A Brighton Diary: What do I do now?

Note: This is the eleventh and final part in the series chronicling my study abroad trip in Brighton, England. I am joined on this trip by my classmates and friends Cassie JenkinsClaire RobertsonVy NguyenJhocelyn AlvaradoMorgan CollierAbigail Pennington and Susan Salvo, led by director of student publications, Andy Coughlan.

Now we reflect.

This trip marked a lot of firsts for me — my first time on a plane, my first time leaving the U.S., my first time away from home and my family for an extended period of time, etc.

It was something I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do. Traveling isn’t cheap and I don’t have the money lying around to fly to England whenever I want. But against all odds, this worked out for me. And I’m forever grateful for it.

I’ve always known that I wanted to travel the world before I settled in one place, and I knew that I would find places that were incredible but I just always figured that nothing would ever compare to America.

As kids, we’re taught that America is No. 1 and we’re inundated with the mantra that the U.S. is the greatest place on earth. I don’t want to say that isn’t true, but after leaving America for a little bit, I was able to appreciate that there are other places out there that are just as great. Maybe even better.

I can’t pinpoint my favorite part of the trip — every single thing we did was exciting and new, and I learned something each step of the way.

I’m already planning my return to Brighton — I’ve officially become that person that starts their sentences with, “When I was studying abroad in England….” And I am not ashamed of that.

Everyone says that college can provide you with opportunities of a lifetime and unforgettable experiences, and until now, I hadn’t really found those.

I would encourage anyone who’s thinking about going on a study abroad trip to do it. One-hundred percent. Meet with a financial aid advisor and plan out how you can afford the trip — that’s what I had to do.

Do whatever it takes, because, trust me, you won’t want to miss out.

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A London Diary: Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

Note: This is the tenth part in an on-going series chronicling my study abroad trip in Brighton, England. I am joined on this trip by my classmates and friends Cassie JenkinsClaire RobertsonVy NguyenJhocelyn AlvaradoMorgan CollierAbigail Pennington and Susan Salvo, led by director of student publications, Andy Coughlan.

Day 10 — June 21

After spending 10 days diving deep into the culture of Brighton and spending each day at one of its many attractions, London was a bit disappointing.

There’s so much to do that there’s no way you can do everything in one day. Hell, you might not even be able to finish one thing in one day.

But if you do ever find yourself in London, I highly recommend going to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

No, it is not the original Globe, but it’s pretty darn close.

This is where the “peasants” used to watch the plays. Photo by Olivia Malick

American actor and director Sam Wanamaker spent the latter quarter of the 20th century reconstructing Shakespeare’s Globe, more than 300 years after its demolition.

Unfortunately, Wanamaker died four years before its completion in 1997.

My knowledge of Shakespeare extends to what I was taught in high school upon being introduced to Romeo & Juliet and to be quite honest, his plays never lit a spark in me. But I knew that a tour of The Globe was something that I couldn’t miss. I had to see it at least once.

We were gifted with the wonderful Gerard Gilroy as our tour guide, an actor who made the experience interactive and actually left me wanting more information about Shakespeare’s history.

Gerard Gilroy did a fantastic job at keeping everyone entertained. I don’t think it was that difficult for him, he is an actor after all. Photo by Olivia Malick

I was especially interested to learn that the Globe is the only building in the entirety of London with a thatched roof and is constantly being restored as to prevent fires or other damages.

This tour is fun and interesting even for someone who may not be interested in Shakespeare. It’s incredible to be able to see a such a grand piece of history — even if it is recreated.

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A Brighton Diary: Primary Focus

Note: This is the ninth part in an on-going series chronicling my study abroad trip in Brighton, England. I am joined on this trip by my classmates and friends Cassie JenkinsClaire RobertsonVy NguyenJhocelyn AlvaradoMorgan CollierAbigail Pennington and Susan Salvo, led by director of student publications, Andy Coughlan.

Day 9 — June 20

Before we ventured to London, Andy wanted to show us more of the everyday life of a person living in Brighton. His sister, Barbara Walker, has worked at Middle Street Primary School for 25 years. Is there a more perfect place to see everyday life than at a school?

The school is tucked away, creating a quiet place for its students even in a busy city. Photo by Olivia Malick

Andy also wanted us to see how primary school (or, elementary school as it’s known in America) is different in the U.K. from our own upbringings.

The first difference is the fact that in late June, kids in Britain are still in school (and would be until late July). American schools operate on a “harvesting season” system where, obviously, we have a long three month break beginning in late May/early June to late August.

We were given a tour of the school by a couple of year five (or fourth grade) students. They showed us their classrooms, playrooms and shared their daily schedules with us.

We all learned how different their schooling was to ours. Having grown up in America, specifically in the Bible-belt, I was shocked and impressed to learn that fourth graders were learning about sex education. Nothing too hardcore, just a basic understanding of their bodies, which I think America should seriously invest in.

I didn’t have a health class until I was 13 and had already gone through a lot of puberty — after I most needed guidance. I think it’s awesome that kids are taught at a young age about their bodies and how they’ll change — they’ll be better adolescents and adults for it.

Progressive curriculum wasn’t the only noticeable difference. In the U.K., three and four year-olds can get up to 570 free hours of childcare each year. Meanwhile in the U.S., the average family spends up to $1,230 per month on child care. It’s a price too many can’t afford.

It really makes you wonder how some countries can function without sucking all of the money out of their citizens while others *cough* America *cough* can’t seem to do the same.

I also loved the fact that this school focused on individuality. A lot of schools in England require uniforms, including primary schools. Middle Street is an exception to the rule, however, and there is no required uniform. The subject of uniforms has both its pros and cons but I, for one, think it’s healthy for kids to be able to express themselves through their clothing.

This picture at the front of the school tells you everything you need to know about it before seeing anything else. Photo by Olivia Malick

I learned on this little field trip that it’s important for societies to learn from each other. Maybe in the future we can learn a thing or two about teaching our children.

For more information, visit www.middlestreet.brighton-hove.sch.uk.

A Brighton Diary: Life in Death

Note: This is the eighth part in an on-going series chronicling my study abroad trip in Brighton, England. I am joined on this trip by my classmates and friends Cassie JenkinsClaire RobertsonVy NguyenJhocelyn AlvaradoMorgan CollierAbigail Pennington and Susan Salvo, led by director of student publications, Andy Coughlan.

Day 8 — June 19

“In the midst of life we are in death.”

Before we left for England, Andy mentioned an assignment that immediately peaked my interest — we would visit a local cemetery and find the grave of a soldier who died in World War I and then go to The Keep and do a small write-up of said soldier.

This simple research assignment turned into a solemn reflection on mortality and what happens to us when we leave this earth. I wasn’t expecting to do so much soul-searching that day, but I guess there was no better place to do it.

Upon entering Woodvale Crematorium, we were greeted with dozens of red flowers — instantly reminding me of the poppies that adorn cars, buildings and people in remembrance of those who’ve died in war.

Photo by Olivia Malick

Cemeteries have always fascinated me. They are beacons of peace, even in cities that aren’t always peaceful. I like looking at tombstones and learning a little bit about people I’ve never known. You can tell a lot about a person by what their loved ones do for them once they die.

This cemetery is like no other cemetery that I’ve wandered through. For one thing, it’s considerably older. It dates back to Victorian times — before we left, Jhocelyn and I veered away from the rest of the group to find the oldest grave we could.

Mr. Thomas Flood was born before America was an independent country in 1775. He was one of a few 18th century citizens that we found. Photo by Olivia Malick

Like most places in Brighton and its surrounding areas, Woodvale was very hilly. It was quite a chore to wade our way through overgrown grass at such a steep angle, but we persevered.

Andy wanted to show us the children’s memorial garden. It might seem grim — it is. But I like to look at this way — graves are erected to be seen so that the people for which they were erected can be remembered.

Collections of toys and figurines join small plaques commemorating the short lives of these children. Photo by Olivia Malick

Perhaps the strangest (but not in a bad way) encounter we had in England was with a woman and her daughter as we were exiting the children’s garden.

Before we had entered the garden, I noticed a collection of flower petals on the ground. I thought it was odd, but beautiful, so I snapped a photograph of it.

Photo by Olivia Malick

When we left the garden, a woman (whose name I have unfortunately forgotten) and her daughter began asking us about our day and eventually our trip. It was pretty obvious we weren’t from around there since we had Texas accents. When we explained our reason for being there, she explained hers.

She had come to visit her son, who had died recently, and whose ashes she adorned with flower petals. She was one of the kindest strangers I’ve ever met. She wanted us to take a picture with her and her son and her goodbye to him is something I’ll never forget.

“Goodbye darling. Until next time.”

We were almost in tears. We all had a drink that night to honor her and her son.

It was after that encounter that the tears began to fall.

In the past year, both of my grandmothers became sick and unable to live on their own. One grandmother is currently in hospice care and before I left for my trip, I wondered if it would be the last time I ever saw her.

In life we are surrounded by death. Death is a natural part of life. But it isn’t always easy to deal with, especially when we lose those who are close to us.

When I see broken and un-kept graves, I feel sad and wonder where their family members are, if they even have any.

Walking out of the cemetery with my cheeks tear-stained, I thought of all of its eternal residents — some of whom have already been there for more than a century. What happens after we die, we will never know. All we can hope for is peace.

A Lewes Diary: Take Me Back

Note: This is the sixth part in an on-going series chronicling my study abroad trip in Brighton, England. I am joined on this trip by my classmates and friends Cassie JenkinsClaire RobertsonVy NguyenJhocelyn AlvaradoMorgan CollierAbigail Pennington and Susan Salvo, led by director of student publications, Andy Coughlan.

Day 6 — June 17

Approximately seven miles from Brighton is the quaint slice of heaven, Lewes. I’m not sure if any town can quite sum up the vision one gets of old-town England like Lewes. I don’t have anything to compare it to because, to me, it’s that unique.

A semi-aerial view of Lewes. Photo by Olivia Malick

If you’re not visiting palaces in England, then you might as well visit a castle. Like, a real castle.

Lewes Castle was built in in the 11th century and is open to the public.

It’s odd to see a medieval castle in the middle of an otherwise pretty modern town, but it’s cool nonetheless. Photo by Olivia Malick

As you climb up the stairs of the various levels of the castle, you see more and more of Sussex — the county in which Lewes and Brighton both sit.

Each level offers a new view of Lewes.
Photos by Olivia Malick

The castle is owned by the Sussex Archaeological Society, the oldest archeological society in England.


I’ll never forget how I felt on that day. I can’t remember the last time I felt so calm and content. It was a beautiful day — the sun was shining, the wind was blowing, but not too hard. It was so incredible that I tried to video call my dad so that I could show him everything I was seeing. Unfortunately, it was about 4 a.m. in Texas, so he wasn’t awake. Seriously, it was one of the best days of my life.

No filter necessary — a sun flare adds the perfect touch to a perfect view. Photo by Olivia Malick

It’s still so hard to fathom what 900 years of history really is, even though I’ve stood in castle that’s been in existence since almost 600 years before America was a country.

The towering castle is oddly welcoming. It has seen many people throughout its almost 1,000 year history. Photo by Olivia Malick

It’s not just the history and the sunshine that made that day so good, though.

After we toured the castle, we headed over to the Southover Grange, sat under a shady tree and enjoyed our lunch.

Southover Grange. Photo by Olivia Malick
The Southover Grange Café offers a variety of sandwiches and light snacks. One of my few American concessions on this trip was a Coca-Cola (£1.50/$1.87). There’s nothing better than a cold Coke. I also had a smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber sandwich for £4.25 ($5.29). It was my favorite sandwich that I had in England. And I had a lot of sandwiches. I had a packet of crisps for £1 ($1.25) and a piece of lemon drizzle cake for £2.50 ($3.11). An excellent lunch for an excellent day. Photo by Olivia Malick

After that, we spent a couple of hours at the Anne of Cleves House in the tranquility garden playing games like ring-toss (I don’t remember what the English name was), giant tic-tac-toe, and a lawn bowling game called Skittles.

It was nice to not feel rushed by impending deadlines or to feel the weight of a country gone mad on your shoulders (I’m looking at you, America).

Not a care in the world. Tea was the only thing on our minds. Photo by Olivia Malick

I don’t know if I can ever fully describe what that day meant to me, but if I ever find myself in England again, I’m high-tailing it to Lewes.



A Brighton Diary: Old Wonders

Note: This is the fifth part in an on-going series chronicling my study abroad trip in Brighton, England. I am joined on this trip by my classmates and friends Cassie JenkinsClaire RobertsonVy NguyenJhocelyn AlvaradoMorgan CollierAbigail Pennington and Susan Salvo, led by director of student publications, Andy Coughlan.

Day 4 — June 15

I haven’t been to an aquarium in at least a decade. For no particular reason than the fact that I never think of them. Something about aquariums, though, reminds me of my childhood. The amazement and never-ending curiosity is a mindset I wish I could visit more often.

If I had to rate every aquarium I’ve ever visited, I know which one would take the top slot.

Sea Life Brighton is the world’s oldest working aquarium, having opened in 1872. It is now a part of Sea Life Centres, a chain company, and while it has the brand all over it, this aquarium stands out.

Its Victorian architecture is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in an aquarium. There’s a rich history there, and you notice it as soon as you walk into the main entryway.

The aquarium — like a lot of Brighton and Hove — is big on environmental conservation education.

Sections of the aquarium are dedicated to the dangers of plastic on our beaches and in our oceans, and their overall impact on sea life.

Familiar? I’m sure we’ve all been on beaches where it seems like there’s more trash than people. Photo by Olivia Malick

I will say, one odd thing about this aquarium is that there aren’t informational plaques next to the tanks. It’s kind of difficult to find out what you’re looking at. Luckily for me, I just wanted to look at interesting sea creatures, I didn’t really care what I was looking at.

The aquarium offers a standard array of fish, starfish, jellyfish, turtles, sharks, etc. The coolest feature is definitely its “hallway under the ocean.” I don’t know if that’s what it’s really called, but that’s the best way for me to describe it.

The super-strength plastic tunnel offers visitors a chance to feel as if they too live in the ocean. Photo by Olivia Malick

There’s a lot of things to look. Half the fun was watching all of the kids with their parents experiencing sea life, maybe for the first time.

The aquarium is not only aquatic, there’s also a rainforest exhibit which features an anaconda, lizards and multi-colored frogs.

Know before you go: When you first walk into the aquarium after purchasing tickets, a picture is taken of you (or your group) in front of a green screen which you can purchase later. It might be a money-grab, but I don’t regret buying a keepsake that I’ll cherish forever.

Sealife cult photo
We look like we’ve just escaped a cult, but I love this.

If you ever find yourself in Brighton, consider checking out Sea Life Brighton, especially if you have children. The aquarium may be geared towards a younger generation, but you can enjoy the ocean and its beautiful creatures at any age.

Additional photos by Olivia Malick

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Admission information can be found here.

A Brighton Diary: The People’s Palace

Note: This is the fourth part in an on-going series chronicling my study abroad trip in Brighton, England. I am joined on this trip by my classmates and friends Cassie JenkinsClaire RobertsonVy NguyenJhocelyn AlvaradoMorgan CollierAbigail Pennington and Susan Salvo, led by director of student publications, Andy Coughlan.

Day 4 — June 15

The Royal Pavilion 

It’s not everyday that one gets to visit a palace once owned and lived in by the King of England. But on June 15, that’s exactly what I did.

The Royal Pavilion is different than other royal residences, past or present. From the get-go, when you first see the Pavilion, it immediately stands out.

The Royal Pavilion is built in the Indo-Saracenic style. Photo by Olivia Malick

Faintly reminiscent of the Taj Mahal, the Pavilion was built in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in the Indo-Saracenic architectural style.

This isn’t Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle — it has a special flair.

This former royal residence is no longer owned by the Crown and was sold to the Brighton & Hove City Council in 1850.

According to the Royal Pavilion page on the Brighton Museums website, the Pavilion “started as a modest 18th century lodging house. Architect Henry Holland helped George, Prince of Wales, later King George IV, transform his humble seaside retreat into a handsome neo-classical villa — known as the Marine Pavilion.”

The Pavilion has served many purposes over the past two centuries. The flamboyant bachelor’s paradise was used as a hospital during the First World War.

We weren’t allowed to take photos in any of the rooms. All photos of the interior on this blog are property of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove.

Whatever you may think the palace looks like on the inside, it doesn’t. The Indo-Saracenic style ends with the exterior and the interior is heavily influenced by Asian cultures.

First up are the Reception Rooms.

Royal Paviloion and Brighton Museum, website images, 2014
Right upon entering the Pavilion, one can instantly see the Chinese-inspired Long Gallery. Photo by Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove.

“The Long Gallery linked all the main state rooms including the Banqueting Room and the Music Room,” the website states. “Full of exotic furnishings and Chinese objets d’art, the Long Gallery uses clever decorative techniques such as iron cast to imitate bamboo, furniture in beech stimulating bamboo, and carefully placed mirrors.”

When Queen Victoria sold the Pavilion in 1850, she stripped most of the palace of its furniture and fittings, leaving a shell of former grandeur.

The Pavilion has undergone major restorations since 1864 to bring it back to its former glory.

Most of the wallpaper featured in the palace are replicas — intricate ones I might add — of original pieces. In the photo below, of the King’s Apartments, the wallpaper is an exact replica of the original.

Royal Paviloion and Brighton Museum, website images, 2014

The original green green dragon wallpaper has been replaced by a hand-painted copy, according to the museum website. Photo by Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove.

The restoration and conservation efforts are perhaps the most extraordinary part of the Royal Pavilion tour.

Every detail has been meticulously placed, everything has been researched and you can feel it as soon as you enter the building. It’s like being transported to the early 19th century.

Another interesting part of the Pavilion’s history is its use as a hospital during World War I. For almost two years, soldiers from the Indian Corps wounded on the Western Front in France and Flanders were transferred and treated at the Royal Pavilion.

A gallery of the Indian Military Hospital contains paintings, photographs, and contemporary accounts, as well as footage that recalls “in vivid form a remarkable and often forgotten story from Brighton’s history.”

The Royal Pavilion is a must-visit attraction in Brighton. I guarantee it’s unlike anything else you’ve seen.

Information about tours, prices and accessibility can be found here.

Additional photos provided by Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove.

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A Brighton Diary: A day of change

Note: This is the third part in an on-going series chronicling my study abroad trip in Brighton, England. I am joined on this trip by my classmates and friends Cassie Jenkins, Claire Robertson, Vy Nguyen, Jhocelyn Alvarado, Morgan Collier, Abigail Pennington and Susan Salvo, led by director of student publications, Andy Coughlan.

Day three — June 14

Day three began the same way as day two. The same breakfast was enjoyed once again.

What I didn’t know when I first woke up was how eye-opening the day would become for me. I saw a new point of view and fulfilled a childhood dream.

First, we met up with Andy’s nephew Daniel (and Pebble) at the Brighton and Hove bus station for a tour of the facilities and a presentation on how the city has worked to make public transportation more accessible.

I’m not going to go into detail about what we saw and learned at the bus company because we will be producing several stories regarding the topic for the University Press in the fall, so, stay tuned.

After we left the bus company, we headed to a café near our house — Drury Tea & Coffee Southern — for some lunch.

I had a strawberry banana smoothie for £3.25 ($4.09), a chicken and salad (notice how I said chicken and salad, not chicken salad) sandwich for £3.95 ($4.97) and a bag of strong cheddar and onion crisps for 75p ($0.94), or pence — the English equivalent of cents.

The banana strawberry smoothie (left) was delicious and served with a paper straw, a common practice in Brighton and Hove as a part of their environmental conservation efforts. Photo by Olivia Malick

After a short stop back at the house, we boarded a bus once more, this time heading to Andy’s parents’ house.

Time for Tea

We were going there to partake in a quintessential tea time. But, I think I can say on behalf of everyone in my group, it meant so much more than that.

As we walked from the bus stop to Andy’s parents’ house, I got a rush of contentedness I hadn’t felt in a long time. This view alone was everything I had imagined England to be. Photo by Olivia Malick

We were greeted with a beautiful spread of sandwiches, scones and, yes, tea.

I don’t think I can explain exactly how these scones changed our lives, but they did.

Now, a scone cannot be eaten plain. It is best served with clotted cream (bottom right) and jam (top right), preferably strawberry jam. Photo by Olivia Malick
Here is the scone after being dressed and joined by its partner in deliciousness — tea. Photo by Olivia Malick

I can’t recall ever eating a scone in my life — if I have, obviously it wasn’t worth remembering. After this afternoon tea, I had at least one scone almost everyday until we left.

The clotted cream was life changing. It’s like a softer version of cream cheese, but tastes nothing like it. It’s sweeter, but not too sweet. It’s perfect.

Unfortunately, as far as I know, clotted cream is not available in the United States. It’s tragic, really.

I think Claire explained it perfectly in her blog post.

Not only were the scones life-changing, but so was the tea. The brand, PG Tips, is available in grocery stores in the U.S. Andy has been trying to convince us for years that this “crack tea” is the best thing since sliced bread. It’s not that I didn’t believe him, but I’m so reliant on coffee that I never gave the tea the light of day. There was probably no better way to enjoy it for the first time, anyway.

All the cares and stress in the world seemed to drift away. It might sound silly, but there was something so peaceful about sitting in someone’s dining room with friends and family and enjoying a simple delicacy.

Next up was the desserts. Andy’s parents, as well as his sister, prepared different cakes for us to try. By this time, however, we had eaten countless scones and also had a few sandwiches, so we were getting full. But we had a solution.

We took a piece of each dessert and then shared the plate. That way, each of us got a piece without wasting food we couldn’t finish. Photo by Morgan Collier

We spent a couple of hours afterwards just relaxing in Ann (Andy’s mother) and Sam’s (Andy’s father) garden. We talked about ghost stories (more on that shortly), what we had seen on the trip so far, and what was to come.

None of us wanted to leave, but the day wasn’t over for us just yet.

Family photo. Photo by Andy Coughlan


Next up was the Lanes Ghost Tour. Our tour was led by the lively Ebenezer.

Ebenezer begins the ghost walk with a bone-chilling tale. Photo by Olivia Malick

If you ever find yourself in Brighton, I highly recommend going on this tour because it gives you insight to the history of the city in an unique way. Prices can be found on their website (linked above).

I won’t give away any spoilers, but I will say that Ebenezer made the experience inclusive — he got everyone involved in each story, most notably by asking members of the group to lead the walk by ringing his bell (seen in the bottom left corner of the picture above).

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this tour, but it was a good end to a good day.

England Brings it Home

After the tour ended, Andy reminded us that England was playing Argentina in the Women’s World Cup. There’s no better way to experience a piece of English culture than by watching football (mention soccer in England at your own risk) in a pub.

We went to the King and Queen pub and sat down at a table to watch the last half of the game. Spoiler alert — England won. It was nice to cheer for a team that wasn’t American (but when the U.S. plays England, my loyalty will always be to Megan Rapinoe).


It was also interesting to see how sports media overseas covers sports as opposed to ESPN. It wasn’t much different, but interesting nonetheless.

We intended on sticking around longer and eating at the pub, but the kitchen had closed. So, we had another mission.

We walked for a while, trying to find a place to eat that was still open at 10 p.m. Shops tend to close around 5-6 p.m. (except on Thursdays) in England. Restaurants don’t stay open that much later, so we were mostly running into chains. There was an unspoken rule that we weren’t going to eat at any chain restaurants so that we could gain the adequate experience.

We finally found a pizzeria.

Margherita pizza and cheesy garlic bread (with water by the way). Photo by Olivia Malick

We went to Pinocchio’s Pizzeria and Vy, Morgan, Claire and I split a Margherita (cheese) pizza and garlic cheesy bread. The pizza was £6.95 ($8.76) and the bread was £4.95 ($6.24).

We finished our meal and walked to the nearest bus stop, reminiscing about everything we had done that day and how it would be a day we wouldn’t soon forget.


A Brighton Diary: Where do I go and how do I get there?

Note: This is the second part in an on-going series chronicling my study abroad trip in Brighton, England. I am joined on this trip by my classmates and friends Cassie Jenkins, Claire Robertson, Vy Nguyen, Jhocelyn Alvarado, Morgan Collier, Abigail Pennington and Susan Salvo, led by director of student publications, Andy Coughlan.

Day 2 — June 13

I awoke Wednesday morning to the smell of bacon and quickly got dressed and headed downstairs. Fortunately, I had slept well through the night and got about 12 hours of sleep.

Andy decided he would make us breakfast every day of our stay in Brighton. We were treated to a traditional English breakfast — bacon, sausage, fried eggs, toast and baked beans.

The bacon is thicker here than it is in America, but tastes the same. The sausage is good, but it has a weird texture — soft, almost like boudin, but without rice. It’s not for everyone, but I liked it. The fried eggs, over-easy, were perfect. Along with my toast, I had butter and orange marmalade, a new favorite of mine. On its own, orange marmalade is too tart, but the saltiness of the butter evens it out. I opted out of the baked beans, I just couldn’t eat them so early in the day, but I’m sure they were great.

Coffee, milk and orange juice (with “juicy bits”) accompanied my meal. The perfect start to a long day.

Our assignment for our first official day in Brighton consisted of a scavenger hunt — a way for us to figure out our way around town. We hopped on a bus (yes, a double decker bus) and proceeded to Clock Tower in Churchill Square, a central hub for the comings and goings of almost every bus in the city.

The Clock Tower features portraits of Queen Victoria, Albert, the Prince Consort, King Edward VII as the Prince of Wales, and his wife Queen Alexandra, when she was the Princess of Wales. From the left, my friends, Vy (front), Susan (bottom row), Morgan, Cassie, Jhocelyn, Abigail (top row left), Claire, and myself. Photo by Vy Nguyen

We were given a list of 14 places to find as a group without Andy. But first, we needed a game plan. We headed over to a coffee shop called Pret A Manger to figure out the rest of the clues, and to develop a route of how to get to each place.

Look, we’re all communications majors, so reading maps is not exactly any of our fortes. Luckily, a local couple exiting from a bus saw that we were struggling to understand the bus schedule, and they told us which one to catch, where to be picked up, and let off. They saved us from at least another half-hour of confusion.

The number 13 answer on our scavenger hunt list was the house of the late actor Laurence Olivier. His was the farthest out, so we decided to go there first.

Well, Baron Olivier’s place turned out to be more trouble than anything. First, we got off at the wrong bus stop because Morgan thought that she had seen a house with his name on it. She did, but it was just an apartment complex named the “Olivier House,” and, as far as we could tell, had nothing to do with Mr. Laurence himself. So, we turned around and proceeded to our route — 15 blocks later, we reached the flat with the official black plaque stating its authenticity.

Then came problem number two. Morgan filmed each of our stops as a vlog, and everyone from the group read one of the clues that was presented to us on the worksheet. I read the clue for the video and then we were positioning to take a photo in front of the plaque for our assignment when a lady approached us and asked why we were on her front door steps. We had no idea that someone still lived there — we figured it was just a landmark, maybe even a museum. She asked us to stop filming and to leave, so, off we went.

Laurence Olivier’s house is number four in this row of houses on Royal Crescent. We weren’t able to get our selfie, although in hindsight, we could’ve taken it from the street. Photo by Olivia Malick

Next was the West Pier, a rundown pier that fell victim to arson twice in 2003 and was left to rot in the sea. It has become quite the tourist attraction since, however.

The pier, circled in green, is parallel to the Brighton Palace Pier. Photo by Claire Robertson
Another view of the West Pier taken at a later date. Photo by Olivia Malick

We then journeyed on to the Brighton Fishing Museum.

The Brighton Fishing Museum is a small tip-of-the-hat to all the fishermen who solidified Brighton as a commercial hub for England. Admission to the museum is free. Photo by Susan Salvo

By this point, it was after one, and we were all hungry and had only found four out of 14 places. We met up with Andy, and he led us to the Caroline of Brunswick pub, another location on our list. Their kitchen was closed, however, so we headed down to the Open Market (another location marked off our lists) to find some grub.

Caroline of Brunswick was the wife of King George IV. They did not have a happy marriage, however. It was often characterized as tragic. Photo by Cassie Jenkins

The Open Market was just as it sounds — an open area with various markets. It was interesting to see everything the place had to offer. Small shops with handmade crafts, local restaurants and even a Vans store lined the sides of the space. After much deliberation and increased hunger, I decided to eat at the Korean Japanese Deli with Jhocelyn, Claire and Vy.

Definitely one of my favorite places that I’ve eaten at so far on this trip. Not only was the food great, but the service was excellent. The shop is run by two people, a man and a woman. Photo by Olivia Malick

I had the bento box (£7.00/ $8.88), which contained beef, seasonal vegetables, seafood and fried tofu, along with white rice. I have never tried fried tofu before, but, boy was it good.

Photo by Olivia Malick

We left the Open Market and Andy continued to show us the rest of the locations on our scavenger hunt list.

We found the King and Queen pub, the Brighton Dome, the statue of Max Miller, or, “Cheeky Chappie,” the Lanes and two classic red telephone booths.

King and Queen pub. Photo by Vy Nguyen
The Brighton Dome. Photo by Olivia Malick
Cheeky Chappie. Photo by Andy Coughlan
The Lanes. Photo by Olivia Malick
England’s calling. Photo by Andy Coughlan

We headed back to the house, feet sore (or, in my case, blistering). We met Andy’s nephews Ashley and Daniel, who is legally blind. We also met Daniel’s guide dog Pebble.

Daniel got us in touch with the Brighton and Hove bus station so that we could organize a meeting of sorts to discuss how they’ve made public transportation more accessible in Brighton. The meeting was the majority of day three.

Daniel’s guide dog, Pebble, has been with him for about 10 years. Photo by Olivia Malick

Anyway, while talking to Ashley and Daniel, we all realized how hungry we were, but we didn’t really want to leave the house. We ordered in Indian food from a restaurant called Hove Tandoori. We called in the order and Ashley was kind enough to go pick it up for us.

I had a sheek kebab (£4.60/ $5.84) and chicken makhani (£9.90/ $12.56). We sat around the dinner table and talked about everything we had seen so far in England and how it compared (or didn’t) to America. It was one of those discussions that really lets you inside the minds of the people around you. It was insightful and helped me see things from another perspective and to understand my friends a little bit more. Everyone had different hopes for this trip, but we were all on the journey together.

The sheek kebab (left) and the chicken makhani were so tantalizing that I almost forgot to take picture of my meal before digging in. Photo by Olivia Malick

A shower and another video call with my parents closed out the evening and I soon fell asleep, already eagerly anticipating the next day.

A Brighton Diary: My first footsteps on foreign soil

Note: This is the first part in an on-going series chronicling my study abroad trip in Brighton, England. I am joined on this trip by my classmates and friends Cassie Jenkins, Claire Robertson, Vy Nguyen, Jhocelyn Alvarado, Morgan Collier, Abigail Pennington and Susan Salvo, led by director of student publications Andy Coughlan.

On June 11, I got on a plane for the first time and left the United States.

I had no expectations going into this trip — I just had the hope that it would be life-changing.

From the moment I stepped into the airport I was nervous about the plane ride. I had nothing to compare it to and I didn’t know how it would feel to be thousands of feet in the air. Over ocean. For nine hours.

The whole process of going through security and customs terrified me for some reason. Even though I knew I had followed every single guideline, there’s always that underlying anxiety that I will be the one pulled out of line and detained.

I was excited to leave the U.S. I needed a change of pace and different scenery. I needed to see the world through a non-American lens. How did other people live in other countries? How different would England be from the U.S.? Would I be disappointed, or, would I never want to leave?

I need not have worried. This experience has been indescribably incredible. Hopefully you’ll be able to see how this journey has changed me, Maybe, one day, it can do the same for you.

Day 1 — June 12

We landed at London’s Gatwick airport — it was about 7:20 a.m. I was not able to sleep on the nine-hour plane ride so I was pretty tired, but more excited to see the place I had been looking forward to visiting for the past year.

About one minute to touchdown at Gatwick. Photo by Olivia Malick

The weather was damp and cool — a welcome change from the blistering 90-degree weather that hung over Texas as we left.

After we went through customs, I exchanged some currency and we proceeded to wait for our luggage. Since I’d never been on a plane before, much less in a different country, every single step of this process was brand new to me.

Waiting for my bags was excruciating — I had always heard horror stories of people losing their luggage and never seeing it again. Once again, the anxiety was unfounded.

There isn’t much difference between an airport in Texas and one in England, so I didn’t realize we were in a different country until I saw the currency.

The front of a £5 note.
The back of a £5 note.

First of all, it’s nice to see a woman on currency. Second of all, the £5 and £10 notes are plastic, so they’re more durable (although, they don’t fold, which can be a pet peeve for some).

The difference between a £20 and £5 note.

Another interesting fact about British currency is how it caters to those with disabilities. In America, all of our money looks and feels the same. But what if you’re blind? How do you tell money apart?

Well, in England, the bills range in size from small to large depending on the amount of the note (as pictured above). The £10 note also has braille in the top left-hand corner to distinguish it from the other bills.

These are small things that I never even thought of that England has already addressed. I’d be very interested to see if America ever does this.

Anyway, after retrieving our bags, we purchased tickets for the train that was to take us to our final destination — Brighton.

Abigail, Vy and I were separated from the rest of the group because were trying to catch an elevator, or “lift.” because our suitcases were too big to get up the stairs. A minor rush around the train station ensued, but we eventually got back to our group and got on the train.

Train ticket. Photo by Olivia Malick

I have very little experience of riding in trains since it’s not necessary in my hometown, so, whenever I have the opportunity, I always sit by the window so that I can absorb my surroundings.

So far, England was exactly how I had imagined it. Small farms and large hills decorated the landscape and everything was calm and quaint.

We arrived at Brighton train station and took a taxi from there to our Airbnb. We all took off our shoes and ran to claim our rooms. I got lucky and picked the room with the biggest window.

Andy did not let us sleep when we first arrived at the house so that way we wouldn’t develop jet lag. Had we gone to sleep when we first got there, all of our sleeping schedules would’ve been messed up for the next few days. It was tough, but I’m glad he did it, otherwise our sleep schedules would’ve been messed up for days.

We half-consciously wandered around the town. At one point,  Claire, and I ducked into a coffee shop with Andy. The shop is called The Lanes Coffeeshop, and I had a cheese and onion roll (£4.50/ $5.71), and a Coca-Cola and water (total cost £5.75/ $7.30).

It was increasingly difficult to remain awake as the day dragged on, but we all tried our best. We headed down to the Brighton Palace Pier where I had my first official Brighton donut.

Mind the seagulls in the background — shortly after I took this photo, Morgan had hers snatched out of her hand my the ferocious seagulls that terrorize the tourists of Brighton. I was lucky. Photo by Olivia Malick

The only plan for the day was to stay awake — and to meet Andy’s parents for a traditional fish and chips dinner on the pier.

We sat down in an arcade while we waited to join them, but we quickly laid our heads down to nap. We were only awoken by a loud bang that emanated from somewhere inside the arcade. At first, I thought something had exploded, but it was only someone using one of those punching machines. After a few more minutes of us closing our eyes, and another loud noise punctuating the sweet sleep, we got up and headed down to the Palm Court restaurant on the pier.

Fish and chips (or fries, as they are known to us), plus a cup of mashed peas — a companion to a tried and true dish. Photo by Olivia Malick

My first run-in with this classic dish was a success — you can’t go wrong with a huge piece of fried fish for £12.95 ($16.43).

I’m not a fan of the mashed peas, however. To me, it’s like eating baby food.

Another thing I really enjoy about England so far is that fact that tax is already included in the prices of goods. It was nice not having to guestimate what the final cost of everything would be.

At this point in the evening, we were delirious. Everyone was ready to sleep, so we retired to the house. I took a shower, video chatted with my parents, and headed to bed. I was asleep before 8 p.m.