Destination: London, England. As you can imagine, I was extremely excited on that Thursday afternoon when my friend Kendyl and I left the JFORCE because I knew I was going on what would probably be the most magical trip while studying abroad. (Magical refers to my Harry Potter reference, since London by default, is a Harry Potter reference.)
It all started on the plane ride over, when I found myself sitting next to an Italian criminal justice professor who taught at the University of Oxford. I know right? This absolutely blew my mind and I tried to keep my cool while having this conversation about my travels abroad and his fascinating research about criminal behavior and Mafia groups. After the two-hour long conversation, I felt really good when this professor was "impressed by the Jesuit values that Loyola instilled in its students" and that he was "glad that I took on the opportunity to study abroad at such a young age to learn more about the world." Not a bad start to London, right?
The next day, Kendyl and I pretty much did a mad dash and covered the main touristy things you expect to do in London. Oh, but to start off, we saw the guard change at Buckingham Palace. Hands down, one of the coolest thing I have ever witnessed. They had not one, but TWO bands marching into the gates and they had those cool hats you always see on TV. Yea, it was pretty casual. And after, the queen invited us in for tea and pastries, it was no big deal. Just kidding-but being in front of the palace basically made us royalty.
The day got even cooler (yes, both weather and in terms of awesomeness) when we stumbled upon Big Ben and Westminster Abbey!! That has to be my favorite thing about traveling--even though you have an idea of where you want to go, you always get turned around by seeing amazing sights.
To finish off the day, we went to the Christmas Market, the Borough Market, and the Piccadilly circus. The Christmas Market made us feel right at home, the homemade fudge was a nice little touch to the jolly Christmas Music, glittery lights and overall happy English folk strolling along! I bet you're wondering what is the Borough Market and why did I go there? I went there because one of the Diagon Alley's from Harry Potter was based off of it! Boy did I see why, I felt as if I stepped into the movies and I, too was the chosen one. Okay, I'll snap out of it. Our final destination that night was, as mentioned before, the Piccadilly Circus! It was hoppin' that night--so many talented street performers attracted crowds from all around, and the twinkling Christmas lights gave you that warm holiday spirit. Not to mention, we saw the Hunger Games that night!-I only saw about half of the first so I wasn't too excited for the next one, but man were my eyes glued to that screen throughout the movie. So much intensity, that I heavily perspired through my sweatshirt when it was about 20 degrees outside. (I seriously haven't sweat that much in the winter since my driving test back in winter break of 2011.)
I don't mean to pick favorites, but it just kind of happens. My second day in London was probably one of my favorite days while being abroad. To start off the morning, I got to take a picture that I have been dying to take ever since I can remember-the signature Platform 9 3/4 pic at Kings Cross Station! I had the Gryffindor Scarf, the high jump, my Hogwarts trolley and the facial expression of pure happiness and enthusiasm.
But then, I got to see the best thing: Wimbledon Tennis Grounds. I got to look over CENTRE COURT, (eeep!!!) walk through the players' dressing rooms, come within inches to the Wimbledon Trophy, and sit in the very same chair that Andy Murray sat in while he had his press conference this past July. Tennis has been the one extra-curricular that I have such fond memories of from high school and it is probably because I have made some of my best friends from it. I owe it all to my dad for helping me pick out my first Prince racket in 6th grade and for practicing with me when I couldn't manage to hit a ball over the net (yikes!) Being at Wimbledon is something my dad always wanted to go and he was absolutely ecstatic that I was able to tour the "holy grail" of tennis. Even though nothing I can ever do will compare to what my parents have given me, I can probably take them to see the Wimbledon Championships one day. I guess it's just another incentive to be successful in the future.