Thursday, November 14, 2019

Studying Abroad in London: A Very Harry Potter Week

After last week's adventures to another country, I spent reading week in London and Basingstoke. It was a busy week with a lot of different things going on but one thing that definitely dominated was the amount of Harry Potter things I managed to squeeze into the week. I honestly never wanted reading week to end as it was an amazing week but I know there's even more great weeks to come in November. Let's just dive in! 

November 4, 2019

I started off the week by sleeping in late. I was really tired after taking Dramamine for Wales and was still sleeping off those effects well into Monday morning. After waking up, I didn't really do much other than hang out with Isaac until it was time to head to the Harry Potter Studios.

I'm not able to put very many pictures in since I took probably hundreds and don't have enough space for all of those but the studio tour was one of the coolest things I've been able to do as a fan. I went with one of my flatmates, Liberty, and we had an afternoon slot. We got there and ended up exploring for a few hours just fangirling over everything we saw and taking pictures of everything. For those who are friends with me on Facebook, I'll be posting an entire photo dump of just Harry Potter Studios soon!

After that, we (and by we I mean me) shopped a bit in the souvenir shop where I got too much chocolate and some enamel pins. Then we caught the shuttle back to the train station. When we got there, the trains ended up being delayed due to a trespasser on the tracks. What would have been an hour commute all together ended up taking over two hours. Eventually we got home and then I just made dinner and went to bed. 

November 5, 2019

Tuesday was a day of being lazy. We slept in and then both worked on homework for a bit. That night, we binged Psych and went to bed. Just a super chill and lazy day.  

November 6, 2019

We slept in again on Wednesday and I pretty much just rolled out of bed and straight into my events for the day. I traveled into central London to see The Cursed Child on stage. It was amazing. I wasn't a huge fan of the play when it first came out (since I only read the printed play) but seeing it performed live changed my entire perspective on it. It was so cool seeing how they made it look like magic was happening right on stage. Not to mention the fact that I would absolutely die for Scorpius Malfoy. He's a smol bean who needs to be protected at all costs. Additionally, there were times when I was actually terrified during the show, which I wasn't expected but really enjoyed.

Between parts 1 and 2 I just went to a cheap cafe to get food and do a bit of reading for an assignment before heading to Foyles Bookshop. It was a really cool store that actually had a lot of American editions and other books I hadn't seen at other stores like Waterstones. I definitely want to go back if I'm in the area and have time to explore more.

After that, I just went back to campus and ate quiche with Isaac before staying up late watching Psych and talking. 

November 7, 2019

On Thursday we woke up a bit earlier than the previous days so that we could go to the library and be a little productive. I got some stuff done but not as much as I would have liked, but I'll accept it as a semi-productive day.

Then we headed into central London to catch a train to Basingstoke, Isaac's hometown. I met the rest of Isaac's family and then we just hung out for a bit and ate pizza before pulling Uno out. Nothing brings people together or separates people more than a good round of Uno. 

November 8, 2019

Isaac and I slept in late again before spending the day being lazy while binging the UK Apprentice. I never really watched it in the US (because of a certain host) but I've really enjoyed watching the UK version.

After that, we made dinner before heading out for a night out in Basingstoke. We started out at one of Isaac's friend's houses playing a few different card games and having pre-drinks. Then we walked into town to a nightclub called Fever. We all danced and had some drinks for a bit before Isaac and I left to get kebabs to take back to the house.

We took a taxi back and then just climbed into bed to eat our food and watch some Psych while trying to warm up a little bit. I'm pretty sure I fell asleep before the episode was over but I do remember the fact that Isaac's dog joined us and was like a space heater. 

November 9, 2019

We slept in on Saturday, again, before we continued our binge of the Apprentice. We actually ended up getting fully caught up so now we have to wait until we're back at Christmas break to finish watching it.

That night we went to a hockey game at the local ice rink. It was pretty cool but I wish there'd been a fight. After that, Isaac skated for a bit before we headed back to the house and ordered Chinese. It was some of the best Chinese I've ever had and I'm really craving eating it again, though that may just be because I haven't had Chinese in so long. 

November 10, 2019

It shouldn't come as any surprise that we slept in again on Sunday. We woke up and had a bit of a late breakfast before running to the store to get some ingredients for that day's meal. Isaac's family made a roast dinner and it was to die for. Everything tasted so good and I can feel myself start drooling just thinking about it.

After that, we just watched Psych and messed around the house a bit before packing up and heading back to campus, thus ending a relaxing reading week. 

As shown, this reading week was a busy time but also so very fun and great. It was one of the best weeks I've had this entire semester and I know I'm going to look back on it with fond memories for a long time to come.

For past weekly diaries, check out my study abroad page here.

Thanks for reading!

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Studying Abroad in London: Mormons & a Welsh Adventure

Another week gone by! This past week was packed with events and new travels. It was actually a pretty chill week, though, and it was quite nice to have this week kind of off before heading into the insanity that was reading week. However, I don't want to go into too much detail here so let's just jump in to the weekly wrap-up! 

October 28, 2019

On Monday I just had a lie-in cuddling and doing random stuff on my phone before heading to lunch with Isaac. After lunch I had a tutorial meeting (aka just a meeting with the professor) to discuss the upcoming essay for the class. I was a bit worried heading in but feel a lot better after the meeting and after spending some time figuring things out in relation to the essay. What really made it awesome was that at the end of the meeting I discovered that there wasn't class that day because we all had meetings and I was able to just head back to the flat.

I spent that time cleaning for a bit and reading a little while I waited for Isaac to get out of lecture. After that, we ordered food and did our laundry. We were still hungry after dinner so we made a trip to ASDA with another of our flatmates to get snacks to last a while. After getting back, we just watched Psych, which he's now obsessed with (cue maniacal laughter here).  

October 29, 2019

On Tuesday I didn't do much, which seems to be the theme with Tuesdays. I woke up and made breakfast before heading to the library for a bit to work on being productive. I did some stuff but not as much as I would have liked before heading back to the dorm and watching movies before bed. 

October 30, 2019

Wednesday was one of the busier days of the week and it didn't really start off well. At 4:20 AM the fire alarm went off and pulled me from a dead sleep. I had to get up and get dressed before going outside to stand in the freezing cold. It wasn't a planned fire drill so we had to stay out there while they checked it all out and turned it off. Then, just as they were gesturing us to go back inside, it went off again and we had to keep standing there in the cold. Eventually we were let back in and I fell back asleep pretty quickly. However, at 7:30 AM the alarm went off...AGAIN. And I was pulled from a dead sleep...AGAIN. I was able to fall back asleep but didn't get very much sleep before I had to wake up for the day.

I then went to Isaac's football game (soccer for all my American friends) and watched that for a bit. It was a sunny day with very few clouds so it was really beautiful over by the fields. The people I'd gone to watch with and I ended up taking some pictures with the fall colors. After that, I picked up food from ASDA on the way back to campus and cooked dinner so that we could eat right when Isaac got back.

That night we went to see The Book of Mormon at a theatre in Piccadilly Circus. I'd been wanting to see it for a while now and I was stoked to finally see it. It was absolutely hilarious. As much as I find the soundtrack funny, it was even funnier seeing it live with all the dances and acting. I would definitely recommend seeing it and I'm hoping that I'll get to see it again sometime.

After that, we headed back to campus and I just showered before falling asleep.

October 31, 2019

Neither of us had any classes on Thursday so we slept in pretty late. I didn't end up being productive in any way until about 5 pm when we went to the library. We ended up staying almost 7 hours until just before it closed at midnight. I read the entirety of Dr. Jekyll & Mr Hyde while I was there but didn't do much else since we messed around a bit. After that, we ended up eating dinner at midnight and then finished up the last things on my to-do list before we went to bed at about 2:30 AM. 

November 1, 2019

I woke up at a reasonable time and went to my lecture. It was actually pretty interesting since we were discussing Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. After that, I just went to lunch with Isaac before heading back to clean a bit. Then I just read a little of my book before we made dinner.

After dinner, a few of us gathered for some drinking games before heading out dancing at the campus night. We danced for a bit before coming back to the flat and making pasta to eat while we watched Psych until falling asleep. 

November 2, 2019

On Saturday I woke up relatively early so that I could catch the coach to Wales with one of my flatmates Sarah. I slept most of the way to the first destination which was at the Caerleon Roman Fortress--or rather, what remains of it. Unfortunately, the big amphitheater was closed but we were still able to explore the ruins of the barracks and the museum.

After that, we headed into Cardiff and walked around a bit (getting extremely wet) with the tour group before Sarah and I headed off to find lunch. We ended up going to this cute market and I got an amazing cup of homemade beef stew. After we were back on the coach, our tour guide gave us all the BEST Welsh cakes I've ever had. I mean, they're the only Welsh cakes I've ever had but they were amazing.

Then we headed to Caerphilly Castle to explore a bit. It was rainy but I feel as if that added a bit of magical feeling to the whole adventure. We don't have castles in the US so any chance to explore a castle is great for me.

After that we went to the hotel where Sarah and I ordered take out and watched movies while trying to warm up after a day of being cold and wet. Then we headed to bed but ended up talking for a bit before bed. 

November 3, 2019

On Sunday we woke up early and then I had the best hotel breakfast I've ever had. It was a classic buffet style but they had all of the fixings for a proper British breakfast. Then we headed straight to our first big event of the day at Big Pit National Coal Museum.

We actually got to go down into the mine for a tour--but we weren't allowed to bring anything electronic so I didn't get any pictures. However, it was so cool getting to tour them from a person who actually worked in them and getting to hear the histories behind it all. After that, we were able to explore the rest of the area a bit and got some beautiful views before we headed off.

Sunday was sunny and beautiful so we actually got to see a lot of beautiful scenery on our drive to where we ate lunch. We stopped in a small town and Sarah and I just got a few meats, cheeses, and crackers to eat alongside the river since it was such a nice day. We ate pretty quickly and then just walked along the river and bridge taking pictures with the beautiful fall colors.

After that, we headed to Tintern Abbey, an old abbey for monks that is now in half-ruins. It was actually really fun getting to explore and imagine how the different rooms looked when it was still fully standing. Also, the abbey was located in this valley surrounded by trees and forests that were all turning fall colors so it was absolutely stunning.

Upon leaving Tintern Abbey, we headed back to London and actually ended up getting back to campus on time for once. Then I just watched some movies before bed with Isaac and relaxed. 

Overall, it was a great week with an excellent start to reading week. I'm excited to add another country to my "traveled to" list. Wales was beautiful and I'm so excited to be able to say I'm adding Scotland to that list in a few weeks. I'm wondering which will end up being prettier...

For past weekly diaries, check out my study abroad page here.

Thanks for reading!

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Book Review: "A Match Made in Mehendi" by Nandini Bajpai

Title: A Match Made in Mehendi
Author: Nandini Bajpai
Genre: YA Contemporary
Page Length: 320 pages
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Date Started: November 1, 2019
Date Finished: November 12, 2019
Rating: 4 // 5 stars

Fifteen-year-old Simran "Simi" Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole-matchmakers-with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the "gift."

But Simi is an artist, and she doesn't want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah's social status. Armed with her family's ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course.

But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys' soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.

*I was sent a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own* 

From the moment I read the synopsis of this book I knew I wanted to read it. Everything about it appealed to me from the idea of a matchmaking app to high school drama. I will be the first to admit I have been out of high school for a few years now and that I haven't really missed it. However, while I was reading this book, I was getting very nostalgic. I kept getting pulled back to those afternoon car rides with my friends and study sessions on the living room floor with a bowl of cookie dough.

The first thing I noticed about this book is how easy it was to fall into the pages and get lost reading it. The writing is very simple yet still produces vivid settings and strong connections to characters. Not only that, but it's so easy to follow that you start reading and get so engrossed that you don't realize you've just read 100 pages. Despite how many days passed between when I started and finished the book, I read it in only two sittings because it was such a fast read.

The drama and high-school angst was great. I've been out of high school for only a few years so I definitely can remember a lot of it and a lot of the things that I went through. I felt as though this book encapsulated a lot of the struggles of teenage girls and just high school in general. Plus, I'm always there for some drama. Even with some of the light drama, this book did deal with some more serious topics such as bullying and being outed against your will. I thought the way the author handled these things was done really well.

The characters were very compelling. I really enjoyed our main character Simi. She's a young girl trying to find a way to fit in high school while struggling with what her family wants for her versus what she wants for herself. Simi is a genuinely nice person who tries to do good and help those around her, but it doesn't always work out for her. I also liked our side characters, though Simi was definitely the main attraction for me with this book.

However, the thing I liked most about this book was getting to see more of Indian culture and desi identity. As a white American, I've never experienced the family dynamics, culture, or functions that Simi does. It was not only eye-opening but also just really enjoyable to get to read about the culture and family dynamics from an own-voices author.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was a fun, fast-paced read that a lot of teen readers will enjoy. I will reiterate that this is a book for teen readers, our main character is young, and the writing voice is aimed at younger audiences so those who enjoy dense adult high fantasy may not find the reading experience to be the same. However, I really liked it and am so grateful that I got the chance to read it. I highly recommend it to all YA contemporary lovers out there!

Trigger warnings: public outing of a character, bullying

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Friday, November 1, 2019

October 2019 Wrap-Up!

So...was this the best reading month I've ever had? No. In fact, compared to the rest of the year, this month was terrible for reading. However, I've had such a great month that I don't even care. I read a total of four books this month with two of them being for class and the other two being graphic novels. Apart from reading, I did a lot of exploring and whatnot within London (which you can read about in the study abroad wrap-ups I've linked at the bottom). Hopefully November will be a better month considering I have so much reading to do, but I'm not quite sure how well that will work since I'm going to be so busy with traveling and working on final assessments. Anyway, without further ado, let's just dive into my October wrap-up!

Title: The Castle of Otranto
Author: Horace Walpole
Rating: N/A--read for class
I'm choosing to leave a rating off since I was required to read this for a class. Overall, not a bad book. I did enjoy it more than a lot of ones I've had to read for various classes over the years. However, I wouldn't say it's a great one either. I think one of the main things this book showed me was how, in classes, men are just so dumb. Like...maybe taking a step back and looking at a situation from a rational standpoint might mean you don't do something dumb?

Title: Heartstopper, Volume 1
Author: Alice Oseman
Rating: 4 // 5 stars
Rereading this was so fun and just a nice, cute way to spend an afternoon. This was my second time reading this and I was reminded why I enjoyed it so much the first time around. While it's a simpler story compared to the high fantasies that I read, I was engrossed from page one and I loved it on this reread.

Title: Heartstopper, Volume 2
Author: Alice Oseman
Rating: 4 // 5 stars
If my heart was full from the first volume, it's bursting after this one because of how cute it was. These characters are so wonderful and the story is compelling and relatable to every teenager who's ever had a first crush or a coming out story. 10/10 would recommend. 

Title: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
Rating: n/a--read for class
This was my first time reading it and, while I had to read it for class, I did really enjoy it. It took me quite a long time to get through it because I was annotating and taking notes, but I have to say that reading it all at once definitely helped me to understand and follow the story better. I already knew the big twist at the end but I did really enjoy it.


Studying Abroad in London: Classes & A Cruise
September 2019 Wrap-Up
Blog Tour: "The Good Luck Girls" by Charlotte Nicole Davis
Studying Abroad in London: Clubs & New Cities
Studying Abroad in London: Musicals & Stonehenge
Fall Reading Recommendations
Studying Abroad in London: Cemeteries & Even More Shows
Studying Abroad in London: A Date and a Party

Thanks for reading!

You can follow my bookstagram here. A brand new giveaway will be posted soon!

To get more awesome content like this post, click the follow button to the right!

I am a "BookishTextDesign" Influencer! Use my code LAUREN10 for a discount off your bookmark purchases! Check out the shop here

Get free worldwide shipping with Book Depository using my affiliate link

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Studying Abroad in London: A Date and A Party

Yet another week has flown by and what a jam-packed one it was, especially the last few days of the week. I definitely feel at home here, especially after these past couple of weeks. I say it in every post, but I never want to leave. 

Anyway, so many events happened this week. There were excursions, sight-seeing, dates, amazing food, parties, etc so let's just go ahead and dive straight in. 

October 21, 2019

Monday, as usual, started out pretty slow. When I woke up I didn't really do anything all morning other than sleep in and relax a bit before heading to lunch with Isaac. Then I had my lecture from 3-6 and I was pretty bored during it. I was having a bit of anxiety about the class by the end of the lecture, but I've figured some things out since then and think I have things mostly set.

After that, I made cheesy potatoes for dinner and then tried to be productive while Isaac went to soccer practice (it's called football here, though). I didn't get as much done as I wanted to, though I did shower, finalize my Halloween costume, and do some Instagram catch-up. Once he got back we ordered pizza and ended up staying up until 2:30 AM watching Psych so that we could be sure he didn't have a brain injury before we went to sleep. 

October 22, 2019

I had another sleep-in and literally did nothing until I met Isaac for lunch. After that, I picked up some packages for class and my Halloween costume and then worked on a blog post. I'd say that Tuesday wasn't an overall interesting or productive day, but it was relaxing before a long stretch of eventful days.

October 23, 2019

St. James Park
Westminster Abbey
I had another class excursion on Wednesday. This one took us into Central London to follow in the steps of Mrs. Dalloway, a character created by Virginia Woolf. We started in Westminster near Big Ben and walked past Westminster Abbey on our way to Dean's Yard where Dalloway supposedly lived in the novel.

After that, we headed through St. James park which was absolutely stunning with all the fall colors hitting it. We were passing by Buckingham Palace and managed to catch some sort of ceremonial march that was going on. It was actually super cool to see. Then we ventured up Bond Street and saw all the super expensive shops and designer stores before splitting off for the day.
Bond Street

I ended up heading back to campus because I was exhausted from the Dramamine induced drowsiness. I got lunch and ended up napping until Isaac got back from his football game. We ended up just ordering kebabs and food to eat while we watched Psych before bed.

October 24, 2019

Thursday was a big day. Isaac and I woke up semi-early but spent most of the morning in bed until we had to leave for Central London. We picked up lunch on our way to the bus stop and then headed over to the Natural History Museum.

It started raining as we got there which was a bit unfortunate but we didn't let it bring down our mood for ice skating. If anything, it made the day even more memorable. I was alright at ice skating--definitely better than the last time I went--but I really enjoyed just watching Isaac show off how well he could skate. 

After skating, we headed up to the cafe where we got some pictures from when we were skating and then some hot chocolate to warm up a bit. The rain definitely made us cold so the hot chocolate was really nice. After that, it was back out into the rain (though it had slowed down a bit) to queue up for the Natural History Museum.

I definitely think this is my favorite museum I've been to. I much prefer museums about history and science over art (though I do still like art) and the Natural History Museum was full of cool exhibits--mainly dinosaurs. I loved the dinosaurs part but I also loved the rocks section because, well, rocks.

Our personalized M&Ms
Then we headed over to Piccadilly to Waterstones which was the largest bookstore I've been in in my entire life. I loved it. It was five floors full of books. I wish they'd had the Russian Bookstore still, as that was why I wanted to go there, but I was obviously able to enjoy it anyway.

Up next we walked through Piccadilly and decided to go into the M&M World on a whim. It was so colorful and a bit overwhelming, but we did get M&Ms with our faces printed on them! Talk about extra. After leaving M&M world, we went to a steak restaurant for dinner and it was amazing. We got a camembert dish for an appetizer and it's probably the best camembert I've ever had. Then came the steak. Oh mama was it amazing steak.

After that, we walked a bit and ended up in Trafalgar Square after dark. It was cool to see it at night when the buildings and fountains were all lit up different colors. We picked up some snacks for later before heading over to Tower Bridge so I could check it off my bucket list before catching the tube back to campus.

When we got back to campus we dug into some of our snacks and turned on The Martian (inspired by our trip to the Natural History Museum) and just watched that before heading to bed.

October 25, 2019

It was a lazy morning Friday where we slept-in followed by lunch at the diner. After that, I spent a few hours being productive while Isaac took a nap. The real fun didn't begin until after dinner when the drinking games began.

I think that's the most I've ever drank in one go? I didn't get drunk but I did get tipsy before we went to the Bop (campus-hosted dance night). It was really fun dancing and just hanging out with my flatmates.

After getting back, Isaac and I made a frozen pizza and I Facetimed my mom and niece. It was fun getting to talk to them and see my niece after not having spoken for a while. After that we just went to bed. 

October 26, 2019

Saturday was also a busy day. We slept in for a bit before Isaac had training to go do. I was going to be productive while he was at that but I ended up accidentally falling back to sleep and sleeping through the entire time since I'd been up late the night before. I did meet Isaac for lunch at the library cafe before we headed to Londis to get some snacks and other stuff for the Halloween party.

I was semi-productive once we got back. I could have been more productive but I did get some things done that afternoon. That evening, Isaac and I went to pick up two of his friends from the train station before heading into Putney to go to Nandos for dinner. It was a fun meal before we headed back to campus to get ready for the Halloween party.

It took me a bit longer than everyone else to get ready since I had more makeup to do. Glitter got absolutely everywhere (and is still everywhere) but I'm proud of how my costume turned out. I ended up going as a pot of gold since Isaac was going as a leprechaun.

The night was fun. My team kicked ass at beer pong not once but twice. Let's just say Americans do it better and leave it at that. After that, a small group of us headed to the other kitchen to play some other drinking games. We played a few classics and also some I'd never heard of that were absolutely hilarious. I think I gained a 6-pack just from how hard I was laughing.

Then we ordered pizza because one of us had a 50% off coupon and we were eating that when security came to shut down the actual party (is it even a real party if security doesn't shut it down?). It was kind of dumb that the party got shut down before midnight because quiet hours weren't until 2 am but whatever. I was tired anyway.

We cleaned up a bit after most of the flat had decided to venture out to find a new party on campus before putting on a movie to watch before bed. 

October 27, 2019

We slept in a little bit on Sunday but not too much before heading into London with Isaac's friend and another flatmate of ours. We took the tube over to St. Paul's Cathedral and had lunch at Wagamamma before going into the cathedral to see the inside. It was quite beautiful but I wish we could have explored even more of it since the only part we could walk around in was the entrance area. We couldn't take pictures of the inside, but I did end up getting some pictures of the outside.
St. Paul's Cathedral

After that we ventured over to the Natural History Museum where we went ice skating again. Seeing as it was sunny and not a weekday, it was a lot busier than when Isaac and I went on Thursday. One of the employees actually recognized us which was funny. But it was a fun time since I had others this time at more of my skill level. I will say I do think I'm getting better at it.

Then we made our way back to campus to hang out a bit in the kitchen with Isaac's friends before he had to take them back to the train station. While he did that, I went with one of our flatmates to grab food from one of the places on campus and brought it back to the flat.

After dinner, Isaac and I watched movies and ate some snacks before heading to bed. 

Another busy week behind me! I have an equally as busy week coming up, however, so definitely stay tuned to see how that goes. I keep thinking things are going to slow down eventually but they never do--and I'm glad! I want to keep enjoying every second of being here because I know in less than two months it's going to end.

For past weekly diaries, check out my study abroad page here.

Thanks for reading!

You can follow my bookstagram here. A brand new giveaway will be posted soon!

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I am a "BookishTextDesign" Influencer! Use my code LAUREN10 for a discount off your bookmark purchases! Check out the shop here

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