Food

As a foreign student, honestly, I am not suffering with the food problems. To be honest, as long as the food can be eaten, I just do eat. Despite of myself, who does not care about the food, sometimes I crave the my home country food. Fortunately, there are many Asian restaurants in Birmingham. Yes, this is the second biggest city in the UK (or can be 3rd, because Manchester and Birmingham is frequently fluctuated about this rank)

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As you all know that, being a master student’s life is miserable, because of the nature of intensive studying schedule. Thus, eating favourite food is the best way to release the mind, and it will be fairly effective to let down the stress.

For me, Korean food is the best therapy to cool down. In Birmingham there are 2 Korean restaurants currently. Therefore, if one of the restaurants requires me  to book it, then I just go the other one immediately and alternatively. The life capability is really important to choose a University, therefore Birmingham is fairly nice city to live; cheaper than London, and better quality.

Trip

 

The best part of studying in the UK is travel in Europe. Geographically, the UK is near by western European countries;  France, Spain, Italy, Net herald, and so on. In addition, low price air companies, such as Ryanair, Easyjet, and wizzair, make travel easier.  IMG_4644

Personally, I am the man type of wanderer. Literally, I love travel locally and globally. For new years day, I went to Amsterdam with my friend. In Birmingham to Amsterdam took just one hour by plane. If you can book it in advance, you can buy the ticket with reasonable price. In terms of route from Birmingham to other European countries to approach, honestly, Birmingham international airport does not have many route to go, however, there are other alternative airports near Birmingham; London airports, East Midland airport. Those airports can go most of popular cities in Europe with very nice price.

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Learning is not only coming from books but also coming from the life experiences, such as trip is a classic.  The best joy of trip is to meet new people, and talk with them. From talking someone who I just met at new places, I could learn the different thoughts and make broaden my horizon. That is why I love the travel. As long as I can still exist, I will keep wandering all over the world and meet new people to learn what is the global phenomenon practically not from books.

Christmas season in the UK

The meaning of Christmas is fairly different from here the UK and my country, South Korea. It can be easily distinguishable from walking on the street in Birmingham. The first impression is “can’t better than this”.
chriBirmingham Christ market is famous as one of the biggest markets in the UK. The all beautiful light is surrounding the high street in the city centre a month from at the middle of November to Christmas eve. All people walk and gather on the street and have fun with a loads of nice German sausages and alcohol.
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Lovely lights and the food street, who doesn’t like this. In my view, this is the best part of staying here in Birmingham. Whole day and night is vividly beautiful, the atmosphere can not explain how wonderful it is. If someone have a chance to go to Birmingham Christmas market next year, please go and enjoy it.

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Week 25 & 26 in Philadelphia

Term 3 commences! And I’m taking some varied, interesting and perhaps depressingly difficult classes this quarter. The Psychology of Learning, the Psychology of Disability, Criminology (leggo) and International Politics (say what now). Drexel has literally just started and I’m already stressed. Trying not to get too caught up in it though. So last quarter I got A, A, A, A-. Which I’m happy with but the A- is bothering me a little bit, but I didn’t actually study for that exam, so I’m pretty pleased! In first term I got A+, A+, A+, A+ so for this final term, to keep my grade high, I’d really love to just get A, A, A, A. It’s only worth 5% of my overall grade back at Aston though, which sucks. I wish it was worth more! However, I must stress how difficult this quarters classes are already! Just after a week of having them I feel pretty shocked at how difficult they are. However, this of course isn’t stopping me from having fun! On Wednesday, Mick and I went to Hip City Veg (all vegetarian restaurant) on Penn’s campus; it was the loveliest day so it was fab. I got a chicken club sandwich (it tasted like actual chicken) and a groothie smoothie. It was so delicious and probably one of my new favourite restaurants! I definitely wanna go back. It was a little bit expensive but vegetarian food usually is! On Thursday, Janelle, Blair and I got drunk randomly. It was pretty unplanned but it was fun, Jackie chilled with us too. Me and Catherine as well went for a run because we realised that we had a 5k run on Saturday (we signed up a while ago and just forgot about it) and we thought that should maybe do a little bit of practice considering we just literally had not done any training. I am so unfit but we’ll get to that. On Friday, Catherine and I went into centre city to pick up our 5k packages from the convention centre and I had to get a new suitcase. We also went to Panera Bread for food (I got a grilled cheese, so yummy) and then came back to campus for a co-op couture fashion show. One of my sisters was in the show which was basically why I went and it was pretty interesting; it was basically clothing for co-ops and the work environment. After this we had a pretty early night because we had to wake up at 6am the next day for the run! It was raining the whole time and I only got about 5 hours sleep so it was pretty draining but I actually really enjoyed it. I felt so accomplished when I finally finished; I ran it in just under 40 minutes, which, considering I had no prior training, I was pretty ok with this time! I just jammed to a bunch of Chance and Nas as I ran to power me through, it was kinda fun! We got a bunch of free chocolate fondue, pretzels, rice krispies, cinnamon sticks, marshmallows, bananas and hot chocolate after the run (it was a hot chocolate run) and we got a free sweatshirt, so you know, basically worth the $40 sign up haha. We got a bunch of free food when we went to pick up our packages prior too! I literally never exercise and I’m the most unhealthy person in the world so this was a big deal haha. Then I had to rush home and shower because I had a sisterhood retreat from around 12-3 which was basically a big bonding experience for us all. It was actually a lot of fun and just based on that experience, I feel a lot closer with my sisters and a bit more comfortable too. A bunch of us went to get dinner at Landmark afterwards and it was delicioso. Quite fancy and a bit expensive but you know, that’s restaurants for ya. Then my sorority had a social with Beta Theta Pi (also at landmark) to watch the Villanova game and this was fun, was cool meeting some of the Beta guys and just hanging out some more with the sisters. Then after this, we had ANOTHER social (it was a very busy day) at AXP with them, Theta Chi and Delta Zeta – this was super fun! My first quad party. Such a great night honestly, won’t go into too much detail but you can imagine what we got up to at a party like that. Free alcohol is never an opportunity to be missed! Such a late night though, my nights out never end early. P.S. my legs ached the whole day because of the 5k in the morning :’)  Its rough that we always have our sorority meetings on Sundays because that’s usually the day after being awake super late.

On Monday and Tuesday we had informal recruitment for new potential Tri Sig members! OBVIOUSLY I dragged Catherine along because she’s my BFF and I want her to join the sisterhood (and she knows a bunch of them already anyway). Mondays session was really fun; we played a bunch of games like Family Feud, Pictionary, Cards Against Humanity, tower-building (?!) and whatnot. Catherine seemed to enjoy the experience and get along with the girls well (yay) and I met some PNM’s who I really liked and thought were really cool. It was generally just a lot of fun. Of course, a lot of food was consumed at both of these recruitment events! The second event involved making bath bombs; it was actually really fun. We voted straight after the events regarding who we wanted to offer bids too and I’m happy to say that Catherine is now a member of my sorority! How exciting! We ended up recruiting a bunch of new members which is great and they all seemed lovely. On Wednesday we had a coastal trunk show for greek life which is basically a pop up store which comes to campus and sells  sorority t-shirts, sweaters, hats, accessories, etc – any greek-related merchandise. My collection of Sigma attire is slowly growing; I need to cool it though because when I wear clothes in England with greek letters on, nobody is gonna know what it means! On Thursday I randomly decided to cut my hair short and I actually really like it? It’s a lot healthier now and it feels very ‘me’. I kind of wanna dye it a dirty blonde but I don’t wanna put any more chemicals in my hair than there needs to be.. but I like to experiment with hair so you never know. Also I’ve never had short hair so this is a really interesting feeling. Friday was bid day, meaning the new sisters got their formal invites! We had a BBQ and then went to watch a frat football game. It was actually a lot of fun! I ate lots, again. I swear eating is all I write about. All the new members seem great and I’ve recently become super invested in my sorority; like I always was but I feel a lot more passionate about it lately and proud to be a member so I’m very excited to get to know them all. Friday night, we randomly decided to have a party at Maddi’s with a bunch of sisters. It was actually a lot of fun! It was supposed to be a small get together but a bunch of people turned up and made it a party. Good music, good people, great time. We had a mandatory stop for cheese fries and pizza because it’s me and I like to eat. As you can see, this week has been very sorority oriented! Greek Week started on Friday which is basically a week long of events between all of the greek communities on campus; the fraternities and sororities all compete against each other in a bunch of games. We played flag football on Saturday (I went to cheer and show support) against Delta Gamma but unfortunately, lost 🙁 But hey, it was a very fun environment and we still have a bunch more events to happen in Greek Week! I’m very excited for some of them, gonna be good! On Saturday night we had a box party on Penn’s campus and guys, box parties are the best thing in the world. AKA case races. You’re split up into teams (in advance so you can come up with strategies and such) and each team is given a box of wine, loads of beers, spirits, shots, etc and it’s a race to finish it first. They’re so much fun because you play games throughout the party in order to help you get through the alcohol like flip cup, boat races, body shots, never have I ever, etc. I genuinely had the best time and I loved everyone there! It was a pretty wild evening but it was honestly a lot of fun. Like for real, I am not gonna go into detail about that but like, just understand, it was crazy fun!

 

 

 

Week 23 in Philadelphia & Spring Break

ITS FINALS WEEK! And guess what, I’m not ready but I’m also SO done :’) Janelle’s birthday was monday so we went to Zavino’s with Linda, Chloe and Blair to celebrate! She’s finally turning 20, so young! (a) I got the gnocchi pasta and tbh guys, would not recommend, wasn’t amazing. I ate like half Janelle’s salad too and some flatbread, which was better. But I’ve been here before and I totally WOULD recommend the pizzas; their pizzas got game. Happy Birthday Janelle, this was a super cute night 🙂 On Tuesday, my British friend and I (Elisha) went to explore the Eastern State Penitentiary in South Philly which is perhaps the most influential penitentiary in America. It’s closed down now of course, and is a large tourist area. It was the coolest thing; we got to go around and check out all the cells (even Al Capone’s!) and death row, learn about the history and just generally get an more of an idea of what is was like to be held as a prisoner there. It was honestly so interesting; we’re both really interested in forensic psychology and criminology so this was like a really dope field trip, would 100% recommend. To refuel we went to Cosi Cafe in Center City and I had the nicest flatbread pizza, it was honestly beautiful guys. I know I talk about food a lot on these blogs but honestly, it is literally a hobby and passion of mine! On Wednesday I had the final instalment of my psychological menstrual study where they made me eat lots of food! I’m sad to see the last of the free food :’) The whole month before Thursday I was literally just so excited and highly anticipating the arrival of my boyfriend in Philly! He arrived at 5pm on Thursday and Catherine and I picked him up from the airport (he was waiting for us with doughnuts… this is why I love him). It was so amazing to finally see him again, I’m so happy he’s here! That is the only thing I would change about Philly, the fact that he’s not always here! It’s always so amazing when we finally get back together again, long distance is really hard guys 🙁 I can’t emphasize how great it is to have him here – I’m constantly a little bit heartbroken without him so this was like Christmas day x503573654. We went out to Wahoo’s with Catherine on Thursday and I got nachos because lbr, what else is a nacho-enthusiast gonna get at a Mexican restaurant? We came back and all got drunk together and bonded, it was great. I’m so happy Tom and Catherine have finally met cos I knew they’d be best friends. Mick joined us too and it was just one of those great nights where you all have political debates for hours and get really passionate about what you believe in. I love that so much! We all talked and discussed for so long, it was literally wonderful! On Friday, we basically just chilled out and me and Tom finally got to be cute together again, haha. I had my final exam on Saturday so I probably should have been studying but honestly, how am I supposed to do any studying while my boyfriends here?! We went to Mad Mex (I love this place) cos I really wanted a fix of nachos (again). After having pizza for breakfast, I decided that I was truly a disgusting human :’) Not to forget the 3 doughnuts from 7/11 after the nachos. No judgement guys. Saturday I had my final exam (I’M FREE), meaning Tom and I could FINALLY embark on our road trip and say goodbye to Catherine for the week!
On Saturday is where the best week of my life happened and began! So after finishing my final exam and last minute packing everything, we headed off to Washington DC (with a pit stop for cheese fries) and the drive wasn’t too bad, only about 2 and a half hours! We actually stayed in a Marriott and it was so beautiful and fancy; the beds were the most comfortable thing I’ve ever experienced and it was just wonderful. Beautifully designed rooms too. It was quite late by the time we got there so we went and explored Dupont Circle (which is kind of like a shopping district in DC but with other stuff there too) and got Krispy Kreme doughnuts and empanadas and kind of just got the vibe of what DC was like. It seems like quite an artsy and cool place; I never realised just how pretty DC was. The cherry blossoms everywhere are gorgeous. We really started exploring on Sunday; we went to see the White House and found a bunch of protestors outside condemning the actions of Israel and demanding that Palestine are freed. It was quite a powerful protest and it was really interesting to see the police’s reactions to this protest. American cops seem to enjoy showing people that they hold a lot of power and can do many things, even if they don’t actually exercise or use that power, it’s more of a show of muscle. Very interesting. The White House, United States Capitol building, Congress Library and US Supreme Court were all very incredibly beautiful buildings. Congress Library was amazing inside too! The Lincoln Memorial and reflecting pool were so awesome; this was just such a nicely designed landmark and so impressively created. We also saw the Washington Monument (huge), Jefferson Monument, Lincoln Monument and Tidal Basin (very pretty). It was really dope to be able to see these landmarks in real life and not just on TV haha. The coolest thing of all though, is that we actually saw Obama leave for the airport for his trip to Cuba! His car was followed by like 2 police cars, 2 ambulances, a bunch of secret service cars and it was crazy! He just drove past us in a car (we think Michelle was in there too) but we were so close to him. Tom and I were freaking out :’) So cool. DC was such a cool experience. Our hotel was actually in Arlington, Virginia because it’s so close to DC so we actually had dinner in Virginia at Hard Times Cafe (it was like a diner, amazing burgers, pretty good fries) and then drove to Georgetown. Georgetown is such a pretty place with the best stores; they range from high-end designer to high-street. So random but I love the variety! On Monday, we went to the International Spy Museum and this was SO COOL. So interactive and fun, got to learn a bit about how spies will disguise cameras, gather intelligence and generally just operate. Pretty badass museum. I didn’t even know this place existed until we got to DC, so glad we went. We also went to the Roosevelt memorial, saw a little bit of the Pentagon (it’s hard to actually see) and I introduced Tom to Shake shack (most banging cheese fries and shakes ever). We seemed to get all of our food from Dupont Circle. A lot of time in DC was spent just walking around and absorbing what it’s like to live like someone from DC, it’s a very beautiful place! I’d love to go back. On the same day, we drove to Richmond, Virginia. We stayed in a little motel and when I first got there, I was a little bit scared because it looked like the kind of hotel you see in snuff films? Was quite a switch from the Marriott. But hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. It had everything we needed but it just wasn’t the nicest quality; but I actually started to appreciate and like the rawness and traveller-esque vibe of the place. You get what you pay for! On Tuesday, before exploring Richmond, we got breakfast at the Waffle House (I wanna go there every day) and then headed to Richmond International Raceway (particularly known for Nascar driving). We had a tour of the track and got to actually ride around the raceway, was a very cool place! I love stuff like this, always interesting to learn about what goes down. We went to the Edgar Allen Poe museum which was very tiny and hidden away, it was a really cool museum though. Made me wanna explore poetry more and look more into his work! We then checked out the Virginia Historical Society which basically included a bunch of information and exhibits about all of Virginia’s history! Pretty interesting stuff. We went to see the Virginia Capitol (beautiful building, inside and out – we met the loveliest ladies who began telling us about how they met the Queen haha), Old City Hall and explored Downtown Richmond. I must say, I liked Richmond but I expected there to be more to do. I think that I assumed because it’s the capital, it’s the city which is most populated but I don’t think that’s the case! But I really did enjoy Richmond, it just wasn’t what I expected! We went along Monument Avenue which was a very beautiful place and then went and explored Carytown which was a cool and almost alternative-looking street full of different things. We went to a diner called Galaxy Diner and it literally looked like we were in outer space, so cool haha. We ate so much! We had your standard burger and fries diner meal each but with a huge chipwich dessert (ice-cream sandwiched by 2 big cookies and whipped cream, was delicious!) each too. It was so filling, just because the portion sizes in America are ridiculous. Couldn’t move afterwards 😛 Carytown was really cool, I would describe it as an alternative version of Georgetown in DC! We saw a theatre as we were walking down the street and that inspired some sort of want to go to the cinema! So we found one nearby that was showing something we wanted to see (The Big Short) and went and saw it! It was actually such a good movie! I love watching movies with Tom too. Very interesting movie, very political. Would 100% recommend! On Wednesday, we checked out of our Richmond hotel and drove to Yorktown (still in Virginia). Yorktown was actually a little gem, we weren’t originally going to go there but heard that it was really cool once we got there and it was AMAZING. It was like a little seaside town with a beach and lovely little stores. We had the best time! It was so warm and hot I actually got a little bit sunburned. We walked along Riverwalk landing, saw the Battlefield of Yorktown (it’s huge), saw the Yorktown Victory monument and just walked around the town. It was so beautiful and cute! Tom said he wanted to live there haha. Honestly, if you’re ever in Virginia, please go to Yorktown! We then drove to Williamsburg and everything embodied the word colonial! Williamsburg was full of people dressed in colonial dress, colonial food and stores, old buildings, performances and displays by people and it was just a really interesting and cool neighbourhood. Again, something we didn’t really find out about until we got there, really awesome place to visit if you’re in Virginia! We had root beer and butter toffee nuts from a colonial store and it was just so impressive! Yorktown and Williamsburg were some of my favourite parts of the trip! After exploring all this and walking around for ages, we went to 7/11 to stock up on food for our drive to Atlantic City! We stopped at Five Guys for fries and milkshakes too half way (we literally consumed around 6000 calories in this car ride, it was great. Side note: try the oreo cookie pieces milkshake with large fries to dip in!) and I just remember just feeling so happy and fortunate! I’m with the love of my life, road tripping across America, eating lots of great food, meeting lots of great people, seeing lots of great things and just having the time of my life! I honestly couldn’t ask for more! We got to Atlantic City pretty late as the drive was over 5 hours (it was so worth it!) and just relaxed in our (surprisingly very nice motel) with food babies, it was fab. Thursday was literally my favourite day ever! It was my 21st birthday (huge deal in America!) and I got to spend it in Atlantic City, with my favourite person in the entire world (who just spoiled me and made everything so perfect), while receiving loads of love from family and friends, exploring a new place and eating lots. In my book, that is pretty darn perfect. We went to Phoenix Diner for breakfast and got burgers and fries because what else do you eat for breakfast?! (May I note that we each consumed at least one burger and one serving of fries every single day on this trip – we didn’t miss any day – doing this the American way!) and headed out to explore. In the day time, AC looks like a really run-down version of Vegas. But at night, the whole place just livens up, casinos are full; it’s so busy and loud. Such a stark change. We saw the Absecon Lighthouse, went to Steel Pier and the Playground on the pier! Walked along the boardwalk and enjoyed exploring some of the casino’s and seeing what Jersey has to offer. It was a really cool and fun day! We went in the Trump Taj Mahal (obviously didn’t give Trump any of our money though), Caesars, Margharitaville and a bunch of other cool casino’s! Too many to list. Trump’s was actually the most run-down and least well-designed, in my opinion. We went back to the hotel around 6 to get all dressed up and lookin’ fab, while having a cheeky drink. Tom had reserved a restaurant (Mortorano’s, it’s fancy AF) and it was inside Harrah’s casino; it was so expensive and beautiful haha. Tom was inappropriately drunk by the time we got there, so cute haha. We had some more drinks at dinner and some of the best food! It was so lovely! We took all the cards that my parents, family and friends back home had sent me and opened them there, it was actually quite overwhelming! I opened a few cards and started to cry, I felt so loved and emotional haha. It was honestly just a perfect moment 🙂 Tom also gave me his birthday gift; he got us tickets to see a show in AC that night! It was the American Variety Show and it was actually so freaking good. We finished dinner and went over to the Borgata hotel (where the show was), pretty intoxicated at this point, stocked up with drinks and proceeded to watch the show. I expected the show to be good but I didn’t expect it to be quite as hilarious and full of talent as it was! Huge thank you to Tom 🙂 He spoiled me so much this day. He made sure everything was perfect and that I felt so loved! Truly the best boyfriend in the world. After the show, we went to a bar and a live band were randomly performing (they were so good) and we just had such a good time! We then went into another casino (I forget which one) and had some more drinks in a bar and gambled on a black jack table! It was so good, I actually won $40! How good!? We went home pretty late and got an uber back, stopping by a Wawa for drunk food. What a perfect way to end the night! Haha. The next morning (Friday) we woke up super early because we had to drive all the way to Boston! We had a helicopter flying lesson scheduled for me (Toms Christmas gift for me) but it got cancelled due to the weather! Meaning Tom’s gonna get a refund and get me something new for Christmas 😉 but we didn’t find out it got cancelled until we were already half way to Boston so we woke up wayyyy earlier than we needed to! But hey ho, we got longer in Boston than we planned so that’s great! We stopped over in Connecticut for nachos too haha. I’m not sure how Tom managed to drive on such little sleep, it was so impressive haha. I had cheese fries for breakfast just to soak up the alcohol haha. I actually love being in the car with Tom for prolonged periods of time, it was so nice to spend so much alone and intimate time with him! When we finally got to Boston, we checked in and again, stayed in a Marriott (it was lovely and so cosy!). We were both so tired though, we literally had about 4 hours sleep the night before! We then went to explore Harvard University and it’s campus – it was incredible! The architecture and buildings were pretty dope and the campus was huge. Very beautiful! We also explored MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and that campus was really cool too. Some very beautiful buildings and sights! I would love to go to an ivy league college, I can imagine that would be such an interesting experience! Then we went to South Street Diner (more burgers and fries) and continued to explore more of Boston! We walked along the waterfront/harbour. Saw the Massachusetts State House and Old City Hall. I really like Boston, it’s a very pretty and cool place! Great views and landscapes. I drew a lot of comparisons between Boston and Chicago! On Saturday, we checked out of our hotel and went along the Freedom Trail which was basically a trail which leads you through a bunch of historical sites and buildings in Boston, it was really interesting! We saw the Boston Common, Park Street Church, Granary Burying Ground, Kings Chapel, Kings Chapel Burying Ground, the Old South Meeting house, the Old State House, the Boston Massacre Site, Faneiul hall (cute market), Quincy Market (best market ever – I got Boston Cream Pie and it was delicious – this actually wasn’t on the trail, we just found it. So many foot outlets = heaven) and Bunker Hill Monument. Really cool stuff. I think Boston’s one of my favourite US cities. Along with Philly, New York, Chicago and DC! Downtown Boston is really cool. I’m not sure what I expected before I got there but I’m definitely leaving with good memories and a respect for the place. A lot of history (well, a lot for America) happened there!  We also went and had a quick look at Fenway Park (home of the Red Soxx) before our drive back to Philadelphia (we had to return the rental car on Sunday). As well as going to Amsterdam Falafel for some damn good falafel! Something else which was really enjoyable on this trip was the petrol prices – we did a lot of driving and had to fill up 6 times in total, each time only cost $20! How amazing is that? $120 in total for the whole trip. This is literally amazing to me. I did not expect it to be so cheap; it didn’t differ much between states either. Maybe it’s most expensive on the west coast? The rental car we had was really nice too – a red Ford Focus. Definitely did the job! Tom and I came back on Saturday night and had some drinks together! Then spent Sunday eating even more food and exploring Philly (he’s never been to PA before), it was really nice! We had a few cheeky drinks again with Catherine, Janelle and Linda which was nice. I love spending time with him so much so I was literally heartbroken to see him leave – I literally missed him as soon as he left! I went with him to the airport at 3am on Monday morning and we both cried as we hugged and said goodbye. Hardest thing ever, leaving the airport and watching him check in for his flight back to England. The day always seems a bit more grey when I realise he isn’t there. 77 days to go until we’re together again! I’m aware that this sounds really dramatic and sad, and most of you are probably thinking “get a grip girl” but I can’t begin to explain how difficult it’s been, not being able to see your favourite person for months at a time. This spring break road trip was pretty perfect, I wouldn’t have changed a thing! Having said that, this general study abroad experience has been a life-changer! I’m glad I did it independently, it’s pushed me to do new things and reach new limits that I didn’t before think was possible!

Week 21 & 22 in Philadelphia

On Monday night, Catherine and I had tickets to go see Hardwell at Soundgarden and while I’m sure the gig was gonna be dope, Catherine really wasn’t feeling it and I wasn’t incredibly bothered about it so we thought we’d save some money and sell it online so we ended up selling a $35 ticket for $70. How good is that? Haha, but it took us ages and we were running around Philly meeting people at night :’) But still, a $35 profit is not bad! We just had a chill evening involving lots of food, it was great haha! On Tuesday night, we went to see Deadpool (fucking. finally) at the Cinemark on Penn’s campus and it was so. good. I really liked the movie was made (absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I’m obsessed with Ryan Reynolds) but I feel like the jokes made should have been a bit more explicit/boundaries should have been pushed a little more. That would be only criticism, if there was one!? But tbh, it was a great movie and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Some very hilarious moments!  It was my first time in an American movie theatre too – my only observation is that the cinema screen seems larger and the seats are way bigger and comfier. Overall, good experience :’) ha. I started an extra credit study on Wednesday which will go towards extra credit for a class I’m taking next quarter (getting it done early while I can haha) and it’s actually a menstrual study, requiring that I weigh myself every single day for a period of 8 weeks. Sounds fun right? :’) I’ve been given a set of digital scales and I’m required to have 3 lunches in the lab. I think they’re just trying to test the effects of your menstrual cycle on your weight and eating. Fortunately, for my self-esteem, you don’t actually have to look at the scale weight every day – it’s covered on the scale itself, it just gets sent to an app in your phone which the researchers have access too. So I’ve been weighing myself every morning but not checking  (it’s for the best). Me, Mae and Maria met up at Urban on Wed and booked flights and a hotel in Las Vegas for May. Super excited! I’ve been wanting to go for a while so I’m so hyped that we finally got around to making it happen! We’re going from Friday – Monday and it only came to $500 for everything, which isn’t bad at all. It’s the weekend after my trip to Florida with Catherine -gonna be an expensive month! And a bad one academically :’) But I’m here to travel, so what the heck. On Thursday, my sorority had I-Night (inspiration night) which was actually really fun. We basically just got together with the new members and spoke about what we love about being in Sigma, why we joined, what our favourite moments have been, etc. Made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside :’) I’m so happy that if I ever wanna come back to the US and visit that I always have a home to come to and people to stay with, this sisterhood is honestly so strong and loving. I’m honestly gonna miss my sorority sisters a lot when I leave, it’s such a unique experience to have such a tight knit friendship with such a large number of people. People reading this will probably think it’s fake and not possible but honestly, it’s so real and weird and fantastic at the same time. I can’t thank them enough for the experiences and memories they’ve given me; so unique and unlike anything else I’ve experienced before! Moving on from the soppy stuff, there was something being held on our floor, like a tax info meeting with free ice-cream and toppings (so obvs me and Catherine went) and the ice-cream was BOMB, seriously. I’m not sure why I ate so much after eating a whole pizza and then a jumbo chocolate & peanut butter cupcake? But for real, BOMB. We learned a bit about taxes too haha. On Friday, Mick and I went to California Pizza cos I just had to try their cheese fries (note to self: always listen to Mick’s food recommendations cos she is bae) and they were literally incredible. Why aren’t cheese fries more of a thing in England? We asked for them WITHOUT bacon in and then I realised around half way through eating them that they put bacon underneath 😮 So I told the waiter and he gave me some new cheese fries without bacon; so I at least I got some free food out of it, despite the fact that the portion sizes were insane and I literally could not move after! Thankfully I don’t think I ate any of the bacon (I’m a veggie, for anyone who doesn’t know). Mick found this HILARIOUS and I must admit, it was pretty funny. My sorority had a social after this at a frat that I’d only been to once before so I was pretty hyped for this. The theme was ‘gym rats & yoga mats’ so we all went wearing workout clothes haha. I keep forgetting to take pictures on nights out 🙁 Alyssa slept over at my apartment and I pregamed with her, mae, maura, izzy and emily which was fun AF and then we all went over together. The party was really fun, the guys in the frat seem really nice too. It actually ended early because some weird ass kids decided to put a brick through one of frat house windows? So a bunch of us just went somewhere else and hung out till like 5am. Was a pretty sick night. Saturday was Erin Express (huge bar crawl in Philly) and seeing as though I’m 20, I couldn’t go 🙁 So it was really hard to find a party on Saturday as everyone was out on the crawl but we eventually found one at like midnight but me and Catherine pregamed way too hard and played some games with Mick that we actually forgot about going to the party, we were just having too much fun (sorry Janelle/Chloe/Gab). This actually ended up being a pretty crazy night, details aren’t required, trust me :’) I’ve noticed that American’s don’t really pregame with actual games or cards or anything like that so I introduced that a little bit and it went down really well! I apparently just crawled into Catherine’s bed with her at the end of the night, woke her up and tried to spoon. If that isn’t friendship then I don’t know what is! I’m actually really thankful that Catherine and Mick are my suitemates cos they’re literally the best people. I’m not sure that anyone else could put up with me like they do! On Sunday, Tri Sig had initiation for the 3 new sisters! This was actually really nice, we then had Chapter straight after. I’m super pleased with the new members, they all seem fab! Angela, Maddi, Izzy, Emily & Zhefeng all went out to an Irish pub style restaurant afterwards and it was LOVELY (I WAS SO HUNGRY). P.s. shoutout to Jolie for giving me Reese’s cups for my birthday 😉 At the restaurant, the food was delicious, seriously, I will definitely be returning! The fries and the veggie burger just did not disappoint. So filling haha. I need to go back for that and to try the nachos! (If you haven’t gotten that I’m a huge foodie by now then I don’t know how else to explain this to you).

On Monday of the following week, we got into a really deep discussion and Mick, Catherine and I ended staying up until like 3.30am just discussing racism and society. It was really interesting and we all got pretty passionately into it. On Tuesday, Catherine and I waited in line at IHOP for about 40 minutes to get free pancakes (it was international pancake day) and they were SO GOOD. They were your standard butter-cream pancakes with the added option of strawberry, blueberry, maple syrup or pecan dressing. Literally so amazing, I love the fact that they were free, they were so fluffy and so worth the wait. You gotta take advantages of opportunities like this. Delicioso. This week has been SO hot, it’s been reaching 80 degrees. Everyone’s been walking round in shorts and cute rompers  and it’s been great! I’ve been trying to study outside in the sun as much as possible, the sun puts me in the best mood 🙂 On Wednesday, I had the second part to my psychological study where they literally asked me to go in to the lab for lunch and eat pasta, m&ms, oreos, chips and pretzels – free food and extra credit, this study is dope! I also had to go in on Saturday to do this! Me and a bunch of sisters went to Carlo’s Bakery on Thursday and I had the best peanut butter cupcake I’ve ever had (and a black and white cookie which was just average) and we had some nice bonding time. It was cute and bakerys are bae.  I met up with my British friend Elisha (from Aston uni) on Friday and we kind of just explored the city and enjoyed the weather and sat outside bonding. It was really nice to talk about our experiences together because we’re both going through the same thing. She’s been here for 3 months less than I have so I introduced her to a few things and it was just really nice. Then Mick and I met up to go to Bare Burger (she’s been talking about it for ages and I can now see why). I feel like this is my new favourite restaurant! It was a super organic and natural restaurant with the best vibe I’ve ever seen from a food place. The service, the interior design and the food was all 10/10. I was so food-babied afterwards. The milkshakes were dope too, ya’ll know I live for the shakes. And sweet potato fries, I’m so here for that lately. I need to go back ASAP with Catherine and try basically everything else on the menu; I had the black-bean burger but there was a bunch of other stuff I wanted to try. They wrote the calories on the menu though which is the only negative thing I have to say about that; I don’t wanna know that I’m consuming like 5000 calories per day guys, really :’) Haha just kidding, nutritional info is always a benefit. A few of us also hit up an Improv Comedy Show on Fri night which was HILARIOUS. I love comedy shows of all kind; this was pretty impressive. I’m very impressed by intelligent comedy! I’m not super into silly humour but this was pretty smart. This was the second and final weekend of Erin Express (meaning there was literally no parties) so on Friday and Saturday night, I just hung out with Janelle and Jackie in their apartment not really doing much, but it was fun! Honestly, I’ve been partying really excessively since I got here (I try not to write too much about that) and I’ve been advised by others too to calm down with that sort of thing so I’m taking that advice and trying to implement more balance and limit myself a little bit more (it’s been hard ha) so this was a good weekend to start. We managed to stay up until 5am both nights for absolutely no reason :’)

Week 19 & 20 in Philadelphia

This week’s  been a really busy one in terms of school work and academia – Drexel has really laid it on lately with deadlines and exams so it’s been somewhat boring in that respect! Wednesday evening I did some voluntary work with some sisters at Rubye’s Kids – I’m not a huge fan of children, I’ll be honest (not trying to be harsh), but this is always super fun haha. The kids there are generally lovely and it’s nice to see that they enjoy our visits so much! I’ve been there before so I knew what it was like and it’s always an interesting and unique experience so it’s really nice to volunteer there! We basically just do arts & crafts, games and whatever else with the kids and it’s only about an hour of volunteer work! On Thursday, Amanda did some henna tattoo’s on our floor so Catherine, Mick and I went to check that out. It was actually incredibly fun – we all just met up in Amandas room with a bunch of random people who live in our building, got to talk to some cool new people and had some really great banter haha, which is my fave. I was actually kinda sad when we had to leave to pregame for Cav’s cos we were all just having such a good time, I’m so pleased everyone in my building is so lovely! I didn’t get any henna though because I still had to shower and it would have just been pointless :’) but Mick’s looked super cool. Catherine, Janelle, Chloe and I had a rather wild night at Cavs. Someone drank a little too much (I will say no more) and it was just a wild ride haha. We ended the night in Fresh Grocer, so there ya go? :’) With a refuel stop at McDonald’s lmfao. Catherine was telling me all about it the next day and it sounds hilarious, from what I’ve been told, but my memories do not allow me to confirm or deny that haha. I was literally dead all of Friday – like I just ate junk food for a solid 12 hours and died on my sofa, watching movies with Catherine ha. I thought I’d lost my debit card and drivers license but thankfully, it turned up the next day! Scariest morning of my life haha. On Saturday, Taylor, Kyomi and I went to the Mutter Museum! It was incredible – super creepy and super weird but super interesting (it was super). Fragments of Einstein’s brain are kept within the museum, there were the real bodies of conjoined twins and other people who were born with abnormalities or defects and it was just a very shocking and intense museum. I’m pretty sure that when I die, I’d like to give my body away to scientific research because it’s good to know that I may be of some help in the future haha. There were so many interesting pieces there but unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures inside, which is a shame haha. I had noticed that there’s been something not quite right with me lately, I haven’t been feeling  like partying or socialising too much meaning I kinda just chilled this weekend and watched movies/TV. It’s been very weird. Maybe it’s home-sickness. I’m not sure. But it actually passed within the following week so it was nothing too serious! I’ve actually been on a bit of a ‘downer’ for like a week but I think that’s to be expected every once in a while!

This next week has also been a stressful one in terms of school work and just relationships! I’ve had multiple deadlines and if anyone knows me, I HATE studying and doing work, I just get caught up with being sociable in some way, shape or form. Also, being so far away from home and everyone you love can really take it’s toll guys :’) My boyfriend being here or simply a hug from my mum & dad half way through this experience of being in a new country could have made a huge difference! But it’s not exactly like I’m having any problems, it’s just the fact that I miss them a lot haha. But on a happier note, it’s been a great week for a foodie! Catherine and I have gotten into the habit of late night cupcakes from Urban – double chocolate, buttersotch, red velvet, banana, blueberry, you name it! I think it’s safe to say that’s where all my money has been going lately haha. Speaking of which, I really just adore Catherine so much. I’m appreciating her extra lately – I’ve never had a girl friend who I was so comfortable and just chilled with being around. I like that we’re so honest with each other – like if we have a problem with the other person, we’re not gonna bitch about it and not fix it, we’re straight up about things even if it hurts, which I think is why we’re so comfortable with each other. Seriously, there are no boundaries… She is definitely going to be the thing I miss most about America when I leave. I can’t wait for her and Tom to meet in about 20 days time! Hahah. I couldn’t be best friends with someone who didn’t love food as much as I do so this may be 50% of the friendship :’) I’ve spent a lot of time at Dunkin this week too -this is the SECOND thing I’ll miss the most about America haha, especially their munchkins. I’m straight up obsessed with the Iced Coffees there and Starbucks. If I weren’t for an excess of caffeine I’d literally drink Iced Coffee 100% of the time. My current favourite drink for definite – but it has to be full of sugar and cream. I also finally tried a frosty at Wendy’s and I had the chocolate flavour and it was SO DAMN GOOD. Thickest milkshake ever but it tasted different from a milkshake, but in a way that I cannot describe? It was dope, especially when dipping fries in there! Honestly for a foodie, America is a dream! I did a fair bit of voluntary work this week – I spent Wednesday night at Rubye’s Kids again playing with the lovely children there and just hanging out with them. They’re seriously so cool and confident for such a young age group; it’s always an interesting experience there haha. It can be quite chaotic! On Friday, it was still restaurant week in East Passyunk (South Philly) and seeing as though I had somehow missed the Center City restaurant week (boo), Mick, Catherine and I went to P’unk Burger and all got burgers, fries and vanilla/nutella shakes! It was literally great. I love eating out at new places haha. I especially love milkshakes :’) We ate so much that I literally nearly fell asleep straight after, it was cray. In the evening, Me, Taylor, Emily and Caitlyn (biggie!) went to Escape the Room in Philly and folks, let me tell you, this is SO FUN. You’re literally put into a room with clues and a quiz master and you need to navigate yourself around the room to find the clues in an attempt to find the overall key to exit the room. It’s a lot more difficult than you would think and I was so impressed by some of the clues. We had 1 hour to try and find the final key and we found the lock box that it was in but couldn’t get the password to unlock the box and ran out of time! It was so much fun though, truly! We were in the room with 6 other people and it was generally just a pretty hilarious experience; it’s honestly so tense and so difficult but so interesting. I loved it 🙂 Would highly recommend to anyone! There’s only a 20% success rate apparently but it’s so worth it. After this, my sorority had a onesie social with a frat, which was dope. I had to borrow Catherine’s onesie haha. We pregamed and then got there and it got called off like super early because IFC came and saw all the alcohol, even though it was registered as a dry event. But we still stayed till like 5am and had a great night! On Saturday night, me and some of the Sigma girls did some volunteering at the Miss Philadelphia 2016 beauty pageant. 2 of our very own Sigma sisters were a part of the competition so it was great to go show our support for them too! In all honesty we didn’t do much volunteering because there were lots of volunteers and not so many jobs. We basically just ushered people to their seats when they couldn’t find them themselves and then got to watch the rest of the show for free! It was a great show, all the girls looked amazing and sounded like wonderful people. The formal dresses and swimsuits were too much to handle, they looked beautiful! It was generally just a good time and it was nice to be able to watch the show with sisters. I got an invite for a party while I was there so I headed to that frat straight after the show and had a pretty dope ass evening – I remember drinking punch and riding round the house on a scooter in my still-business-casual-wear from the volunteering at the beauty pageant haha. It was definitely a fun evening! This one frat at Drexel are always so friendly; whenever I enter the house all the brothers say ‘Hey Katie’ and it’s just so welcoming and comforting! It’s always nice knowing that I have somewhere to go if I just wanna hang out or get drunk haha. Honestly a house full of wonderful people with hilarious banter :’) I don’t even know half the boys there that well but I feel like if I had a problem, they’d have my back regardless? Which makes me feel very appreciative! I love how close my sorority is with this fraternity – it’s like a long lived tradition haha. I’m kind of just spending my time now counting down the days until I finally get to see my boyfriend again – it’s been so hard without him and I honestly cannot wait any longer! Counting down seems to make the time go slower though haha. I feel like my blog posts haven’t been incredible lately because I haven’t really been focusing on remembering what I’m doing or how I’m feeling so I apologise for that – I’ve been incredibly busy!

Week 17 & 18 in Philadelphia

When I returned back to Philly on Monday evening, I had a mid-term on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and then a continued on one Friday. Which sucks because I obviously wasn’t prepared for any of them! But anyway, I did a miniscule amount of studying for each of them and I guess we’ll have to wait and see the outcome! This of course, did not stop me from going to Cavs on Thursday with the usual crew. Pretty good night as it always is – can never fault the music in Cavs, ever. I’ve never eaten so much food after a night out though – Me, Catherine and Anthony went to Wawa’s and then sevs to stock up on food. Between the two of us, Me and Catherine literally ate all of the flavours of Doritos that are available in the US – I don’t even think I’m exaggerating right now. I woke up with the biggest food baby ever :’) On Friday, me and Will went to the Philly auto show – it was amazing! So many incredible cars, I had so much fun. I didn’t really want to leave, it was comparable to heaven. I have some really big plans for the future regarding the cars I’m going to purchase :’) Then we met up with Amanda, Linda and Gregg and finally went to First Friday in Old City. I really enjoyed it – it was very antique-y, historical and artsy. It only happens the first Friday of every month so I’m glad I caught it this time – there were some really cool bookstores, thrift stores, comic book stores, art vendors and galleries, etc – was pretty dope. We went to Big Ass Slice in old city and I got one slice of pizza that was the equivalent to a whole pizza – America is cray! It literally required 3 plates to hold it :L We also went to Franklin Fountain for ice cream and I got the BEST PB milkshake, I was pretty much on cloud 9! Then came home and had a few chill drinks with Mick which was enjoyable cause the banter was on point :’) On Saturday, Will, Anthony and I went to get breakfast/lunch at Mad Mex – we only chose this place because of my love of nachos and my absolute need for Mexican food. The nachos did NOT disappoint – the serving size was huge too, I literally had to box it haha. This was fun – I always adore how over-fed you get in US restaurants :’) In the evening, me and a few sisters went to DPhiE’s Deepher Dude which is a male beauty pageant held to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to contribute towards finding a cure! There was a guy in the pageant from every fraternity as well as some other societies/clubs/etc so there were a bunch of people there to support their own frat or friends and it was incredibly fun! It was all very jokingly done and we honestly had such a laugh! I’m pretty sure they raised like $60,000 for CF too which in itself is amazing! Honestly just such a good time. Then I had a few drinks and hung out with the regular guys, which was pretty nice too, nice chill and banterous Saturday haha. I originally wasn’t feeling going out and socialising but honestly, I have the hardest time rejecting offers to hang out and do things :L On Sunday, my sorority meeting was postponed until Monday because it was the Superbowl so I went to Cinnaminson, NJ with Catherine and some of her family to eat lots of food and get into the football spirit. It was a pretty cool experience – I was cheering for the Bronco’s and guess what? They won! 😉 It was a good game tbh and a bunch of people only watch it for the commercials and then performances in half-time so that was awesome too. I slept at Catherine’s and ate/drank too much as usual. (P.s. no judgement for drinking 4/7 days in a row please & thank you).

The following week, I got convinced to sign up to be a ‘big’ within my sorority. I was contemplating it for a while and then thought, I’m only here once, so I may as well! So I scheduled a coffee date with the 3 potential ‘littles’ (the new members) for different times throughout the week but unfortunately, I was super sick this week and could only make one of the coffee dates, meaning I’m yet to meet the other 2 girls! There were 8 of us who signed up to be a potential ‘big’ and only 3 ‘littles’ meaning I didn’t get one as I didn’t get to meet all the girls 🙁 I’m super gutted about that but hey ho, there’s next time maybe?! I haven’t really done much this week because of how sick I’ve been – it’s seriously been awful. I’m 99% certain it’s because I don’t take care of myself in terms of health, at all – I live off of junk food, do no exercise and don’t even look after myself mentally/psychologically – this is something that I REALLY need to work on as it’s having some adverse effects as this has been going on for a while! I tend to lead a pretty busy lifestyle meaning that when I get ill, I don’t usually dedicate much time to properly recovering meaning that the illness is still kind of there but it’s just suppressed, it’s not as pronounced as it was to begin with. It was weird actually just chilling and doing nothing for like a day or two this week – I’m always doing something or have something to do but I was literally too sick to focus on anything, it was super gross :’) Because I couldn’t really go out during the weekend, Mick, Catherine and I had the cutest movie night on Friday – we watched Princess Bride and Better off Dead (John Cusack is bae) and it was so cute and fun. We had snacks and drinks and it was just a lovely bonding time – I’m so happy that I live with these two, they’re the best roomies! On Saturday, Catherine and I randomly decided to go to the Philadelphia Tattoo & Art Convention in Center City which was literally so dope. I’m not a huge tattoo fan – I really like some but I’m quite picky and particular about the ones I like and somehow, we both came back with tattoo’s? Hahah. We saw a deal with some tattoos being offered for $50 so we were like, uhm, yes? I had to convince Catherine to get one a little bit but she was so brave and I was so proud of her haha. She got an anchor on her ankle and I got a heart in the same place – it was actually really painful haha and it’s only tiny! I’m really happy with how mine looks though – it’s a nice reminder to love the life I have and love the people around me, I think it’s important to feel appreciation for things in order to lead a happy life – that’s something I lack sometimes and I’m working on it alot! We were literally freaking out before we got them – it was both of our first tattoo’s and Catherine was asking loads of questions like ‘DO YOU STERILISE THE NEEDLES?’ ‘BUT REALLY THOUGH?’ – it was pretty hilarious. Least cool we’ve ever been, ever. I was so nervous because I didn’t know how painful it was gonna be, whether it was legit to just get it at a random convention, whether I would die etc :’) But all in all, it’s a pretty hilarious and nice memory! Catherine’s tattoo was KILLING her after she got it – she was struggling to walk home, poor kid :’) We basically did the same thing on Friday night as we did on Thursday (after we of course, stopped at Dunkin and to get pizza) because I was still sick – we watched movies and just chilled. It was literally so weird to just relax and not go out and be act crazy – it was nice but I’m not sure that’s the life for me haha. Every so often, however, a night in is always good 🙂 On Sunday morning, me and some sisters did some voluntary work at JRA (Jewish Relief Agency) where we basically helped package food to deliver to families and then delivered it to these families – it was actually a lot of fun and everyone seemed to be in a happy and giving mood which was awesome! Of course, Sunday was Valentine’s Day so I would have rather my boyfriend been with me this day – it would have been nice to just be in bed with him watching soppy movies or going out for a romantic meal, distance is truly the worst thing 🙁 I literally cannot wait till I get to see him in March – I’ve never missed someone more in my life! Anyway, on Sunday evening, Catherine and I pre-gamed and then went to GALANTIS! I was so hyped and it was literally so much fun. It was at Soundgarden and when we got in, it was just like a rave. I felt like I was back in a club again which was super nostalgic and euphoric. It was literally such a sick gig – we were the perfect level of buzzed and just had such an amazing time. The set was awesome, everything was lit, it was just incredible – every single person was dancing and just being crazy! So good.

 

Week 15 in Philadelphia & The Gate City

On Monday it was back to having regular sorority chapter meetings again – it’s always nice to see the girls! On Tuesday night the sorority hosted a recruitment night for potential new members (we’re trying to recruit a fair amount of people) – we had a Taco night with a bunch of different foods, I ate lots. We met some cool girls and bonded with some of them; it was great to see people showing interest in the sorority. After this, Catherine and I went to Shakeshack and I got Cheese Fries (absolute favourite) and a Peanut Butter milkshake (my other absolute favourite) and just had some nice banter and bonding time. After that, despite being full of food from the day, we went to Northside and picked up a bunch more junk – chocolate covered pretzels, a range of different chocolate and just got fat while watching Sirens in our apartment with Mick; it was a very fun and chill evening. On Wednesday, it was back to our routine of doing the grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s and stopping by Dunkin on the way for an iced coffee (Dunkin do the best, in my opinion – all gift cards will be greatly accepted and appreciated as presents, FYI) – I just wish everything wasn’t so expensive haha, I’m spending far too much money. On Wednesday evening it was the second night of our informal recruitment – my sorority hosted a games night with ‘Cards against humanity’ and a bunch of other hilar activities (not to forget snacks) and we got to speak to the PNM’s (potential new members) more and just hang out, which was super fun. We then had to vote on the PNM’s and decide who we should and shouldn’t offer a ‘bid’ to, in preparation for the upcoming ‘Bid day’ which was supposed to be on that Saturday but got cancelled because of the blizzard/snow storm that was happening in Philly – the snow was supposed to be a record-breaking amount and based on the snow we’ve been receiving, I can believe it. On Thursday, Catherine, Will, Angela and I all went to Cavs – it’s literally never NOT a good night at Cavs so I’m glad we went (despite the fact that I had to give a presentation the next morning so I was somewhat nervous about doing this). It was again, really fun – saw a bunch of people I knew, had some good conversations, some excellent dancing and a copious amount of food was eaten afterwards. My presentation the next day actually went really well – it was for my Critical Reasoning class and I don’t think I was very prepared at all but it still came across well, so I’m super happy about that! On the same day, Friday, Janelle, Catherine, Chloe and Chloe’s friend from Miami went to ZaVino’s – it’s Japanese cuisine and it was so good. I had eaten tonnes that day so I just had vegetarian Sushi and Mushroom Wonton’s but it was incredible; Japanese food never disappoints. Absolutely lovely restaurant too – I’m all about the vibe of places and the interior design was just beautiful. I especially love candle light in restaurants and a nice ambiance, best thing. Then Will came around to mine and Catherine’s and we all just chilled, had a few drinks, played some Halo – it was a nice relaxing Friday, as oppose to our usual antics. The snow had started quite heavily on Friday and it made Drexel look so incredibly beautiful. When we woke up on Saturday, the snow was crazy! Like it’s hard to go out in; incredibly beautiful though. On Saturday, me and Catherine had a few drinks at our usual place – very chill and fun. Four Loko is perhaps one of the more interesting things I’ve encountered in the US – give it a try. Was pretty difficult walking there and back in the snow haha. Had a pretty chill day with Catherine and Janelle prior to that because we couldn’t do much in the snow. On Sunday, despite the STILL crazy snow, we drove to Target and Walmart to get some stuff for the apartment. It was my first time ever in Target (I know I’m lame) and I was actually excited about it haha. Guys, Target is amazing! Like it’s weirdly awesome, please come to the UK Target (a).

So moving onto the next week, On Tuesday Catherine and I baked Red Velvet cupcakes with Cream Cheese frosting – so good. We also mixed some of them up and used some Chocolate frosting, so it was pretty epic. On Wednesday we went to the Drexel homecoming bonfire with free Smores, hot Chocolate, hot Apple Cider and live music. By the time we got there though they had ran out of hot Chocolate so we made our own with Hershey’s (well, Catherine did) and it was MAGNIFICENT. Best tasting hot chocolate I’ve ever had! I really like Bonfires for some reason so this was pretty nice, I’m very intrigued as to who will win Hoco King & Queen! I spent most of Thursday just preparing for my trip to Atlanta, Georgia with Kyomi as we flew out on Friday and I hadn’t packed or got anything prepared really haha. I had to wake up super early on Friday because the flight was crazy early (cheapest way to do it). We planned to do this at the start of the quarter as we both wanted to travel and see a state that was a bit more southern than Philly. This was actually a really bad timed trip because when I got back to Philly, I had 3 midterms literally one after the other meaning I didn’t get the chance to study for them. However, I’m really glad I went cos it was such an awesome opportunity to get to explore some of Georgia! As soon as we got there, we noticed a very obvious accent change from Philadelphians – it was way more southern than I expected it to be, it was so cool haha. So we flew out on Friday super early (my friend drove us to the airport), had breakfast at the airport (bagels are bae) and checked into our hotel. The first thing we did was go to Coca-Cola world and let me tell you, this was AMAZING. I didn’t expect it to be so awesome but it was literally such an incredible experience – we were greeted with free drinks and literally tried over a hundred free samples while we were there, from all around the world. There was actually so much cool stuff to do and I really underestimated how cool of an experience this was gonna be. If you’re ever in Atlanta, please do visit – Coca Cola was first invented in Atlanta so everybody’s obsessed with it! I actually learned a lot about the drink too. I think this experience affected how much I wanted soda this whole trip, cos I had like 2 cokes, at a minimum, every day – my insides were gross AF by the end of it haha. After this, we went to the Olympic Centennial Park (in 1996 the Olympics were hosted in Atlanta) which was actually a lot smaller than I expected but still a really beautiful park. My favourite part of going somewhere new is just walking around outside and acting like you live like a local would and this is kind of what this felt like. Then we went to a diner called Flip Burger Boutique (it was highly recommended online and I see why!) and I got a Veggie Burger and Nutella & Smores milkshake which was, as it sounds, amazing! On the way there we saw the largest drive in restaurant in the US called The Varsity, it looked insane haha. After this, we were super tired from being awake so early so we basically just called it a night! On Saturday we went to the US’s largest aquarium – I’m not entirely sure how I feel about aquariums but Kyomi wanted to go so we did – they’re not really my thing, I’ll be honest, but it seemed like a cool aquarium and the dolphins and animals and such seemed pretty well looked after and healthy so fair play. It was a good experience. I got my boyfriend the cutest little teddy :’) haha. We then went to the Center for Civil and Human Rights which was kind of a museum about human rights activists and people who have fought for equality in the past/currently are doing so. A lot of this was focused on MLK! This is my favourite museum, to date. I’ve never been to a museum that I enjoyed so much. It was so eye-opening and overwhelming; highly emotional too. It actually inspired me to do what I can to have a positive impact on the world and the people I meet – it sounds so lame to say but I think it changed me a little bit in the way I see things and my perspective on the US. This is something else I’d highly recommend checking out in Atlanta! We then had a tour of the CNN studios which was pretty cool. The CNN building is crazy inside – just full of different food outlets and merch stores. During this whole trip, I basically lived off of Nacho’s and I’m not sure why. I’ve recently developed an obsession with Nacho’s and Mexican food – like more so than usual haha. It was cool to see behind-the-scenes of CNN, definitely worth the money. After this, we went to Woodruff Park in a somewhat dangerous-looking part of the city – that was definitely an interesting experience. As well as City Hall and the State Capitol Building – they almost looked somewhat isolated and deserted. City Hall and the State Capitol building were super beautiful buildings though – they were just located in a place that seemed pretty lowly populated. On Sunday, we used the Metra (similar to the London Underground or Subway) and went to Piedmont Park which was actually really nice – it had everything that a park could want and an awesome running track which I’d definitely utilise if I lived there! We then went to the Margaret Mitchell House (what a woman!) and got to learn more about her life, who she is as a person and the inspiration behind ‘Gone with the Wind’ – this was really awesome, my mum would definitely have been jealous of this. We then took the Atlanta Streetcar (it’s kinda similar to a tram but on the road) to the MLK historic site which basically consisted of his birthplace/home, where he went to school and where he spent most of his life, etc – this was a super cool experience and enlightening to realise that a man who achieved so much came from an area and a background where he didn’t really have much! After this, we checked out Inman Park which is basically a neighbourhood of super beautiful and expensive houses – the houses were cray and made me jealous. We also got to see Peachtree Street which is what ‘Gone with the Wind’ was based on and Little Five Points/Underground Atlanta (which was like an alternative place to live and shop – pretty interesting). On Monday, our final day, we went to the Atlanta History Center which featured information about basically ALL of Atlanta’s history – there was a lot! We also went to the Swan House (which was actually used to shoot a few scenes in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – the interior and exterior of this house was absolutely amazing) and the Tullie Smith House Family Farm/plantation – I really want to go to a real cotton plantation in the south. There were even people role-playing on the farm! Again, this was something awesome to see! We then went to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History (cos it was included in our Atlanta City Pass which we purchased upon arrival) and I’ve been to a fair few history museums now throughout my travels and this one, in my opinion, wasn’t incredible but it was still pretty good and interesting! After this, we basically checked out from the hotel, got our bags and headed to the airport for our flight home! Touched down in Philly around 10pm  and my friend picked us up again. Trip was a fairly successful one! From my personal experience, Atlanta isn’t the safest place. It was quite scary at times because we’d find ourselves in places that were quite isolated and were quite run-down. I don’t think it’s the kind of place where you want to spend much time walking the streets at night. It was definitely eye-opening as I didn’t expect Atlanta to be like this at all. I’d like to go back to Georgia some day and explore Savannah, however. I think that’d be so interesting! I haven’t gone into much detail about what we did but I can assure you, it was a pretty unique trip and if you have any questions about anything, feel free to ask! Some of the views just walking around the streets of Atlanta are incredibly beautiful!

Artificial Intelligence

With the intention of diverting my brain away from midterm exams and simultaneously getting thoughts out of my brain and on to paper, I have done some thinking and written out some of my considerations on one of my favourite topics, Artificial General Intelligence and Artificial Superintelligence and its future impact on us. Overall, I hope that it will be achieved within my lifetime, and hopefully help us in project humanity in ways that currently escape our reach. It can be positive if correct precautions are taken while we can think about it. It is a very interesting field of the future which may transform the future of humanity. How will it help us technologically and how could it affect our human survival? It may, as with any seemingly futuristic technology, just seep into our lives in real time and we simply take it in our stride and barely notice that life was any different before. In many ways we are already surrounded by AI’s. The financial incentive for the development of artificial intelligence is huge, and race will not stop, because from the point of view of those developing it, if they don’t somebody else will. There are many points of view on the future of AI ranging from optimists to pessimists about its effect on humanity, with varying reasons of worry or positivity to support that point of view. There are also plenty of top scientists who believe a huge take off in artificial general intelligence is unlikely anytime soon (one of these is David Deutsch who is an excellent Physicist who explains this well).  It is tempting to throw artificial intelligence fears in with the millennium bug or that the Large Hadron Collider was going to create a black hole, i.e. people worrying about nothing. Yet, I still think it is a fascinating topic to think about. I will play devil advocate and explore briefly some of my thoughts on the potential dangers of AGI / ASI.

We currently have chess playing computers that can defeat the greatest human chess player, however this is called brittle intelligence meaning it cannot do anything other than that; i.e. that same computer can’t defeat anyone at anything else, but can defeat me at chess a trillion times in a row. The interesting developments come in the form of strong AI or also known as artificial general intelligence (AGI) and then beyond that, artificial superintelligence (ASI). Strong AI can learn how to learn and this learning can transfer to multiple situations whilst this doesn’t diminish anything which it had previously learnt. In the ultimate example the computer will be able to make improvements to itself, and so eventually becoming the greatest designer of itself. This is where the idea of an exponential take off in intelligence is possible. So if there is this exponential take off, it will very quickly surpass any human brain capacity and potentially our human control. In fact our current computers are somewhat ‘superhuman’ in that they have huge memories, far greater calculating abilities than us and potential access to all of human knowledge via the internet. So an ASI with millions of times more computing power than humans could potentially make thousands of years of human level progress within months or weeks. This is how AI could escape from us, so I would like to think that many at the frontier of this field are asking the question how can we control the conduct and objectives of such a machine. As a result, there are certain responsibilities that need to be thought about to make sure this doesn’t destroy humanity rather than help us, and this comes in many forms. One is the ethics of the machine, which need to be on the same level as that of ideal human values and programmed to understand our ideal ethical systems. For example if you asked the machine “make all humans happy”, you don’t want the machines response to be to kill all unhappy people thus leaving only happy humans. You can’t assume that machines will share what we consider common sense, ideal values would need to be built into the machine. Likewise, asking it to conduct a mundane task such as “block all spam email”, we need to insure the response isn’t to just kill people, which probably would be the most effective way. These are specific and maybe extreme consequential examples, but there are a myriad of shades of grey issues that fall between these.

The two directions the ASI could go is ‘conscious’ or ‘unconscious’. ‘Conscious’ direction assumes that the consciousness we experience in the brain is not mysterious and is replicable in computer form, i.e. in silicon and ‘ones and zeros’. This leads to an interesting philosophical argument about our place in the food chain of things. We as humans base our significance on us being the most important species due to our capacity to experience a greater range of emotion and thus greater understanding the world; compared to for example bacteria, ants or really any other animal. The moment a ‘conscious’ AI that has far greater knowledge, potential and access to ‘experiencing the universe’; and looks down upon us the way we apathetically look down on bacteria or ants, our place in existence would be redefined as less important as we are relegated to the status of bacteria or ants. It is not necessarily unimportant that we survive but we become less important, because that AI would be more capable of making progress towards any understanding of the universe than we are. And also as it is now more important and intelligent than us, who’s to say that it would want to hang around with us measly humans and do our bidding? It could just build itself a spaceship and leave us behind.

The negatives shouldn’t be looked at as if it was an evil terminator robot intent on destroying humans. It should be looked at in the way that humans don’t hate ants, yet if there is an ants nest in the middle of where a hydroelectric that has just been built, the ants become less important; or when walking in the dark your mind isn’t concerned with the wellbeing of ants beneath your feet.

Also, even if we as humans came into possession of such an ASI power and had full control over its intentions, it may not be used for benign purposes. The development of nuclear power for example hasn’t been directed entirely at its energy benefits. In all its potential power, you could effectively be building the ultimate war machine. So in the wrong hands it could be the creation of a very dangerous weapon. The building of such a machine would need rational actors cooperating to seriously benefit humanity. I expect if it was simply made in the USA for example, Russia and China would be quite suspicious over the intentions of its use, and vice versa. Furthermore we would need to build an economic system which could cope with large scale unemployment even among white collar workers, but maybe new jobs will be produced? But this is what we want ultimately, an effective society in which we can work far fewer and less stressful hours and dedicate more of our finite and miniscule glimpse of the universe lives to our passions, talents, deep thought and interpersonal relationships.

In summary, it seems important that control issues should be mediated now, as AI can be excellent for the world in terms of problems it could solve for us that we might be incapable of solving, our deus ex machina. As the power of technology grows, the more chance there is that mistakes will have bigger consequences. Similar to how you have more chances to learn from errors with steam power than with nuclear power. ASI is something we don’t want to make any mistakes with, we should aim to get it right first time.