MIxed Tape Tuesday

Well after somewhat of a hiatus, with time for just England posts and then catching up with the start of the semester, Mixed Tape Tuesday is back!

The beginning of classes always brings a fair amount of stress while I am getting back into the swing of things, and it's those times when I channel my inner child and say the 5-year-old version of 'f*** it': 'hakuna matata.'

So here's a few of my go-to Disney songs when I need a little pick me up, or just want to ignore the fact that I have to be a true adult in about eight months.

1. I'll Make A Man Out of You - from Mulan

2. Just Can't Wait to be King - from The Lion King

3. A Whole New World - from Aladdin

4. Colors of the Wind - from Pocahontas

5. Hakuna Matata - from The Lion King

Want more? // Just Around the River Bend Radio  // For the kid at heart.


So in true cliche fashion, a week has passed since my OMG last first day of a fall semester!

And in this past week, there are a few things that I like to classify, Twitter style, as #firstweekproblems:

• Realizing that I gained no significant amount of motivation for school over the summer, a weakness further damaged by pesky senioritis. (Yes, that still exists in college.)

• Calculating my future paychecks and finding out that without an off campus part time job, my car payment will be the only thing I ever spend money on.

• Getting back from England five days before classes meant throwing everything in my apartment bedroom and tricking myself into thinking that I would actually have time to deal with it in a few days. Good joke. I can make it to my bed, and that's what matters right now.

• My room was locked over the summer and therefore did not get the annual pest spray. I attribute this to the five spiders found near my bed upon arrival. One is still not accounted for, but got a generous amount of Raid sprayed in the area of his escape.

But it's the second week now, and I am determined to leave these misfortunes behind.

I vow to work hard at staying motivated and better my time management skills; to apply to at least five jobs this weekend before heading home for Labor Day; to clean my room during one of my days off from class; and to believe for my own good that the last spider was demolished in a suffocating spritz of Raid.

Oh, and I vow to blog more this year. Because I epically failed last year.


Dear England...

I hate the way your seagulls cry,
And the way your traffic roars.

I hate the way your WiFi sucks,
I hate your dirty floors.

I hate your coined currency,
and how it weighs my wallet down.

I hate that they can't find a pen,
when I use my 'swipe card' in town.

I hate the heat down in the Tubes,
I hate the crowded shops.

I hate it when I cross the street,
and look the wrong way to walk.

I hate the way things seem so cheap,
like I'm spending no money at all.

But mostly I hate the way I don't hate you,
not even close, not even a little bit,
not even at all.

But in all honesty, guys, I am going to miss it here. All I have talked about lately is how much I want to come home, but England really is great. As you can see above, there are some less than awesome things, but I mean, there's always some things no matter where you go. And if you didn't catch the poem reference, you're time in the 90s wasn't complete.

Now that you have seen what I won't miss about this lovely land, here's what will be fondly remembered:

Afternoon tea
There's nothing like some cream tea and scones with clotted cream and jam outside on the streets of Worcester. It's delicious and the town is beautiful. Always one of my favorite ways to relax. I can't wait to count out all my English coins so I can pay! (Note: sarcasm. It's going to be embarrassing most likely.)

Beautiful design. Everywhere.
While 'awesome' was probably the word that came out of my mouth most often this trip, 'cute' was a close second. I probably could have spent all of my money on greeting cards and maps if we're being honest. (Good thing I exercised some self control for once.) Not just print design, though. Exhibit design in the museum, architecture and fashion. Everything is just fantastically beautiful. And now I get to go back to Muncie. Joy.

I probably heard this said about 1,000 times a day. Checking out from Tesco. Scanning in at the Tube. Random people walking down the street. It's so casual, but puts a smile on your face. I mean, it just sounds so much more cheery — hah — than a blunt 'hey.'

The view
No matter where I went, there was a beautiful sight to see. In Worcester, I had the best view of the sunset over the Malvern Hills every night. And I could talk a walk along the river with the Cathedral down at the end of the city center. In London, I fell in love with twilight walks along the Thames, with Parliament and the London Eye in the distance. IT'S JUST SO PRETTY HERE!

So much more that I can't even recall right now because I'm three weeks deep and my brain is fried.
Yeah, it's been a long trip. But a highly rewarding one at that. I will never forget this experience and value it so much.

Thanks, England. It's been a wild ride :)


Relaxing and reflecting.

If I could describe these past three weeks in one word it would be "whirlwind."

A crazy, exhausting, amazing and Olympic-speed whirlwind. And I wouldn't trade it for the world.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. This trip was so much more than any of us could imagine. We get daily media media reports from our PR team that goes over all content that was published to other news organizations, and it's just incredible to see. From the Huffington Post to USA Today, WTHR to our infographics in the Chicago Tribune, our effort has truly been admired by so many people.

We feel like we really made a statement. And I think we have.

To report as our team has, a group of college students with no credentials going into the field, it is actually pretty impressive.

No, we didn't cover the actual sporting events. We didn't have people front row center in the action.

But we captured the spirit.

And honestly, that's one of the greatest parts of the Olympics, I think. It's not just being the best and winning medals. It's about the world coming together for a common purpose and celebration. It's about being a part of something bigger.

And I know I felt it. Just being here. The energy is insane.

But like I said, it can also be exhausting. Especially when you're trying to be a tourist at the same time. Which is why this weekend and the next couple days, I couldn't be happier to be back in Worcester just relaxing before we head back to the USA on Wednesday.

We've had brunch a couple times at the cutest little place called "Boston Tea Party," and got some fish 'n' chips and cider at a local pub.

We've wandered the streets in town doing some last minute shopping.

And we've just celebrated the end of the Olympics. The end of an amazing effort that was more than we could have hoped for. The end of summer.

I think we're all ready to go home.

But with grateful hearts. 

Grateful to our advisers who made this whole thing happen, and have dealt with the drama and shortcomings yet remained supportive and strong as ever.

Grateful for our peers who were right by our sides, pushing us to keep going and matching our dedication, keeping each other excited throughout the whole process.

Grateful to our families who helped us get here and be able to have this experience at all.

Forever grateful.


So after lots of thought and deliberation, I finally decided that there was just no freaking way I could miss the women's football gold medal match. And so many people in our group felt the same way. 

And man am I glad I went. In a word, it was PHENOMENAL. 

In more words, it was probably the best moment of this entire trip by far. I LOVE THE OLYMPICS.

Also, we were pretty much celebrities. Everybody stopped us to take our picture. I mean, who wouldn't? Check out how crazy some of us were dressed. (Also, that last picture is from someone at BSU at the Games. Not my own. Just so you know. OK, cool.)

But really, we are probably plastered all over Twitter, Facebook and Instagram by random people from all over the world because they thought we were the craziest (read: MOST AWESOME) Americans ever.

Even though my seat was pretty high up, the view was great. I wasn't stuck behind a goal and could see the entire field.

And in case you didn't know already, WE FREAKING WON. And I got that Mighty Ducks moment where everyone is singing "We Are the Champions" as it plays over the loudspeaker. Cheesy? Maybe. But mostly fantastic.

Note: I also witnessed another Mighty Ducks reference earlier in the night when a group of rowdy Americans climbed the stairs before the game changing "Quack, quack, quack, quack!" I approved.

So yeah, there I was in Wembley. Watching the USA Women's Soccer Team receive their gold medals and sing the National Anthem with crazy grins on their faces because THEY JUST GOT WORLD CUP REVENGE AGAINST JAPAN AND BECAME OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS.
They are literally champions...of the world. (Hah.)

So, yes. It was unforgettable. As was getting back to the flat. I mean, we were a record crowd of over 80,000 people. Filtering all those people into the Tube station was like Rockville Road in Avon at rush hour. With a four car pile up.

But we made it back to Farringdon. Still pumped. Pretty sure the energy high still hasn't worn off.

And of course, stopped at the local Tesco to pick up some celebratory chocolate gold medals.

Because America.

Time off in London (Really, that happened.)

On the first day of my group's last rotation in London, we just took a day to just chill out and walk around the city.

A few of us went to the Tate Modern, and besides gushing over all the awesome art, we were gushing over the awesome exhibit and information design. We are just huge geeks.

After strolling back over Millennium Bridge and walking by St. Paul's Cathedral, Lindsey and I went to the Tube station and headed over to — are you ready for this? — KING'S CROSS STATION.

Sorry, but 11-year-old me was pretty much having the best time ever.

21-years-old getting a picture at Platform 9 3/4 and proud of it. The station was also beautiful inside and out. Magical, if you will... ;)

The next night we headed out to see the Olympic montage on the side of Parliament. It's about a 15-minute presentation about Team GB over the years and runs on loop for about two hours every night. And it's pretty cool. I literally got chills. There are just so many times during this trip that the energy gets to you and everyone just gets so pumped up.

Also, London is gorgeous at night. Especially by the river. My camera just can't do it justice.

On our last day in London, I think I had just about had it with everything. I went out to Oxford Circus and Picadilly Circus with Lindsey to do some last minute shopping, and I was just getting super irritated with people in general. I just wasn't feeling the crowds.

Too many people. Too much exhaustion.

I was just ready to get back to Worcester and relax before coming home.


Rare break in Worcester

As I may have mentioned, the graphics team has been working incredibly hard. So when we finally got a break the other day, we made the most of it.

This was really the first time I’ve gotten to photograph some of Worcester, which is where we stay when we aren’t in London. The University of Worcester City Campus is right near the city center, and the town is Muncie size and quite adorable. Just like that little girl in all pink. That’s my professor’s daughter, Tommy. She dressed herself that morning. Pink may or may not be her favorite color.

A group of us headed down to take a stroll along the river in town and feed the swans. Then, Tommy discovered the fountain. Or as she like to say, the geysers. We were all pretty impressed that she knew that word.

It was all good fun. Until it started pouring down rain. That’s England for you.

I swore to myself at one point that I would never leave a building ever again without an umbrella. I don’t stick to that, and England likes to rub it in my face every chance it gets.

Regardless, Tommy just didn’t care. We all huddle under trees and what umbrellas people had, while she remained the only child splashing in the fountain with rain pouring down.

She was soaked to the core. And despite her pouts and pleads, nobody would go back out and play with her.

And still, she didn’t care.

We finally faced the rain and decided to go warm up with some afternoon tea and scones. I could really get used to having that every afternoon. So good and relaxing.

By the time we left, the sun was back out and the skies were nothing short of beautiful.

Gosh, England. So bipolar.

We did a little more shopping, then headed back to campus to relax, do laundry, pack for London and watch Team USA women’s soccer advance to the gold medal match.

You know, important things.

Street markets: When money should stay at the flat

Just within the week, I have quickly realized why the girls who have been studying abroad in Worcester all summer are more broke than I am.

Some of us hit up the cutest street market ever in London before heading back to Worcester last Saturday. If I had brought any more money with me, I would not be eating this whole last week.

Somehow, I manage to buy just an antique ampersand type block for me, then quickly found a souvenir shop to buy things for my family before I did too much damage on my wallet.

It’s also probably a good thing that this market is only open on Saturdays, and I won’t have any more Saturdays in London. But I’m also really sad about it. Just conflicted all around.

Anyways, it was just oozing cuteness and charm and just look at those beautiful houses.

Yes, I could live there. Except for the fact that I would empty my bank account every Saturday.

That one time I saw an Olympic event


While our group had no media passes, and most tickets for events still available were set aside for Brits only, there are a few things that you can gather for absolutely free.

So I got up super early with a few others, hopped on the Tube to Hyde Park and joined the crowd to watch the women’s triathlon.

I admit that in the past, I never got over-the-top excited about the Olympics. It was just something that happened every couple of years and I would tune in for some gymnastics and figure skating, and that was about it.

But being here in the midst of everything, it just changes your whole perspective and ramps up the energy by about 500%. Maybe more.

I felt it first while watching the opening ceremonies from Victoria Park. [link to blog post]

And there have just been other moments where it’s just a wave of excitement and I repeat it again: “I’m at the Olympics.”

It’s so cool to see all the Team GB pride. Their energy of supporting their athletes in their home country is just so infectious. And all those kids with Union Jacks are just adorable.

But really, if the U.S. is granted another Games in my lifetime, whether summer or winter, I will go. Just so I can experience this energy all over again on my home turf.

Evening strolls along the Thames

One night during my second rotation in London, a group of girls and I wandered down to the Thames to get some photos of the London Eye.

Evening walks on the river just might be my new favorite thing. The way the sunset mixed with the lights across the river and along the walkways was just gorgeous. And it’s no secret that I have a slight obsession with sunsets already. My Instagram is proof of that.

However, that evening did teach me that my camera, while taking fantastic photos in the daytime, doesn’t really cut it at night. That shot of the Eye after dark is so fuzzy! But that investment will just have to wait.

It didn’t take away from the experience.

Did you know that the colors of the Eye are being driven by Tweets about the Olympics? Check out my friend Emily’s graphic (with the photo by Val!) about it that ran in the Chicago Tribune here.


Work, work, work...where's the 'play?'

Let's be honest, it's not all sights and cider across the pond right now. At least, not for me.

I'm not off in England for three weeks on vacation, soaking up the sights and blowing money on the cute little shops that line literally every street. Really, this is where money comes to die. Of course, I have to reign mine in from the ledge and only let it slip away when it's something pertinent to my survival. Until my last few days, maybe. Then I'll make it my goal to get all British pounds out of my possession. That's an OK plan, right?

Anyways, I digress.

I am finishing up my second of three rotations in England, and I still have so much sightseeing I want have to do. Our graphics team has just been working so hard. When we're in Worcester, we're up in Flat 7 working on graphics. When we're in London, we invade the basement of Starbucks (or Flat 1) and work on graphics. We don't even get much sleep.

To an extent, this is an impressive display of dedication. On the other hand, it is frustrating. Because we seem to be letting our balance of work and play shift toward work. A lot. Think an 80/20 ratio.

And for it being our first trip to London for the majority of us, it's sometimes hard to be OK with how little time we are allowing ourselves to explore this amazing, foreign city. Or even just relax.

There are so many times that I am so burnt out that I don't even want to go out and wander, but rather curl up with some tea and scones reading 'Pride and Prejudice.' And, yes, I do realize just how English that sounds. It's called embracing the culture, mmkay?

But we push on. Because we know that this experience is one beyond any we may ever get in the future. Greater than many others will ever get the chance to have.

And that is something to be grateful for.

I constantly remind myself that I can come back in the future to see London. The chance of me immersing myself in the media workings of the Olympic Games in a foreign city, again? Slim to none.

So I'm just trying to make the most of what time I do have to be a tourist. Tomorrow evening, I'm on a bus back to Worcester for a few days. But I'm going to start my morning at 7 a.m. to hit up an Olympic event. Then I'm going to wander down to the river, past St. Paul's Cathedral and down to see Big Ben and Westminster. Then I'm going to hop the Tube back to King's Cross to get my picture at Platform 9 3/4. Because, let's be honest. You just can not come to London and not get that picture.

Yes. I'm going to make it happen.


And now all I want to do is reread "The Other Boleyn Girl"

On the last day of my first rotation in London, a few girls and I hit up the Tower of London. And one of them is a huge fan of the Tudor time period. So she was pretty much geeking out the entire time and was basically a supplemental tour guide. Which, of course, our tour was cancelled five minutes inside the gate because the London skies opened up and it poured rain. So Kait and I bought audio tours and just went off on our own.

 Everything was so cool. I love how there is such a huge mix of modern elements and history in the city, just like the Tower is just tucked in the city still right of a Tube station, and it is the only thing that survived in the London fire.

We also got a great view of the Tower Bridge sporting the Olympic rings! Games decor is everywhere in this city (as it should be). You could also see the Shard poking over building almost everywhere you turned inside the Tower's walls.

We saw where prisoners were kept and the graffiti they left behind. 

We saw where Anne Boleyn lived, and then the gates she came through to die.

And we saw the Crown Jewels. Yes, the Crown Jewels. Of course, no photography allowed in there, but it was pretty amazing.

There was just so much history to soak in at the Tower of London. And this is how I like to explore it. I never enjoyed learning out of traditional history books, memorizing facts and dates to spit out on a test. I like to find a piece I'm interested in, and find specific books or movies or places to go about it and take it in for all it is.


Let the Games begin

Now I am fully aware that I am nearly a week late in getting this post up, but as you may have noticed, it's been crazy busy here across the pond.

But now that I have found the time, let me tell you about one of the single most memorable moments of my life. No joke.

On the night of the opening ceremonies, a group of us headed out to Victoria Park for one of the largest viewing parties in London. The line — or, ahem, "queue" — was ridiculously long and we thought we might not even make it in. But, alas, we did.

I cannot even tell you how amazing it was to stand among this humungous crowd comprised of people from all over the world (but, you know, mostly Brits) and celebrate the opening of the Games. Everyone was just bursting with pride and support of their home country and it was crazy intense energy.

Not to mention we weren't far from Olympic Park, so we could see all the fireworks lighting up the sky before we saw them on our big screen. 

And so much cheering and singing and just...overwhelming, in the absolute best way possible.

The highlight of the night, though, was singing "Hey Jude" with hundreds of people. It was just so amazing how something as simple as a song can create a connection between strangers that transcends language and culture. 


And that continued when the ceremonies ended, and the crowds poured out of Victoria Park and flooded the streets heading for the Tube and bus stations. Really, it was just awesome. So awesome.

Of course, after the adrenaline from everything started wearing off, getting back to the flats became an unwelcome chore. The line for the Tube was about a half mile long outside on the sidewalk. Walking would take almost two hours. So we navigated buses part of the way, then tortured our feet a little longer and walked the rest of way. 

At this point, I hadn't had food or water in about 14 hours, so I was about to pass out. By the time I guzzled water, ate some fruit and settled into bed, the sun was rising.

But in all honesty, I wouldn't trade that night for anything. It easily ranks as one of the top moments of my life. And that may be slightly exaggerated, but not much. 

I still think back on that night, get "Hey Jude" stuck in my head, and say to myself: "We're at the Olympics."

Somehow, this is real life.

Hitting the ground running

I admit, I sort of left you guys hanging yesterday. What a tease, right?

Well, today could be a little more of that, but I have two more scheduled posts coming your way over the next couple days, and I'm hoping to get stuff up more regularly after that.

Because, guess what?! The graphics team is finally getting a little down time.

We landed in London just a little over a week ago, and got on a bus straight to the University of Worcester campus. And I decided to combat jet lag by going to bed at 9 p.m. and sleeping for 12 hours straight. I'm not going to lie, it was kind of fantastic.

The next day, we had lots of group meetings, and got a lot of cool promotional materials for BSU at the Games.

Before/during/after these meetings, the graphics team was hard at work. We literally worked for about 14 hours in a hot flat that day. But our work paid off, because we had about four contributions to the Chicago Tribune's special section for the Olympics! (Since then, we have had a few more run, and I had one done solely by myself published.)

We basically felt like straight champs. And we still got up at 7 a.m. to board a bus to London the next day. 

Those first few days were an exhausting, exciting blur that seemed to last a lifetime and no time at all. Major contradiction, I know. We worked hard and basically claimed the basement of the local Starbucks as our own. We didn't even have the slightest clue what the other groups were working on because we were in our own little world.

But man, it is all worth it. The dirty feet, the sweaty flats, the crazy public transportation, the exhaustion, everything. Because London is beautiful. And I'm at the freaking Olympics.

While we may be super busy and working so hard, we are still trying to find time to work in fun London/England/Olympics things. Yesterday, we took a break in Worcester and had some quintessential English tea and scones topped with jam and clotted cream. It was absolutely delicious and such a great way to relax. 

We also went to the biggest opening ceremonies viewing party at Victoria Park, which that post is coming your way later tonight, and a few girls and I hit up the Tower of London on the last day of our first rotation in the city. (Watch for that post tomorrow.)

As for now, I have a graphic close to completion, and working on coming up with more ideas. But I'm also looking forward to having a little chill time and being a tourist for a few days.
Like tonight. We are heading out to soak up London at night along the Thames.

So until next time, cheerio.