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Hong Kong Skyline

안녕하세요 (hello)! Weeks 10 and 11 on this study abroad journey were fantastic. It was the time of the Buddha holiday, so some classes were cancelled and my friends and I decided to go on a trip to Thailand and then Hong Kong! It was so amazing to be able to adventure around Asia like that. The trip took a total of 6 days in Thailand and 5 days in Hong Kong.

I arrived in Thailand on Thursday night and our hostel was located in a place called Nana. The first sight of Thailand that my friend John and I caught was of Lady Boys lining the street of our hotel and offering tickets to raunchy attractions. It was very confusing because these hot women would be walking around and you were never really sure if they were actual women. The culture in Thailand was honestly so progressive that at the end it was not that big of a deal. It was hot, humid, and everything was in your face, so that night Jesse, Sabrina, Mike, John, and I went to eat Arabic food at 3am. The next day we went out to explore the city. We stopped by a street vendor for 90Baht worth of Thai food(less than 3$). I got basil chicken and rice. Then we explored the metro and city markets and raced Tuk-Tuks (rickshaws) back to our hotel to meet our friends Gabby and Danny, who are abroad now in Tokyo. Later that night we went to the Red Light District of Thailand and there club promoters would yell at you to come see their Ping-Pong shows. Everything at the Red Light District was obviously very explicit and vulgar. We went in to see what a Ping-Pong show was and honestly it was not something I would want to see again.

Baby tiger at tiger temple

The next day we explored various temples. The architecture surrounding them was gorgeous and we also explored Khao San Road, a typical tourist shopping district, and bought elephant pants there. That night we ended up at Skybar from the Hangover 2. Everything was expensive but the view was to die for. Sabrina’s birthday was that night at 12am so we went to an ice bar to celebrate. I have never seen an ice bar but essentially you go in and the workers give you bear costumes and you go into a room made entirely of ice. That was a great experience because I had no idea what it was and it was so silly. The next day we went to more temples and then the Weekend Market. At the temples I saw the famous reclining Buddha. Then we took a river boat cruise around Thailand. I drank coconut juice on the boat and I felt like I was in a movie. The weekend market was just your typical tourist market. We took Tuk-Tuks everywhere. The humidity was crazy as well because there was no way you would be able to go through the day with dry clothes. The next day we booked a tour for the Floating market and Tiger Temple. At the Floating Market we essentially sat inside of a long boat and went down a canal where other vendors sold stuff to you off of their boats. Then we got Pad Thai at a local restaurant and took the bus to the Tiger Temple. The Tiger Temple was my favorite experience because we got to see and interact with adult and baby tigers. We got to feed the baby tigers and play with them. I felt overjoyed.

Fun facts about Thailand is that fruits of all sorts are sold for 50cents on the streets all ready for you to eat, it’s very hot, Tuk-Tuks are the mode of transportation, and Pad Thai is still just okay. On Tuesday I left my friends in Thailand to join my friend Alissa in Hong Kong.

Let me tell you that Hong Kong was not what I expected. I imagined stereotypical China and having a hard time getting around. What I saw was western people and familiar stores. However, it was an amazing experience all the same. Alissa and I woke up on Wednesday and went to try local foods. We tried Congee, which is a mystery ingredient in rice and a banana leaf. It was odd but apparently a local favorite. Then we met up with Alissa’s cousin Betty, who works for CNN in Hong Kong, and she showed us around. We went to Hong Kong Disneyland and met Minney Mouse and enjoyed the rides. The castle was under construction and therefore the top tier was made of a box. The rides were 1minute long maximum and cute babies from all over the world flocked the Disney streets. Overall, the  experience was very exciting and it was interesting to see how the parks differed from the United States. That night we got typical Chinese food in the city. We ate dumplings, pork buns, string beans, etc. It was amazing. There was not a night in Hong Kong when we weren’t extremely full. All thanks to Betty for showing us around.

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Reclining Buddha

The next day we got Dim Sum in the morning at a local Dim Sum place around our hotel. We were seated at a table with random Cantonese speaking people and they showed us how it worked. We ate massive pork buns and dumplings and it was amazing. Tea was served with everything. Then we went to see the Big Buddha at Po Lin Monastery and the village around it. It was really high in the mountains and it was a foggy day, so the Buddha looked ominous. Alissa and I walked around the village surrounding the Buddha and got souvenirs. That night we took the ferry around in Causeway Bay and saw the skyline. It was the prettiest city skyline I have ever seen, including New York City. Afterwards we got Peking duck and Maccha, green tea ice cream, for dessert. The next day was Alissa’s birthday so we celebrated at Stanley Island and market, where we ate three old-school western desserts, and then at a Chinese hot pot place. Then we went out on the town with Betty and her friend to Lan Kwai Fung, LKF.

The last full day was my favorite because we go to go on a Junk boat to an island 1 hour off of the coast of Hong Kong. The junk boat was meant for a going away party of one of Betty’s coworkers. From the boat we got to see amazing mountains and water and eventually jumped into Millionaires Bay next to Sai Kung Island. Hong Kong is such an interesting place in that it’s a city with a high-rise skyline against huge mountains and yet has island with clear, light blue water. I got a chance to meet engineers that work in Hong Kong and with them we swam to the little island. The weather was perfect and not as humid as Thailand. That night we had Szechuan food and then we went back home to Seoul.

Wow I can’t believe that I have the opportunity to do all of this and I would recommend an abroad experience in Seoul to anyone. With that said, I am so happy to be here at my home in Seoul. 안녕(goodbye)!

Segway stop at the Temple of Debod!

This week, one of my dearest friends came to visit me in Madrid and of course the pressure was on to show her the time of her life. I wanted desperately for her to fall in love with Madrid, just like I had. The days leading up to Rita’s arrival, I kept making mental notes of things to go see, and places to eat. I soon realized that I hadn't even visited half of the things on my list. I then got to thinking that maybe, as students studying abroad, too much pressure is placed on us to “blend in,” and try our best to achieve the “local experience.” But, how are we truly supposed to learn about a country, if we don’t experience the touristic sites it is famous for? Still, to this day, there are famous spots in Madrid that I have yet to visit—the so called “tourist traps.”

The Gasparini room in the Royal Palace of Madrid

At this point, I was feeling like I missed out on the tourist experience, simply because I felt it wasn't the “cultural” thing to do. So, what was there to do but book a Segway tour? On a glorious Thursday afternoon, Rita and I hopped on and mastered the Segway. We had a wonderful tour guide named Alex, who led us on our brave and courageous conquest of all things “tourist” in Madrid. We went to spots like the Temple of Debod, an Egyptian temple that was deconstructed and then gifted to Spain as a thank-you for Spanish aid after the construction of the Aswan High Dam posed a threat to precious historical monuments, and the spot where the body of Miguel de Cervantes was uncovered after 400 years. Even though by the end of it, the backs of my knees were locked up and my feet were aching, riding around Madrid on a Segway was one of the coolest things I have ever done. Of course, we got the occasional “Oh, you tourists,” glares, but we were having too much fun to care. It's sad to think I may have not had my Segway experience all because I was too afraid of seeming like a tourist in my host country.

Even after our tour, I found myself visiting places with Rita that I, too, had never been to. We toured the inside of the Royal Palace of Madrid, which was surprisingly comparable to the lavish style of Versailles. My favorite part of the palace was the Gasparini Room where King Carlos III dressed and greeted guests. In this room, porcelain vines and flowers clung to every wall—even the ceiling. Rita and I also made a stop at the supposed best place for “chocolate con churros” in Madrid. I had never been here, because I was told “other places were better,” but experiencing such a landmark for myself was definitely a worthwhile experience.

Maybe I got too carried away with myself, or maybe too much pressure was placed upon me to have an authentic Madrileño experience. Whichever the case, I should have tried harder to find a balance between local and tourist. Why did I really care if people thought of me as a tourist? What is so bad about visiting a foreign country and wanting to see and learn about its famous sites? This is a question that is rarely addressed in the study abroad community, but most definitely should be. I think it would spark an interesting, yet thought-provoking debate.

Rowing boats in Retiro Park, like a typical tourist.


By jdippel529

In honor of four wonderful months in Madrid, here are the four most important things I have learned during my time, here:

  1. Be Open

One of the most important things you can do while studying abroad is to embrace everything that comes your way. Being thrown into a different culture can seem like you just space-rocketed onto another planet. Here, in Spain, learning the language was mentally exhausting and getting used to the different etiquette was beyond frustrating. But, because I came to Madrid with an open heart and mind, the challenge was worth it and all the more rewarding. Be open to the culture you are coming into, and embrace it. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

  1. Stop Planning

Yes, it’s true, some things you have to plan for. But for me, some of my very best memories have been the result of spur-of-the-moment, on-a-whim decisions. The days that weren’t so jam-packed with places to go and things to see were the days where I enjoyed myself the most. Whether you are in your host country, or traveling around the world, make sure you leave a little room for spontaneity. You’ll find that magic can happen when least expected.

  1. No Money is Wasted on Travel

My mom said this to me during a phone conversation after I was feeling guilty for having to buy so many plane tickets for Spring Break, and she couldn’t have been more right. The experiences, insight, perspective, and memories you gain while traveling the world is something you just can’t put a price on. Thirty years from now, I will remember all of the places I ventured to and the lessons I took from them—not how much it cost.

  1. “Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

Coming to Madrid and adjusting to a completely different language and culture has been one of the most difficult, yet rewarding challenges of my life. It was hard, to say the least. But, it taught me a lot about my inner strength, as a person, and showed me what I can overcome in the face of adversity. When everything you know in life is taken away from you, you have nothing left to do but discover who YOU are. When you are out of your comfort zone is when you meet your true self.

Hana River Biking

안녕하세요 (Hello)! Week 7 in Seoul was great. This was Jacob’s second week and last week in Korea. A fun highlight included our friend group ending up in the same place of Seoul we randomly decided to go to on our first week. At this random place we decided to try a sit-on-the-floor place and ordered two random stews for our large party. One was google translated to “potato ride” and the other was made of pig spine. They were both delicious; however I was not impressed with the amount of two potatoes I managed to find in the potato ride. Another highlight included getting Bingsu, which is Korean snow ice cream, with my exchange buddy. She taught me how to say lunch and dinner in Korean and how to talk about the food that comes with the drinks in Korean. Dinner is pronounced like “Jeo nyuk” and lunch is pronounced like “chum sim,” while food with drink is “panju.” The Bingsu we ate was a strawberry and condensed milk decorated mountain of milk chips with a cheesecake stuck inside. Jake and I got to eat most of it because the exchange buddy stepped out to talk for a long time, and it was mostly melted when she returned. We loved this ice cream so much that we got it three times during the remainder of his stay. Two of my favorite activities happened this week: Han River bike riding the Noryangiin Fish Market.

Another great weekend started. Thursday night started with a KUBA dinner that Jake and I went to. We ate sushi that dinner and were served three massive sushi rolls that were split between 5 people and we were all beyond stuffed. Then we moved on to round 2, which is typically a Soju place. At this Soju place we tried raspberry, apple, and blueberry flavored Soju. My favorite out of these three flavors was apple. John was also there with his KUBA group and we were approached by a GWU exchange alum who we met at the Simon Lee dinner, Jiyoon Chung. It was very exciting to see someone we met at GWU at this bar in Korea and we shall have lunch with her after midterms. After dinner, the night was spent at Monkey Beach and Octagon. Monkey Beach was a new club we tried, where a Korean girl climbed a pole and rang a bell and thus was able to get a free tub of long island iced tea. Shout out to a KU alumni Tony Lyons for giving us great tips here in Korea! He constantly recommends cool hotspots to try (like Monkey Beach) and how to succeed in classes. After Monkey Beach, we went to Octagon. As I previously mentioned, it is the number 9 club in the world and a lot of fun stuff always happens there. We danced until we could not dance anymore and even Jake was impressed by it.

Friday morning was met with homework. That Friday afternoon however we went biking on the Han River. This area is popular among Koreans because it provides a beautiful view of the city as well as a place for activity. This is where Korean couples go to show off how cute they look together in their matching outfits and bike ride. Jesse, Jake, John, Mike, Jesper, and I decided to bike. The pollution was low that day so you could actually see the mountain peaks in the distance. I felt free and happy on the bike. The bike lanes were separated into two moving direction lanes. I kept riding as fast or as slow as I wanted along to the rhythm of my music, which was blasting from my bike basket. Jake rode on an unknown path so he was separated from the group for 20 minutes, but eventually he found us. The whole trip was only 3000W for an hour and everyone was left joyful from the experience. After this adventure we got Indian food and enjoyed it on the Crimson roof.

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Fish Market Stingray

The Noryangiin Fish Market is the largest seafood market in Korea where vendors sell everything from stingrays to squid to mystery fish. It is open year round and is the place where restaurant owners compete for the freshest catch in the mornings. John, Jesse, Michael, Jake, and I decided that we would wake up early on Saturday to explore this attraction. When we got off of the subway, the market was hidden in a large warehouse with a smelly fish odor emanating from it. As we descended down the stairs, you could hear the bustle of the merchants. It was around 9:30am when we arrived there. The warehouse was the size of a city block, with wet floors, and loud merchants trying to make a sale.

The first section was mainly shellfish such as crab and muscles, with a few squid and sea slugs. Jesse and I decided to try stingray sashimi and then the whole group split a sashimi platter. The sashimi platter was 20000W and the stingray was 15000W. We weren’t sure of where we should sit so we went outside the warehouse and sat on a raised curb where they plant flowers. We used that was the table and sat around it. The sashimi platter was fantastic and a Korean man in his car even stopped to make sure we were dipping the sashimi in the sauce. The stingray however did not sit right with any of us. When I ingested it, a funny sensation was felt down the entirety of my tongue. Being an enthusiastic food lover, even I felt as if I could not try even another piece. My friends were in agreement and we ended up throwing away the stingray sashimi. Afterwards, we decided to try some fish-cooking restaurant in the market. In order to do this Mike chose a king crab for his meal, Jake chose a red snapper, and I chose a simple random fish. We went into a random restaurant in the warehouse and they prepared it for us right there and then. It was delicious and definitely an experience that we won’t forget. Afterwards we went Han River biking round 2!

Saturday night Jake and I went to Hongdae to a rooftop party and got Korean BBQ at 2am. On Sunday, it was KUBA field day and Michael and Alissa’s group won a free meal! Studying abroad rocks! 안녕 (Goodbye)!!!

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Strawberry Bingsu


By jdippel529

In Spain, spring break takes place during the Holy Week (Semana Santa), and gives students about 13 days off from school. A couple of my friends and I decided it would be a good idea to make use of the wo weeks and turn it into a eurotrip. So, I am currently writing this blog in a cozy little apartment in downtown Athens where we arrived after a 3 day trip to Rome. Before I left for my trip, I wanted to make sure I made the most out of my travel experience. This is why I finally decided to book a food tour while in Rome. At first, I thought 100 euros was a bit too steep of a price, but once I realized all that it included I knew the tour was a unique opportunity that I just couldn’t miss out on. When in Rome…right?

The EatingItaly Rome Tour, which I highly recommend, passed through the up-and-coming area of Trastevere and included 8 wondrous stops: a long-time family-owned restaurant where we tried fried artichokes and Italian champagne, an ancient wine cellar dug up by the restaurant that lay above, a family-run bakery, two meat and cheese shops, a suppli (fried rice ball) shop, an award winning restaurant where we ate gnocchi, spinach and ricotta ravioli and risotto, and a gourmet and organic gelato place. I cannot stress it enough when I say that it is easy to get caught up in the tourist traps of Rome. This tour, however, stopped at local, family-run places that simply oozed authenticity. In this tour alone, I learned more about Rome than I had going around hte city for 2 whole days.

I never thought that taking a food tour would be so rewarding, but I promise you it was. I was able to make new and authentic discoveries into the Italian culture (culinary and historical), to meet new people from all over the world, to eat things I normally wouldn’t otherwise, and to do something completely on my own. Since I was in London when my friends booked the tour, their time slot was sold out by the time I got around to purchasing a ticket. On a whim, I decided to go on the earlier tour alone. I had never done something like this on my own before, and was naturally a bit apprehensive. Thankfully, it was the best thing I could have ever done. Being on my own forced me to talk and get to know the people in my group, all who were amazing. Our group consisted of a newly wed couple from rural Pennsylvania, 4 friends from Cyprus, Rick Steves (!!) and our lovely tour guide, of course. Yes, that’s right—a celebrity was on the tour with us and I didn’t even know it at the time! Rick Steves, the author and travel guru, happened to take the same tour for research on an upcoming project he was filming in Rome. Since I had no idea who he was at the time, I thought that he just had a cool job, nothing more. Because Rick left before our last stop (some amazing and authentic gelato), I was able to hear our guide talk about how she couldn’t believe a travel wiz like him was on her tour! At that point, I was just mad I missed out on the opportunity for a picture or autograph. Rick, if you’re reading this, an autographed travel guide would be awesome! Thanks for making my special tour that much more special.

Without my friends, I also learned the most important lesson of all: traveling with friends can be great, but the most important journey will always be the one with yourself. Being on my own allowed me to better perceive my experience and transform it into something memorable and lasting. In other words, it was easier to figure out what that time had meant to me, rather then deciding after putting together the opinions of the rest of my group.

So…what to take away from all of this? While traveling, always, always, always seek out an authentic cultural experience, and always make sure you are able to enjoy an experience in the moment, without the thoughts and opinions of others.

By kennatim

image1 (2)A couple weeks ago I traveled to Paris to visit my friend Lars, who is studying at the American University of Paris. It was actually to be my second time in the city, as I went with a student group in 2005 when I was 11 years old. 10 years later, I found myself touching down once again, this time alone on a crowded Ryanair flight.

I unfortunately don’t remember much about my first trip, but I do remember a general feeling of unease about the city itself. I had an amazing weekend, but traveling around full of déjà vu moments made me understand why preteen Tim was not in love with Paris. The city is remarkably enormous, and the average Parisian seems to spend most of their time on the metro. There was also less of an understanding and less patience by the locals for tourists and foreigners. This culture, the type where no one says “excuse me” when you bump into each other, contrasted US culture in many, many ways. It sort of made me appreciate where I came from. It definitely made me realize how big our world is and how, even in the Internet Age when many US customs have been adopted around the world, there are still many places where your social mores get thrown out the window for native ones.

Aside from my small gripes, the city was beautiful. I got to take in all the sites: Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Champs Elysees, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, and I even took an awesome photo on the top of the Eiffel Tower to replicate one I took ten years prior. I would be walking down the street and suddenly think, “Wow, I remember this. Our tour bus was parked right there.” The weather made Dublin look like the Arctic Circle, and I would not have been anywhere without my incredible tour guide and, more importantly, translator, Lars. I tried some delicious duck, ate too many baguettes and croissants to count, and even got to check out some 50,000 Euro watches at the Louis Vuitton store.

It really takes the experience of a contrasting culture and set of attitudes to realize that your own culture is not simply the norm. My amazing weekend in Paris proved this to me. Shout out to Lars for putting me up and showing me this large and beautiful city!

By LizGoodwin04

There’s a phrase in Thailand that one will see plastered on t-shirts and hear spoken by Thais all over the country and it is “same same but different.” This phrase means exactly what is sounds like; it’s used to describe something that is essentially the same, but just a little different.

This past week, our program travelled to Koh Chang, an island off the coast of Thailand, to study tourism and it’s impacts on the environment. The island of Koh Chang has two sides. One can turn left and visit the local, preserved side of the island, or one can turn right and visit the developed, touristy side of the island. Ultimately, both sides of the island are the same, but different.

While developers have built up the right side of the island, causing many environmental problems like the accumulation of waste and water pollution, the left side has remained relatively untouched, only inhabited by the locals. The locals on this side of the island are hoping to increase community-based tourism; a system where locals would run the tourist industry and the money from tourism would go back into the community rather than leaving in the hands of developers.

Throughout the week, my classmates and I stayed with host families on the left side of the island learning how to promote community-based tourism and how to prevent environmental degradation from development policy. We had a boat tour around the island and went snorkeling so we could see the coral reef that is being destroyed by tourists who have damaged the coral by touching it and we hiked over a mountain to the only beach left on the island that hadn’t been bought by a developer yet. On the second to last night we were in Koh Chang, we travelled to the other side of the island; the right side that has been built up by developers.

On this side, the streets were covered by neon signs and shops catered to foreigners. There were hardly any Thais in sight and everything in this area was dirty and polluted. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to come to this side of the island when they could have an amazing, local and immersive experience on the left side of the island. Although the two sides of the island are ultimately the same, they are so very different.


The view from the top of Galata Tower.
The view from the top of Galata Tower.

One of the amazing things about my abroad program is that twice during the semester all 19 of us pick up and travel to another country for a week. This past week I spent my time in Istanbul, Turkey and it was incredible.  Our time consisted of lectures from impressive university faculty, tours of the historic areas and free time to explore on our own.

Inside the Hagia Sophia - a building that has served as both a mosque and church over the centuries. It has been a museum since the 1920s.
Inside the Hagia Sophia - a building that has served as both a mosque and church over the centuries. It has been a museum since the 1920s.

Istanbul is one of the most different places I have ever been.  In the moments when the entire city was engulfed by the call to prayer being played from each of the more than three thousand mosques I felt the need to stop, listen and absorb the environment around me.  The uniqueness of Istanbul's complex history was especially apparent when I was standing in a Greek church and the call to prayer began, echoing off the walls and highlighting one of the things that makes Istanbul so intriguing and beautiful.

It's a cosmopolitan center where religion, culture and history have overlapped for centuries.  The depth of Istanbul's past is almost unfathomable. Walking through the Basilica Cistern, Hagia Sofia and old, but operating, bazaars puts you directly in contact with Istanbul's history, but it's still hard to comprehend that this is a place that has functioned as a city since the 600s BC and served as the capital for three empires - Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman.  Clearly with so much history and so many sites to see I was happy to have an entire week to explore, but my time here could have easily been extended.

Intricate tile domed ceiling of the Blue Mosque.
Intricate tile domed ceiling of the Blue Mosque.

Now it's time to return to normal class schedules after a week of midterms and a week of adventuring.  While this would normally be the moment to interject an objection to returning to school, homework and extensive reading requirements, I'm surprisingly excited to continue my schedule.  All the classes offered aim to relate, compare and discuss common ideas and principles between metropolitan centers.  After this week I definitely have a lot I'd like to discuss.


By practiceyogadistrict

With a three-day weekend, a world of freedom opened so two friends and I decided to travel up to the north of Thailand to explore Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Pai. The north is known for it’s lush green foliage and gorgeous mountains. Unfortunately we chose to go at the worst possible time because in the month of March, all the rice farmers burn their fields in order to grow herbs and mushrooms that sprout from the ashes. Though it’s an effective practice for the farmers to earn a little extra income from the second crop, it is horrible both for the environment and visibility, so our mountain views were a little less spectacular. Even so, getting out of our Khon Kaen bubble was fun and exciting.

Khon Kaen, as it would be, is the farthest thing from a tourist destination in Thailand. Comparatively, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Pai are major tourist destinations. As we disembarked our bus in Chiang Mai, we saw countless white faces in the crowds of Thai people. I was a little taken aback, being used to being one of the only farrang around in Khon Kaen. Even more shocking was when I arrived in Pai. Pai is a world of dreaded, tattooed, pierced European backpackers. I could walk down the street without seeing a single Thai. It was a place completely catered to tourists. There were even people dressed in Karen hill tribe cultural dress performing on the street to give the tourists a taste of the ‘culture.’

As I spent time in these tourist locales using my Thai language that I have garnered so far, I spoke in Thai with locals about my life and asked them about theirs. I found that the Thais I spoke with were pleasantly surprised and even excited to encounter a farrang who had more permanence in Thailand than other tourists. I became more than just a walking moneybag to them. Gaining even the simple ability to communicate on a deeper level gave me more humanity in their eyes. One friend I made along the way, an elephant trainer, even asked my friends and I to come back and work on the elephant farm with him.

What I realized through my long weekend is how blessed I am to get more than just a few days or weeks in Thailand as a tourist, but rather months studying and seeking to gain as much understanding as possible about the culture in which I am living. Tourists who make their rounds of Thailand go to the beaches in the south, Bangkok for the big city experience, and then Chiang Mai/Chiang Rai/ Pai in the north to see pretty mountains. They stay on the tourist trail where it is easy to communicate in English. They see the sights, buy some trinkets, and then they move along to the next country. Though I have four short months, I am getting far more than any tourist might. I am gaining empathy.

View of the entire premiere set up at the Tower of London
View of the entire premiere set up at the Tower of London

This past weekend, I traveled to London to visit two of my best friends. Being with my people, and not to mention in one of the best cities in the world was amazing, to say the least. We had a weekend filled with laughs, adventures, and memories that will last us a lifetime. One of the craziest things that happened to me while in London was something that began with a simple visit to the Tower of London. After a long day at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour for the making of the Harry Potter films (if you’re not jealous at this point, I may need to check your pulse), we decided to take an evening stroll along the Thames. After stopping at the London Bridge, we hung a quick left and ended up at the Tower of London. Since it was 17 pounds just to get in (around $25), we decided to just walk around and enjoy the beauty from the outside. What can I say? I’m a tourist on a budget! As we approached the tube station to get home, we passed a car with a Game of Thrones decal, and a bunch of tents. At the time, I thought this setup was nothing more than a raffle or publicity event for the show. So, we were on our way.

Red Carpet Area

About half an hour later, however, my friend received a text from someone she knew talking about the Game of Thrones premiere that night. At that point, the instinctual GoT fan living inside of me knew that we had to go back. Lo and behold, only an hour later, the red carpet for the new season premiere was in full swing. And let me tell you, HBO went all out for this one. There were bonfires set up everywhere, and a giant projector that was showing animations of dragons and interviews that were going on inside the tower. Let’s not forget all of this is taking place on the lawn of an ancient fortress. All of it was 100% Game of Thrones.

We spent about an hour at the premiere, catching glimpses of whomever showed up next (Lena Headey, Kit Harington, Sophie Turner, Alfie Allen, and even Charles Dance), watching the live interviews, and being shocked by how overwhelming the red carpet actually seems. After a while, we got cold, tired and hungry, and decided to grab something to eat. But, I can honestly say that showing up to the Game of Thrones season premiere was one of the coolest, most spur-of-the-moment things I have done. That’s what I really love about traveling—you never really know what you are going to come across on any given journey. Whether it was a talked-about premiere, a trip to Windsor while the Queen was actually in residence, or teatime with the most hilarious storeowner I have ever met, London was full of surprises that I’m sure I will carry with me for a lifetime.