I’ve been home for two weeks, and, along with unpacking, finding a way to wrap up my time in London has been looming over my head. There are enough stories to fill a novel, so here are just a few of the things I’m taking with me.

Take risks and be Adventurous.

It’s not hard when you’re living in a huge city like London. I realized that if something scares you, it’s probably worth doing. Even if something goes awry, you’ll probably still have a great story to tell. There was something thrilling about pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and if I wasn’t up for trying new things, why did I go abroad in the first place? I’ve never been an impulsive person, but it was really fun to just throw caution and expectation to the wind and let things happen. Ciera kept quoting “when’s the last time you did something for the first time?” and we could basically say everyday while we were there. Go. Do. Explore.


Talk to new people everywhere you go.

How else are you going to find out anything about wherever you are? You can read all the guidebooks in the world, but that’s not a way to really experience a new place. Whether it was listening to the “cerebral Australian” with dreadlocks talk about his opinions on the “establishment,” getting introduced to the pub as the “Missouri girls” by a band in Dublin or making new friends while watching the Super Bowl because you know that Coors Light is an American beer, people, both those you’re there with and new ones you meet, help make experiences.


Find things you like doing and do them.

If you like live music, go to open mic night at the pub around the corner with your best friend on a Wednesday. If you like food and shopping, go hang out at any of the fantastic markets in London. Seeing and taking pictures of all the tourist highlights is fun and shouldn’t be missed, but finding and doing things you’d be interested in no matter where you were is the way to make the most of any travel experience.

Being and doing things alone can be really rewarding.

I’ve always thought I wanted to live and work in a big city, but I’d never actually done it. Now, I’m not only certain that I can and want to live in major city, but I also know I’ll enjoy it. I never felt lonely spending time alone in London, and that’s because it wasn’t hard to find something new and fun to do. From visiting a Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit and going to concerts to wandering through Camden Lock or down Oxford Street, I loved being able to hop on the Tube and know I’d find something exciting to explore and see.

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But so can exploring with some of your best friends.

I’m so lucky to have gone on this trip with such a great group. I became closer with the friends I knew before we left and made new ones that I can’t wait to see when we’re all back in Columbia. We shared international trips, karaoke stages and more visits to media companies than I can count, and we’re bound by those experiences. Who else am I going to talk to about using Valirie’s One Direction knowledge to distract us from getting seasick on our ferry from Calais or reminisce with about how long we walked to get dinner on our first night in Paris?

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Learn to like being in transition.

Essentially nothing in my life right now is fully figured out or permanent, and I realized that’s okay. I’m constantly packing and unpacking, and I’m learning to like change and being in the “in between.” Everything is an opportunity for a new adventure if you keep a positive attitude. I’d like to have a solid plan to follow, but where’s the fun (and the reality) in that? I’m not supposed to have all the answers right now, but I’m trying to figure them out. And that’s pretty much all I could ask for.

Thanks for all of your lessons, fun and adventure, London. You were everything. xx


“Can we have a bottle of cote du rhone?” Ten Days with my Parents

Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to have my parents visit for my spring break (or half term if I’m trying this whole British English thing). Our weekend in London, three days in Rome and three in Paris were filled with sightseeing and enough gelato and red wine to fill a small country. The trips were wonderful, but I think it was most exciting to talk to, not viber text, my parents without a time difference.

We did a lot of the tourist highlights the first time we were all in London, so this visit was more about filling them in on my daily life this semester. So naturally, they stayed in Camden to get a feel for my neighborhood. We did lots of people watching and eating as walked through Camden Lock and along the high street. We did go through the Churchill War Rooms, which I’m really glad we did. I love World War II history, but actual Churchill museum inside was a little too free form and long for my attention span. Thankfully, someone was brilliant and put the café in the middle of the museum.


Inside the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica

After introducing my parents to the heaven in a package that are milk chocolate digestives, we headed to Rome for evenmore delicious food. We spent our first day inside the Vatican museum and St. Peter’s Basilica and dome to avoid the rain. The basilica was absolutely beautiful, but getting tickets to Pope Francis’ Ash Wednesday visit was the highlight of the trip to Vatican City. After some wandering around trying to figure out how to get tickets, my mom figured out we could get them from the Swiss guards outside. Luckily the people in front of me spoke Italian and also needed three tickets, so I just piggybacked off of their request. We left with the tickets and headed to dinner on Piazza Navona. The restaurant had heaters and a cover over the patio, so we were still able to eat outside despite the dreary weather. We had the most delicious buffalo mozzarella and tomato appetizer and lasagna, which, of course, were partnered with gelato and red wine. We saw people walking in and out of a building while we were eating, so we went to investigate. It ended up being this beautiful church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, and was full of fleur de lis.IMG_1033

We woke up early Wednesday to go back to St. Peter’s square for the Pope’s audience. We got there much earlier than we needed to, but we killed some time talking to other Americans that were also on vacation. It’s such a surreal experience seeing the Pope on his first Ash Wednesday with people from all over the world.



We then headed to the ruins. We did a tour of the Collesseum, Roman forum and palatine hill. We stopped for gelato, coffee and wine at a café, and ended up sitting and talking for about two hours. It was so laid back, but probably was my favorite part of the whole trip. I like being able to just chat and catch up with my parents. We walked to the Trevi Fountain and got dinner.


We headed to Paris on Thursday, and I’m so glad I got to go back with my parents. We stayed in the Latin Quarter, so it was great to actually be in the city. Notre Dame, Musee d’Orsay and a night boat cruise on the Seine were all broken up with cups of coffee and people watching. Going to Versailles and taking my parents back to Montmarte was the best day of the trip. The weather was beautiful in Versailles, so we were able to eat outside before going into the palace. It was so opulent and beautiful, and I loved all of the nods to my main man Louis XIV. Montmarte was just as wonderful as the first time, but was way more crowded because of the warmer weather. We actually went into Sacre Coeur, and a choir of nuns added a soundtrack to our tour of the mosaicked church.We had dinner (and a bottle of cote du rhone, obviously) outside at La Bohme before heading back down the hill.



It was such a fun week spending time with my parents. My dad and I decided if this whole journalism thing doesn’t work out, we should open a coffee, wine and gelato shop that people can come to for an afternoon pick-me up. If that’s the back up plan, the future doesn’t look too bad.


A quick trip through the Chunnel, and I was set for my first weekend in Paris. We successfully avoided our first set of gypsies with clipboards in the train station, and then hopped on a coach for a panoramic tour of the city.

Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa

Venus di Milo

Venus di Milo

We finished the bus tour, checked into our hotel and headed to the Louvre. After successfully avoiding all of the men selling “5 for 1” mini Eiffel Towers and an extensive photo shoot, we actually went inside the museum to take advantage of its free entry for EU students. I brought my Louisiana drivers’ license, Mizzou ID, international student ID and my CAPA student card, but nothing could have prepared me to deal with the woman checking our identification. All five of the other girls went through a different lane without any problems and got to watch this insanity unfold. The worker said none of my four forms of identification proved I lived or worked in the UK, and no amount of explanation would convince her. She stood up out of her chair, began shouting about needing my passport or visa (which I had taken out of my purse so it didn’t get pickpocketed) and finished by yelling in my face that she wasn’t American. After exhausting her stint as the heroine of EU students, she saw me desperately looking at the other girls and let me through in a huff. I proceeded to walk through the museum completely rattled and shut down, but the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo were exciting to see.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

The evening completely turned around after we left the museum. We decided to head toward the Eiffel Tower and find dinner somewhere along the way. It’s totally different from London where there are skyscrapers and modern buildings mixed in with its old history. Since Paris wasn’t bombed during the war, the whole city still has an old, magical feel, and it was actually plausible to follow the top of the tower until we ran into it. Just as we were crossing the river, the Eiffel Tower started glittering. Magic. We finally found a brasserie that looked reasonably priced, and had an absolutely fabulous meal. And it was happy hour. We walked around the block and practically ran into the Eiffel Tower. It was just so much bigger than I ever imagined and so wonderful all lit up. The crazy Louvre lady’s atrocity was eventually overruled by three really nice gentlemen that helped us understand how to get home on the metro. One at a crepe stand that told us where the closest stations was, one worker at the metro station that mapped out, circled and wrote the number of each train we needed to take on a metro map and one older gentleman who nearly hopped off of his train to point us in the direction of our line when we got turned around switching trains. When we finally got on the right one, we were treated to two guys playing guitar and singing as we rode home.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Locking my Mizzou Alpha Chi lock on the love lock bridge.

Locking my Mizzou Alpha Chi lock on the love lock bridge.

We kicked off our 12 hour Saturday with a tour of Notre Dame and a walk through the Latin Quarter. The church was absolutely beautiful, and I was glad we had a guide to explain the details of the detailed façade. The Latin Quarter is definitely the younger area of the city and was filled with restaurants. We then headed to the Seine for our boat tour of the city. The day was gray, damp and windy, which made being on water particularly chilly. It was cool to see the city from such a different perspective even if we were taking pictures in between shivers. Frozen and hungry, we walked back to the Latin Quarter for lunch, and after warming up, headed for the lock bridge. We spent some time wandering up and down the bridge reading locks and people watching, and finally bought our own locks to put on the bridge. We wrote on the locks, threw the keys in the river and set out to spend the afternoon shopping. We started out around the Louvre and eventually took the metro to make our way to the Champs- Elysees. We took a break from our exhaustive shopping to get macarons from Laduree. My life is so hard. It was both a store and a restaurant, and all of the pastries were so intricate they looked fake.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

We took our six macarons and headed up the street to take pictures of the Arc de Triomphe all lit up. After braving both the other tourists and French drivers to take a couple of pictures in the middle of the street, we were ready for dinner. A couple of the girls we were with had seen a set menu at a restaurant in the Latin Quarter that had three courses for 10 euros. We found the restaurant actually pretty easily, and ate probably the best meal I’ve had abroad so far. I started with onion soup, had beef bourguignon for an entrée and finished with chocolate mousse. The small restaurant had another group of six waiting, so we were politely ushered out after finishing out meal and paying. We made it back to the hotel at about 10:30 pm and collapsed onto our beds to relax. Three of us ended up hanging out, talking and laughing in our room until almost 1 before I finally got into the shower and went to bed.

Sacre Couer

Sacre Couer

Sunday we braved the crowds at the Eiffel Tower and made it all the way to the third and top floor. Only one of the four legs had working elevators because the others were under construction. We briefly contemplated walking up to the second floor and catching the elevator to the top from there, but that seemed too daunting for us. The views were absolutely worth the long wait. We walked down the stairs, grabbed a quick sandwich and met our guides for a walking tour of Montemarte that ended at the Sacre Coeur. This was my favorite part of the trip because I think it’s what I imagined Paris would look like. Shops, cafes, restaurants and houses dotted the road as we climbed the hill to the artists’ square and the church. It was crowded and had tourist shops, but still seemed almost like it wasn’t real. An espresso macchiato, a crepe and a millions pictures later, we went back to pick up our bags from the hotel and catch the Eurostar. While it was less eventful than our Amsterdam experience, UK Border Agency took their sweet time checking our passports, and Ciera and I ended up almost running down the platform to get on our train in time. I think we had about 10 minutes to spare after we were finally settled into our seats.