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:

England | Dining and Shopping

By Michelle Lin

Things to know about living in London: chains for shopping and eating: While there are many one-of-a-kind restaurants and shops in London, knowing more about the chains in this city are definitely helpful if you’re studying abroad here. These chains are where you’ll find yourself shopping and eating in your daily lives, and also offer an illuminating look into British life. Here’s some more information on where you should buy shampoo and eggs, and where to kick your sushi craving.  


Drugstores: Superdrug and Boots 

Superdrug is better for beauty and body care products, while Boots is better for medicine, as their pharmacists will give you really helpful medical advice based on your situtation, and which medicines you should take. In addition, you can get your flu shot at Boots, which costs 12 pounds. Both are also great to explore skincare products that aren’t available in the United States. Some interesting things that I’ve learned is that the British word for acetametaphin is paracetomal, and drugstores here do not sell facial washes with benzoyl peroxide.  

Supermarkets: Tesco, Sainsbury, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer  

Tesco, Sainsbury, Waitrose, and Marks & Spencer are the major chain grocery stores. Waitrose and Marks & Spencer are more expensive than Tesco and Sainsbury, but has a larger selection of products and fresher produce. There is also Tesco Metro and Sainsbury’s Local, which are smaller versions of the grocery stores. These are good for buying snacks, drinks, or non-perishables, but not as great for fresh produce. All of these stores have meal deals, where you get a sandwich, drink, and either chips or candy for a fixed price of around 3 to 4 pounds. These are widely popular in England, and worth trying for the British experience. Marks & Spencer has a lot of unique products, including many food items that are great to give as gifts, and a lot of ingredients that are great for cooking. While it is more expensive and specialized, I’d definitely recommend checking out their products in order to try items that aren’t available in the US.  


While I love many restaurants and chains in London, some of the best places to get great food for cheaper is markets and farmers’ markets. These markets offer a large variety of ethnic food, are great for trying new foods. My favorites have been the duck burger in Brick Lane Market, and the Indian food at Bloomsbury’s farmers market.  

Food: Nando’s, Wasabi, Leon, Pret a Manger 

Nando’s is probably the most famous British chain, and for a good reason- they’re known for their legendary peri-peri flame grilled chicken, with delicious sides, for a reasonable price. My go-to order is a fourth chicken with two sides, which costs 7.45 pounds. You can choose the sauce for your chicken to be cooked in (my favorite is medium), and my favorite sides are corn on the cob and mashed potatos. Nando’s is famous for their numerous delicious sauces that you can dip your chicken and sides in, and you can grab the bottles of sauces to bring to your table. One of my favorite things about Nando’s is that it’s the only restaurant I’ve seen in London with an ice machine.  

Wasabi is the most established sushi chain in London, serving both sushi and bento boxes with dishes such as yakisoba and chicken katsu curry. The sushi isn’t amazing, but good enough for the price and convenience, and fulfills my cravings for sushi.  

Leon is a healthy fast food joint, that serves the food usually right as you order it. I’m not a huge fan of their chicken burgers, but I do really like their chicken nuggets. This restaurant makes healthy food more accessible, and is a great alternative to stopping at McDonald’s when you want food quickly.  

Pret a Manger serves sandwiches, coffee, juices, soups, and pastries- it essentially has options for both a meal or a snack, and is widely popular in London. There seems to be one on each block. Some are only take-out locations, but others have eat-in options as well.  

Coffee: Pret a Manger, Nero Coffee, Costa Coffee 

The most popular and widespread coffee chains are Pret a Manger, Nero Coffee, and Costa Coffee. Although all of these chains don’t do iced coffee like the ones I’m used to in the US, they all make great flat whites and offer a variety of pastries as well. In addition, Starbucks is also widely popular here, with locations everywhere as well.  

Michelle Lin studied in London, England in 2018:

England | Best Day Trips from London

By Michelle Lin

While I absolutely love and enjoy the city of London, I would definitely recommend taking day trips outside of London- the English countryside truly cannot be missed, and it is refreshing to get away from the hustle and bustle of London. Not only are the trains super easy to access from the King’s Cross station in London, but the train journey itself is breathtaking, because of the picturesque views of rolling green hills and so many sheep. London is not representative of the rest of England, and these day trips are easy and rewarding ways to see more of this country. England has a great transportation system, with trains that are fast, clean, and new, and I’d definitely recommend everyone to take advantage of this and travel within the UK through the trains. Train tickets can be bought on in advance, which is recommended in order to get a cheaper price. However, for spontaneous trips, tickets can be bought in the train stations as well.  


Brighton is a downright adorable little town by the seaside in southern London, and is the home of the YouTuber Zoella. I really missed the oceans of California, so seeing the ocean here was really nice, even though it was very different. Other than walking on the pier and enjoying the ocean, the city center of Brighton has a lot of really cute and unique boutique shops, selling anything from vintage silk shirts from the 1980s to handmade jewelry to quirky clocks made out of vinyls. Another cool place to go is the Royal Pavilion, a palace inspired by Indian architecture. Since it’s by the sea, Brighton has great and cheap fish and chips. Overall, Brighton has a really relaxed seaside vibe, and is cute and small enough to enjoy and explore for a day trip.  


Bath is a beautiful English village, and looks like the English countryside straight from the movies. The city center has lovely architecture, and heralds the Roman Baths, ancient remains of the outdoor baths that the Romans used to have. Outside of the city center is a river that runs through the town admist much greenery, as well as old churchs and bridges. There are also many smaller towns nearby that are worth exploring for an hour or two- Trowbridge and Frome are around a twenty minute train ride away.  


Canterbury is another quaint and cute English village that reminded me of Bath. This town is most well known for the Canterbury Cathedral and the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer. The Canterbury Cathedral is one of the oldest Christian sites in England, and historically the site for many Christian pilgrims. This church is huge, with many different sections inside, and an underground crypt. I found the crypt to be the most interesting part, because of its dark hallways and small rooms that surround a larger gathering area. Other parts to explore other than the city center of Canterbury is Westgate Parks- this is a super peaceful and large park with a river running through it, and a great place to relax and soak in all of the beauty.  

Lastly, although I have personally not been yet, Cambridge and Oxford are both great and popular destinations for day trips, especially due to their historic and prestigious universities. So far in my program, I’ve really enjoyed seeing more of England through its different towns and areas. I have learned a lot, and not just how much cheaper groceries are outside of London, and hope to explore more of the United Kingdom in the future. 

Michelle Lin studied in London, England in 2018:

England | Roommate Interview

By Michelle Lin

Amapola Garcia-Gomez is a fourth year transfer student at UCSD, majoring in sociology, and is one of my flatmates here in London. Her are some of her thoughts on her study abroad experience in the UC Center London Program. 

Q: Why did you choose your program? 
A: I wasn’t accepted to my first program which was Ireland, so I committed to this program because I really wanted to go to London for a semester. The reason that I chose London is very cliche, but I always wanted to go to London. I see London as a stepping stone in my life, because if I can make it to London, I can make it to anywhere in the world. 

Q: What challenges did you consider? 
A: One of the challenges I faced was being a first-generation university student, which created more insecurity in my decision to go abroad, because no one in my family has ever gone abroad or been to Europe. I felt liberated, and I felt like I broke the chain- my family has never had the money to travel outside of the Americas. Going abroad was a way for me to break that mindset in not letting fear hold you back. 

Q: What has some of your favorite memories of studying abroad been so far? 
A: Building friendships with people would be my best memories, especially with our flatmates, because during our first weeks here, we went everywhere together. We didn’t know where we were going, but we were going together. 

Q: What do you like about London? 
A: I like European history, so I like all of the history this city has. I love the more countryside parts of London, since it reminds me of Jane Austen. I love the transportation here, especially the Underground Tube station- there’s endless possibilities of getting around. 

Q: How would you compare your classes here as opposed at UCSD? 
A: Taking classes here are more independent study versus on campus, where you’re constantly being told to do this. You have more freedom here than staying on an actual campus.

Q: What are some of the cultural differences between London and Los Angeles? 
A: The people’s attitudes towards life is different- they’re always in a rush. There’s always a need for coffee and tea. Their portion sizes are smaller, their food has a lot less sugar. They really like beans, and freshly cooked meals. They have a lot more sit down restaurants than opposed to fast food restaurants, but even fast food restaurants seem healthier and fresher.

Q: What restaurants would you recommend in London? 
A: For Indian food, I’d definitely recommend Punjab, because although it’s a bit pricey, it’s far better than Dishoom, which is another really well-known Indian restaurant. I like Wasabi for sushi, which is a chain in the UK. If you really want good quality chicken that melts off the bone, I would recommend the Chicken Shop. Another chicken restaurant is Nando’s, which is a bit cheaper and has more variety.

Q: What areas and sights would you recommend in London? 
A: I would definitely recommend Hampton Court Palace, the Soho area, Chinatown, and the touristy sites including the London Eye and the London Bridge. For museums, I like the National Gallery, the National History Museum, the British Museum, and the Soane Museum.

Q: What do you miss from America? 
A: I miss Mexican food and spices a lot, although I had some good Mexican food in Dublin. I also miss soda, since the soda here doesn’t taste exactly like the ones in America. I miss my siblings, and shows that I can’t watch in the UK.

Q: What has been the challenge of studying abroad? 
A: Money and financial stability, and communication with financial aid. I think this is a very important aspect to consider when thinking about studying abroad, especially considering how expensive London is. I’d say to make sure you have more than you need before you leave, and to figure out how much you need.

Q: What moment has really stood out during your study abroad experience? 
A: Sitting in Russell Square on the grass with my back against the tree. I sat down in a break between my classes, and I listened to a song that I always listened to when I was dreaming about being somewhere else before I knew I was going to study abroad, and realizing where I was now while I listened to it, and how I was able to accomplish my dream.

Michelle Lin studied in London, England in 2018:

England | Studies

By Michelle Lin

While social media posts may not show it, studying abroad does include studying! Here’s some insights into the classes I’m taking in the Arts, Politics, Society & Space program. Because this program is a UC Center program and not affiliated with any British university, all of our classes are taken at the London ACCENT center with various lecturers. Class is only a five minute walk away from the apartments, which is absolutely lovely. Each class takes place once a week, for three hours each, so I have a total of 12 hours of class a week.  

All of our classes point toward providing us with a greater understanding of London. Through my classes, I am broadening my horizons and learning so much more about multiple aspects of England. These are classes are extremely different from the giant lectures at UCLA that I’m used to. Because there’s around twenty-five students in each class, it feels more like a liberal arts or private university. We do a lot of group work, activities, and class participation, and attendance is mandatory. All classes are essay and presentation based, so I’m glad to get a break from midterms and exams.  

Comparative Media 

This class centers around a comparison between the UK media and the US media, and the professor is followed by Barack Obama on Twitter! It’s a very interactive class, with a lot of class discussions and debates.  

Britain and the EU  

Although this is the class I find most challenging, it is also my favorite class, since I’ve always wanted to learn more about the European Union and Brexit. Every lecture is extremely interesting, as we get more of an insight into the history of the EU and the complexity of this institution. After we learn something, we immediately do worksheets, which really ingrains the lesson into my head. In addition, we will attend two lectures at the London School of Economics in order to learn more about issues related to the European Union. This class is very timely with the upcoming date of the Brexit, and I’m grateful to be able to learn about this issue in the country that it so greatly affects.  

London Museums 

This class mostly takes place at different museums, where guest lecturers (usually past curators of the museum) teach us through a tour around the museum. This includes extremely famous museums such as the British Museum and the National Gallery, as well as lesser well-known museums, such as the Sir John Soane museum. I really enjoy being able to go to museums during class, and learning about not only art history, but the politics and logistics of museum curation.  

Society & Space 

This is the core class of the program which every student takes, where we learn about the development of the city of London through different historical periods. Half of the lectures are in the classroom, while the other half are walking tours around different areas of London. Last week, we walked around the East End of London, learning about both the history that took place and what is happening there in the present day. In addition, we occasionally visit museums for this class as well. I love how much I’ve been able to learn in these classes, and how much they contribute to a holistic understanding of London. One of the aspects of London that drew me to study abroad here was its rich history and culture, and being able to learn and explore more of this city through my classes has been truly a surreal and exceptional experience. 

Michelle Lin studied in London, England in 2018: