England | A Home Away From Home

By Emma Skinner

How to get to Cambridge from Paris and a short walking tour of the college town

I’ve never been somewhere outside my hometown that has felt more at home than my arrival at Cambridge.

After a week trip in Paris, it was a nice break to take the Eurostar from Paris, Gare du Nord to London, St. Pancreas International. My family, who kindly joined me in my adventure to Cambridge, and I headed right across the street to King’s Cross where we hopped on the train to Cambridge Station, a short 45-minute ride. Though I first tried to read, I was taken aback by the beauty of the English countryside and found myself staring out the window the entire time.

A family friend who had visited Cambridge previously recommended Black Panther taxi service. Upon arrival at the station, I downloaded the app and was easily able to get a taxi, just like requesting an Uber. From there, it was a short drive to our hotel, the Hilton Cambridge City Center.

This is where my love for Cambridge truly set in. I was amazed at the huge, old buildings that stood around me. The cobblestone streets and a gentleman playing the alto saxophone truly set the scene. As I wandered around my new home, I realized just how lucky I was to be a part of the Pembroke-King’s College Program this summer. Besides a large nearby mall, there were plenty of little shops that caught my eye. I stopped off at Fitzbillies, half café and half coffee shop. I was truly excited to see iced lattes and coffees on the menu, a refreshing break from the constant espresso and lack of café américain in Paris. From there, a short walk by the River Cam and a necessary visit to the Cambridge gift shop to buy souvenirs for my family completed the tour. We finished off with a quick dessert crêpe from Benet’s Café, directly across from King’s, and headed back to get some sleep at our hotel.

Just from the short time I have been in the city so far, I already can tell how amazing this experience is going to be for me. As someone who has wanted to live in England since I was little, I can genuinely think of no better place to begin my adventure than Cambridge. With move-in on Saturday, orientation on Sunday, and classes beginning on Monday, I know the next few days will really help me adjust to my new life for the next two months. Already I have made plans with other students in the program via our Facebook page to meet up and work together on our classes. The friendly atmosphere and serene setting of Pembroke and King’s could make anyone feel at home, even on the other side of the planet.

As I wrap up this entry, I’m reminded of a quote by John Steinbeck who said, “People don’t take trips, trips take people”. From here on out, I well let the city guide me and show me its beauty. I will allow this journey to carry me along with it and enjoy every little moment in the process. I can’t wait for you to join in these moments with me, reader.

See you soon,


England | Living in Champion Hill



It starts really high. Before you even arrive, you see all the beautiful pictures and think to yourself, “Man, this place is gorgeous.”

And then you actually realize how far it is from campus.

Which stinks; it stinks, but, like most students here, you scramble to find other places to live. There IS a room swap that happens at KCL; but it doesn’t happen until October so that you can take the time to get acclimated, and really experience the residence for yourself.

I remember being really determined that I would for sure move out. But as time progressed, I started to really enjoy the people I was around. I formed great friendships with two girls who also were from UCLA on my floor. And also, I just started to become friends with everybody on this floor in general; building networks of kitchen cutlery, providing their pans and knives in exchange for my Sainsbury pots and cookie baking sheets. So, the line chart goes up again.

And again, like any great novel with complex plots — it goes back down when room swaps become available and you discover that the friends you just made are moving out. That one guy you look forward to talking to in the kitchen is moving away to another dorm (note: I wrote this a week ago, and I found out he’s staying– woo!) 

The reality is, I’ve now come to not only accept Champion Hill as my home, but also embrace it. And when I finally came into this mentality, I found coffee shops around (go to Mono — a  vinyl records only, cheap coffee shop with great pain au chocolat with comfy chairs, cute lighting and mini plants on your table).

I found Pop Brixton, a 30 minute walk with some of the greatest, cheap foods that I adore. Every time I miss a bowl of Ramen, Koi Ramen Bar has my back.

Sainsbury’s is only a five minute walk in our backyard for anytime you want to get a grilled cheese fix (that clearance sale bread for 70p, cheese, and never forget tomato soup).

As far as the bus, it’s about a 30 to 40 minute bus ride. I’m not gonna lie, it initially sucks. I can feel lost from the rest of London, but I’ve come to love the moment when crossing The Thames over Waterloo bridge. The mornings become the time I collect my thoughts before the day truly begins, the readings I didn’t read the night before, the meditation I needed to release anxiety, and to finally listen to those podcasts I never got around to.

Champion Hill has become the home of some of my favorite memories; eating dinner with humans from around the world who inspire me with their stories — the dude from Germany who traveled around the globe  —  the second year from France who never fails to make me crepes and makes fun of my silly American ways — the boy across the hall who laughs at me as we sing along to 2000’s music — the girl next door who I always can go out with — the fellow UCLA girl down the hall who became one of my closest friends. We sat together on the couch one day and thought about all the times we could’ve met at UCLA; how we went to the same parties, had so many mutual friends– but we didn’t meet until we both lived here in Champion Hill. And that was the thing, this serendipitous occasion of living here and meeting all the people I did, Champion Hill wasn’t a mistake at all. 

England | An Orientation of Orientation


To be entirely truthful, I’ve already been in London for 3 weeks : busy unpacking, acclimating, making friends, learning to ride a bus here or ‘top-up’ an oyster card, testing social cues, cringing at my own American English accent. So orientation was a while ago.

But, with some time and space, I feel that I can give a pretty good retrospective on the whole experience.


So here’s an orientation to the UCEAP Orientation at London, everything from what we did and what you can expect, and maybe some advice along the way.


Getting to London seems intimidating — the student visa process or the tier 4 visa process (eek!) But the truth is, 1) it really depends on the staff who interviews you at customs, 2) having your documents is the hardest part because it makes everything else a breeze. I was lucky that the staff who reviewed me was super kind; she looked at a few papers (but mostly my King’s acceptance letter — this will be your most important document. do. not. lose. this. because if you leave the UK to travel throughout the rest of Europe, you’ll need this letter to get back in!)


Day one of orientation was just getting to orientation; the plane rides, the Uber rides, the settling in and getting rest for the days to come.

Luckily, before leaving to London, UCLA holds a mini-orientation in Los Angeles for KCL abroad students. So, I had met fellow students to exchange numbers and we made plans to meet at the airport upon arrival at London. We Uber-ed together from LHR (London Heathrow Airport) to LSE Bankside, the UCEAP orientation.


So of course, orientation was, indeed, an orientation — consisting of various lectures on acclimating to London, the differences in academia between the US and the UK, and the US Embassy coming in to speak about what rights and services are applicable to us abroad.


But, they also scheduled guided tours for us at the Tate Modern.


We treated ourselves with peri-peri chicken and beer from the ever-so famous Nando’s.


We also got tickets to see ‘The Play that Goes Wrong’, a theatrical comedy show about a running a murder mystery show — wonderfully hilarious, filled with nuggets of improv that I didn’t expect.

And on the night walk back to LSE Bankside, we couldn’t resist taking photos of the sunset which soon became a darkness only lit up by buildings along the Thames.



Yes, I ate this every morning for breakfast.

I walked a lot, okay.


We had a lovely tour guide who gave us a walk around the Thames; showing us graffiti art, famous buildings…

Tower bridge opening up in the morning…

and leading us to lunch at Borough Market.


And our last stop of the day was the London Eye, and the tickets were provided for us.


Initially, as young adults, there’s sometimes a hesitation in submitting to some sort of schedule. But, in the midst of the craziness that is a new environment, it was nice to have someone care for us. We were introduced to a new culture in a way that helped us immerse seamlessly; to answer questions we had immediately. UCEAP provided us resources that a lot of other students didn’t get, those who studied abroad from other universities or countries. And it gave us the opportunity to meet other UCLA friends that we can continue being friends with even after we come back from London.