Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Five Weeks In

    Hello, all! This post is long overdue, but in case you missed it, I’m abroad! I am in London to be exact, and to be even more specific, in a borough I could never afford if I were renting and not in student housing - so thank goodness for student housing. Walking to class gets a lot more interesting when you pass Aston Martins, Bentleys, and the occasional Rolls Royce. I won’t bore you with all of the details of my adjustment period... Suffice to say grocery stores are organized very differently in the U.K., but that was just another excuse to buy candy and snacks because I kept “accidentally” finding that aisle. The adjustment period was a little rough, but I blame that more on the jet lag and being tired for a week straight than anything else. Also, everyone tells you about jet lag for your sleep schedule - no one warns you that your stomach gets jet-lagged, too! But enough about that - here are some of the highlights of my five weeks.

1. The London Eye
Yes, it’s “touristy,” but the view is amazing! Definitely worth doing even if only for the pictures, but it’s also cool to get a feel for where things are in London - there are screens that identify the buildings you see from the windows.

2. Discount Theatre Tickets
I went to the TKTS stand in Leicester Square, and got same-day second-row seats to see Evita for easily half the price of what I would’ve paid booking in advance. For someone who loves going to shows, it’s a fun experience on short notice that can be repeated over and over without blowing the budget. Just a heads up: the line is significantly longer on the weekends, so that part requires a little bit of planning. 

3. Going to a Another Country
I was lucky enough to go to Brussels with my European business class and visit the European Union government buildings. I don’t believe most of them are open to the public, but there is plenty to do in Brussels - particularly for the chocolate and waffle lovers of the world. If you want a bird’s eye view of Brussels, take the tram to the Atomium, futuristic former exhibition site. Flights (and some trains) between countries in Europe are extremely reasonably priced - so why not go? I also really appreciated the experience of visiting a place that did not have English as its official language... I paid a lot more attention to everything and really felt like I got to experience a new culture.

The Grand Place in Brussels has survived for centuries, even through numerous attacks and occupations. 
3.1 - Traveling, continued 
My program does not have a large amount of free time, but I still found time to go to Switzerland to visit a family friend! We hiked (most of) a mountain, had some really good food, and (of course) had some chocolate. Something that was new for me - we walked across a bridge over the Rhine River, just for ice cream! The idea of borders is very different in Europe, but not in a bad way.

The view from the top!

I was a big fan of all of the Swiss cows.

The town in Germany that we visited

Dark chocolate ice cream!
     Unsurprisingly, London is very different from Burlington, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. There are aspects of Burlington that I miss, but there are parts of London that are also amazing. I love living in close proximity to so many different activities; if I am sitting bored, then I just have not made enough effort to find something to do, because there is always something. In continuing my habits from Burlington, I have already found a local bakery and some fancy ice cream places - I also have a list of top hot chocolate places that I hope to visit. 

     Future posts will hopefully be more frequent and more detailed, but for now, this is just a brief update into what I've been doing here across the pond. Cheers!

P.S. My apologies if the formatting is off and there is a white background on parts of this post - I have never had this happen before and cannot figure out how it happened. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

SMC in Spring

The semester ends in a week and a half, but Saint Mike's has finally thawed out and is in SPRING mode. The daffodils are blooming, people are out on blankets (except for the occasional rainy day), and I had Ben and Jerry's four times last week. Once we hit April, we really get busy and do not really stop until the semester does, because there is way too much to do - academic and otherwise. Here are some things I've done both around campus and in Burlington that you should definitely make time for:

1. Dunkin' at the View
If you did not know, there is a Dunkin' Donuts just a short walk past the new residence hall - time to put all of those $5 gift cards you have gotten at random events to good use. Get a coffee, iced if you prefer, and head on over to the View! The mountains are beautiful, and if you turn around, Saint Mike's doesn't look too bad, either.
The View is great in all seasons.

If you're thrown off by the different perspective, from left to right, that is the Chapel, Hoehl, and the suites.
2. Ben and Jerry's 
Now I am not saying you have to try for four times in one week - although only one of those was actually in Burlington - but you have to make it there at least once. The store is finally open again, and you know you've been craving a fresh waffle cone.
You know you're friends when you both get the same flavor - first time having Truffle Kerfuffle!
(Picture Credits to Emily Kopacz)
3. The Comedian
Every spring, Saint Mike's has a comedian come to campus, and they're always hilarious but relevant. This spring, Jessica Williams, formerly of The Daily Show, was our guest, and she had some great jokes while also keeping it real with the social commentary. 
Yes, Jessica Williams is wearing a Lion King shirt.
4. Explore past Church Street
Our freezing temperatures might stop you from wandering far off of Church Street during the winter - everyone does it at some point - but if you did not want to brave the cold, now is the time to explore! You know I love coffee shops, and there are some great ones only a few blocks away. New Moon Cafe is right off Church Street in an old chandelier factory (or so I have been told) and they have smoothies and sandwiches on top of some great espresso drinks. If you are a coffee connoisseur, try Onyx Tonics, a self-labeled "coffee-tasting bar" where blend selections change regularly and you can try coffee sourced from all over the world. 
Onyx Tonics is a great place for foreign coffee blends.
I had to go with my classic maple latte at New Moon!
5. Sunset at the Waterfront
You have to be a strong person to hit the waterfront in winter, as it is significantly colder by the water. But whether you made it there or not, nothing beats a spring (or summer!) sunset over Lake Champlain. 
In case you were wondering, you can make it to the lake and back to the bus station in ten minutes.
6. Sunset at SMC 
The lake is a great view, but Saint Mike's has its own charms, and without fail when there is a great sunset that is what you will see on Instagram. So if you're feeling trapped in the library until that term paper is done, take a break around 8pm and head outside for a few minutes. You won't regret it.
Wandering around trying to find a place to study has its perks - like this view.
7. P DAY
"Preparation Day" at Saint Mike's is the last Saturday before finals, and it means free food, great music, and lots of other fun activities. Your Purple Knight status is questionable if you do not at least make it outside for a free cone from Ben and Jerry's; Skinny Pancake and many other local places are also there, too. There are plenty of days for doing homework in the library, but P Day only happens once a year, so don't miss out
Post-ice cream and pre-food coma!
As I am one of the many people caught up in end-of-semester work, this might be my last blog post of the semester - and my last one in Vermont until 2018! I will be studying abroad in the fall, but I will still be blogging (if a bit less frequently), so stay tuned starting in September for posts from LONDON!!

Enjoy your summer,

Did you like my pictures? Check out my Instagram at @lauralinsanity.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Free Cone Day!

If you live in the Burlington area (or are just extremely dedicated to your ice cream), then you'll know that yesterday was Ben and Jerry's FREE CONE DAY - the greatest day on Church Street. Period. If you go to Saint Mike's, you have to make the trek and wait in the line at least once during your four years; more is better, obviously. As a lover of ice cream, I was very sad to not make it last year, but I finally got there yesterday! The line was long and the air was cold, but it was definitely worth it.
The line was long when we got there and even longer when we left - we waited about forty minutes.
Both a symbol of Ben and Jerry's social mission and a prop to direct the line, this cone was doing double duty.
In case you don't know, Ben and Jerry's supports a variety of social justice issues, particularly climate change. They took advantage of their most popular event to advocate for change. Organizations like the Peace and Justice Center and the Lake Champlain Land Trust were tabling - in a strategic move, the line went right past them. 

Ben and Jerry's takes Free Cone Day seriously - even though the shop on Church Street is under renovation (we're all very upset about it), Ben and Jerry's had a social justice themed block party and brought the ice cream anyway. And before you start to think they only had the most basic flavors, I can tell you that even if the entire flavor list was not on offer, more than half was - including non-dairy. Free Cone Day is no joke. 
Ben and Jerry's continues to be climate-conscious by having a Tesla as their company car.
If you do decide to go next year, some things to keep in mind: the line will be long (at least half an hour), there will be lots of children, and if we have another winter like this one, there may even be snow on the ground in some places. But that doesn't stop us from keeping up tradition. Free Cone Day is always worth it. 
Those are the smiles of some really cold, really happy people.
I can't promise my next post will be as... sweet, but stay tuned for more tales from the 802! 

Did my post make you crave Ben and Jerry's? Find a store near you.
Like my photos? Follow me on Instagram: @lauralinsanity

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What's My Wednesday? A Day in My Life

As you've (hopefully) noticed, all of my blog posts are on Wednesdays, so I thought I'd tell you a bit about what a Wednesday usually looks like for me. My schedule varies from day to day, but Wednesdays are usually pretty set in stone - as much as anything is in college.

9am (Really 9:05) - Every day, my amazing friend Emily waits patiently for me to finally get out of bed and shower so we can go to breakfast. Usually, by 9:05 we are on our way, by 9:08 my hair is frozen, and by 9:10 we are finally eating. Sorry, Em! My typical breakfast is eggs and potatoes, with strawberries if I'm lucky and iced coffee if I have time to make some. On the very rare day that we eat earlier, I spoil myself and have an omelette. 

9:45-10:50am - My first class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays is Principles of Microeconomics with Professor Walsh. 9:45 is a solid time to start your day -there's a 9:45 class on every day of the week, so it's a good way to get a routine set. If you're like me, you'll also have plenty of time to sleep in and still get a good breakfast. Curious about my classes? Check out my course schedule.

11am - Homework time at Einstein's! My goal this semester was to spend more time studying in places other than my room, to change things up a bit and keep me focused. Although I get less work done because I'm hanging out with friends, I have enough time to be slightly productive and still catch up on my friends' lives. A quick snack is also always welcome, and there is nowhere better than Einstein's for that. 
Einstein's has much more than bagels and coffee - try the sweet potato fries!
12:45pm - Lunch in Alliot can be hit or miss for me, as I am not really a lunch person in general. But I always find something to suit my mood, and on a really lucky day we have smoothies, which always make lunch worth it.

1:30-2:35pm - My only other Wednesday class is Effects of Climate Change with Professor Hope. Although science is far from my strong point, Professor Hope does a great job connecting concepts to current events, as well as expanding more on topics the class is more curious about. The class I was dreading has become one of the most entertaining and informative hours of my week. 

3pm - There is a 2:43 bus into Burlington that I can just make after class, so every Wednesday I go to Scout and Company in Winooski to do homework for a few hours. A Masala Chai or a Maple Cappuccino are my top choices; they also have some very creative ice cream flavors if you're feeling adventurous. When the weather's nice, I skip the bus and walk back, as it's only about a mile. 
Above: my first maple cappuccino with some awesome cacti
Below left: Scout's back counter and menu
Below right: A Single of Scout's storemade ice cream
5:30pm - Time for dinner and more conversations with friends. I work Monday through Wednesday nights, but on Wednesdays I have more time to chat because work starts an hour later. I rarely get everything from one station in Alliot, so dinner can mean a fairly eclectic plate sometimes. One of my favorite meals is getting shrimp and vegetables stir-fried, then putting that on pasta. As for dessert, everything is better with ice cream.

7-9pm - I am an attached tutor for an Economics class, which means I am assigned to a specific professor's sections in order to keep pace with their schedule. I have scheduled group hours once a week, and drop-in hours once a week as well. Drop-ins are on Wednesday nights, so I either spend some time helping other students with Economics or working on my own Economics homework. Not a bad deal either way, as helping students also helps me remember the material I've learned. My assigned tutoring room is in the Academic Enrichment Commons, which is one of the best study spots and resources in the library, in my opinion.
Durick Library, in all its winter glory
The AEC, where I work!
9:15pm - Although sometimes a night just has to be sacrificed to a homework assignment, I try to give myself at least an hour of downtime at the end of the day. Since my schedule can get so busy, having time to just be is equally as important as having assignments done and readings read. Depending on the day, you might find me watching This is Us or Superior Donuts, my new favorite shows, or just reading a book. A cup of tea is often necessary at this point. 

11pm - Time for bed! I've learned that I am just not my best if I have under seven hours of sleep - eight or nine is really better. While this may seem silly for college, going to sleep around the same time helps my body prep for the next day and leaves me more refreshed than if I had ten hours of sleep one night and six the next.
In case you don't follow VT weather: we still have snow, and it is still cold.
I hope you liked hearing about my typical day - reach out if you have any questions! I am not sure what my next post will be, but hopefully temperatures will warm up so I can share some proper spring pictures.

Until next time,