travel

Life’s a beach

IMG_2300Often there are times when we forget to appreciate the simple things.

We can get so caught up in this crazy biosphere we call life, that we forget to stop, unwind and see the beauty of the world in front of us.

After 3 months of living in Melbourne, I finally made it to St Kilda Beach. It took so long due to procrastination, University and all that stressful house hunting malarkey. Even though it took me a while to get to the beach I’m so glad I did when I did. It wasn’t the hottest of days, but it was hot enough for me to catch a tan! (yes, brown people tan too). It was just what I needed – I felt refreshed, at peace and blessed.

St Kilda beach is known for being one of Melbourne’s favourite beaches. I was surprised to see that hardly anyone was around, but I preferred it like that anyway. We wanted to avoid the crowds that the weekend brings so we went on a Wednesday afternoon (probably the reason for the quiet beach). Also from viewing the weather forecast, it looked like Melbourne wasn’t  going to have many sunny days after that, so we wanted to make the most out of the heat while it lasted. We wanted to stay on the beach to capture the sunset, but unfortunately it got quite cold so we decided to leave, but here are a few of the pictures I took that day…

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Now that it’s Autumn/Winter in Melbourne, there are unfortunately no more ‘beach days’ for me. 😦


“Life’s a beach… enjoy the waves”.

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House Hunting: The struggle

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Nothing ever really goes to plan does it?

Many people as well as myself have experienced the woes of a faltering plan. It might sound dramatic but the events that occurred were just that. Only a few people know of the real struggle that went into finding a place to live in Melbourne. I guess you could say we were unprepared and naive to think we could find accommodation so quickly, we assumed, since exactly that happened when we moved to Madrid last year. We spoke no Spanish, yet still found a beautiful apartment within 3 days. This was certainly not the case for Melbourne.

I was so excited to start my 5 month journey in Melbourne. I never thought I would have the chance to go to Australia, let alone to live and study there. Don’t get me wrong the first few days were amazing! The weather was beautiful, I loved being in a new environment, and I was right in the heart of the city. Not long after, we realised the differences in the house hunting process. From my experiences in the UK and Madrid, I am used to estate agents showing you around different places that you are interested in, as well as ones they think suit your criteria. But in Melbourne (CBD), they work on a first come first serve basis for housing applications, so even if you like a place and apply, you need to be quick because it could be taken just like that. They also have a couple of set days in the week where anyone can turn up for an inspection. With the housing market being so competitive, it meant that many inspections would have so many people turning up and would often clash with other companies, which meant you would miss out on a potential place to live. This happened a few times for us, even when we split up to look for places, the timings would overlap and when we sent in our (many) applications, we were told they had already been leased.

We spent our first month in Melbourne running around the city and its surrounding suburbs in the sweltering heat on a frantic house hunt. We viewed places from having a bedroom in the living room/kitchen with a shower curtain to separate the rooms, to top of the range, classy apartments. We saw everything. It was such a crazy time because it was the start of semester at University, and we were still on the hunt. We tried everything. Literally. The amount of times someone suggested we try ‘Gumtree’ became a joke. Even the University couldn’t suggest anything more than what we had already tried.

I started to lose faith and believed that we weren’t going to find anywhere to live. But little did we know that on the 11th March, everything would change. We got a phone call from an estate agent and they offered us an apartment! A couple of hours later, we got a call from someone saying that they also had an apartment available. I couldn’t believe it. All this time and money spent on house hunting and finally, a break through! After seeking housing advice we made our decision and moved into an apartment the next day.

Overall it took us a month (which felt like forever) to find a suitable place to live. We stayed in several temporary accommodations, which you can imagine the cost! I truly thank God for my amazing parents’ and the few lovely friends that knew the full extent of things. Your support meant a lot during that stressful time. I wasn’t going to post this experience but I feel like many times in life people think that ‘life is over’ when something doesn’t go to plan. But that is life. We can’t predict what may or may not happen and it’s how we deal with these things that show us how strong we really are. I could have easily quit, but I decided to stick it out and eventually things started to fall into place.

I believe that everything happens for a reason and one bad experience shouldn’t stop you from enjoying what you have right in front of you. Life is what you make it. Melbourne is a beautiful city with so much to offer. It was just unfortunate that my experience got off to a bad start. I am going to make the most of the time I have left here. Too much went into this trip just to throw it all away by giving up and staying miserable.

As the saying goes, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”…


 Philippians 4:13 ♥

Journey to the land of Oz

February 8th marked the date of my journey down under! As always, I was so last minute. I packed my bags the day I flew out to Melbourne. Me and my friend Shanalee (who I lived with in Madrid) met at Gatwick airport and prepared ourselves for the 2 stop overs, 3 flights, 27 hour journey and 5 months of living in Australia . If you have read my previous posts about me flying to other countries, you would know by now  the bad luck I’ve had… I don’t even know how, but once again we ended up running to catch our flight as the gates were closing, even though we were at the airport 2 hours before the flight! I just don’t get it…*sigh*IMG_1266

The first flight was from Gatwick to Dubai, I tried to catch up on sleep since not having any due to my last minute packing, but I was squashed between 2 large men. I just ended up listening to music and watching 22 jump street. The second flight was from Dubai to Perth, this flight was much better because I had an aisle seat and could stretch my legs throughout the flight. The plane food was gross… As usual. The final flight was from Perth to Melbourne, we arrived around 12am and lugged our massive and heavy suitcases to our hostel on Spencer street.

We stayed in a hostel for the first 3 nights, it was cheap. Lets just say we got what we paid for… Our first day consisted of having a lie in and exploring the city of Melbourne. We went on a wander and stumbled upon Federation Square, State Library, shopping centres and more. The weather was a shock to the system as we’d been in such cold temperatures in the UK and then to the extreme heat of Australia!  djs PicMonkey Collagefghghjjkk

 As we were still house hunting we had to leave the hostel and found a lovely place to stay for a few nights in the Docklands. We were lucky to have stayed there when we did because One Direction and their supporting act McBusted were performing at the Etihad Stadium, right next to the apartments. We stayed on the 21st floor and had an amazing view of the concerts for 2 nights. I’m not a fan, but it was pretty cool watching a concert for free from the comfort of your bedroom. There was also a gym and a rooftop pool with amazing views of the city. cityyyyyy ethihad1D McB

During the week we also had Orientation day for University, explored more of the city whilst house viewing literally everyday. I have also been filming/vlogging (lol) so if I am feeling brave, I might just upload the videos to YouTube… We shall see.

When in Rome…

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There are no words to describe just how beautiful Rome is; you have to see it to believe it, (unfortunately my pictures don’t do it justice). During my time in Madrid I was thinking about visiting other European countries, and lucky enough my cousin decided to celebrate her 22nd Birthday in Italy. We stayed right in the heart of Rome for 4 days, everything was within walking distance (we walked everywhere apart from the occasional taxi at night).

I flew from Madrid Airport to Ciampino early Friday morning and went over to Fiumicino Airport to meet my cousin and her friend, it was my first time flying alone and the journey was so stressful! I nearly missed my flight because the taxi service in my area is terrible in the early hours (if I haven’t mentioned before I basically live in a small town/village on the outskirts of Madrid centre). I also got lost in the airport and couldn’t find my gate and anyone I asked for directions couldn’t speak English or told me the wrong way. But in the end I caught my flight and was on my way.

Once we were altogether we made our way to our hotel (we stayed at Hotel Marvi – great service, free breakfast and lovely and extremely helpful staff). We were all exhausted from the early flights so we took a short nap and later headed out for Dinner. This was the first taste of Italy, literally. It took us a while to find somewhere to eat, but once we did it was worth the search. After dinner we headed back to the hotel to get ready for The Colosseum Bar Crawl; this was a great way to meet other people and see the sights of Rome at night.

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The next day we went to Piazza Navona and did some sightseeing, had a lovely meal for my cousins birthday and visited the museum near by, followed by some delicious gelato. My cousins friend opted for “Viagra flavour” lol! But apparently it tasted good. Later that night we went out clubbing to celebrate my cousins 22nd Birthday.

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We also visited Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City, that day was surprisingly hot for November, it was over 20 degrees Celsius! So we also thought it would be a good idea to do a city bus tour to take in all the sights with our little time we had left. It was my first city bus tour and I highly recommend it! If you are in a place for a short time, it is definitely worth it as you get to see most of the city and “hop on hop off” at any time. We only hopped off once and stumbled upon an amazing rooftop viewpoint of the city. It was honestly breath taking. We got to watch the city of Rome go from daytime to sunset to night time, it was honestly beautiful (if  you know me I love my city skyline views)!

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That night we had our last meal together and got ready for our final night out in Rome. We didn’t really know where to go as it was a Sunday but we had a couple of options and got the cab driver to help us. After a few failed attempts of finding somewhere decent, the cab driver took us to a Latin inspired nightclub, the music and atmosphere seemed so live and potentially would have been a great last night. We tried to get in but because it had already passed 1am (yes I know we left too late) we couldn’t get in, I even pretended that I was a ‘famous singer’ and sang for the bouncer (he actually believed me and said he recognised me lol) but all our efforts were pointless, so it was a fail last night in Rome. We ended up getting pizza and walking the empty streets of Rome instead, which was still an alright last night.

Our final day in the beautiful Roma came around way too fast. None of us wanted to leave. My cousins friend was the first to go so me and my cousin checked out of the hotel, had a quick lunch and bought some souvenirs before going to the coach station. My flight wasn’t till 9pm, but I thought I should leave early so I wasn’t in a rush, like always. My cousin got on her coach and I waited in the coach station café for about 3/4 hours. I thought by being there early I would have no trouble travelling, but surprise surprise two of my coaches got cancelled! and if I got the next one I would have been late and missed my flight. So I decided to meet up with my friend from University who lives in Rome and is currently doing his placement year there, we had a nice catch up and I decided to get a taxi in the end, it was a lot more money but I made it to the airport in time and headed back to Madrid.

My cousin has a YouTube channel and filmed our time in Rome, so if  you would like to see more of what we got up to in Rome, check out the YouTube video below (Beware of the craziness!). We had such a great time, hope you enjoy the video (It’s quite long so grab yourself a cup of tea or a glass of vino)!

I would definitely visit Rome again, it has so much beauty and history, the people are lovely and the food is great. I think it even has more of a romantic vibe and atmosphere than the otherwise suggested cities, for example Paris, but nevertheless an amazing city with so much to offer. I think everyone should visit Rome if you have the chance, like I said before you have to see it with your own eyes to understand what I’m talking about.

Ciao x

Adiós Inglaterra

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Once again I have said my goodbyes to the UK for 4 months as I embark on my Erasmus journey in Madrid. I have been here for nearly 2 months now and so much has already happened. Before even getting to Madrid me and my friend nearly missed our flight! This set the tone for the first couple of weeks. For the first 5 days we stayed in Plaza Mayor and luckily found a really nice apartment by the end of the week near uni and moved in. But this is where it started going wrong. Our first night we found a LIZARD in one of the bedrooms and it literally took an hour to get the stupid thing out of the window! The night after there was a horrible stench of fish (we still don’t know where it came from) plus we had no wifi in our apartment so we spent ages at uni and outside telepizza takeaway just so we could get some wifi (first world problems lol).

Our apartment.

Our apartment.

The first couple of days after moving in we thought it would be cool to check out the nightlife in Madrid. Its quite different compared to the UK; in Madrid clubs open at 11/12am and don’t get busy till 1/2am and then close around 6am. Long story short, the music was a bit rubbish, the drinks were so overpriced (14 euros for a small glass of wine! When you can buy a bottle of wine in the supermarket for 99 cents!), so we ended up leaving early to catch the metro and go home. What we didn’t know was that the metro closed at 1:30am. We bought a ticket and waited. Heard a loud noise thinking it was the metro coming, but really it was all the exit gates in the station closing! So on our first night out in Madrid we got stuck inside the metro station and I had to call the police for them to open the gates. At the time it was really scary but looking back on it now, its kind of funny.

Universidad Europea de Madrid.

Universidad Europea de Madrid.

After the first couple weeks of craziness things started going smoothly, I took an intensive Spanish language class (which wasn’t really helpful), started making new friends and getting to know the area I live in and the city of Madrid. Another positive has been the weather. Since September till now the weather has been amazing, which always makes everything better.

“Not all those who wander are lost”.

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The last few months of 2013 was only the beginning of my travels. If there is any opportunity to travel, I go for it! I never thought in a million years I would have been selected to study in America, so I took that mentality of ‘you never know till you try’ with the opportunities that came my way. Fortunately these opportunities were provided by my University which enabled me to travel free of charge or at a discounted price through the International Experience and Mobility Service department.

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For my advantage module I had the chance to go to China for 11 days. We stayed in Hangzhou at the Hangzhou Normal University for the first part of the trip and then stayed in a beautiful hotel in Shanghai for the last couple of days. I took a few weeks of Mandarin lessons in Coventry before travelling which was quite useful as the language barrier was a struggle at times. We got to visit some beautiful places such as Xie Xie wetlands, West Lake, famous temples and the pearl tower. I also tried some of the ‘typical’ Chinese cuisine, which is very different to what we eat in the UK, but was a lot nice in my opinion. I met so many lovely people, had tours of the University and of the famous markets and of course a bit of shopping.

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GRONINGEN

International Skills Development for the Sport & Event Industries was one of the mandatory modules on my course which enabled me to travel once again, this time it was in The Netherlands, where we took part in the Management Games. We stayed in a hostel sharing with 5-8 people for 5 days, waking up at 5:30am to get ready for university, then travelled on a bus for 30 minutes to Hanze University of Applied Sciences. It was an intense week of challenges and presentations, we had mixed groups working with other students all over Europe and had to complete daily assignments. My group ended up coming 3rd in the management games yay! I also made sure to explore the city with the free time I had.

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WASHINGTON DC

In May I was selected to volunteer at the EU Open Day event, working at the British Embassy with other Event Management Students. This was an amazing opportunity and my love for America grew stronger. We stayed at the lovely Embassy Row Hotel for 4 nights, we only had to work one day so the rest of the trip was free time. I went sightseeing to the typical tourist destinations such as The White House and The US Capital etc. I had my first American clubbing experience, which was very interesting to say the least and as usual I did a bit of shopping and more sightseeing.

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AMSTERDAM

This trip wasn’t part of my studies, just a city break with my friends this summer. We were in Amsterdam for 4 days, I wish I was there longer because we didn’t get to do everything we planned. With that being said it was still a really fun trip full of culture and craziness. I got to see the Anne Frank and Van Gough museum, took pictures with the’ I Amsterdam’ sign, stumbled upon a gelato festival, went on a peddle boat down the canal, checked out the Dutch nightlife, met some lovely people, went on my first bar crawl and went to the red light district. The red light district was definitely an experience, my cousin who has been to Amsterdam a couple of times recommended visiting ‘Red Light Secrets Museum of Prostitution’. Its located right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the red light streets and gives you an insight to what life is like behind the window. I really enjoyed my time in Amsterdam and will probably travel there again.

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All good things come to an end.

Rewind…! I am finally catching up with my blog; I thought I would start off with rounding up the last few weeks I had at CSBSJU (which were amazing if I might add).

December was a very busy month as we wanted to fit in so many things before we left. We had a chance to watch the Minnesota Vikings vs Washington Redskins game at the Mall of America Target Field, the atmosphere of being in such a huge stadium and the buzz from the crowd was imense!

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In my halls of residence we had a “culture night” where we had to make a small something from our culture, I ended up making banoffee pie. It wasn’t the same as how you would make it in the UK, but I had to make do with the ingredients I found in the supermarket. We also did some arts and crafts that night, which I thought was really lovely just chilling and creating.

I cheated a little and bought a ready made base ( I couldn’t find digestive biscuits). Then added toffee/caramel sauce, cool whip, bananas and chocolate chips. Lastly put it in the fridge to set.

We made melted crayon art and I added one of my favourite quotes to it: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”. I felt extra creative and painted “Gye Nyame” which is a traditional Ghanaian symbol meaning “Except for God”. It represents the omnipotence and omnipresence of God.

We took pictures by the lake, saw Santa and got piercings!

I also went to my first roller disco, tried eggnog for the first time and went to see the Saint Cloud State vs Union College ice hockey game.

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I also performed at two events with my lovely friend Rie. We sang an acapella version of ‘Last Christmas’ and I had my last dance performance with Element at the Archipelago Winter Gala and sang ‘Footprints in the sand’ at the farewell dinner for the exchange students. As my friends and family know it takes A LOT to get me singing in front of people, let alone singing on stage in front of a crowd! I also had a cold at the time of both performances, but I thought to myself I’m not here for much longer, I told myself to step out of my comfort zone and my friend wanted someone to sing with, so in the end I plucked up the courage and did it. After the performances I was shaking like crazy but it was well worth it. Everyone’s reaction and support was amazing, I was encouraged, believed in myself that little bit more and now I cherish those memories and experiences that I had at CSBSJU.

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When I’m feeling brave I might upload the videos of my dance and singing performances. Overall (as you can probably tell) I had the most amazing time, I tried to make the most of it and do as much as I could. I love America, the friends that I made are all so special and I wouldn’t change this experience for the world! Shout out to my Uni and parents for making it happen 🙂

To anyone thinking of doing a study abroad, I say GO FOR IT!

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Break: Day 5

I woke up feeling so tired from being in the mall nearly all day on Friday. Danyal’s mum had another thanksgiving meal planned for us & the immediate family members. It was a struggle getting out of bed, but the family members were scheduled to arrive soon, so we had to hurry before they came. I was happy to have a part 2 for thanksgiving before i left as ive never had one & her family are so lovely it was nice to see them. Once again there was a lot of food. Soul food 🙂 i really love how Americans make their mac n cheese and the sweet potatoes were so good!

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After the food we all talked for a while and played a game called buzzword. I’d never heard of the game before, but it was quite simple. You have 2 teams and you have a set of cards with the ‘buzzword’ and your team members have to guess the buzzword from the set of clues on the card, all within a 30 second time limit. The game was so funny because after all the food we ate our brains weren’t focused to answer questions at that point. Some of the cards were really simple & no one could guess the word. There were so many funny moments in that game, it was a lovely afternoon full of family, laughter & more memories made.

All in all i had a great time relaxing in the cities, i got to meet a wonderful family who welcomed me & treated me with such love. I got to have my first Thanksgiving & eat delicious food. I got to experience black friday shopping which was great! I’m glad i got to have this experience.

Thanksgiving Break: Day 3

Thanksgiving is a national holiday mostly celebrated in the United States and Canada as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. It is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. Thanksgiving has its historical roots in religious and cultural traditions.
We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the UK so this was my first one here in St Paul, Minnesota. My friend has an big annual Thanksgiving meal with her family & i was kindly invited to spend it with them on thursday. I was nervous to meet all her family but they were so loving & welcoming & they even sung me their family theme song… “We welcome you to Dawsonville…” It was so cute!
There was about 30 people that attended the meal so as you can imagine there was a whole lot of food. Soul food. It was so good & there was a lot of things i’ve never heard of, but as i am, i had to try a bit of everything.

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After the food we moved onto talking & games. It was so funny when some of the family tried to imitate the British accent, but it was better than other ‘British’ accents I’ve heard. We played cheat (screw) your neighbour, which is similar to the UK card game called cheat. The aim of the game is to have the lowest value card. I didn’t have beginners luck, & we were playing with quarters, so i lost mine 😦 note to self l, don’t gamble! After spending the afternoon with my friends family my cheeks hurt so much from all the laughing and smiling!
Everyone was so lovely to me & said that i was part of the family & whenever i come back to America i have a home 🙂 This was a wonderful first Thanksgiving experience, i’m so glad i got to spend it with such lovely people. I have so much to be thankful for! God has blessed me with a wonderful family, amazing friends & opportunities i could never imagine would happen! I am so thankful i got a chance to come to the US & meet so many amazing people! Thank you to my friend Danyal & family for welcoming me into your home this holiday.

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Happy Thanksgiving x

Thanksgiving Break: Day 1&2

My friend from college invited me back to her home for the Thanksgiving break in St Paul, which is in the cities. It feels good to be back in a city, i do love the quietness of the countryside, but I’ve missed city life to be honest.
We got picked up early in the morning by my friends dad, the journey took about 1-2 hours. We decided to stop off at McDonald’s (my first American McDs). I had a ranch chicken burger with ‘small’ fries, it basically tasted the same as the UK one but they had more variety on their menu.

 

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The next day we took a trip to Walmart! I was excited because it was my first time going to Walmart since there is only a Target at the nearest mall to my college. Walmart to me was just like Tesco or Asda in the UK. I managed to pick up a few things at amazingly cheap prices!

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I also went to TJ Maxx (in the UK its called TK Maxx) i bought a couple nice gifts for people & myself 🙂

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After shopping we stopped off for some food.

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After shopping & browsing we went home & were so tired we just chilled for the evening & watched movies (Medea & Think Like a Man).
My friends family are so welcoming & friendly, i’m glad i got invited to stay for the holiday.