Scotland | Fun & Free

By Caitlyn Pickard

Five fun and free things to do in Scotland:

Hairy Coo  

The Hairy Coo offers a FREE Highland tour online! When I first signed up for this tour, I expected it to be a rerun of all the things I’ve seen and done in Scotland. FALSE. This tour was pretty darn amazing. It took us off the super touristy scenes and gave a little Scottish-insider looks at the Highlands. We went on a short hike to a waterfall, learned about the gory past of the Wallace monument, and, best of all, we got to feed some hairy coos! This was an amazing little one-day tour of the Highlands and cannot recommend it enough. Whether you’ve seen a lot of the Highlands or it’s your first time in Scotland, you’ll love this tour. Just make sure to sign up in advanced! They only have it during specific days, so check it out online to see what works for you. If you aren’t able to book the day you want, try going to the check-in point! You will get put onto a wait-list and, if the people who booked don’t show, you can take their seat! 

Ghost tours in Edinburgh 

They aren’t exaggerating that Edinburgh has a dark, bloody past. This free walking tour will take you back into the history of Edinburgh, with a focus on murder and death. FUN! We went when it was still daylight outside because I’m a total scaredy cat, but it still had the creepy aura to it. A few stories include grave robberies, gruesome murder, and a little magic. My favorite story was about the close we visited. The story goes, if you bring a vial of your blood and throw it at the wall, you gain access to this magical market place. This market place will grant you anything you want, at a price of course. The price is usually a piece of you, like an eye, a hand, etc. What would you wish for? 

NOTE: all these tours are free, which means the tour guides are doing it without pay. Their income = TIPS. Now, generally,  tipping is not customary in Scotland; however, free tours are an exception. If you thoroughly enjoyed a tour, give them a £5 tip or more. I avoid giving change because it feels weird; however, that’s totally a personal preference.  

Arthur’s Seat 

Arthur’s Seat is like a staple of Edinburgh. You just have to do it. The hike itself is relatively beginner, so you won’t have to worry too much about physical exertion; however, if you go during the winter after it’s rained and frozen over, it may be a bit of a challenge and you will probably wipe out on your butt once or twenty times. But it is so worth it. If the hike didn’t make you breathless, the view will. At the top of Arthur’s Seat, you can see most of Edinburgh city. Some cool history about Arthur’s Seat is that it’s an extinct volcano. That makes it especially cool in my opinion. It’s also a quick escape from the city if you just need a little nature in your day.  

Dr. Neil’s Garden 

Hilary, the most amazing UCEAP employee ever, told us about this hidden garden. It’s a little outside of the city, which is why it took me forever to go and visit. Regrets. This garden is perfect and so serene. When I went, it felt like I was breaking in since it was so secluded, but it is totally open to the public. It kind of reminded me of the Secret Garden. There’s ponds and fountains, with a variety of different flora, and it’s right next to a loch. It’s perfect for some alone time or just a pause from the busyness of life. There’s swans and geese in the loch, which sits in front of the picturesque Arthur’s Seat.

Portobello Beach 

The day I went it was sunny, which meant it was about 60 degrees. Hello summer! I met with this group called The Wild Ones. And wild they are. What do the Wild Ones do you ask? Well, they go swimming in the freezing cold water. Ever swam in the Pacific during the winter? THAT’S NOTHING. I went in for 20 minutes and was frozen to the bone for the next 3 hours. I couldn’t stop shivering! Granted, some of the members wear wetsuits, which is not what I packed for my time abroad, but a lot of them didn’t. Also, some were training for a triathlon in this water. Serious props to these members. After wading through the water and getting completely numb to the fingertips, you kind of get this adrenaline rush. It feels amazing! Like I walked out of the water feeling like a baddie. I was down to wrestle a lion at that point. I felt invincible. Until the shiver came on about 30 min later. The amazing feeling still remained, just with less invincible-like feelings. After our dip, a few of the members and I went to this little café on the promenade called Miro Café. They have a full menu, coffee, and cakes. Holy moly, their CAKES. I had a banana toffee cake and it was positively scrumptious. I can’t even begin to describe how delicious it was, so I’ll leave it to your envious imagination. After overloading on sugar, I decided to chill out at the beach and just enjoy the sun. It was a great day. Definitely one of my favorites.  

Caitlyn Pickard studied abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland in Spring in 2018 :

Scotland | Self-Care

By Caitlyn Pickard

Throughout my college career, I struggled with depression. Additional stress as a student is only natural. With the sleepless nights and exam prompted anxiety, mental illness is quite prevalent amongst college students. Studying abroad does not help with these triggers. Honestly, it adds onto it. The new environment and lack of familiarity can sometimes seem overwhelming. When I am abroad for long periods, I have heightened emotions and feel even more alone on foreign soil. Language barriers may stop you from having deeper connections. Cultural customs may make you feel more like an outsider. Although there is no cure for mental illness, there are some tricks that can anchor you down to reality and can distract you from those feelings. One thing to note is that I have been handling my mental illness without additional therapy or medication for approximately two years now. Therefore, I have been regulating my mental illness pretty solo. If you think that study abroad may be a negative impact on your mental health, talk to your therapist or a close companion about whether or not studying abroad will be good for you. There are always opportunities to travel, but it shouldn’t put your mental health at risk. Know your limits and always take care of yourself.  

Now, with all that background, I wanted to share a couple of things that helped me during my time abroad. Granted, many of these things are personalized, but I hope that maybe it will give you the opportunity to think of things that may work best for you or may not.  


Something I recently picked up was journaling. In my personal opinion, my journal sucks. It doesn’t have profound thought processes or anything truly of significance; however, it is nice to have that comfort of being able to pour out everything I may have been feeling on that day. It’s also helpful to look back on days that may have been just-a-day-in-a-life, where things might have been mediocre but things were okay. It’s important to remind yourself that things will be okay. Things may just be temporary and you won’t feel this way forever. Now, this is something that works for me. Feel free to adapt for what works for you. Maybe that’s art or writing music. Just finding a way to express yourself can help at times.  


While I was in Edinburgh, I picked up doing yoga. I’m used to working hard, being out of breath, and sweat dripping into my eye whenever I do workouts. As an individual, I’m also a very impatient person (sorry to my friends and family that know this and have to deal with it constantly! Love you!). So needless to say, yoga was very difficult for me. I started following Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube. She had a few 30 day yoga challenges that I decided to follow. I didn’t follow them very well, but I did begin to develop a routine. I began to do a short yoga video about 3 times a week. It was a refreshing feeling either waking up to greet the morning (or afternoon depending…) or to meditate with Adrienne and her quirky sweet presence. I began to feel more centered and in touch with myself. It was a nice and peaceful feeling. 

Visit a beautiful place 

Or even just a place that gives you a positive feeling. My happy places are at the ocean with the sun on my skin. Although sun in Scotland is rare, it does happen and it’s glorious. There’s also Dr. Neil’s Garden which is only a 30 min walk from Cameron Toll (see my post on Free Things To Do in Edinburgh for more info). Maybe for you going to a more busy place gives you feelings of comfort, such as a popular restaurant or the lounge in your dorm. Or maybe you like people being around, but not really loud. Try out the movies or the university library. Once you find these places, keep a mental note on where you feel most at ease so you can visit it during those moments. 


Distraction is key 

Sometimes you just need something to occupy your thoughts so you don’t dwell on the negative. It doesn’t need to be anything big. Something I do is take a shower or just eat ice. By having a physical sensation change, it can distract you from what is overwhelming you at the moment. Now, I’m not advising this as a procrastination method, but Netflix or Amazon Prime can also help. Watching any shows or movies can preoccupy your thoughts. For example, I watch stupid teenage dramas and get really into them, like “omg I can’t believe Matty McKibben is STILL into Jenna even though she’s a total jerk”. I will neither admit nor deny that those are things I’ve said verbatim, but you get the jest. You begin to get wrapped up in their drama that, for a small moment, you forget what you were thinking about. If you can’t afford Amazon Prime or Netflix, don’t worry! With your email address from your university abroad, you’re eligible for a free 6-month Prime trial. Just make sure you use your new country’s Amazon website (i.e.  

Reach out 

My final piece of advice is to call friends or family. You don’t necessarily have to tell them what’s going on in your mind, but just having some familiarity can really help. I hope these techniques help or facilitate some brainstorming of things that could help you in the future. If not, well then welcome to a bit of insight on my mental illness. Having a mental illness is difficult and can be even more difficult when abroad. Just remember, you aren’t alone. Always remember to take care of yourself and take some time to treat yourself. I’ve treated myself a lot during this break. My bank account can confirm. But that’s okay. Because what’s more important than my debt is my healthy mental state.  

Caitlyn Pickard studied abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland in Spring 2018:

Scotland | Highland Games

By Caitlyn Pickard

When deciding to come to Scotland, my brain immediately jumped to the movie Made of Honor, a cheesy romcom featuring Patrick Dempsy. Just the thought of getting stuck on a road surrounded by sheep, finding a thistle in the rolling green countryside, and strong Scottish men in kilts throwing around tree trunks to win my heart. Needless to say, none of these things  happened; however, I did get to see Scottish men throwing tree trunks (also known as caber) at the Highland games, among other amazing things.  

The history of the Highland games began as an effort by aristocrats trying to save Scottish culture after the British had created laws against tartan and strongly advising against the use of Gaelic. Many pipers began to compete since a lot of the dynamics of their career within clan families had changed under British influence. It was the main source of a steady income. Thus, begun the popularity of the games. This is a really watered down version of the Highland Games beginning, but it’s a few of the main pointers. If you’re interested in learning more, you should try to take the bagpiping class! It’s definitely an experience. Yes, I learned to play some bagpipe songs. No, I will not be playing them for you because I’m terrible.  

Anyways, more about the Highland Games today! They really only happen during the summer months, like late-May to August. You can check to see when the upcoming games are on! So, that’s what I did in April and found that there was ONE game happening right before I leave. I decided then and there that I would definitely be going. I was lucky enough to have some friends who were also down for an adventure to the Highlands and enjoy tree trunk throwing. As you can see, I was really excited to see people throwing tree trunks. Don’t ask me why. It’s just amazing.  

From Edinburgh, I traveled to Inverness via bus, which was way cheaper than train. While in Inverness, I stayed in a hostel and decided to explore Inverness for a few days. Just so you know, if you get a chance, check out Rosemarkie. It’s the cutest little town with a lot of exploring and a lovely beach. It’s only a 30 min bus ride from Inverness. Trust me. It’s just so peaceful and a lovely refresher, totally worth it. Unless you’re a city person. Maybe not your scene. After my exploring of Inverness and surrounding areas, I took a bus to Elgin and stayed in an Airbnb with two of my friends.  

We were pretty excited about the games. Needless to say, it did not disappoint! It was awesome. In the beginning, we watched the youth play the Highland heavy weight games, such as little hammer, weight over the bar, and, my personal favorite, caber. These young men were amazing, and slightly terrifying. In agreement with competition rules, they were dressed in traditional kilts and socks for the games. Then, we happened upon the highland dancing. It was so graceful, similar to ballet, but with more cardio due to all the jumping.  We cruised around all the different booths. I found some delicious honey made from bees who pollenated heather flowers. Tony, one of the owners working the honey booth, shared information about their business with us and also lots of samples. Super yum. We also got to try different whiskeys, cheeses, and fudges at the various stands. Quite the variety. And all absolutely mouth-watering. Except the whiskey, which had a wee bit of kick. 

This was one of the most cultural experiences that I was lucky enough to participate in. The best part was that there was almost no tourists. It was an authentic look into some of the Highland culture in Scotland. If there’s one thing you have to do when in Scotland, it is to go to a Highland Games competition. You won’t regret it! I definitely don’t! One thing I learned today is that tree trunk throwing is as awesome as Hollywood made it seem.  

“Wherever I wander, 

Wherever I roam, 

The hills of the Highlands 

Forever  I love” 

Robert Burns 

Caitlyn Pickard studied abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland in Spring 2018:

UK | Trip of a Lifetime

By Emma Skinner

I didn’t expected my study abroad experience to go as beautifully as it did. I talk often on how studying abroad at Cambridge had always been a dream of mine but never did I realize how amazing it was to fulfil a lifelong dream. I can honestly say these two months were filled with some of the best moments I’ve ever had. To wrap up my time abroad, I wanted to leave you with some final thoughts: 

The School 

Cambridge is really one of the most beautiful places I have ever been so lucky to visit. The university is divided into 31 different colleges, built over the course of many centuries. This study abroad program– the Pembroke-King’s Program– takes place at those respective colleges. They are simply a short walk down the street from one another and the students are living on either campus or at the variety of flats throughout the city. In my opinion, the school is incredible and I genuinely did not want to leave. 

Professors and Classes 

Going to UCLA, I’ve been used to having classes of over four hundred students. Because of this, the professor-student relationship is quite obsolete. At Cambridge, class sizes were between twenty to thirty students. The respective class seminar–small group discussions– were between ten and fifteen. This meant that the professor (who often ask to be called by the first name here) was much more engaged with the students. Even in the three-week courses, my professors learned every student’s name. I loved the wide variety of class option, one of the main reasons I chose the program in the first place. Not only that, the professors were fantastic at teaching an entire course in such a short amount of time. I enjoyed every minute of it! 

The Environment 

Just the general aura of Cambridge was something special. Perhaps it was my own excitement and joy to be there, but I felt the people I encountered to be extremely friendly– more so than in the United States. The wide variety of shops, restaurants, and cafés meant endless allies to explore in my short time. The nearby parks and green space also provided a nice getaway from the busier city.  

The Activities

The PA’s (program assistants) provided a multitude of activities for us to take part in. From hikes to coffee tours to visiting different cities, I really appreciated all that was offered. At the beginning of the week, a list was sent out of all the events being offered that week. Each one was always full of people wanting to attend–never a dull moment. 

The People

This was definitely the best part of the program. People from all over the world attended PKP, making it a worldly experience like no other. Even though it was short, I definitely made friends for a lifetime (check out my post on the people I met here)   

The Overall Program

All in all, this program was the trip of a lifetime. I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity. If you get the chance, study abroad. You won’t regret it. 


Yet now I cannot sing out loud, 

Peace is my farewell music; 

Even crickets are now silent for me, 

For Cambridge this evening is silent.

Quietly I am leaving,

Just as quietly as I came;

Gently waving my sleeve,

 I am not taking away a single cloud. 

Xu Zhi Mo On Leaving Cambridge 

Thanks for the mems Cambridge, see you again soon. 




Emma Skinner studied in Cambridge, UK in 2018:

UK | Friendship

By Emma Skinner

To the friends I made while studying abroad: 

Never has saying goodbye been so difficult. When I first walked into Cambridge, I was greeted by friendly faces and beautiful landscapes. When I left, I was met with long hugs and wet eyes. Being with you, I felt I could be the fullest version of myself. I grew as a person, a traveler, a local, and a friend. I have grown into myself and my full capabilities, gaining such faithful friends in the process. How rare is it to feel truly at home? With you there, that was possible. The setting can only do so much, it is the people that are there with you that make an experience so awe-inspiring.  

I’d first like to tell you a bit about who I was before. As a person, I’m quite closed off (you could say it’s the Aquarius in me, but take it as you will). I knew I wanted to study abroad because of my love for travel but I was somewhat hesitant to do it the summer after my second year in college. Ultimately, for no particular reason, I made the leap and applied to the Pembroke-King’s Program at Cambridge University because the school had been a dream of mine to attend. This short chain of events, from my decision to attend to receiving a place at the school, led me into the best summer of my life. 

Seeing as I am more closed off, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at Cambridge. Going to UCLA for college, I was still close to home and even had friends attending who I knew quite well. Never in my life had I been thrown into the opportunity where I knew no one at all. Arriving at Cambridge, I had no idea what was to come. Part of me assumed the worst, that I would get my work done and soon arrive home. Never in my wildest dreams did I know what was to come.

My love for you all came from nowhere. Seeing a group from completely different backgrounds bond so quickly… it was like a movie. You see those groups of friends on the screen and often laugh thinking their relationship seems fake or ingenuine. I won’t laugh at those scenes anymore, but rather be filled with joy knowing exactly how they feel. Because you gave me that experience, one I never knew possible. 

We stayed up way too long, watching too often a sunrise, because even the thought of parting for a short while to sleep seemed gray. We became too addicted to caffeine in order to lengthen our hours together. We laughed and danced and travelled and in the end, we shed a tear. I know we joked often of the saying “how lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard” but I know we didn’t want to think of the future. Living in the moment with you–being my whole, complete self–I have never felt more lucky to be alive.  

Parting ways was difficult, but I know our reunions will be numerous and our future time together full of infinite possibility. I’d rather not focus on the time apart missing you, but excited for the moments we come together again. Thank you, my loves, for making my heart endlessly full. The moments of pure bliss were incredible, and I am so entirely grateful for you all in my life. 

I didn’t think studying abroad would have the impact it did. How lucky am I? How lucky are we?

Emma Skinner studied in Cambridge, UK in 2018:

UK | Best of Cambridge

By Emma Skinner

Day trip to Cambridge? Looking for a good cup of coffee nearby the colleges? Below I’ve laid out some of my favorite spots in the city center!  

  1. Best cup of coffee: Hot Numbers

Hot Numbers location is fantastic for students because of its centrality to the city center (and to those in the Department of Engineering, School of Architecture and the History of Art, and Judge Business School, it’s right next door). They offer an array of pastries from vegan muffins to gluten free polenta. But their coffee is what puts them apart from the rest. I highly recommend the iced latte with oat milk, but if you order anything here you will not be disappointed. Lastly, if there was a “best matcha pancakes” category, Hot Numbers would definitely win. 

  1. Best cakes: Tom’s Cakes

The variety of options here is what drew me to Tom’s in the first place. After discovering it thanks to a food tour I went on, I immediately knew I needed to go back. The homey atmosphere is perfect for the Cambridge vibe. The large outdoor space in the back is also great for a picnic (and they provide the blanket to sit on)! Their cake flavors change based on the season, so whether you come in the summer or winter, there will be something new to try! 

  1. Best market: The City Center Market

Whether you need a quick bite to eat, pick up groceries for the day, or buy a souvenir, this market is the prime space to visit. The array of station you will find means you can come often and never get bored. Personally, I love the falafel, smoothies, fresh produce, and beautiful flowers.  

  1. Best sightseeing: Castle Mound

Originally the site of a castle, this hill offers a beautiful view of the city. I suggest visiting on a clear evening so you can see the sunset. Even better, try counting the amount of church towers you see (I still haven’t managed to count them all). 

  1. Best park: Coe Fen

Located next to the Mill restaurant and pub, Coe Fen is the perfect spot for a picnic. The wildlife runs free here, so expect to be greeted by the friendly cow. This is also a fantastic place to run along the river on the many different paths that go through the park.  

  1. Best late-night snack: Uncle Frank’s Food Truck

Up late studying and need some more fuel to get you through the night? Check out Uncle Frank’s food truck in the city center to get a quick, and cheap, bite to eat. I highly recommend the fries (or chips as the locals say). The truck offers a variety of yummy toppings or go classic and try them plain like me! 

  1. Best bakery: Maison Clement

Don’t have time to make it over to Paris? Looking for yummy fresh bread? This is definitely the place to check out! This cute shop immediately caught my eye from the street. The amount of bread here is endless and the pastries are also delicious. 

  1. Best live music: The Tram Depot

This pub offers great live jazz throughout the week. The large space creates a great environment where plenty of friends can sit and enjoy the music. The outdoor space is also quite inviting. 

  1. Best gelato: Jack’s Gelato

Located right across the street from King’s College, Jack’s offers the best treat on a hot summer day. The gelato here is phenomenal and the flavors are also quite intriguing. They change daily so you will never run out of things to try. They also offer a variety of vegan flavors which are quite delicious! 

UK | Cambridge Formal Hall

By Emma Skinner

Attending Cambridge and curious as what to wear? Simply wondering what goes on at this event? Check out these photos to get some ideas!

WHAT IT IS: Formal Hall? What’s that you may ask? Well, formal hall is a longstanding tradition across the colleges at Cambridge University. Simply, it is a three-course meal served within the beautiful dining halls at each college. But the tradition lies in the special environment that is staged in the process. For King’s (pictured left) in particular, the evening starts off with a reception outside by the River Cam. This is the perfect time for pictures in your formal wear (see below for ideas of what to wear) or chatting with your professors. By inviting both students, professors, and fellows of the university, the event ensures that the practice of treating student and teacher as peers is exemplified.  After the reception, you will make your way to the dining hall where you can sit amongst your colleagues and enjoy the night. Full of toasts, good food, and incredible architecture, formal hall is one of my favorite things about Cambridge.  

WHAT TO WEAR: Before my study abroad program started, people were constantly wondering how “formal” formal hall really was. With two halls now finished, here are some highlights from the spectacular event: 

Avanti is rocking the neutral tones in this dress! She pairs this beautiful short dress with heels, making for the perfect photo by the River. All lengths of dresses are worn at formal hall and this one was definitely a dress to remember! 

Men’s attire ranges from a button down and slacks to full on tuxes. Here, Daniel (left) and Weinan (right) are representing some of the various styles seen at the dinner. Daniel’s lavender shirt adds the perfect pop of color to his attire and Weinan’s navy blue suit added a twist to the classic black and white! 

Patterned versus plain: Unsure whether to go for something more patterned? Ariel (left) is rocking the busy print but Rachel (right) pulls off the classic solid color look too! At formal hall, anything goes. 

Matt pulls off the James Bond vibe here in the best way possible! Wearing an all -black suit with a bowtie completes the 007 look.  

Dresses aren’t the only way to go! Jules (right) looks stylish in her two-piece jump suit. The Emerald green color makes a statement while still looking very classy. 

Just know, you are looking at a fabulous night that you’ll never want to end. 

Emma Skinner studied in Cambridge, England in 2018

England | A Trip to Hampton Court Palace

By Michelle Lin

Last Friday, the ACCENT study abroad program took us to Hampton Court Palace, one of the historic royal palaces of England. This palace was constructed during the Tudor era by Thomas Wolsey, who gifted it to King Henry VIII (yes, the one with 6 wives!).  

Hampton Court Palace is on the outskirts of London, and we took a 30 minute train ride from the Waterloo station. The trains here are super clean, modern, and quiet compared to the Amtrak and Metrolink of California. This ride was a nice break from the bustle and congestion of Central London, as we got to admire the green and quaint nature of the suburbs of London. Hampton Court Palace is located right next to the River Thames, and is about a 10 minute walk from the train station. It was serendipitous to be met with such a beautiful day- the clear blue sky and soft clouds accentuated the picturesque palace with its many different buildings, courtyards, and gates.  

The Inside  

Inside the palace, we saw Henry VIII’s apartment and kitchens, William III’s apartment, and art galleries. The apartments included the grand dining rooms, bedrooms, and bathrooms that the royals would use, and artifacts such as old dresses, board games, and hanging deer heads. We saw a replica of King Henry VIII’s crown in all of its gold and pearl splendor, and museum workers who were restoring old dresses and tablecloths. The part that stood out to me the most was the Chapel Royal, Henry VIII’s church inside Hampton Court Palace. Not only was the Chapel Royal beautiful with its elaborate blue and gold vaulted ceiling, but also significant since Henry VIII started the Anglican church after leaving the Roman Catholic Church in order to divorce his wife. 

The Outside  

The outside of the palace is surrounded by many different gardens, including the Great Fountain Garden, the Privy Garden, and the Rose Garden. These gardens are vast in size and overwhelmingly intricate- every aspect is intricately detailed, and you can tell how much effort and time goes into maintaining them.  

Exploring the palace and the gardens made the history nerd in me so happy- it was hard to believe that I was walking in the same halls and staircases as countless monarchs of England. Hampton Court Palace is truly royal inside and out- I spent hours marveling at both the architecture of the building and the preserved artifacts, as well as the well-kept and pristine gardens. I definitely recommend giving yourself around 3 to 4 hours to spend here as a half-day trip from London. This was our first program excursion, and I really enjoyed being able to explore outside of central London and to learn more about the rich culture and history here. 

Michelle Lin studied in London, England in 2018:

England | First Days

By Michelle Lin

After months of anticipation, saving money, and reading all about Meghan Markle, I’m finally here in the beautiful city of London! It’s still hard for me to believe, but I will be spending the next four months here in the UC Center London Arts, Politics, Society & Space program. This program consists entirely of UC students, and is coordinated by the ACCENT London Study Center.  

The first few days were mainly marked by housing, academics, and life in London orientation sessions and exploring the area we live in, Bloomsbury. Although Bloomsbury is quieter and less crowded than other parts of London, its streets are brimming with coffee shops, book stores, restaurants, and clothing stores, which much to explore and see.

I had expected to feel very overwhelmed and out of place in London since I’d never been to Europe before, but the transition and assimilation has been surprisingly easy. Because there are so many American stores and since everything is in English, London isn’t as foreign and intimidating as I thought it’d be. To me, it is the perfect balance between foreign and familiar- new and unfamiliar components such as unrefrigerated eggs in grocery stores and downpours of rain that come out of nowhere, intermixed with recognizable and comforting sights such as Starbucks and Priuses.  

I had expected to feel very overwhelmed and out of place in London since I’d never been to Europe before, but the transition and assimilation has been surprisingly easy. Because there are so many American stores and since everything is in English, London isn’t as foreign and intimidating as I thought it’d be. To me, it is the perfect balance between foreign and familiar- new and unfamiliar components such as unrefrigerated eggs in grocery stores and downpours of rain that come out of nowhere, intermixed with recognizable and comforting sights such as Starbucks and Priuses.  

The fact that I was in London fully hit me when our program went on a 2 hour bus tour of the city. I didn’t realize how big and how diverse London was until I saw all of it with my own eyes on this tour, and loved seeing old historical buildings interwoven with sleek modern high rises. Seeing the House of Parliament, the London Bridge, and Westminster Abbey from the top of a double decker bus that was driving in the left lane while listening to a British tour guide was an ineffable experience.  

This feeling continued throughout the weekend as I explored more of London with my four flatmates. We were lucky enough to be met with a fair and sunny day at the London Eye, getting a clear 360 degree aerial view of the city. 

So far, some of the classic British foods I’ve been able to try are fish and chips, meat pie, and scones with clotted cream. The scones here are closer to American biscuits as opposed to the scones that we’re used to, and are absolutely delicious.

These first few days were marked with battling jetlag, relying on Google Maps, and easing into day-to-day life. Some of my favorite moments so far have come from simply wandering around the streets of Bloomsbury, taking in all of the sights of intricate architecture and the lilting sounds of British accents. The past few days have been a testament to how big and beautiful this world is, and how fortunate I am to be able to see more of it. As I think about what I’d like the next four months to entail, I hope to not only explore and experience as much as I can, but also to make London my home.  

Michelle Lin studied in London, England in 2018:

England | Favorite Restaurants in London

By Michelle Lin

I always thought that California had the most diverse array of food, but it pales in comparison to London. This city is filled with so many amazing restaurants with many different types of food, from traditional English to Lao to Scandinavian. Here are some of my favorite restaurants that I’ve tried in London.  

Regency Cafe 

This is a classic British greasy spoon spot, which is a must-go to experience a classic full English breakfast. It’s pretty cheap- around 7 euros for a full English breakfast, which includes British bacon, sausage, tomatoes, black pudding, mushrooms, beans, toast, and coffee or tea. It’s also pretty popular, so you may need to wait, but service is super quick. Part of the experience is seeing the workers multi-task. It truly is an amazing feat to take orders, make toast, and make mugs of tea at the same time, and there is one lady who yells out the order in the loudest voice that I have ever heard. Two important pieces of information to know is that this is a cash only restaurant, and also does not have a toilet.  


Dishoom is an Indian restaurant in London, and arguably one of the most famous restaurants in the city, where two hour waits for dinner is normal. There’s multiple locations throughout London. I’ve tried both lunch and breakfast here, and breakfast is most definitely worth it- Dishoom’s breakfast is one of the best breakfasts that I’ve ever had in my entire life. Breakfast is served until 11:45, which makes it the perfect brunch option as well. In addition, it’s less crowded during breakfast, and you will probably never encounter a wait in the morning. Dishoom’s breakfast is more fusion, with their famous naans filled with bacon, sweet chili jam, and cream cheese. This is an absolutely amazing combination, and super filling as well. One of my other favorite dishes are the spiced eggs that come with Iranian buns. Dishoom also serves the best chai tea that has free refills!  



While Dishoom is the best Indian breakfast/brunch spot, Punjab is the best place for traditional Indian dishes for lunch and dinner. It is the oldest Northern Indian restaurant in the UK, and its dishes reflect the amount of technique, work, care, and love that goes into cooking them. Their chicken tikka masala is absolutely amazing, with a very flavorful and balanced sauce. I also love their garlic naan, and their pumpkin curry, which is the perfect balance of sweet, spicy, and salty. Punjab has the best Indian food that I’ve ever tasted, and while it’s a bit on the pricier side, it’s definitely worth it! London is famous for its Indian food, and it doesn’t really get better than Punjab.

Four Seasons  

This is one of my favorite restaurants in Chinatown, which is right next to Soho. Four Seasons has really good Cantonese food, and is known for their barbecued meat of duck, chasu, pork belly, and spare ribs. The one, two, or three barbecued meats on rice is a pretty good deal at 8, 9, or 10 pounds respectively. This restaurant is so popular that even though they now have 3 different locations in Chinatown, they still have lines. However, there never seems to be a line if you get there at 5:00 pm. My favorites are the duck and the pork belly; although the pork belly looks super fatty, it actually is really delicious with a crunchy sugar crusted top.  

Cafe de Nata 

Cafe de Nata bakes Portuguese egg tarts of many different flavors: original, coconut, raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, and chocolate. My personal favorites are blueberry and chocolate. Portuguese egg tarts are creamier and more custard-like than Chinese egg tarts. While a lot of coffee shops and restaurants including Nando’s sells these, this cafe has the best Portuguese tarts, especially considering the fact that these tarts are a bit on the expensive side. You can smell these tarts before you can even see the store, and is a must if you’re in the Soho area!  

Michelle Lin studied in London, England in 2018: