – who are more than happy to give me a big hug (and occasionally squeel!) when they see me! It doesn’t get old running into friends on campus who I haven’t seen in way too long! I’m hoping this extra warm welcome never runs out!

While abroad I was asked to write a guest post for the Boston University Admissions blog about my experience in London. I’ve worked in the admissions office giving campus tours and talking to prospective students and their families for the past 3 years. Through this job I’ve been able to meet tons of my peers who share my passion for BU, as well as the amazing admissions directors who share their love of BU with high school students all over the country, and eventually choose who gets to attend this amazing university (as far as I can tell they’ve chosen well so far!). Of course I was more than happy to write something for the blog telling prospective students a little more about the opportunities at BU. My post was published today and gives a glimpse into what I was up to last semester. Feel free to check it out here!

Ciao Italy, Hello London, Goodbye Europe

It’s hard to believe that just two weeks ago I was leaving London and ending one of my biggest adventures – studying abroad. Once I returned home I meant to write a description of the second half of my vacation with Dani, and wrap up this blog for good. Unfortunately winter break and being home got the better of me, and I never got around to writing that post. I’ll do my best to give some insight into the last leg of our trip in Rome, Florence, Venice, and finally London, as briefly as possible (mostly for my own sake!).

Rome was incredibly superstitious, between praying to God we would make our flight after being stuck in hours of traffic leaving Paris, being pooped on my a bird (good luck), and tossing our coins into the Trevi Fountain, which ensures the person who throws the coin in will return to Rome one day (true fact – I threw a coin into the fountain on my previous trip to Rome!). We also enjoyed an amazing multi-course Italian Christmas dinner filled with various types of fish (not sure if there’s a superstition associated with this, or if it’s just customary). Dani and I also went to an incredibly fancy restaurant for dinner one night, by accident, and were laughed at by the waitstaff the whole time (ok, that story doesn’t have anything to do with superstition, it was just really funny). Additionally we visited Vatican City and the Colosseum, in addition to some other major sites.

On Christmas day we traveled to Florence which was beautiful! El Duomo, an iconic cathedral covered in pink, green, and white marble, was only blocks away from our hotel. Dani and I, on our quest to see as many major pieces of Eastern art as we could also enjoyed the numerous museums in Florence with works like Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, as well as Michelangelo’s David. One of the best things we did in Florence was walk to the Piazzale Michelangelo, a plaza on top of a hill overlooking the city. It was a nice walk, through a residential neighborhood, then past a small garden, and the views were amazing! We also had one of our best dinners in Florence, eating Tapas style at two different wine bars like real Italians. At one location we enjoyed a plate of meats and cheeses with crunchy bread, and at another we had amazing raviolis! Each spot paired wine with our meals, making the experience that much more fun!

While it’s hard to pick a favorite destination from my trip with Dani, Venice may be the winner by a hair. I love the small streets and canals that create the city. The water taxi’s were frustrating at times (especially when people gave us well intended – but incorrect – directions) and the pigeons in Piazza San Marco were disgusting, but overall it was just such a unique city with so much character. We also visited Murano, a small island off of Venice, and saw a fascinating glass blowing demonstration!

For the New Year we returned to London where Dani and I visited the major sites – Parliament, big ben, Buckingham Palace, the Tate Modern and of course Harrods! Dani and I had the best time wandering around the giant department store gushing over the luxurious items on sale. Our favorite part was picking out various home goods to furnish our imaginary apartment. Dani and I also enjoyed a traditional afternoon tea and spent New Years in an Irish pub (No matter where you are in the world there will always be an Irish pub).

After two weeks traveling it was time to go home, and I was definitely ready to return, but it was bittersweet saying goodbye to such an amazing semester. Having the opportunity to travel, especially with some of my closest friends like Dani, Sarah, Paige, and even spending time with my mom and dad in Europe, was amazing. I also learned so much from my internship, and I’ll always be grateful for that experience. I met such amazing people and had such an amazing time, I just can’t gush about my experience in London enough! Today was the first day of classes for the Spring semester at BU and I feel like I’m starting this semester with so much more knowledge and a wider understanding of the world, and it makes me even more appreciative of my semester abroad.

Here’s some of the pictures from my trip with Dani:

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Bonjour Paris

Monday I met one of my best and oldest friends in Paris to begin our two week tour of Europe! I successfully made it from London to Paris via bus, a mini adventure in and of itself, if only because there was a ferry involved. Not wanting to waste even a day in Paris Dani and I instantly began adventures. We took the metro into the heart of Paris, grabbing lunch in the Christmas Market set up along the Champs Élysées and devoured some crepes. Then we made it through the Palace de la Concorde, strolled through the Tuileries Garden, and entered the Louve. While the extensive art collection was impressive, and the Mona Lisa a must see, I was most star struck looking at the statue of the Winged Victory of Samothrace – featured in one of my favorite Audrey Hepburn films Funny Face. Dani and I attempted to make it to the Cathedral Notre Dame but cold rain drove us back to the hotel where we warmed up and relaxed before heading out to dinner.

Tuesday we went to Versailles, which was even more decedent and beautiful than I imaged! The amount of gold leaf would be enough to outfit the late Elizabeth Taylor for who knows how long. I’m a huge fan of the movie Marie Antoinette and really enjoyed seeing the ballrooms and bedrooms that played such a pivotal role in that film. That afternoon Dani and I decided to visit the Eiffel Tower, another Paris must see. On our way back to our hotel we got a bit turned around and found ourselves in the complete opposite part of the city. Despite being two incredibly smart women, we’re easily distracted, and found ourselves heading to God knows what direction after picking up some goat cheese and a baguette. While trying to navigate home we must have been on the correct street at least three different times, but still ended up jumping on the metro to complete our treck. For dinner we visited the Jewish quarter – especially appropriate because it was the first night of Hanukah, and ate shwarma and falafel at a restaurant named Chez Hanna, especially appropriate because my name is Hannah. While at dinner a Hasidic man came into the restaurant and asked us if we had candles for the holiday. Dani and I didn’t quite know how to respond so we tried to politely brush him off by telling him we were staying in a hotel and unable to light candles. He was really excited to know we were Jewish, though, and happily exclaimed, “There are Jews all around the world!” before handing us our very own menorah and candle kit. While Dani and I didn’t light the candles in our hotel room, we did place them in their spot to acknowledge the holiday.

The next day we started our morning by returning to the cute bakery we had discovered the day before, just around the corner from our hotel, and picked up some delicious, fresh, pain au chocolate. We visited the Musee D’Orsay, which boast a huge impressionist and art nouve collection, filled with artists such as Degas, Monet, and Van Goh. The building itself was amazing – an old train station, creating a perfect home for the exceptional works. For lunch we headed back to the Champs Élysées and enjoyed amazing smoked salmon sandwiches in the Christmas market, before strolling down the more commercial portion of the famous fashion street. While Dani and I couldn’t be tempted by any of the designer stores we were more than willing to splurge on macaroons at Ludrée, a famous pastry shop in Paris. The colorful macaroons tasted as good as they looked! Between the pistachio, raspberry, lemon, and chocolate, lemon was a clear winner, filled with super light and flavorful lemon cream. For dinner Dani and I headed towards the Bastille and had a great meal at a brasserie recommended by another BU student who had spend the semester studying in the city herself. When I tweeted about my trip she kindly responded with a handful of suggestions. I love how easy it is to connect with people all across the globe and it’s safe to say Dani and I wouldn’t have found such a great restaurant without the tip.

For our last day in Paris Dani and I enjoyed our final Pain au Chocolate and headed off for some Parisian shopping in the Jewish district. The area was filled with chic boutiques and trendy vintage stores as well as fashionable Parisian chains. Unfortunately we have strict baggage constraints thanks to European budget airlines which only allow one small carryon, and weren’t able to purchase much (probably better in the long run), but both managed to find something for ourselves and some people back home.

That afternoon we headed off to the airport, eager to catch our flight to Rome. It was easy enough to find the shuttle that went between the city and the Beauvais Airport but unanticipated Christmas traffic meant our bus fell over an hour behind schedule. When we finally arrived at the airport it was only 45 before our flight was about to take off. Dani and I booked it across the parking lot, fully anticipating missing our flight and sleeping in the airport. Somehow everything worked out though, despite being incredibly out of breath and suffering from only minor injuries (my suitcase caught a curb, causing me to wipe out onto the sidewalk), we made it through security and onto our flight. Dani and I couldn’t help but laugh once we were comfortably seated on the plane, prepared for take off. I think it’s safe to say Dani and I always manage to find ourselves in the most absurd situations when we’re together and this trip has been no exception so far.

Goodbye London

 

Today is my last day living in London. I moved out of my flat in South Kensington yesterday, put my things into a storage unit, and packed the small carry-on I’ll be living out of for the next two weeks. I spent the night with my room mate in a hostel. We had a good time lugging all of our possessions from the past semester to various locations around London. Tonight I’m heading to Paris to meet one of my best friends Dani for two weeks of travel! When I return to London on December 30th I won’t be a London resident anymore, though, I’ll be a tourist. I don’t mind being a tourist, I enjoy the opportunity to explore all of the attractions a city has to offer, but it was a really cool living in a city. Shopping for groceries. Doing laundry. Catching the tube during rush hour to get to work on time. While I loath all of these activities, doing them in London makes them more bearable.

For my last day in London I visited Harrods, London’s most famous department store, and browsed all of the beautiful things I can’t afford – yet. Then I helped my friend get her luggage onto the tube so she could catch her flight at Heathrow Airport. I headed in the opposite direction and took myself to Trafalger square where I at a sandwich watching people take pictures in front of the fountain. Then I headed into the National Gallery to check out the art. Western European art from the 13th to the 19th century isn’t my thing, so I retired to the cafe to grab a cup of coffee and continue reading The Hunger Games - the most addicting book I’ve read in ages. When I couldn’t find enough change to pay for my cappuccino the cute barista voided the transaction and told me where I could pick up my drink, with a wink. As I left the cafe a few hours later we began chatting about London and home towns. He made me guess where he was from, giving me clues, which only exposed my terrible knowledge of geography. Apparently Cameroon is the only country with French and English as the official languages, besides Canada. Unfortunately when he asked me to dinner I had to decline. I would get asked out on a date on my last day in London. Good timing.

Tonight I board a bus to Paris that leaves Victoria Station at 11:30pm and arrives in the city of lights around 9am. Within the next two weeks I’ll truly be traveling by plain, train, and automobile. I couldn’t be more excited for this trip! Dani is my ultimate partner in crime and I’m sure we’ll get into lots of trouble while exploring.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

While I won’t make it home in time for the holidays I’m still enjoying plenty of Christmas cheer here in London. Being Jewish, I’m sure all of the christmas trees and “boughs of holly” don’t matter to me as much as they do to some people, but I still enjoy seeing the city decorated. Christmas really does feel like a cheerier time. A few weeks ago I went to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. It was packed with wooden huts selling homemade fudge, mulled wine, and other nicknacks. There were also tons of bright lights and amusement rides to amuse even the most cynical scrooges. My friends and I even went ice skating! I’m happy to say the lessons I took in sixth grade have paid off and I’m still as skilled as ever (meaning not that skilled but moderately better than people who don’t ice skate at all).

Earlier this week I also had the opportunity to go to the Christmas party for the company I interned with. The event was a “Very Modern Masquerade.” It was a great way to end my internship, enjoying some out of the office time with my coworkers and my fellow intern, another BU student, Kristina. While I didn’t get to say goodbye to everyone I would have liked to, it was still a nice way to see some of the friends I’ve made around the office one last time.

 

With all of this Christmas cheer in the air it’s hard to stay motivated towards school work. My final papers and tests are all due within the next week (some as early as tomorrow) but I know I just need to focus and get it done. In a little more than a week I’ll be heading off to Paris to begin my winter break with one of my best friends and all of this work will have paid off. If only Santa could come early and do my work for me. Is that not how Christmas works? I wouldn’t know, still Jewish.

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Bonjour Brussels

It’s hard to beleive it’s only a little over a week until the end of my semester studying in London. I have no idea where the time has actually gone. Last Friday was the last day of my internship and I was so sad to say goodbye to everyone. Thankfully I still had the Christmas party to look forward to, which was last night, but it was still hard to leave.

After work I headed straight to King’s Cross Station where I caught the train to Brussels where I met my mom. It was amazing seeing her after so much time apart. Video chatting on Skype just isn’t the same as seeing someone in person. We had a lovely time wandering around the old streets, eating waffles, fries, chocolate, and even a little beer. We went to an exhibit on Renee Magritte, the Belgian surrealist painter and did a self guided walking tour of the city’s public artworks which are devoted to the rich history of cartoons originating in Belgium. Who would have known?

Monday my mom and I headed back to London where we had the chance to spend even more time together! We visited the Tate Modern and saw an amazing exhibit on Gerhard Richter.

The next day we visited Spitalfeilds Market, which was not as exciting and lively as it is on the weekends, but we had a good time regardless. That evening we had the chance to see Matilda the Musical, which just debuted on the west end. The show was phenomenal, completely deserving of all the great reviews. The child lead show was an incredibly heartfelt retelling of the Roald Dahl story. After the theater we headed to Jamie Oliver’s restaurant nearby and had a delicious dinner complete with chips covered in truffle oil and parmesan cheese.

For my mom’s last day in London we visited the Victoria and Albert museum and saw an exhibit on Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990. It was an incredibly interesting and challenging exhibit that really engaged the way society interacts with art, design, and consumerism. My mom and I particularly enjoyed a portion of the exhibit devoted to a pair the architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown from Philadelphia, complete with mentions to the “overstuffed sandwiches locally known as ‘hoagies.'”

In just under a month I’ll be returning to Philadelphia myself and hopefully enjoying a hoagie, or a cheesesteak, or some other American delicacy, but for now I’m so glad to be in London. My mom and I had the chance to enjoy some of the diverse culture available in Europe, from Belgian pomme frites to English chips, from surrealism to postmodernism. There is so much going on in Europe and spending my semester abroad has made it incredibly accessible. I’m so lucky to have had the chance to live in London, even if it was just for a brief time.

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Giving Thanks

This Thanksgiving I have a lot to be thankful for. While I couldn’t spend the holiday at home with my family I am in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, traveling Europe, meeting tons of new, interesting, amazing people, pursuing a career I’m truly passionate about through my internship, and I have the support of amazing family and friends back in the US. I literally could not be more grateful.

In order to honor this American tradition – Thanksgiving – my flatmates and I had a potluck dinner. While the food might not have been entirely traditional (lasagna, chicken wings, and stir-fryed rice) some classics did make their way on to the table (stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and sweet potatoes). In keeping with my own family traditions I contributed a bottle of vodka, accompanied by cranberry juice – to keep things seasonally appropriate. While dinner was a bit of a hodge-podge everything was surprisingly delicious and we all felt appropriately stuffed by the end of the night.

 

I hope everyone reading this had a Happy Thanksgiving as well, especially my family. I miss you all more than you know and thought of you tons throughout the day!

Love,

Hannah xx

Szia Budapest

I honestly never expected to go to Hungary in my life but when my friend suggested a weekend trip to Budapest I was more than willing to jump on board and now I couldn’t be more glad that I did! The weekend I spent in Budapest was one of the most amazing weekends I’ve had while studying abroad.

My friends, Steph, Jess, and Maryna, and I arrived in Budapest around noon. It was just a short train ride from the airport to our hostel, which was highly recommended by an Australian guy I met in the hostel I stayed in while visiting Barcelona. From first impressions alone we could tell the hostel was going to be a great place to stay! The front doors were large and wooden and the directions I had received noted that there was no sign outside because of historic nature of the building. We climbed up four flights of stairs to the hostel. We were warmly greeted by about half a dozen people hanging out, smoking cigarettes on sofas right by the door. One of the hostel employees, a tall skinny British boy with curly hair, a lip piercing, and plaid pajama pants, showed us to the dorm we would be staying in and offered us a cup of tea. He then promptly picked up a map and began circling the best sites in the city, passing along tons of great advice.

After grabbing lunch we headed out to see some sites. Budapest is a beautiful, historic city filled with tons of interesting architecture. We visited a St. Stephens Basilica that housed the mummified hand of the first Hungarian King and climbed over 300 steps where we took in the city. Even though the sun had already set it was still amazing to see all of the buildings lit up. I think it made the city look even more magical.

Then we walked across the Light Bridge that connects Pest to Buda where we took a gondola up the hill and explored a palace built by the Austrians in 1748 and the Fisherman’s Batilion.

While attempting to return to our hostel we wandered into the national archives of Budapest as well, which were hosting an open house. All we wanted were directions but people kept trying to show us things. Everyone was being so nice we felt bad leaving, but after checking out the building, which was incredibly beautiful as well, we left.

By the time we got back across the city it was nearly 7:45 and the hostel we were staying in was leaving for a Ruin Pub Crawl at 8:30. While walking back from the metro we ran into two of the employees at our hostel that recommended we grab burritos at a mexican chain nearby. Funnily enough my friend Molly, who I just saw in Dublin, had recommended the same place, and all three insisted I get a margarita! The food was pretty good, definitely a treat compared to bland British sandwiches, especially for Steph, who was missing California street food and her families mexican cooking.

After some “international cuisine” we Steph, Jess, Maryna and I moved on to a more “natitve” adventure. Our hostel hosted a pub crawl to three different Ruin pubs throughout the city. Ruin pubs are  bars set up in abandoned houses and courtyards, protected by historical conservation efforts that prevent their demolition and renovation. The bars were so unique, filled with mis matched furniture, art installations, music, and tons of people. It was a great opportunity to meet the other guests at the hostel we were staying at. Everyone was young, coming to travel Europe from the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. The hostel employees told us all how they came to Budapest for a few days and fell so in love with the city, the people they met, and the hostel itself that they decided to stay, luckily finding a job with the hostel itself. By the time we visited two Ruin Pubs, both surprisingly unique, we headed back to the hostel to get some sleep. All of us slept incredibly well, exhausted from a full day of site seeing, even considering we were sharing the room with 5 other (potentially intoxicated) travelers.

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The next morning we woke up early and headed off to one of Budapest’s most famous attractions – the baths. It was a nice walk to the Szechenyi baths, located next to the city park. We had the chance to walk down beautiful streets which we were told are often used in films to recreate 18th century Paris, and past Hero’s Square. The baths themselves were amazing, after a quick sprint from the locker rooms, through the cold air, we found ourselves completely relaxed in the pools. We spent the afternoon wandering around the spas, checking out different pools and saunas. One of the saunas was so hot it made my necklace burn on my skin.

Regretably we left the spa around 3 and wandered through the park, and towards the Christmas market. Unfortunatly only a handful of unimpressive stalls were set up but the four of us wandered into a traditional Hungarian restaurant where we had an amazing lunch complete with Goulash (beef stew), spaetzel (egg noodles), and muled wine. We then went on to see the parliament, which was a huge gothic building right on the river, before trecking back to our hostel completly beat.

For better or worse we were convinced to go out to an open mic night hosted by the Hostel. Even though we were completely exhausted, and had a 4am flight to catch, we didn’t want to miss out on one last opportunity to hang out with the people staying in the same hostel as us. The open mic night was amazing, we had such a good time meeting lots of people staying at our hostel and a brother hostel in another part of Budapest. I was thrilled with a group of Australians began singing the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song when I told them I was from Philadelphia, and joined in myself, screaming the Will Smith lyrics. A handful of other hostel guests stood up on stage and gave amazing performances as well, showing true musical talent!

By the time we headed back to the hostel we only had an hour before our cab came to take us to the airport, but going out was well worth it. Even as I suffered through 6 hours of class on Monday I didn’t regret a single thing all weekend. Budapest was one of the most beautiful, fun, interesting places and I’d give up all the sleep in the world to have the opportunity to travel, meet new people, and try new things.

Working it – abroad

Having been at my internship in a top global PR agency for a little over a month I’d like to quickly share some of the things I’ve noticed about working in the UK-

Tea is a big deal

I guess I had assumed that was a stereotype about English people, but drinking tea is serious business over here. A few times a day someone in my pod (grouping of desks) stands up and asks if anyone would like a cup of tea. The professor who taught my British PR class this semester compared this ritual to primates picking bugs out of each others hair – it’s how the Brits show they care.

They’re very affectionate, darling

In the US pet names are often considered annoying, condescending, or inappropriate but here you hear them all the time! It’s no big deal when someone refers to you as love, babe, darling, or my personal favorite: chicken. I remember hearing one of my colleagues pick up the phone the other day, “Hello darling,” she said. I assumed she was speaking to someone she knew well, maybe a friend, but after a brief pause, letting the person on the other end speak, she squeeled, “Oh it’s you!” My coworker didn’t even know who she was talking to, but still answered the phone with a term of endearment! It’s also very common to sign off on emails with a simple x or two if you’re feeling it.

Swearing is ok

While I don’t have enough experience working in an office to build this opinion myself, from what I’ve been told, cursing at the work place is much more common here that it is in the US. After dropping a few expletives the man who I sit next to turned to me, “They don’t speak like that in the US do they?” he said, smiling. I’m fairly confident they don’t, partially because some of the words he used haven’t quite caught on in states yet.

Well, that’s all I can think to share at the moment. I’m off to Budapest this weekend! You can look forward to a blog post about that sometime next week.

Cheers! x

Dia Duit Dublin

Apparently “Dia Duit” is how you say hello in Irish. This weekend I spent an amazing 48 hours in Dublin. Although I didn’t learn how to speak gaelic – I actually looked up “hello” on google translator – I did get to see two of my best friends on their birthdays and enjoy a pint of Guineas (ok, a half pint).

My friend Paige is studying in Dublin so Sarah and I flew in to visit her. Perfect timing considering they both turned 21 that weekend. I flew in Saturday morning and spent the next two days wandering around the city with my friends, enjoying tons of pub food – as well as a crepe and hot chocolate with a whole oreo cookie inside!

Dublin is a beautiful, small, friendly city. It was great to leave London for a little while and just enjoy the time with two of my best friends. I also had the chance to see my friend Molly – my room mate and coworker from this past Summer. This semester is such an amazing opportunity and I truly have the chance to travel the world right now, but sometimes I think that even better than exploring Europe, is seeing a familiar face.

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