Category Archives: London

Undertake the Uncomfortable

Part of doing something like going abroad, and life in general is about being able to look at yourself and evaluate the ways in which you can improve. It is always possible for you to reason and justify nearly any behavior, tendency, or viewpoint of your own. It is not the natural inclination to criticize oneself.

Hubris, as it were. I am guilty of this many times over. It is less about that which you do well, and more about building up those parts of yourself that are not so strong. I read my previous post and am assaulted by the hubris of it. My complaints are of no fault but my own. I have not made the fullest effort to reach out. I have failed to push outside of the path more traveled. I have not had the courage to undertake the uncomfortable.

And that is so crucial to why I take it upon myself to cross both oceans, to three continents. To undertake the uncomfortable. And yet, I fail in this now, I preach on about how simple this is for one such as me, with oh, so much experience and wisdom. Ha, I genuinely hope that somewhere someone has had a good laugh at me for this. What sort of accomplishment is it to be a medium sized fish in a small pond? No one brags about beating a video game on easy.

Now, I must push myself forward. I have to remember that first step into the LAX terminal last February and what growth came of that. I must undertake the uncomfortable.

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Wander & Rest

Woke up in London today.

It felt appropriate to take a bit of time here before posting, didn’t want to just spew thoughts and emotions, wanted to digest and process things before reflecting on it so far. 

This time around has not started with a free fall. Rather it’s a constant buzz. This not so much exciting as it is enlivening. Feet on the street figuring out the beat of this city. I’m getting to wander again, I love it. Turns out wandering about and getting a bit lost is a handy skill to have in a new city. It helps with getting oriented. And I seem to have picked that skill up pretty well. I find that I have a much better understanding of how to settle and take care of myself and all of the logistics, hassles, and everything else that comes with this. I’m also finding that I handle many of the things that caused some stress last time around, the benefits of experience foster a calmness that I have a feeling will serve me very well.

Then again, it is undoubtedly a different experience from last time. When you’re in a city as large and international as London, at a Uni that has over 50% international students, and already speak the language, there is a lack of challenge. As I’ve been abroad I’ve come to appreciate being American more in a number of different ways. But honestly, when you decide to spend a semester abroad and end up nearly always being around Americans, you run into people you went to high school with, it grates a bit. Look, seeing other Americans is always fun, seeing old classmates is interesting, but I’m pretty sure those things were not high on my list of motivations and things to be excited about. In terms of going abroad, London is certainly the road most traveled. So with that comes a list of pros and cons, and I’ve gotten both. It makes adjustment simpler, but part of me would rather be in a different country, South Africa or Brazil. Yes, I’m complaining about these things as I’m sitting here in London. Yes I know I’m being somewhat entitled and whatnot. If I’m being honest, I don’t think my frustrations have much to do with my setting. It has more to do with the people I am around. I have not met the same type of people as were present in Melbourne. I can distinctly recall the first night at Gilligan’s Hostel in Cairns and the conversation that was had in our room before going out for the night. Religion, spirituality, what are these to you and what do you see them as? And the conversation on the first night here was about fraternities and sororities. A telling difference there. I felt that I was around people with a thirst for life and an excitement and that they would make me a better person. I don’t find that here. It’s hard to say why the difference but it is there. I still know that there are people around me who are every bit worth knowing and will challenge me to grow in new ways. I must take some fault in this for being somewhat arrogant in assuming I know what I am doing from my past experiences, and this results in myself not always being open to others. So I must understand this and move myself forward, this time I can be the impetus in these conversations rather than swimming along with the current. 

On a more day to day note, everyone gripes on the weather and cold, but I have actually enjoyed the crispness, the busy streets, green spaces, squares, parks, haphazard streets, every building being older that the very oldest back home, the sun flitting through barren tree branches down and over the facade of enchanting Victorian facades that have stood many years and give the impression that they will stand many more. Though the very predictable afternoon rain can be frustrating. I’m living in Bloomsbury, Bedford Place. It’s a fantastic location, and a good set up. Hell, there’s a french press here. Gotta have my coffee and instant coffee just won’t cut it for me. I’ve gotten around a good portion of Central London and seen a fair number of sights and attractions. Buses are very convenient and the Tube is impressive. Tower Bridge, Kensingston Palace and Gardens, Portebello Road Market, Columbia Road Flower Market, Borough Market, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, British Museum, Regent’s Park, Camden, Soho, Westminster and some more as well. I’ll be in Wales for an adventure weekend in two weeks time. Still working out when to take what other trips when. 

I’ve been to three football(soccer) matches already, Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City at White Hart Lane, which may be the highlight of this so far, yes Spurs lost 5-1, but the atmosphere was cracking and I loved it. Saw QPR v Burnley over at Loftus Road, another great atmosphere, 3-3 draw. Went and saw Fulham v Sheffield United at Craven Cottage in an FA Cup match, frankly was a terrible match, with Sheffield needing a 120′ header to win it. And the weather was horrid, but did get to see Clint Dempsey. I’ve got tickets to Spur v Everton this Sunday, Spurs v Dnipro and Spurs v Cardiff City coming up end of this month. 

At the moment I’m a bit tired, its been over three weeks of going pretty constantly in New York or in London. I’ve been fighting a bit of a cold or something and everything looks a bit less rosy when you aren’t feeling 100%. So that taken into account, I reckon a bit of rest can’t hurt, and I figure I’m doing alright over here. 



The Ordinary Man in the Extraordinary World

“Place nothing above the verdict of your own mind.”
          – Ayn Rand, 
            Atlas Shrugged

So its about to happen again. That thing where I get on a plane and don’t come home for 5 months or so. On to London. Cross the other ocean this time. This is the opening page of the next chapter, I hope your next chapter is everything I expect mine to be. It’s a much different feeling this time around, I’m much more relaxed about the whole process, but in some ways that’s worrying. Maybe I’m not as prepared this time around, or maybe I’m more prepared. No idea really. The one unfortunate consequence of doing it again is that a long building anticipation really isn’t there. I’ll see others posting in the Facebook group for the program with all sorts of questions that are ripe with tones of nervousness, anticipation, and that giddy sort of feeling of what in the hell am I getting myself into? There are questions and blog posts and an air of ‘I am exceptional for taking this journey’, not in a haughty or chest puffing way, in a genuinely naïve and utterly optimistic way. Many of these posts focus on what to pack, how to do something, where the author is, what they have done, ‘first I did this, then I went there, and I ate this and saw that and then…’. I can’t help but get frustrated upon reading these posts. They miss so much of what this is. Yes, it is good to be prepared and to document. But this is not a journey of things you already know, this is not about what is in your bag or which website has the best power adapters or which cell phone plan to use. This is not about the list of things you saw and did. It is about what you are, what you will become, what you will change, what you will understand. And many of those I see headed abroad are doing so with friends already known. Some journeys are best embarked upon alone. This is not a journey upon which you bring what you already know. This is a journey of unknowns.

It is about the ordinary man venturing into the extraordinary world.

This is a concerto conducted by seven billion pairs of hands. You will dance to its chorus and crash to its cymbals. Float on the melody, march with the drums.  Breath with the flutter of the harp. You will play many a note on many an instrument, each with meaning, some more, some less. And with each note struck by your hands, you will know that much better the owner of those hands.

The measure by which an ordinary man is deemed extraordinary is the extent of extraordinary he experiences and contributes to this world.

So please, go, play the concerto, know the unknown, be a part of this, this extraordinary world.

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gertrudesSaddleCAFlag“It means something to walk with someone” – Dr. Aaron Bruce

The quote above comes from Dr. Aaron Bruce, speaker at the Lessons from Abroad conference I attended recently. And damn if it didn’t resonate with me. He spoke of what it means when you walk with someone. To walk with someone is to truly be with them, walking allows immersion in the world around, and connection with those you journey with or pass along the way.

Since coming home from the wonderful land of Oz, I’ve been contemplating the experience and putting all of the memories and lessons into some semblance of order. And I keep coming back to one central point.

You see, the beauty of living abroad, and being way out in an entirely new place, is that it frees you. When you are oceans away and know not a single soul, those little boxes you fit into, the labels you wear, the person you have contrived yourself to be, they all crumble away. Daunting to say the least. There is no choice but to express yourself in the truest ways you can, to be free from any preconceptions that shape others opinions of you. Way out with nothing but yourself, any constructed identities hold no water and are quickly discarded. Growth begins.

It can be likened to a potted plant. Life is good, life is safe in the pot. The boundaries are known and life is more or less assured. But growth restricted. And then the plant is moved from the pot to the earth. Boundaries removed, the plant thrives upon the open connection with the soil, expands its being beyond the boundaries of the pot that now seem so arbitrary and limiting. Roots entangle with a myriad of foreign plants, creatures and other things unknown. At first, such contact brings apprehension. But the plant begins to realize not all that is foreign bears malevolent intent. And the plant expands it’s roots seeking, encountering new and illuminating entities and stories all the while. Learning each new sun that by and large the land is populated with bright souls. Before long, the plant finds itself rooted not only to the soil, but intrinsically entangled with others, to the extent that where one ended and another began became rather obscure.

When you get way out, on your own, the walls crumble, the pot is removed and connection happens. These connections are some of the best you will make. Born of a mutual openness and desire to explore. Born by walking in foreign lands with souls previously unknown. The title of “Gone Walkabout” seems ever more prescient with such connections forged walking with others from all parts of the world. To walk with another, it means a mutual openness, an understanding, a willingness to explore, to be well and truly lost, to place faith and trust in a foreign soul.

I suppose this represents the closing of the first chapter of my experiences in the world. And there could be no more fitting title than “Gone Walkabout”, so I implore you to walk, to walk in a strange place with a strange soul. And with this, I begin to look towards the next chapter, a pair of tickets in hand.

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Single Digits

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve hit single digits and my excitement levels have hit triple digits. I’m leaving from LAX next Friday, February 15, 2013 just before midnight. Safe to say, that’ll be a mix of emotions between finally heading off into who knows what, and saying goodbye to my much beloved family, friends and southern California. Since the last post I’ve finished interterm and been kicking it around my home for the last two weeks. It’s been wonderful to spend time with my family and this time to prepare and finalize preparations has been quite useful.

I’ve made quite good use of the last two weeks. Have taken care of many things that needed to be addressed pre-departure, including sleeping in, eating mom’s cookies and other less important things like paying deposits, gearing up, updating computers and phones, setting up banking and communications etc. Mostly sleeping and eating noms. I’ve also been able to do some things I’ve been wanting to do including hiking Saddleback Mountain, which I’ve lived at the foot of my whole life, with my dad.

16 miles, 4000 ft climb

16 miles, 4000 ft climb

On the London front , I’ve been accepted to the program officially, which is great news, and I was able to get all my courses approved thanks to Prof. Murphy and Dr. Fahy who have both been ever so helpful during this whole process of planning what courses to take. All looks well regarding that and I’m sure preparations regarding that will kick into gear as soon as I return to California in July for summer.

Most importantly, Melbourne is about to happen. Nearly everything is set, I’ve found out where I will be living and have gotten an idea of some of the other travelling I’d like to do while there. I’ll be living at RMIT Village, a very nice looking apartment building literally across the street from U of Melbourne campus. See for some pictures and whatnot. Yes, it’s got a pool. Stoked. I’ll also only be a few blocks from Queen Victoria Market, the largest outdoor market in the southern hemisphere. So I think I know where I’ll be shopping. I’m also looking into picking up an internship or part time job while there as that could be both invaluable experience and some funds for my adventures. So if any of you 5 people who will actually read this have a connection for me, please let me know.

You’ll likely hear from me within the next week or so for a final pre-departure post and then it’s on with the walkabout.


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Anticipation, Visas, and Blessings

And the countdown rolls on. 31 days left. This time next month I’ll be in the airport preparing to board. I’ve got a week of class, a final, one class and a second final. My time at Chapman is that close to being finished. Grades from last semester came out very nicely and my grades over interterm are looking to follow suit.

I kept hearing how much of a headache getting my visa was going to be… it took all of a half an hour. The hardest part was the price tag, nearly $600. I honestly don’t have much more to do outside of packing for the next 4 months and frankly, I’d really like to being doing some preparation or something to keep me occupied. My three week break between interterm and departure may drive me nuts with anticipation. It’s not helping to read blogs of people I know who have already begun their time abroad and to see all their pictures. Watching videos like this make me straight giddy. 

Much more importantly, the awesome people at GlobaLinks are not only running my program but have also decided to award me a scholarship for my semester abroad; which will be immensely helpful. Apparently they liked what I wrote in my application essay. Lesson learned: Always throw your name in the hat.

My courses for next year in London are being checked for approval right now and I should hear back regarding that shortly. Also, the Chapman Center for Global Education have approved a program specifically for International Business through CEA in Grenoble France, which look as if it should fit me perfectly. So I may end up spending next spring in the French Alps instead of in London, or I may finish my college education there Fall 2014. 4 semesters abroad would really be something. We’ll see how that works out anyway.

For now, finish interterm, get all of my course approved for my time abroad, final packing and preparation and then walkabout.

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4:30 AM

It’s about 4:30 AM as I’m writing this. Why I’m awake at this hour I’m not quite sure, but I am finding a distinct peace of mind in this strange hour.

I’ve found that I rather enjoy being up with the sun and winding down with it. Daylight is too beautiful a thing to waste. It lights the soul, excites the mind and invigorates the body. I recently watched the documentary 180° South. It concerns one man’s trip to Patagonia and I’ll be honest, I never realized just how beautiful Patagonia was until I saw this. Have to add that to my travel list. Anyway, for anyone with any sort of curiosity for the world I’d recommend it, it’s not the best made film nor the clearest, but the scope of the journey and the mentality that it does such a wonderful job of capturing are things that reverberated with me in an incredibly genuine manner.

My penultimate semester at Chapman University concluded last Friday. The last portion of the semester was in no manner easy between the projects, papers and finals. But all in all, the semester went very well and I can have no complaints. It looks as if all of the courses I need at the University of Melbourne will work out for me, but I won’t know till I’m actually down under. Currently working on the preliminary forms and course selection for City University in London as well.  Now enter Christmas Break, the last two weeks I’ll really have to relax and spend some quality time with my family and friends from home. After this, it’s 3 weeks of interterm entailing accounting and web development courses, work and more prep work for both Melbourne and Australia, then 2 weeks at home getting everything in order and packed for the semester in Melbourne. And then the walkabout begins and I have a feeling my feet will barely hit the ground for almost two years. Although it feels as if it really began over a year ago, quite honestly I’d be content with it not ending for some time. There’s a whole lot of things I intend to accomplish and places to immerse myself in. I’m already mildly overwhelmed and overexcited for still being 56 days out and that likely has something to do with me being up at what is now 5:00 AM.

Oh well. I find myself in such a different place than from where I ever expected to be at this point, and there are no regrets to be found in me, only gratitude that I’ve made it to here and have the opportunities that I do. The changes I find realized in myself over the last year are on many levels. It comes down to a mindset of self improvement, curiosity, wonder, joy and a passion for doing things the right way. These things drive men, they resonate with me and I fully intend to run with them.


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So a quick update:

I was able to get the class I needed to get over interterm. If that had fallen through my whole plan would have been shot. So that was real nice to get taken care of especially considering the mass amount of complaining being done by my fellow students over not getting their classes.

More importantly I’ve got preliminary approval through Chapman for this: 

So pretty stoked to get clear of the first step to study abroad in London all of next year. I’ll basically have to have that all squared away and ready to go before I leave for Melbourne on February 15th. But it’ll be more than worth it. I also just submitted the first step of my application to Arcadia University College of Global Studies. As long as I am accepted by them, which shouldn’t be an issue I am basically good to go for London. Some exciting stuff, just trying to keep focused on finishing this semester strong. Oh, and I am managing to tutor and make some money to sock away for all my grand plans which is real nice.

Anyway, only 91 days left.

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