I kicked off my east coast trip in the Big Apple with my long-time friend, Nick.

Saturday, 15 August: Aside from an unexpected mad dash to make my connecting flight, my travels went smoothly. My first impression of New York was how vast it was; I’ve never seen a city with so many buildings, including Toronto. Nick picked me up from La Guardia soon after I landed and we ate dinner before going back to his residence in Yonkers. I was nervous to meet Nick’s family because they were (understandably) uneasy about a perfect stranger living in their house and I didn’t want to say or do anything that might make them question my intentions. However, our evening went well and his family are lovely people.

Sunday, 16 August: We hit the road for Cooperstown (about a three and half hour drive) to see one of our favorite bands, Brand New. We made good time and got to the venue as the doors were opening. The venue was outdoors at a brewery on the side of a hill. Although it was humid, it was unlike any other outdoor concert I’ve been to before. It was an incredible show and the fireworks during the encore were a lovely surprise.

Monday, 17 August: We took the subway to Battery Park, where a ferry took us to Liberty Island. The Statue was magnificent. We had access to the pedestal, which had especially wonderful views of the skyline. Our tour also included access to Ellis Island, but we had to skip that portion to make our tour at the 9/11 Museum. Both the memorial and museum were beautiful but sad; I’ll admit I got a little steamy-eyed. After that, we walked the Brooklyn Bridge, which also had wonderful views of the city. Our four hours of sleep caught up with us and we decided to call it a day after that, omitting The High Line from our itinerary.

Tuesday, 18 August: In the morning, we headed towards Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey about an hour and a half away. It was similar to the Six Flags park in Los Angeles that I’ve been to several times, but it was fun to ride new roller coasters, including the tallest one in the world, Kingda Ka. My favorite ride was Nitro; although it didn’t loop, the tall drops were exhilarating.

Wednesday, 19 August: We headed out for the city once again for another busy day. We started out with a long walk though Central Park followed by seeing Les Misérables at the Imperial Theatre. It was spectacular. The theater was beautiful and the cast was extremely talented. It has been a dream of mine for quite some time to see a play on Broadway and the whole experience was so surreal. After a short walk around Rockefeller Plaza, we went to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. The views were spectacular from all sides and levels. To wrap up our day, we took a short walk through Times Square before taking the subway back home.

Thursday, 20 August: For our final day, we saw things we didn’t get a chance to earlier in the week; The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The High Line. I was impressed with how vast The Met was. I got lost several times and had difficulty prioritizing exhibits. However, my favorite exhibits were the American and the European art. After that, we went to The High Line, a restored train track lined with vegetation a few floors above the busy streets. To end our day, we had dinner at the pizzeria Nick works at.

I was really impressed with New York and I’m glad I got to do everything I wanted to and then some. After an exhausting week, I’m ready to do it again in Philadelphia (after I sleep on the bus ride there, of course).

Photo by ian dooley.

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I leave for the east coast tomorrow morning and although I won’t be in the United Kingdom for another two weeks or starting my program for another month, this feels like the beginning of my study abroad journey.

Although my time at home was relaxing, I did well to keep myself busy by tackling my mile-long to do list, including shopping for travel supplies and a warmer, more weather-tolerant wardrobe, attending appointments, exchanging currency and applying for a visa. I made sure to spend quality time with my family and friends by going to movies, dining out, staying in, or simply talking.

I got a lot of my university information, including accommodation. I landed my second choice, Lancaster House, the closest dorm-style accommodation they have. I will be supposedly be sharing a kitchen with my whole wing (ten other people) and a bathroom with four other people, but I will have my own room with a wash basin. I’m not entirely sure what to expect, but I’m excited to meet new people and settle in. I really enjoyed interacting with everyone in the dorms my freshman year at Arizona State and I look forward to having a similar arrangement abroad but with my own room. My university address is:

Lancaster House Room 105
University of Sussex
Falmer, Brighton, East Sussex
United Kingdom BN1 9QP

I also got my “buddy” assigned to me. The University of Sussex gas a program called Buddy Scheme, where freshman, international students and exchange students can be paired with a British student for advise, resources and more. My buddy’s name is Victorija, she’s Latvian and a third year like myself. She’s been offering me all sorts of pearls of wisdom about academics and campus life. She has really helped put my mind at ease and I can’t wait to meet her in person!

I have been planning and waiting for my study abroad program for about a year on top of longing to travel for several years prior and it’s surreal to think it all begins tomorrow. I’m thankful for everyone who has supported me, especially my family and British friends, who made this possible by giving me advice and being awesome hosts.

I will look back on tomorrow as the first day of one of the most incredible experiences of my life and I can’t wait to share it with all my readers.

Photo by Lesly Juarez.

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Saturday, 11 July: We (my immediate family) woke up bright and early for our long day of flying. We flew from Tucson to Phoenix, then to Phoenix to Los Angeles, then finally, from Los Angeles to Maui. We were lucky enough to fly first class the whole way. It was especially nice for the five-hour flight to Maui, where I was able to watch some of my favorite shows and play some games. Once we got into Maui, we got groceries, checked into our hotel and later went to the beach and pool. Whether it was the jet lag, lousy amount I’ve sleep I had the two previous nights, or some combination of both, we went to bed early.

Sunday, 12 July: We had a relaxing day of hanging around the hotel and overcoming jetlag before going out for dinner.

Monday, 13 July: I went for a walk on the beach in the morning before we headed a few miles down the shore to Black Rock, a jumping point. I’ve probably been out of practice, but the swim there was tiring. My brothers and I jumped off the twenty foot rock into the ocean a few times before swimming back to shore for some snorkeling.

Tuesday, 14 July: We departed from Ka’anapali Beach on a boat to Honolua Bay for an afternoon of snorkeling. We snorkeled for about an hour and a half in the crystal clear waters, where the highlights were seeing a sea turtle and schools of upwards of a hundred fish. While we were eating lunch on the boat, we spotted a few Hawaiian spinner dolphins putting on a show in the mouth of the bay and a large sea turtle. On our way back, the dolphins drew nearer to the boat to ride our surf. Towards the end of our excursion, I met an Olympian and fellow passenger, silver medalist Megan Bozek from the U.S. women’s hockey team. I was starstruck, she was so sweet.

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Sunday, 28 June: Colin had to work in the morning, but I kept myself busy while he was away. Once he got back, we headed to Grand Bend for Stegall Festival, a concert featuring local bands in a small bar in Grand Band hosted by the Stegall family, with their three daughters headlining the event. The purpose of the event was to raise money for their recording expenses. There, we met up with our friends, Scott and Kayleigh, and walked down the strip a few times between bands. I was impressed with the talent, especially  that of Three Forks, a local band who I also saw in December, and Cats. After the Stegall sisters played, we went back to the house for an evening of relaxing.

Monday, 29 June: Colin dropped me off at the farm in the morning on his way to work. Pam didn’t return until later in the afternoon, so our work day of washing sprout trays and weeding was short lived. That evening, we had our first campfire. It took a while to start and the mosquitoes were eating us alive, but it was nice to watch once the fire was developed.

Tuesday, 30 June: There was somewhat of an overcast starting early in the day, but that didn’t stop us from weeding, and neither did the rain. On the bright side, the rain wasn’t too heavy and it warded off the mosquitoes. However, even light rain becomes unpleasant to work in after a while. After lunch, we cleaned the house thoroughly for Pam’s friends visiting this weekend. I swept the floors, vacuumed the rugs and cleaned out the pantry. After I cooked that evening, Colin picked me up to spend Canada Day together.

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Monday, 22 June: Colin dropped me off at the farm on Monday afternoon, where our work day was short-lived due to an oncoming storm. The storm made for cozy reading weather and I finished The Stand that afternoon. However, the storm took a turn for the worst that evening, yielding a tornado warning throughout the county. The tornado went just north of us and the warning was demoted to a watch for the remainder of the night.

Tuesday, 23 June: It rained in the early hours of the morning, but the wind helped dry it enough to work in the field. After a long day of weed-pulling, cooking dinner and watering the sprouts, I was exhausted and ready for bed early.

Wednesday, 24 June: Dominique and I had to work my two least favorite plants to weed: the strawberries and the asparagus, where the weeds are too small or too large to use the hoe on and they all have to be picked by hand. Not to mention, the mosquitoes were eating me alive. On the bright side, Colin’s mom gave me some miraculous after-bite cream that works extremely well. After lunch, I helped Pam prepare for the market by making labels, taking out the trash, washing sprouting trays and going over what we need to bring.

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