Tuesday, 17 December 2013

One Semester Down

My last post ended November with Thanksgiving in the dorms. In keeping with the theme of food, December kicked off with a home cooked roast dinner, introducing an American family to an English tradition which has been sorely missed. 

My English roast was followed by another incredible show at The Observatory, with The Devil Wears Prada, The Ghost Inside and Volumes. 

This month also opened the doors to another show with The Two Tone Boners, where I discovered a new favourite - Papafish. Never would have guessed my time in California would be spent between metal and ska shows! 

One of my musical highlights has to be a much anticipated trip to San Diego for Wrex the Halls, where I was lucky enough to spend the night watching Alt-J, Arctic Monkeys, Cage the Elephant, Vampire Weekend and Queens of the Stone Age. One of my most impressive line-ups!

The Underground Music Society at CSULB also hosted our last acoustic show and end of semester show at The Nugget. I'm looking forward to seeing what more we can bring to campus in the Spring!

For CSULB December means Finals week, which for me fortunately only involved one final exam. I can't say I've been completely on-board with the American education system, but I've had some good writing opportunities and hopefully my Spring modules will open up an even better experience. 

For my final weekend before heading home I took to the beaches, visiting Newport and Huntingdon. 

I've met some incredible people from around the world this semester, and I'm sad to be seeing some of them leaving. We've all been a part of an incredible experience, and as much as I'm looking forward to visiting home, I'm even more glad to be returning to California in January.

Happy Holidays! 

Christmas Party in the Dorms
Christmas Party with the Internationals

Some of my favourite moments of the semester, from arriving in Long Beach, multiple trips to the beach, Universal Studios, San Francisco, Halloween, Las Vegas, San Diego and more! Thank you to everyone who has given me these unforgettable memories!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

Celebrating this all American holiday can leave international students at odds. While everyone around us is returning home to be with their families, our options are limited while all we really want to do is head home.

I found myself staying in the campus dorms as one by one people left for home or to travel for the break. My thanksgiving was spent with two lovely gentleman in my building and a home-cooked (albeit microwaved) meal. 

The peace and quite with rare time to myself left me considering my thanks. I am extremely thankful for my family, especially the four gorgeous children who are waiting for me at home. I regularly exchange postcards with my niece, nephew and cousins so that I can hold on to a little piece of them while I'm away. Nothing brightens my week as much as those few words and drawings from those I love most in the world. 

When things get rough and homesickness is creeping in, I am fortunate enough to have incredible friends who have supported me through so much. Whether they are here beside me in California or standing by me back home, I don't know what I would do without them. There's no need to name names, you know who you are. I can never thank you enough. 

Finally, its impossible to consider what I'm thankful for without recognising where I am, and the opportunity I'm experiencing. After years of dreaming, hard work and determination, I landed in Long Beach for the year of my life. I try to take the time to take in everything around me and the things I'm lucky enough to be a part of. 

Time has flown by. I can't quite believe how soon it is until I'm flying home to spend Christmas with my family. I've had so many great experiences so far in America, and there are even more to come in the new year. It's still hard to believe I'm really here. Thank you to everyone who made this possible.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

What Happens In Vegas

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, at least before the internet.
Turning twenty one in California could mean only one thing...

Las Vegas has been on my list of places to visit for as long as I can remember and I always hoped my twenty first would be spent under the lights of Sin City. It just goes to show that studying abroad really can make your dreams come true. Grabbing some friends and taking to the road, I couldn't imagine a better way to be spending my birthday. 

Unfortunately. the weather was not on our side and the journey took a lot longer than expected as the downpour brought traffic to a halt. But once we arrived all was forgotten as the drinks were flowing and we started taking in the sights.

It's safe to say I feel like we saw everything, journeying to the strip we visited the MGM Grand, New York New York, the Bellagio, Caesar's Palace, the Venetian, the Rio and so many more. We covered tourist spots and casinos, a burlesque show and many bars along the way.  
Being something I had dreamed of for so long this was an amazing experience for me. It was non-stop, soaking in the atmosphere and buzz that surrounded us and celebrating in style before heading home on a drive through the desert and into the sunset.

There were many people from my family and friends who I missed greatly this weekend, but I'm very thankful to those who made it there with me and gave me an incredible weekend to remember. (P.s. thanks for the pictures Vicky & Rachel!)

In two nights I feel like we got a true taste of what Vegas has to offer and I definitely plan to return in the future for an even bigger and better weekend!

Monday, 18 November 2013

November Update

@ Cold War Kids
Things have been enjoyably hectic recently so I thought an update was due for all the people who have hardly heard from me! My last post was for Halloween, and now it's almost Thanksgiving - the weeks are flying by.  

In the last 10 days I've been to an impressive four shows. Starting with Cold War Kids at The Observatory followed by Senses Fail at the Troubadour, which threw me firmly back onto the hardcore scene. I've been to the House of Blues in Anaheim and to see August Burns Red and Blessthefall at Club Nokia in LA. 

Check out my write-ups of Senses Fail and Speaking The King's

Incredibly intense shows filled with all the stage diving, crowd surfing and mosh pit antics that my fellow music fans have come to expect of me. In spite of the bruises and bleeding (don't ask!) I've seen some outstanding bands at legendary venues, even ending up backstage!

Blessthefall & August Burns Red

This may seem extreme, but if you're going to do something, do it right. If I'm learning anything this year it's to make the most of every opportunity! 

Today I have just started celebrating my 21st birthday, which has been a long time coming. It may have been a few hours early, but as it hit midnight in England it was time to open the cards and packages from my family back home.


All of the cards, gifts, drawings, banners and excessive sprinkles were a lovely reminder of the amazing people waiting for me at home. I can't pretend things don't get rough here, there's days where all I want is to curl up on the sofa (not the couch) and share a packet of real English biscuits with my mum. But these little reminders of home just keep me smiling and I can't wait to see everyone at Christmas! 

Tomorrow will be my official birthday in America and I'm heading back to LA to see Tonight Alive and Echosmith on The Other Side Tour. The prospect of buying a drink from a bar (legally) seems like a long lost novelty from the past! 

Next up: Las Vegas. Wish me luck on the strip...

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Happy Halloween

Halloween in America is like stepping into another world, with everything you can imagine adorned in decorations. Halloween mega stores pop up overnight as if from nowhere offering an array of frightful things.

Our dorm common room is twinkling with lights; pumpkins, ghosts and candy corn drawings decorate the walls. From pumpkin patches to parties, Halloween has taken over.

I’ve never seen so much thought and creativity going into costumes; if England wanted to compete we would really have to step it up a notch! Many people have been working on their costumes for months or building them up over the years. It’s impressive to say the least.

My first Halloween experience here was a CSULB UMS show at The Nugget. Getting into the spirit of things some dorm friends and I threw on the costumes. You may have seen Wonder Woman, Poison Ivy, The Joker and Edward Scissorhands riding the Campus bus that night!

At my first frat part I saw an array of costumes, from the expected lingerie and animal ears of the Mean Girls era to full blown Halloween transformations. As Halloween approached the CSULB Campus came alive, with Halloween carnivals, trick-or-treats, and haunted houses. With face painting and trips to Newport, needless to say it was a non-stop week of celebrations. 

The height of my Halloween experience ended with a Horror Night at Universal Studios in Hollywood. In spite of the painfully long queues for the Evil Dead and El Cucuy mazes, this was a night to remember. From riding the Terror Tram to the Universal Backlot invaded by The Walking Dead, to exploring the scare zones haunted by The Curse of Chucky, horrifyingly creepy Cirque du Klownz and the chainsaw wielding antics of The Purge.

Throughout my transformations into Poison Ivy, a sugar skull, and mocking spectator of those who run screaming in fear, I’ve had a real insight into American holidays. Next up – Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

San Francisco

A trip to San Francisco for +Emma Langschied's 21st birthday - Living the dream doesn't get much better than that! 

Over two years ago I first spoke to Emma about the dream to study abroad in America, and by some miracle we have found ourselves here together. So for her 21st (the much anticipated birthday in the States) we planned a trip to San Francisco to truly celebrate in style. I promised a memorable weekend, and I think we certainly delivered!

Friday Oct. 11 
An early start for the drive from Long Beach to San Francisco. With seven of us travelling together in a rented car we found ourselves in a giant Dodge durango, also known as 'The Tank'. We took the coastal route for the drive, and with our many stops the trip took around 10 hours.

The exciting arrival in San Francisco was slightly dampened by the fog, the traffic, and a sat nav without a sense of direction. Eventually we found our way to our rooms for the next two nights, and with all our maturity we moved in by jumping on the beds.

After the long drive, as the late night closed in, we found our way to Pier 39 and started our weekend celebrations at Bubba Gump's, where I could finally enjoy real fish & chips. The night of course would not have been complete without an ice-cream and singing surprise for the birthday girl!

Road trip, Bubba Gump & room mates

Saturday Oct. 12
In true tourist fashion we managed to cram in most of our sight seeing in one day; A foggy trip over the Golden Gate Bridge, driving down the crooked Lombard Street, up to Coit Tower - and that was all before lunch.

Golden Gate Bridge

Coit Tower

In the afternoon we headed to China Town, which is one of my new favourite places, especially for the delicious pork buns! I also succeeded in solving my chocolate withdrawal problems with a trip to Ghirardelli Square. Following the recommendations of many of our local friends, we also went to Fisherman's Wharf, which gave us a true taste of San Francisco and a chance for some tourist shopping and sneaky present buying.

The bay, China Town, Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman's Wharf & Lombard Street

Our night was spent back at Pier 39, where we were treated to clam chowder bread bowls (highly recommended!) and watching the fireworks, before heading home to a night of obscure conversations and laughter with the girls in our room.

Pier 39

Sunday Oct. 13
Bright and early on Sunday morning we were lucky to see clearer skies so went back to the Golden Gate Bridge where we could look across the bay and see the amazing views. Before starting the journey home we returned to China Town to stock up on fresh baked treats for the car, and then said our goodbyes to San Francisco.

On the route home we stopped in Santa Barbara for dinner at The Brewhouse, our final celebration of a truly incredible and memorable weekend. Thank you all for the amazing company and collecting the great pictures. Happy 21st birthday Emma! We won't ever forget this one!

Golden Gate Bridge & Santa Barbara 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Dorm Life

Settling into life in the dorms with the Hillside A-Team at CSULB

While at the University of Hertfordshire I commuted from home in Knebworth. This was mainly for financial reasons and I wasn't sure that shared living was for me. I enjoyed my independence and never felt like I was missing out.

This made the decision to study abroad even bigger, not only would it be my first time away from home, it would be over 5,000 miles away.

I chose to live on campus to embrace the full American university experience, which meant a room mate and the scary prospect of shared bathrooms. CSULB made this an easy process, with a choice of buildings and online room mate selection.

So I found myself in Hillside A, the place I can now call home until next summer. I'm one of the lucky people with an amazing room mate which makes the whole experience even better. My building has also formed it's own family, congregating in our common room.

We've given our bland room the homely feel, by moving the furniture for movie nights, adding lights and decorations, and our very own tea corner. Perfect for my personal mission to convert the Americans to English tea!

Last weekend we even had a Hillside A sleepover, with pyjama clad residents taking to the sofas and lining our mattresses on the floor, to the slight dismay of our RA!

Settling into American life and coping with homesickness has been made so much easier with the support of some truly lovely people (who have all been invited to visit in England) and by living in our personalised surroundings.

I'm looking forward to the months to come to see what other antics the Hillside A-Team family can get up to!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

CSULB Underground Music Society

Last week I received the greatest news straight from the Daily 49er, after over one month of musical isolation in Long Beach, they announced the official arrival of the CSULB Underground Music Society.

Bringing together local musicians and music lovers UMS kicked things off with an opening meeting and event on Thursday 26th September.

The meeting was a chance to meet fellow fans from a variety of underground genres, setting the scene for an exciting year, followed by a live show in The Nugget featuring four underground local bands.

Animalia kicked the evening off with a bang, grabbing the attention of anyone within ear shot. Some strong tracks struck out in their set, but unfortunately a crash course in harmonies was needed as the vocals left much to be desired.

Next up The Moderates, a classic rock band from Long Beach, took to the stage with full force. Don’t be fooled by their youthful appearance, these guys are one to watch; with strong instrumentals, ringing the bells of some respectable influences, and a truly outstanding voice leading the show.

Digging up some punkier sounds was another Long Beach band – Struckout, tearing it up with some meaty bass and kickass drums.  

For the final act of the night The Two Tone Boners filled The Nugget with their smooth grooves and rhythmic ska sounds, enticing everything from toe-tapping to full on skanking. Keys, trombone, sax, guitar, drums, bass, and an exciting trio of vocals created an intense and powerful penetration that leaves a funky echo ringing for hours.

I for one can’t wait to see what else the CSULB Underground Music Society can cook up. To great friends, great music, and many nights to come – Cheers!


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Weekend Antics

Sunshine, splashes, world records and roller-coasters...

On Saturday 21st September I joined over 100,000 spectators at Rainbow Harbour for the Red Bull Flugtag in Long Beach. 

28 teams created crazy flying contraptions which mostly plunged straight into the water from the 30 foot pier, but one team succeeded in breaking the world Flugtag distance record. The Chicken Whisperers flew 258 feet, knocking the competition out of the water. 

Taking our own exciting journey on Sunday, we rented a Zip car from the CSULB campus and drove to Knott’s Berry Farm theme park. I was amazed at the lack of queues as we walked straight on to some of the biggest rides. Top rides of the day: Silver Bullet and Xcelerator 

To end what was a tiring but enjoyable weekend we took a scenic drive to Laguna Beach to watch the sunset. A perfect summation of life in California!  

Monday, 23 September 2013

Dentistry Disasters

Throughout the last few years I have gained a laughable reputation for getting seriously ill at the most inopportune times. Studying abroad is clearly no exception.

Things have been quiet on the blogging front (and the attending class front) over the last week for just that reason. What started as an ear infection escalated to an emergency dentist appointment and having four infected wisdom teeth extracted. Ouch!

Its fair to say that I missed my mum, and the NHS, during this time. Nobody likes to be ill away from home, and the stress of figuring out insurance and the American health care system was an undue burden.

However, I'm on the road to recovery and feel a few words of thanks are due. Many people received panicked phonecalls and emails last week and everyone I spoke to was incredibly supportive.

The staff at UH and their insurance provider went a long way to make sure I felt reassured. The Disabled Student Services here at CSULB were also very helpful about the correct procedures and support available.

The biggest thank you of all goes to my A-Team family in the dorms; for lifts to the dentist, suggesting soft food for after the op, going shopping for me and just generally making sure I was okay. They made me feel as close to home as possible when you're over 5000 miles away.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Goodbye from the Beach

This week someone's study abroad journey was cut short. One of our friends from UH had to return home, so to say goodbye we had a bonfire on Sunset Beach for her last night in California.

While this was devastating news, and a shock to us all, you just have to make the most of the time you have. I hope we gave a good send-off and left some lasting memories for what was still an incredible journey.

We gathered on the beach with marshmallows and made s'mores around the fire. Watching the night close in around us in the breathtaking surroundings of my new home, I couldn't help but feel a reflective mood taking hold.

Recently I had been starting to feel homesick, missing my friends and family and the small home comforts that you don't truly appreciate while you're there. The thought of travelling home to see the ones you love must be something that crosses all of our minds at some point.

Now someone was really leaving, and it makes you hold on to the opportunity you have in a new light. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and its more important than ever to make the most of it.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Week of Welcome & Labour Day Weekend

With the arrival of the US students CSULB offered a Week of Welcome, hosting events around the campus. 

Sunday kicked off the week with a Welcome BBQ, bringing burgers and corn dogs, candy stalls, and representatives from the Greek houses onto Los Alamitos lawn. For me this was followed by a night off campus, spending the night with friends from home and my new roommate.

Monday was the first day of class for most students, with building meetings that night. This was a chance to meet the other people who are living in our building. Probably not a bad idea considering the close quarters and shared bathrooms! Our building are interestingly called the The A-Team (Hillside A), after the Ed Sheeran song. I’ll leave you to think about that one…

Skipping Tuesday’s event of watching Fast & Furious 6, I had my first experience of real Mexican food. While driving to a hole-in-the-wall and sitting on a street corner while a 12 year old serves your food may not seem the most appealing, I can highly recommend a Californian Burrito. Apparently this is carne asada, cheese, guacamole and French fries rolled into a flour tortilla. It was delicious but I wouldn’t eat one too often!

The entertainment on Wednesday was an 80’s themed College Kick-Off. I’m not too sure where the 80’s theme came into it; it certainly wasn’t the music or what anyone was wearing. For British students who undoubtedly learnt during Fresher’s that alcohol is the answer to any awkward situation, the night wasn’t off to the best start. But eventually you just accept that you are under 21 and have fun anyway.

To end the Week of Welcome there was a Casino Night at the Pyramid. With “Dress to Impress” plastered on the promo, this proved a challenge for those of us who only have 32kg worth of clothes! There was a nice atmosphere and lots happening, but it was too crowded to really play at any of the tables. I chose to keep my complimentary chip (an imaginary $100) as a souvenir of the evening, and save the real gambling for my 21st in Las Vegas.

Labour Day Weekend saw most of the US students heading home to spend the holiday with their family. This left the International students a chance to explore, and for our first excursion we headed to Universal Studios in Hollywood. For CSULB students there was a great offer of just $69 for an annual pass, and by using your free bus and the Metro, transport there cost just 50 cents.

The Studio Tour is a must-see, from the fake cities to well-known locations, you can really feel your place in Hollywood. I would also recommend some of the simulator rides, for enjoyment factor and impressive graphics. However, the shows are cheesey and the American humour didn't translate well with our British group. The Citywalk was a great way to spend the evening, browsing the shops and dinner at Hard Rock Cafe, one of my personal favourite places.

That night in LA we drove around to see the sights, such as Sunset Blvd. and Rodeo Drive, followed several hours later by a crazy midnight swim. We won't be forgetting that night for a while! Saturday provided a too-cool LA brunch and trip to Venice Beach. Venice Beach has a great atmosphere with lots happening and a funky LA buzz. A hot-spot that I plan to return to in the near future!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Week 1: Classes

Study Abroad isn't all about trips to the beach and getting the best tan, we are actually here to study.  This year I am taking a major in Journalism, as this can only be taken as a minor as part of my Mass Communication degree at home. I’m hoping that this will give me an opportunity to have a more in-depth study of journalism, and to gain valuable experience that will help to further my career.

J310: Writing for the Daily 49er
This module encourages students to get involved with the media on campus, by writing a minimum of 15 articles a semester for the student run Daily 49er newspaper. To me, it seems incredible to be getting class credit for things that I would usually do in my own time. I think this is a great program to encourage student involvement, a must for any future journalist.

J374: Written Communication for Public Relations
After having some hands-on PR experience in a summer placement I thought it would be interesting to take a module in PR during my study abroad year, as this is something that isn’t available at home. I feel like I’ve been thrown in at the deep end, as my past experience is mostly based around journalism. This seems to be an intense class providing an opportunity to create PR material for a local non-profit organisation.

J316: Feature Writing
To balance out the heavy news focus of the Daily 49er module I decided to take a features class, as this is a style that I find interesting and enjoyable to write. So far it seems to be a fairly basic class, considering it is a third year module. Aspects of what makes a feature are repetitive and mostly common sense. However, the assignments offer a sense of freedom in feature writing so there will hopefully be something to show at the end of the semester.

J320: Advanced Reporting
There seems to be a lot of cross-over between each of my modules, especially in this class which combines aspects of both news and feature writing. There is a change to develop a more investigative style which is something new to me, but otherwise this class is currently falling short.


Overall, my first impression is to wonder what the Long Beach students have been studying for the last two years. The repetition of content that has been drilled into me since day one at UH is very mundane, and the cross-over between modules suggests a lack of specialism in the different areas. Basic concepts are drawn out, with an array of unnecessary reading and homework assignments. I feel like I’m back in high school! On the plus side, the variety of written assignments in each module will hopefully be filling up my portfolio by the end of the semester! 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Let's go to the Beach

It would be impossible to be here in California without a trip to the beach, so keen to start a new tradition within the first week I headed to Seal Beach. For CSULB students this is just a free bus ride and a short walk, before you're taken away by the outstanding views and stunning beach.

After a hectic start getting settled in to the new University, it was nice to have a relaxing afternoon lying in the sun. Although it was cold at first I even braved the sea! I will definitely be returning again soon, and checking out the other beaches in the area.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Supersize and Super Sales

It feels like all I've done since we arrived is eat! If you have me on Foursquare you can definitely second this statement.

One the places that everyone said I had to try was In-N-Out Burgers, so on our way for a night out on Second Street we stopped by. Frankly, I was disappointed. I can't see what all the fuss was about, I've had much better burgers before, and the soggy chips (sorry fries!) are well worth avoiding. Even the Secret Menu is not as exciting as it sounds!

Powell's Sweet Shop lifted our spirits, kids in a candy store you can sit and watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory while admiring the array of treats on display. Gathering round to watch each other trying the bugs attracted some strange looks from passers-by on Second Street. British tourists are certainly entertaining!

Powell's Sweet Shoppe

We've mastered the art of ordering less meals to accommodate for supersize portions, but even so we can understand why everyone in California gets To-Go boxes for their leftovers. Whether its an Ihop breakfast or dinner in Hoffs Hut, there is enough food left to feed a third world country. Interestingly, everyone we see is in really good shape - What's their secret?

Our favourite meal out so far has to be Hooters in Downtown Long Beach. There's a great atmosphere; music, sports and yes of course the waitresses, and the burgers and chicken wings are the best. We were even given a free appetizer, some delicious Tator Tots. Although in true American fashion they could have been your main meal. Definitely a place to try for a fun night out.

The rest of my time seems to have been filled with shopping, lots of trips to Target to furnish the Dorms and to the Beach Store for CSULB branded merchandise. Catching the bus to Los Cerritos Centre Mall is easy and free for students, with great shopping and places to eat. The prices are amazing and I can see suitcases filled with presents to take home at Christmas.

Beach Pride 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Moving and Settling In

Now I'm all moved into my new room and starting to explore the area. So far this has mainly consisted of trips to Target for all the things that wouldn't fit in my case when I was packing! There's also been a lot of food involved, it's true that American portions are about 3x the size of British ones, but we've been walking it off (mainly when we're lost!). Here are some snaps from my first couple of days, expect many more to come!

The Campus

My new home - Hillside College A

Unpacking in my new room

Because I've never seen someone so excited about a squirrel

IHop breakfast - YUM

Beachside College pool

Cheap taxis even if we never know our address

Lucky Charms for breakfast