The End

As I sit here on my 6 hour flight on Air Canada to Toronto, all I can really do is reflect on my experience in London. The 8 weeks have gone by so fast and I really haven’t had time to think about what kind of experience I have had. But first I’ll start out by rounding up the last week in London.

It was a very laid back week since I had seen pretty much everything that I wanted to see. On Monday, we were invited to a get-together in Hyde Park to play soccer and to just be in the park. Our program had made a bet with another department of the program (the Boston University part) for a soccer game to be played. No one from Iowa has much experience, so other people from our program ended up playing. After watching the soccer, I took a sandwich down to Westminster around 10 p.m. I took a seat across the river from the London Eye and ate half my food then took the other half and sat at the park just across the road from Big Ben and Parliament Weird knowing that this will probably be the last time I see these for a long time.

On Tuesday, the twins, Megan, and I took a few bottles of wine to Primrose Hill. The nice weather brought many people there for the night. I heard Colbie Caillet being played by a radio, an American musician, so I asked how they heard of her since she is not big in England at all. The guy and girl told me to invite my friends over, so we talked with them for an hour or two. They were both from north London, but the girl attends Leeds University. Friendly people.

Thursday after work, my coworkers invited us interns out for drinks since it was our last day of work. We went to a local bar with 6 of so others. It was fun being with them outside of work, and I wish we had done it earlier to get to know them more outside of work.

On Friday, I packed in the morning and then took the tube to Hyde Park on one of the best days for weather of the summer. They were saying it was the hottest day of the summer so far at 28 degrees Celsius, or 88 degrees Fahrenheit. I walked from one side of the park to the other (about a mile and a half) and stopped at the Princess Diana Memorial which is a big ring of cement down a hill with water coming out one end and rushing down to the other end. Kids were playing and you were encouraged to put your feet in the water. Megan then met me at the park and we sat around the Serpentine, the little lake in Hyde Park. We then attended the going away pub night in Camden Town at a pub that overlooks the canal there.

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After my travels back to Chicago, I must say that I am tired of airports. Flying from London to Heathrow turned into an extra long flight. The weather was bad in Toronto, so we had to land in Ottawa and refuel. We sat in the plane for about an hour and then finally headed back to Toronto. We landed at the exact time that my connecting flight to Chicago was taking off. After checking with the airline, we found that there were no more flights going to Chicago that night. Instead of getting an expensive hotel, Mark and I slept in the hotel airport. Definitely not the most comfortable option, but our flight left at 7 a.m. the next day and we woke up at 4:30. We ended up getting back to Chicago at 8:30 a.m. Central time, about 30 hours after I had left London the day before at 9:00 a.m.

It is definitely good to be home. I am enjoying the time to relax and the hot weather. The first day back was as hot as the hottest day we had in London all summer.

Some final thoughts on my experience:

The stereotype of Americans being loud is absolutely true. Europeans in general are very quiet even when just having a conversation. I had a hard time hearing many people because they spoke so softly. On the subway especially, Americans are loud. Rarely do people talk on the subway, but Americans always seem to be screaming over the noise of the train. I could often pick out people who were Americans just by how loud they were.

After living in another culture, I can truly appreciate the American culture and also look at what I do not like about the American culture. I had nothing to compare the American culture to before this experience, so I can now look at what is great about the American culture. I had never been overly patriotic about my country, but I can now see how important supporting my country can be. London is a city with people from probably almost every country living in it, so people take great pride in their country’s culture and sports. The soccer Euro 2008 opened my eyes to how passionate people are about their country. But I guess it just takes a moving to another country to make them truly appreciate their own country.

I have learned that having initiative and decision making skills are some of the most important skills to have. When trying to travel with a group of six or more people, someone must take charge. If no one takes charge of the group and offers initiative, nothing will really be accomplished. I have learned that most people do not like to make decisions for others, so you will get a lot of “I don’t cares”. When this happens, you will find yourself just standing on the sidewalk and getting nowhere. If you have someone generating ideas, suggesting them to people, and encouraging them to act, the main goals will get accomplished. This applied to sightseeing around London, Ireland, and Barcelona. Obviously, these skills are as equally applicable in the workplace, and I plan on using these in the future.

In just eight short weeks, I have made many friends here. I have made many good friends from Iowa and have met people from North Carolina, California, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Washington, Auburn, Louisiana, Alabama, New Hampshire, Turkey, France, Italy, England, Africa, Spain, China, Canada, Ireland and more that I probably can’t think of right now. Meeting people from all over the world has in itself been self-satisfying and worthwhile of my trip.

This has been the best experience of my life. I’ve learned more in these eight weeks than I ever thought I could. If you have never been to Europe, please do yourself a favor and take a trip out there as soon as you can. It’s a whole new culture than what you are used to and you will learn a lot just by going over for a week or two. If you know someone who is still in college or not yet entered college, please encourage them to study abroad. It is the best experience they will have throughout college and will not regret it. I have never heard one person say that they did not enjoy their time studying abroad. So please, take the opportunity while you have it.

Thank you everyone for reading my blog throughout my trip. I have really enjoyed writing it, although my updates have become less frequent the last few weeks. I hope everyone has enjoyed reading along, and I will hopefully be seeing everyone soon.

About Trent

I started Frugal Purpose to share my love of personal finance to assist your pursuit of a more fulfilling life. I am a financial analyst by trade, traveler at heart, and want to share with you the beauty of this world.

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Oxford

Just finished my last full weekend here.  On Saturday, four of us went to breakfast to finally get what they call a full English breakfast.  It consistsed of eggs, hash browns, beans, toast, sausage, smoked rash, and tea.  This is the first time I have had anything for breakfast besides a granola bar, so it was nice to have.  We then hopped on a bus to take us to Oxford.  Oxford is famous for it’s prestigious colleges all around town.

We had heard that a unique thing to do was to punt down the river.  A punt is a boat that is about fifteen feet long, and you use a long aluminum pole to push off the bottom of the river to direct yourself.  Very challenging at first but not as hard once you get the feel for it.  The river we were on was actually part of the Thames River but the part in London is renamed.  It’s river is calm in Oxford, so it was a relaxing day on a boat.  We all had our turns at directing so we could all see how tough it really was.  We collided with a number of other punters as many others were having similar troubles. 

We then walked through the city centre and to a pub that we had heard about called the Head of the River.  We sat outside along the river, which was great on this nice day.  Then we made a stroll through Oxford and looked at some of the colleges that we found.  One had graduation that day so many people were in their gowns and everything.  The rest of the day we just walked through town and stopped at random shops and pubs.  Fun day in Oxford, though.

Yesterday I woke up to go to the changing of the guards by Buckingham Palace.  I had never done this before so I decided I should while I have the chance.  I have to say that I was disappointed by it.  It was very slow moving, had too many tourists, and I couldn’t see much of what was going on.  Seeing the parade for the Queen’s birthday definitely topped the changing of the guards by far. 

I then met up with Megan, since she was just sitting on a park bench by the Thames and just people watching.  We walked down along the river, walked across the Millenium Bridge and just looked at all the sights around there since it might be the last time we see them before leaving.  The Globe, Tate Modern, Tower Bridge, all that.  We then decided to get some food.  I had walked past The Sherlock Holmes pub my first week here, and I had always wanted to go there since Grandma and Grandpa Shelton had mentioned they had ate there 20 years ago when they were in London.  I got the standard fish and chips.   We then went to the Camden Market to do some more shopping before going back to the dorm. 

Again, I didn’t take any pictures when we were in Oxford so I don’t have any to share right now.  But I will be sure to put the pictures on here when I get them.

About Trent

I started Frugal Purpose to share my love of personal finance to assist your pursuit of a more fulfilling life. I am a financial analyst by trade, traveler at heart, and want to share with you the beauty of this world.

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Another week down

Had a pretty ordinary week, at least for living in London.  On Tuesday night after work, I got a pizza from a local restaurant for takeaway and took it to Regent’s Park.  It always gets cold as the sun goes down.  I would’ve been hot had I worn jeans when I first left, but I was pretty chilly by the time I came back to the dorm.  The last couple nights have been slow also.  We have had more homework assignments due this week and for next week, so I pretty much finished them up and finally got decent sleep for a few nights.

Today I woke up at a good time and went over to the Portobello market.  It’s a long street with shops set up on the streets along with the permanent shops.  Most of the shops are similar, either selling food or weird jewelry or antiques or clothes.  I didn’t really find too much, so I took the tube over to Harrod’s Department Store, the biggest department store in the world.  I went in and eventually had no idea where I was.  The rooms aren’t very open, so once you get into the middle it is hard to find your way out.  There are 5 or 6 floors.  There was a woman singing opera by one of the sets of escalators.  Huge store, but definitely not my type of store.  There were some watches there that were 30% and were still going for a few thousand pounds.  They even had a bunch of different cafes and restaurants and other food shops throughout the store.

A few notes on Barcelona that I forgot to mention.  I thought their subway system was much better than London’s.  But of course this should be expected since it is newer.  The cabs are much larger and are air conditioned.  There is a countdown for each train coming that is counted down in seconds rather than minutes, like London’s.  However, Barcelona’s tracks are side-by-side, so the walks to transfer trains can be very long, sometimes taking as long as 10 minutes.  London’s tracks are mostly one over another, so you just have to go up stairs or escalators to get to a different line.  This makes it much quicker.

Another thing I forgot to mention, we were in our hostel and a guy heard us talking and he noticed that we spoke English so he started talking to us.  He was with a big group, so we asked where they were from.  They all go to Augustana College in Rock Island.  One girl also said she went to Christian Life high school in Rockford, a school that Stockton used to play in football for non-conference games.  Very odd meeting people from that close to home in Barcelona.

Only one week left til I will be coming home.  I must say that I am very ready to be done with work, and it will be nice to get back home.  Having a month off will be a good break before school starts.

Hopefully everyone has been getting along okay and hopefully I’ll be seeing you soon.

About Trent

I started Frugal Purpose to share my love of personal finance to assist your pursuit of a more fulfilling life. I am a financial analyst by trade, traveler at heart, and want to share with you the beauty of this world.

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4th of July weekend

Hey everyone. Sorry to be so long to write.  It’s been very busy and it’s hard to get stop and have enough time to write a decent blog.  I was able to celebrate the 4th of July for a couple days over this past weekend. On Friday, I had to work until about 1. Then I met some friends down in Chinatown to eat. We then went to Oxford Street to a store called Primark where they sell all their clothes for good prices. Most clothes were 10 pounds or less, even nicer dress shirts. I only bought some white t-shirts I needed as undershirts. We then went to the Camden Town market which was interesting as always. It is a very punk neighbourhood so you will see people wearing anything and everything there.

Later on Friday, a big group of Iowa students went to Waxy O’Connors, an Irish pub that was celebrating the 4th of July. Almost everyone there was American, so that was okay for the 4th. On Saturday, a group of about eight of us went to Mile End, where there was a 4th of July get-together for whoever was interested in London. People brought grills to grill burgers and hot dogs, and we got a small group together to play some American football. There were probably 100 people there total. I met people from New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and I even met a girl from Williamsburg, Iowa. She saw my Iowa shirt and came to ask me about it. She received her undergrad degree at Iowa and also went to Law school at Iowa.

Sunday was a rainy day. It finally got somewhat nice, so Megan, Zack, and I went and toured the Tower of London. This is definitely worth it to see. It’s almost like it’s own little village inside. It is a castle that was first created in the year 1200 when they created the White Tower. They then kept adding on as different Kings and Queens lived here. We also got to see the crown jewels in one of the buildings. We spent about 2 hours touring it, but someone could definitely spend a whole day here.

On Monday, I went over to Notting Hill and walked around more.  It’s a nice area to walk through, but it was still raining.  I then hopped on a bus and was exhausted.  I fell asleep and woke up with no one else on the bus.  I was right by Picadilly Circus when I woke up, though, so I just got off and got on the tube to go home.

On Tuesday, I ended up going back to Hampstead Heath again.  This was the huge park with the nice view of the city.  I just took a sandwich up there and sat around.

Last night, we had the tickets for the London Eye, which is the biggest ferris wheel in the world.  It takes 30 minutes to go around once, and up to 25 people can fit in each carriage.  It was a cool ride, but of course it was raining so we couldn’t see as much as if it was a sunny day.  After this, Megan, Zach, and I went to a pub in Leicester Square where I finally ordered some sausage and mash (mashed potatoes).  Somehow, this was the first time I have had it since being here, and it was great.

Finally done with another week of work and heading to Barcelona tomorrow early morning.  I’ll be there until Sunday night, and hopefully I’ll be posting then to tell about the experience.  Everyone have a safe weekend and I’ll talk to you soon.

About Trent

I started Frugal Purpose to share my love of personal finance to assist your pursuit of a more fulfilling life. I am a financial analyst by trade, traveler at heart, and want to share with you the beauty of this world.

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Stunning concert

Just got back from a concert at Hyde Park, and I cannot explain how great it was.  I’ve never been to a concert even close to what this one was, and I really doubt I will ever see anything like it again.  The show featured Mason Jennings opening (who I just saw in Denver a month ago), G Love, Ben Harper, and Jack Johnson.  A couple surprises came in also.

The concert opened with Mason at about 4 p.m.  Calvin and I headed over and got there around 2:45 p.m. to get a decent spot.  We ended up being about 50 feet in front of the stage.  There were about 30,000 people there total, so there were probably 25,000 people behind us.  The whole place was absolutely packed with standing room only.  Mason only played about 30 minutes, but he played many of the same songs I had heard in Denver.  He just plays and never really takes breaks in between, so he got through probably 10 songs.  That was worth it in itself.  Next, G Love came on.  I don’t like him as much as the others, so it was ok just listening to him.  He played for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Next up was Ben Harper.  He played for about an hour and a half.  I had always heard how good he was at performing live and that definitely held true.  Just Ben and Mason together was worth the price of admission.

Next up was Jack Johnson, the headliner.  I had always wanted to see him in concert but he hadn’t toured the US in 3 years or so.  My iTunes top 25 played songs feature probably around 15 Jack Johnson songs, so I do listen to him quite a bit.  It was better than I ever thought it would be.  Seeing Merlo on bass and Zach Gille on piano was even better in person.  After this, I didn’t think it could get even better.  I was wrong.  A bit later, Jack says into the mic, “We have a few special guests for these next couple, Mason Jennings and Matt Costa.”  Matt Costa was never mentioned to be there, so I was psyched to see him.  Jack, Mason, and Matt all lined up with acoustic guitars and played Jack Johnson’s “Fall Line”, then right into Matt Costa’s “Sunshine”, then right into Mason Jennings’ “I Love You and Buddha too.”  It was the coolest segment of any concert I’ve ever seen.

Jack then played a few more songs himself, then invited G Love to come onto stage for a few songs.  G Love left, then Jack played some more by himself.  The encore then came.  Jack played a couple of his own songs by himself, then announced he had another friend in town he was going to invite out.  It just happened to be Jimmy Buffett with G Love.  All three of them together played “A Pirate Looks at Forty.”  Who would’ve guessed that I would see Jimmy Buffett tonight too.

Jack played a few more songs, then invited Ben Harper out.  I thought this would happen for sure since Jack and Ben have played together at many shows before, but that was back when Jack was opening for Ben I believe.  They played a Ben Harper’s “High Tide Low Tide” and then ended with Jack Johnson’s “Flake.”  It was now over at 10:15 p.m.  7 hours and 15 minutes after the start, it was finally over.  I literally stood in the same place for almost 8 hours, and I still didn’t want to move.  Like I said, I’m not sure if any concert could ever top this one.

Last night, 5 of us headed over to Trafalgar Square cause we found online that it was a Canada Day celebration there.  The whole square was crowded with Canadians and others that were just there to have some fun.  They had bands and food there, and we all had a good time.  The night ended with the crowd singing “Oh Canada”.

The night before that, I headed to the north side of Regent’s Park after work because my coworker had told me about Primrose Hill, a place with some nice views of the city.  I took supper up there with me and just sat there and people watched and took advantage of the nice day.  Got a few nice pictures too.  After this I walked all the way through Regent’s Park and explored the parts that I had not been to yet.  Nice relaxing evening.

Work has been going fine.  Finally got done with the project calling about the biotech company today, so hopefully some new projects will come up.

Here are some pictures:

Mason, Matt, and Jack

The crowd:

The stage:

G Love, Jimmy Buffett, and Jack Johnson:

Ben Harper and Jack Johnson:

Primrose Hill:

Sunset at Regent’s Park:

Cheers.

About Trent

I started Frugal Purpose to share my love of personal finance to assist your pursuit of a more fulfilling life. I am a financial analyst by trade, traveler at heart, and want to share with you the beauty of this world.

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