IT’S CHRISTMAS!!!

When I first found out that I was coming to UCSB, I jokingly suggested to my mum that the family should come out to California. Five months later and that is exactly what happened!

Last Monday I took the Amtrak from Santa Barbara up to LA. I would definitely recommend this, the view is spectacular and the Airbus can take a really long time due to traffic. From there I took a cab to The London in West Hollywood, where I was going to meet my family after their eleven hour flight.

Waiting for them to get here was the longest two hours of my life! After they arrived we unpacked and had an early dinner. The food at the hotel restaurant was amazing and so were the London/British themed cocktails.

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Finally reunited!

The next day I began to panic, it started to rain. Not what we were expecting, we made the most of it and went to the Beverly centre to do some shopping – I still needed to get Christmas presents! We had lunch at the Dialog Café on sunset boulevard, I would recommend their turkey BLT sandwich.

The jetlag really kicked in that evening and my mum wasn’t feeling too well, so the five of us went for dinner at La Boheme. Really good food and the setting was pretty cool.

Wednesday we spent the day sightseeing and did a hop on hop off tour of Beverly Hills and Hollywood. We saw the Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theatre it was fun but so busy, so we carried on walking back to the hotel – got some really funny looks as no one really walks in LA but it was a fun day. That night we went for dinner at Lisa Vanderpump’s (from the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills – yes I am a fan) restaurant Sur. The setting was great and we actually ate outside in December which was just bizarre! I would recommend the Raspberry Mojito.

Christmas eve morning was spent at the Griffiths Park Observatory. The views from up there are just incredible, you can see the entire city! I would definitely visit there again! The rest of the night was spent with my siblings as my parents went to bed early (the bores). It was nice spending time with them and watching Gavin and Stacey Christmas specials.

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Christmas day I was woken up by my brother knocking on the door at 7 am demanding that we go to our mum and dads room to open presents. In my non –jetlagged state I was unimpressed! After breakfast we went for a short walk and had lunch by the pool of the hotel. It was a bit cold on the roof but worth it for the view!

We had Christmas dinner at the hotel which I really liked, Jess was unimpressed by the lack of pigs in blankets and the addition of marshmallow to the plate! We finished the night by playing Trival Pursuit. It was weird just having the six of us playing.

Boxing day we went to Santa Monica, it was nice to revisit the first place I went to when I arrived in the US. It was cool to be able to show them around and not feel as terrified as I did during that first day! That night we had dinner at The Ivy and it was simply incredible. The food, the atmosphere, everything was great.

The day after was really relaxed. Izzy went Downtown to meet a friend she met travelling and my dad and brother went too. My mum, sister, and I spent the day by the pool, followed by wander to Rodeo Drive. Like most people there we would wander into the designer shops, look around a bit, then leave!

It was such a great week and a really different way of doing Christmas. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t miss Christmas at home but it was an amazing holiday that I got to spend with my family. Only six months until I see them again!

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Looking back at everything that I have done these last three months, I can honestly say they have been some of the best times of my life and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the year has in store.

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To the Bay and Beyond…

After a stressful week of finals and running on primarily coffee, I am done with my first quarter at UCSB. I cannot believe how fast these ten weeks have gone! Seems only yesterday I was writing about getting out here.

After celebrating Julia’s 21st birthday by doing “the loop” (a bar crawl of all the places that sell alcohol in Isla Vista), we took a very long and hungover drive back to the bay, as we were headed up to Lake Tahoe with 30 friends for a few days.

Coming to UCSB I was severely unprepared for the freezing temperatures so had a duffle bag full of my “warmest” clothes and borrowed ski gear from Madison. From Julia’s it was about a four hour drive north in a very cramped car but I was so excited to ski.

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The cabin was huge! It had a hot tub, TV’s in every room, and a sauna. There were so many of us it was only $100 each for accommodation. After more people started to arrive an alcohol run was made. After that things took a very aggressive turn. My accent went down a treat though, got asked to say Harry Potter a fair few times people got a real kick out of it.

Feeling rather grim we headed out to Heavenly the next day, a resort at the California – Nevada border. Lift passes were $119 for the day if you buy them in advance, which I would definitely recommend. I was the only one renting gear, which was actually pretty reasonable for helmet, skis, and boots. The package was about $50 for the whole day. It’s a fairly large resort and despite the cold the conditions were perfect. Whisky on the chairlifts helped!

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I completely forgot how tiring skiing was and by the end of the day my legs were dead. The diamond- black mogul run to the car park was a definite no- go! It was totally worth getting the gondola down to the bottom as we had an amazing view of the lake!FullSizeRender

Waking up the next morning was awful. Everything hurt I could barely sit up my neck hurt so much. Madison decided to ski for a second day and Julia, Claire, and some of the others spent the day sledging. I decided that leggings would be suitable attire for this activity, I was wrong. It was absolutely freezing! Was really fun though and nice to just relax.

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Reliving my childhood

After they were finished skiing a few of us went to dinner at the Lake Tahoe Pizza Company. The pizza was so good I would definitely recommend going there. After this we returned to the house with more booze and as it was the last night got spectacularly drunk. The clean up in morning was not so spectacular.

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Such a great trip with the best people, sad to be going back to Santa Barbara tomorrow but… MY FAMILY ARE COMING OUT CANNOT WAIT. THREE MORE DAYS.

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Looking surprisingly fresh after three days of drinking…

My First Thanksgiving!

Firstly, I’d like to apologise for my lack of posts these last few weeks. Since my midterm exams I’ve been so busy with classes and lacrosse I haven’t really found any time to write! So here is my Thanksgiving blog hope you enjoy it!

To any future students you will 100% find someone who will take you home, and if not, the International Student Office at UCSB host a trip to Yosemite National Park, which looked great too.

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I’ve been looking forward to this break, not only from teaching but also from Santa Barbara, as I was going to be spending it with my friend Julia and her family in Piedmont California.

The trip started off with a six- hour drive up to the Bay area with five people in Julia’s car. It was pretty cramped but Madison and I amused ourselves by switching accents for a good hour of the drive. Also part of the way through the drive there was a distinct smell of broccoli wafting through the AC. Apparently it’s due to the large farming area in central California, I reckon it was a well thought out excuse for someone’s gas problem.

The next day we went out for breakfast with Julia’s dad and younger brother Cole. It was a really small place in Claremont and we had a great view of the hotel. Afterwards we drove through Berkley up to Panoramic Point, it was such a clear day you could see the Golden Gate Bridge!

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Thanksgiving Morning we took part in Piedmont’s annual turkey trot. We walked the majority of it, as the hills were ridiculous. I thought East Grinstead was hilly but some of them were basically vertical. I did feel a bit of an idiot as a reindeer and a 75-year -old woman beat us but it was the taking part that counts!

After the race we went to get Noah’s Bagels in Montclair (would definitely recommend their applewood bacon, egg, and cheddar bagel) and we bumped into the assistant coach of the Golden State Warriors- one of the tallest humans I have ever seen. We then took a quick walk round Lake Merrit before spending the rest of the afternoon preparing thanksgiving dinner. Safe to say I was in a food coma by 8pm.

Friday consisted of snagging some bargains black Friday shopping, which wasn’t as crazy as I though it was going to be, it was all rather civilised. Then we went to a “Friends-giving” hosted by Julia’s friends parents; free bar with gin, was a pretty top night.

Saturday we ventured into to San Francisco, first stop was the Mrs Doubtfire House. Not as big as it looks in the film but there were tributes left to Robin Williams outside it, it was actually pretty moving. Then to Crissy Fields for an impromptu photo shoot with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately, it was too windy to walk it. We then drove to Fisherman’s Warf and went to Pier 39 for fish and chips. The fish was great the chips were pretty good, but not quite as fat as chip- shop chips.

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Photo credit to Cole Swensen!

Sunday came around too fast for my liking and again I was treated to breakfast with Julia’s family at the Montclair egg shop. Their French- toast was excellent and had a really welcome fire in the cold weather.

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My first thanksgiving was such a great experience, made all the better by the Swensen family being so generous and welcoming. I was a bit sad to leave if I’m honest!

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Party at the Pumpkin Patch…

These last couple of weeks have all blurred into a cycle of being in the library stressing about my midterms that start next week and the continual procrastination from doing the reading. Self inflicted I know, but what can you do?

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So happy to be there…

My housemates and I decided to continue the cycle by going to our local pumpkin patch. Judging by pictures that other people had posted on social media I envisaged a small farm, lots of greenery and even a hayride. We were however mildly disappointed.

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My attempt at arty photography!
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Pumpkins and pals

We turned directly off the freeway and were greeted to what could only be described as a small car park with a lot of inflatable toys for five year olds. The white plastic gazebo looked rather depressing against the backdrop of the mountains behind it.

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We looked around the “patch” in about three minutes got our pumpkins and left. Feeling deflated we got a Taco Bell and went home. My housemate’s from Northern California told me about Bishop’s farm, which looks incredible! It has pig racing and all sorts. Essentially, if you look at the “Pumpkin Spice Life” story on Snapchat this place has all of those things!!

Once we got home we discovered that there is a pumpkin patch like the one I described about just seven minutes away. It’s called Lane Farm for those students wanting to come out next year!

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I’m looking forward to Halloween here though! Most places are stocked with all kinds of stuff related to Pumpkin’s: pumpkin scones are immense!     DSC00055 DSC00053

I have my first lacrosse game against Cal Poly next week! Safe to say I’m genuinely terrified!

My American Firsts

After a long week of classes and being stressed out about my first proper assignment, I decided this weeks blog should be about some of my “firsts” in the US . I have already shared some of these with you but there’s been a few this week that I thought I would share.

My first Habit Burger:

You can buy a decent meal for less than six dollars; I would definitely recommend the sweet potato fries, they are far superior to MacDonald’s and a perfect hangover cure.

My first Buddah Bowl:

Carb city! I had the Mac Daddy bowl which is essentially a small round loaf of bread with the centre taken out and filled with macaroni cheese. They have others with soups in for a “healthier” option, but you may as well go all out.

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What my Dad would call brown food. Truly divine…

My first water polo game:

UCSB is very proud of all of its teams and I would recommend going to as many games as you can. I thought that this would have been a group of guys just throwing a ball around in tiny speedos: I was half wrong. It was such a tough physical activity, they tread water for around 80 minutes, whilst trying to avoid being drowned by the opposition.

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Go Gaucho’s!

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My first assignment:

Due in tomorrow and it really threw me off guard. I hadn’t written a scholarly article since May and was drawing a complete blank. Luckily my professor was incredibly helpful and I got it done ahead of time so I could enjoy the weekend. They really don’t want you to do badly, so don’t feel like you can’t ask for help.

My first birthday away from my family:

So I turned twenty-one this week! Meaning that I have reached the legal drinking age twice! I think this was the only time since I’ve been here that I actually felt a bit homesick though. Anyone who knows me is aware of how close my family are and it was strange not having them here to celebrate with me, but my amazing housemates took my mind of it by making me a cake. We went to Pascucci’s on State Street for dinner, a really nice Italian place which was so good and definitely worth a look.

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Housemate love!
Birthday gift from my mum!
Birthday gift from my mum
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Had to laugh at this email I got from the deans office! “celebrate your birthday free of regrets…”

As I write this it’s currently tipping it down with rain, which as grim as it is, reminds me of home. I’d rather be stuck in the rain in California than Sussex any day!

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It’s not always sunny in California…

The Last Days Of Summer

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Before I got assigned three pieces of homework due in the day after my 21st birthday…

This week has mainly been a lot of admin and enjoying those last few days at the beach before school starts. We started with our orientation which although useful was painfully long especially on the hottest day so far! It was however topped off by the most stereotypical police officer giving us a speech on crime whilst casually keeping one hand on his gun (no that is not a euphemism).

After this the Sussex contingent here decided to go along to our first football game (not the American kind). UCSB, as a community, is extremely proud of its soccer team having been national champions in 2006. There was such fun atmosphere! Also the traditional tortilla toss when UCSB scored was great to see and is something I would recommend to new students.

On Sunday I indulged in a typical American past time of having brunch. My new friends took me to Jeannine’s, I can honestly say it was one of the best meals I’ve had since I’ve been out here. I personally went for the Norwegian eggs Benedict but the French toast was also excellent. It’s fairly pricey but worth every penny, or cent I suppose

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Brunching like a boss…

After brunch we explored downtown Santa Barbara which has the generic high street shops like H&M but also some really reasonable boutique places. It almost felt like I was in a Mediterranean country. The architecture on State Street is Spanish influenced with the majority of buildings being painted white with terracotta roofs.

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State Street, Downtown Santa Barbara

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6798B is finally full! Everyone is back and ready for the school year to begin and personally so am I. I’m looking forward to getting back into a routine, although I will miss sunning myself all day and playing beer di (a new drinking game). I’m excited to meet more new people and partake in some new hobbies. There is so much on offer here and I would 100% recommend to new students to go to the Fun and Fitness festival, they have everything you could think of there! I was thinking about doing an aerial silk class, but given the fact that I am the least graceful person I know I decided to do a Thai kick boxing class instead!

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Won’t be doing this for while…

Wish me luck!

Tip of the week:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/352080151480165/?fref=nf – to those student who are thinking about going down the private housing option this an excellent way to find those bits and pieces to make your room that little but more homely. It’s a closed group so only students from UCSB can post in it and you can find anything from beds to textbooks on there!