Natalie Bigelow – A Norwich Blog


Wondering what it’s like to live in a provincial English town? Look no further than Natalie Bigelow’s experiences on her Norwich blog!

Natalie is a third year UCSC film major spending winter/spring at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, Norfolk, England, which is a small city about 2 hours from London. She chose England to fulfill many childhood dreams revolving around novels, films and fantasy worlds, and her family traces its roots back to medieval England. She chose East Anglia because the quieter “provincial” life (as described by a London resident) in Norwich which  is perfectly suited for studying and similar to Santa Cruz in many ways, especially when it comes to natural beauty. As a smaller campus, it also provides a more personalized feel. Norwich offers a lot of fascinating history: the city’s centerpiece is an 800+ year old castle and also features a similarly old cathedral. She tells us it’s been a great place to live for the past month!

Check out what Natalie has to say about life in Norwich here!Picture 1

Life in Norwich

As a student at UC Santa Cruz, I am definitely familiar with the quiet college town, having come from the bustling metropolis that is my home, the San Francisco Bay Area. The community that lies outside campus boundaries and immediately surrounding student housing is largely families and elders. Santa Cruz is a place to settle, not a place to start, and I would say the same about Norwich. My first taste of England was the world’s briefest snapshot of London for 4 days, and when I made the long trek via taxi, train and bus through lush, rolling English countryside dotted with pink farmhouses, I felt a distinct sense that I was headed for the middle of nowhere. I realized that my perception of Santa Cruz as quiet was definitely skewed by my growing up next to busy freeways and thoroughfares, which served as a constant reminder of nocturnal, urban life.

First of all, I am far more north on the globe than I ever have been, and it’s winter. That means we get daylight until no later than 4 pm. After that time, you blink and it is black as the darkest night outside, which is reflected in all the businesses downtown that close as early as 5:30. If you happen to be downtown after 6, it transforms from a bustling, family-laden shopping zone to a dark, wet ghost town with poor lighting and weirdly placed bus stops. Once you step away from the main street, cobblestoned roads and alleys twist between ancient-looking buildings; the darkened windows provide a glimpse at what must be a charming town to shop in by day, with adorable local shops, tea rooms, pubs, candy stores. Everything in Norwich feels historical. Being away from the 24-hour, neon-lit, smartphone and hybrid-fueled West Coast lifestyle is somewhat of a shock but also a pleasant escape in many ways.

For example, the emphasis on the loud house party/disgusting club/broken 40s in the gutter that haunts my usual cities is notably absent here. If you go to the downtown pubs away from the main street, they are cozy and well-lit and serve excellent beer and cider, as well as usually pretty good food. It seems that there was an attempt to update the city on part of the main street, which resulted in a few skeezy looking strip clubs (or so we thought; the first one we spotted promised “American table dancing”) and loud (but deserted) sports bars. Weird, out-of-place spots like the former aside, the cozy Norwich pub scene is much more suited to my personal drinking style, I’ve discovered. I like getting together with huge groups (so far, mostly of other International students like me) and just drinking and chatting over chips.

Despite my quaint portrait of Norwich life so far, my days here are far from empty. As I started this post, my iPod delivered “Go Hard” by Kreayshawn on shuffle, which seems appropriate. Since I got here just over a week ago, it has become clear to me how much of a drinking/partying culture is present in the UK, even in sleepy little Norwich. My housemates drink together almost every night, and we have a fairly active on campus club as well as two pubs. There is always something to do at night, and so far I have discovered that my party energy reserves have been significantly depleted since I graduated high school and moved to the chilled out, kick-it culture on the dry campus of Santa Cruz. Alas, Kreayshawn, I cannot go as hard as I used to. However, I suspect that that is going to change; after all, tolerance is always in flux.

Even with the near-constant “going out” option, I recently tried to find even more things to occupy my time by going to the UEA clubs & societies fair. I have a few mixers and tryouts in the next couple of weeks, for the aforementioned Feminist Discussion and Doctor Who Appreciation societies, as well as the Qudditch and Pole Fitness clubs. I want to try to step out of the comfy American bubble I’ve been in and interact with the students who know this country best.

I’ve been so busy with the “settling in” process as well as wading through some bureaucratic tedium from both of my schools that I haven’t had time to develop any kind of regular routine, in regards to a) posting on this blog, b) doing homework, c) catching up with friends and family back home, so apologies to those who’ve felt out of the loop. I promise I will send out post cards and arrange Skype schedules as soon as I have a free moment.

We loved hearing about life in Norwich, Natalie! Want to see the original post? Visit Natalie’s blog to find out more about living abroad in the UK!

If you’re interested in having your travel blog featured on UCSCAbroad, send an email to with “Travel Blog” in the subject line. We’d love to get a chance to see what you’ve been up to!

Happy Travels – A Canterbury Blog


Mariya “Masha” Alimova is a junior UCSC psychology student currently studying abroad at in the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. Her blog, Happy Travels, features alluring photographs of her adventures through Europe, along with some great insights into pubs, castles and other local attractions. I personally enjoy that each entry is addressed “Dear Blog…” and that the posts are named in same manner as Friends episodes (i.e. “The One With the Planes“).

Masha chose to study abroad in the UK because she had always wanted to go there. She thought living and studying in Canterbury would be much more rewarding than just visiting for a week or so. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling to new places like Paris, London and Scotland.

This week we featured her post, “The One About My Home,” below. Check out more of her Canterbury tales (haha) at

The One About My Home


Dear Blog,

I’ve been in Canterbury for almost a week and I finally have a second to calm down. I finally got to get out and explore the town and have some fully awake downtime and realize just how unbelievable lucky I am to be here. I am among so much history and beauty and everything I could ever want. It’s unbelievable that I haven’t had any time to take in all in. Everything has been so crazy! It’s like freshmen year all over again except for being completely on my own and instead of being 350 miles away from home, I’m 5,500 miles away. If it wasn’t so beautiful here, I might even think about fact that more. As it is, Canterbury is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in. It’s a bizarre mix of medieval and modern. The school itself is very new, everything is electronic and opens with a fob key. Everything is automatic (except ALL the cars which are stick-shifts). You can’t even exit my building without pressing a button. It’s a little insane and too futuristic. And it makes me terrified about power outages. But as soon as you leave the school everything looks different. The city is filled with castles and cathedrals and the views are absolutely brilliant. Rivers run through the entire city and everything looks old, possibly because it is. For example, one of the oldest pubs in the city is called The Unicorn Inn, and it was built in 1593 in 35th year of Elizabeth I. Everything is also TINY. The streets are narrow and the cars are smaller, except for the GIANT double-decker busses which make me terrified for my life. Even things you buy are smaller, from bread to shampoo. It’s not giant and bulky like it is in America. It’s meant to serve one person rather than a family of 5, which is how it seems to be in the US. It reduces a lot of waste.

I’ve met so many interesting people since I got here. The international community here is HUGE! 25% of the entire student population, which is about 17,000 people. I’ve definitely met more international students that those native to the UK. I met people from France, India, Spain, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Turkey, China, Vietnam, Peru, South Africa, Nigeria and so many others. I live with girls from Cyprus, Florence, Hong Kong, Leeds (originally from Zimbabwe), Kent, and guys from Canada and London. We are certainly diverse.

My accommodation is really nice in general, I have my own (fairly large) room, but so does everyone else, so it’s not special. The nice part is that I have an en-suite bathroom, which is a dream come true.

This first week has been NUTS. The first week of term is called Freshers week, so there are parties EVERYWHERE and it’s getting exhausting so I’ve stayed in the last two nights.There are pub crawls almost every night and the people here don’t take a break. Also, a PINT of beer here is 16oz in the US and 20oz in UK. So it’s MUCH bigger. It’s also cheaper. Basically, the whole drinking culture is very intimidating.

Well, I’m off to the pub, so wish me luck!


Masha x

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If you’re interested in having your travel blog featured on UCSCAbroad, send an email to with “Travel Blog” in the subject line. We’d love to get a chance to see what you’ve been up to!

Where the Locals At?: How to Meet Locals Abroad

Melibee Global has developed a new “How to Meet People Abroad” series on their website. For students who are looking to expand their friend groups abroad, this is a great way to find out how to get in with the local crowd.

Currently we have EAP Programs in Dublin, Paris and London, so for those of you going abroad in January, this could be a great resource. Or, if you’re going to be traveling in any of these cities, be sure to take a quick glance at their guide before getting on the plane. It could save you from an awkward interaction upon arrival.

Dublin, Ireland<>
London, England<>
Rabat, Morocco<>
Córdoba, Argentina<>
Paris, France<>
Beirut, Lebanon<>
Lake Yojoa, Honduras<>
Sofia, Bulgaria<>

Be sure to check out the Melibee Global website on the 15th of each month to see which cities they write about next! Mingling with locals is half the fun of studying abroad, so be sure to make friends with as many international and local students as possible!

Top Ten of My First Month in London

Lindsey Needels is a Modern Literary Studies major who studied abroad in London, England at the UC Bloomsbury Center for the fall 2012 semester. While abroad, Lindsay hopes to make new connections, both with her fellow UC peers and with the diverse denizens of London. Currently, Lindsay writes for many publications including TWANAS Press Collective (where she is soon to be an editor), and many blogs, both on her own and with ULoop as a student blogger. Besides writing, Lindsay enjoys photography and is very excited to share both her stories and pictures on the UCSC Programs Abroad Blog!


“I admit that it has been way too long since I last updated everyone on my travels. Part of the reason for that is so many things have happened, that this post was starting to become a little overwhelming. So in order to ease the process a bit, I’ve decided to make a list of the top 10 things that have transpired from August 22 to now. Hopefully after this I will write more regularly, and therefore in more detail about specific events. But until then, enjoy this list…

top 10 of month 1


D-Dog and J-Dog

FRIENDS WERE MADE: In the past month I have made many friends, all of which were promptly given nicknames. Joyce became J-Dog, Nicole N-Dog, Michelle M-Dog, and Dean’s name is so cute already that it has become the flat catchphrase, and is easily inserted into every song that gets stuck in our heads. She is also called D-Dog (spoken like a stutter).  What I love most about my flatmates is that they all have a very ridiculous senses of humor, not unlike myself. They also enjoy a lot of my other favorite activities including, but not limited to, watching scary movies, singing, going to restaurants, thrifting, and doing random things, like late night charades and bubble tea trips and spontaneous hair makeovers. I definitely lucked out with this bunch. It has honestly never been easier for me to connect with a group of people before.

HAIR WAS DYED: I dyed my hair almost black again. No one who knows me is surprised. I do this a lot. What can I say? It makes my eyes pop. I’m lookin’ all kinds of fierce right now.


Ain’t Nothing But the Blues Bar, which I had to visit for class 😉

CLASSES BEGAN: Classes started on August 27, and so far they have been very interesting. I’m taking four: London-Space and Society, British Cinema, London Music Scene, and Theatre in London. All of the classes require some sort of city exploration, which is really great. They’re designed to make you get out and take advantage of your time in London. While I think they are all pretty interesting and many fascinating conversations have taken place in all of them, my favorite is easily The London Music Scene. So far, we’ve been talking about blues music and the little known “American Invasion” (in which Blues and R&B became extremely popular in Britain) that took place before the “British Invasion” of America. For those who know me, it will come as no surprise that it has made me very happy to be listening to songs like “Cross Road Blues” and “Smokestack Lighting” in class. So far, I would say the most noticeable difference between British and American instructors is that the British are less afraid to let their personal opinions be known and, consequently, can sometimes be a little more narrow minded in discussion. It hasn’t stopped me from enjoying class, though. I learned in one of the articles I read that given the overly-politeness (saying “sorry” when some one steps on your foot) and self-deprecating sense of humor inherent in British culture, I would fit in perfectly here if I wanted to move.


Beatle fans from all over write messages in front of Abbey Road Studios. I chose this lyric from “Dear Prudence” because when I first heard it at 12 years old, a love affair/obsession began that would last two and a half years.

SIGHTS WERE SEEN: In the past month, I have acted the tourist on quite a few occasions. I saw the changing of the guard and St. Paul’s Cathedral. I have learned a number of facts on it’s architect, Sir Christopher Wren, on various guided tours. (Did you know that every time he built a church he would also build a pub?) On one of the first nights here, we walked down The Thames at night and saw Big Ben and The London Eye all lit up and blue. On the first weekend, we went to The Notting Hill Carnival and discussed it’s post-colonial significance. We went to Camden Market (the Berkley, CA, Woodstock, NY, and Santa Cruz, CA of London). I saw platform 9 3/4 and remembered waiting for an owl to come to my house when I was 11. We went to Abbey Road and I remembered that moment when I was 12 when I heard The White Album for the first time. We spent a day of class talking about Jimi Hendrix, only to realize it was the anniversary of his death. That day, D-Dog and I went to were he choked to death in Notting Hill. We’ve been to Brick Lane on multiple occasions, ate some curry, thrifted, and watched the hoards of hipsters descend, drink, and litter after 6:00 PM on a Saturday. And you can rest assured we have barely scratched the surface of what there is to see here.


Deanna Rodger is perfect.

SHOWS WERE SEEN: Some of my favorite experiences of the past month involve seeing people preform. We went to a cafe in Bethnal Green and saw slam poets like Deanna Rodger and Buddy Wakefield. Roger reminded me of the political and social struggles that our generation faces. Wakefield taught me to finally let go. Dean and I saw Beirut in concert, and I made two Greek friends who claimed to be cousins. I’m not convinced of this, given the closeness of their bodies and incessant hand-holding. Luckily, there are many more concerts planned for the future (including The Tallest Man on Earth and Jack White). I forgot to realize that coming to a huge city like London would give me access to all kinds of awesome concert opportunities.


From the British Museum.

MUSEUMS WERE VISITED: In the UK, museums are free. The public ones, anyway. We went to the National Gallery a day after the program started and saw famous paintings by Monet and many others. We live about 120 seconds form The British Museum and often pop in for no reason at all, just because we have the time. Seeing real Ancient Egyptian artifacts was unexpectedly emotional for me, as it brought me back to my childhood obsession with the era. We also saw The Wellcome Collection, in all of its eccentric, Napoleon’s toothbrush and anti-masturbation ringed-glory.

CAFES WERE FREQUENTED: No, not Starbucks. They are here, but I refuse to enter one while abroad. It’s not particularly necessary anyway, living in the Bloomsbury area of London, which is renowned for its mom and pop coffee shops. It might seem like a silly thing to mention, but I have found in the past month that one of my favorite things to do is go to a cafe, order a latte, crank up the Mississippi Fred McDowell and read away.

FOOD WAS EATEN: Before coming to London, I heard horror stories about the food. Indeed, we have had some rather unfortunate pub-related culinary experiences. However, given the vast ethnic diversity of London, it isn’t hard to imagine that one can pretty much get any kind of food they want to eat here (except Mexican…a Californian’s worst food-nightmare, but we’re all hanging in there). While here, we’ve had all kinds of Chinese food (and you can order the real kind here, pig stomach and all), ramen at Wagamamas (awesome, super cheap place that specializes in the dish), Turkish, Indian, macaroons, homemade ice cream, and one time we ordered Dominoes. You didn’t read that. What? Nothing.

DEBIT CARDS WERE LOST: Once again, no one who knows me is surprised.

Detail from a costume made at Shakespeare’s Globe

SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE: I suppose that this event technically falls under the “shows were seen” category, but I feel like it was worth its own spot. Shakespeare’s Globe theater is an incredibly successful attempt to re-create the actual theater where Shakespeare’s plays were performed back in the Elizabethan period. They built the building in the same way they would have done back then, they make the costumes in the same way, sometimes they even use all-male casts like they did back then. The production we saw of Richard III was this way. We read the play for my Theater in London class, and being that it is incredibly dark and kind of depressing, and we were seated in the Yard (meaning we weren’t seated at all, since we had to stand, as the poorer audience members did back then), I was kind of concerned that I would be unhappy there. But, of course, I was wrong. The actor playing Richard, Mark Ryland, took his role in a very unconventional, comic direction, which made standing through one of Shakespeare’s longest plays much easier. There was also an added level of excitement because Barty Crouch Sr. from Harry Potter (Roger Lloyd-Pack) played Buckingham, and none other than Hollywood pretty boy and Captain Kirk impersonator, Chris Pine, was seen watching the play with us. Now, of course, everyone told me that in London it rains quite a bit. Really it hasn’t been that bad here, though. Except that one time when we were watching Richard III in the Yard (which, by the way, is roofless). I didn’t realize it would be raining that night, so I got soaked. But, honestly, standing in Shakespeare’s Globe, in the rain, laughing at the horrible man that is Richard III in the Yard like a true groundling (as they were called) was one of the most memorable experiences of my trip so far. The modernity of the city was invisible from where we were standing, getting drenched. For a moment I got caught in the history of the city I’ve been calling my home for the past month. It was a truly time-transcending moment.”

August 18-20–An American Slug in London

view from our Mayfair flat

When I got off the plane in London, the first thing I noticed is that there is no air conditioner. In fact, now that I’ve been here two nights, I can say that almost no where in London has air conditioner. It is quite unfortunate.

Those rumors that London is foggy and cold all the time? Not entirely true. You see, London is, in fact, situated on an island. The weather here is just as unpredictable, if not more so, than Santa Cruz, California itself.

My first morning here, I woke up to sunny skies and 80 degree weather. I went to take a shower, only to find out upon finishing that during the 20 minutes I was away, the sky turned gray as a wolf, howled with thunder and lightening, and then burst in rain. Of course, by the time I was done, the sun had mostly returned, and the temperature remained warm and muggy the rest of the day.

But while I am not a huge fan of mugginess, my opinion of London has only gotten better with every moment I become more acquainted with it.

We arrived at 4:00 pm on Saturday, August 18. I came a few days earlier than the official start of my program with my lovely mother. I am extremely thankful she came with me to help me settle in; I know I would have been an emotional wreck leaving everyone in my family otherwise.

My mom rented a flat for us in the Mayfair district of London. I, of course, knew nothing of this district before coming here, and so did not know what to expect. However, after walking around a bit, it became very clear that we were residing in the shopping district of the extreme upper class. Only the most internationally well known designer’s names line the streets and the only places to eat are bars attached to flashy hotels.

example of a shop at Mayfair

As we searched for a place to eat, I felt more and more uncomfortable. Though I would say I’ve lived a charmed life, I’ve never lived among such high class people. I suspected that everything I said and did appeared low brow, and I grew paranoid that I was sticking out in a bad way. As I went to sleep that night, I couldn’t help but feel a little uneasy about my new home.

The next day (the day with the crazy weather), my mom and I decided to get the lay of the land by taking a sight-seeing bus tour. We left the flat around one and didn’t come home until 10:30 pm! We saw many of the biggest landmarks in London, such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Eye (that huge Ferris wheel thing), St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Tower of London.

probably my favorite building

The most striking thing about seeing the city in this way is that it makes you realize the extent to which London is simultaneously an ancient city and an extremely modern one. The architecture ranges from castles that are 1000 years old to super modern shards of glass pointing into the sky like a thorn at over 1000 feet.

The Shard is the tallest completed building in Europe

We also found that while London is a pricey city, there are some areas that are much more affordable that aren’t that far away. We had both lunch and dinner at nearby Duke Street at two different reasonably priced Italian restaurants. Then, right off of Duke, we visited Oxford Street, the most well-visited shopping destination in the city. Here we found a Forever 21 and an H&M, as well as my new favorite store ever, Primark (It looks like H&M, has the same trendy yet classic styles, but the prices are more like TJ Maxx).

Really, what all of my observations seem to point to, is that London is a city of extremes. It contains as many multitudes and contradictions as Walt Whitman himself. It is also, without a doubt, the most diverse area I’ve ever been to.

I expected to become extremely acquainted with British accents here in London. But while those obviously exist here, I’ve been hearing so many different accents and languages, that I don’t really feel that any one sticks out.

There’s this really cool photography exhibit in a store window on Oxford Street that showcases 204 Londoners from 204 different nations around the world. My mom pointed out to me that I have the opportunity to be able to meet people and learn about experiences that I simply wouldn’t have access to in California. It’s a little daunting at times, since I’ve always been so shy, but very exciting at the same time, as it presents an opportunity for change.

To be honest, I often feel nervous and a little afraid of this journey. However, after seeing the city as much as I have these past couple days, I know that even if I end up being the shiest person in the program, it doesn’t matter. The very experience of living in this vast, beautiful, diverse, contradicting city is enough to make everything worth it.

August 10–One Week Till Departure

The past couple weeks, everyone’s eyes have been on London. Not mine.

It’s crazy, right? You’d think that I would be glued to the TV, watching not just for the athletes, illustrating the very extreme of the human body’s capabilities, but for the city itself. I’m going to be there in a week, after all. London will be my home for four months.

However, since returning from a 20-day road trip across the country almost two weeks ago, I’ve mostly just been watching re-runs of What Not to Wear and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. And honestly, my mind is no where near the United Kingdom. It’s still lost somewhere in New Orleans, dancing second line to a big brass band.

My mom keeps popping into my daydreams of The Crescent City, where I spent four days in July, to remind me of my impending departure from this country. In her most strained voice, she reminds me that I have to figure out my phone situation, my money situation, and my wardrobe situation. She keeps saying that I have to pack and make lists and talk to people on the telephone.

I know, Mother, stop worrying about it! I’ll get it done!

(I’m looking up how much it is to rent a studio in the Treme.)

I admit that I’m acting strangely, perhaps even inappropriately. I simply haven’t been able to grasp the fact that the next chapter of my life takes place in London and that this is kind of a big deal. I mean, everyone else I know understands this. For example, today my younger sister, Megan, and I went to the great city of San Francisco, where our cousins live. We ended up spending some time at their house.

My cousin (who isn’t much older than me) asked: “Have you called AT&T yet?”

“No, I still gotta do that.”

“Well, all you gotta do is–actually, let’s make this easier…”

He went into another room and returned with his old phone (which is much nicer than any phone I’ve ever owned in my life), gave it to me, and then proceeded to call his service provider to make sure the SIM card is unlocked so that I can replace it with a new one in London. He even told me what brand to buy. He waited on hold for maybe twenty minutes while I just sat there twiddling my thumbs, watching the fog roll over the St. Ignacius Church outside.

So now I have a Blackberry that’s all set for me to use in the UK. No thanks to myself. (Thank you, Evan!)

Even writing all of this down, though, there is a profound level of detachment that I am almost ashamed of. I don’t entirely understand it.

Let me try to wake myself up again:

Dear Me, In one week, you will be in London, England and you will not be back in California or, indeed, the United States of America, until ten days before Christmas. Christmas for Christ’s sake!

Nothing. It’s like trying to knock on someone’s door, but their door is to a soundproof room and they’re wearing noise canceling headphones listening to black metal. I just can’t get through to myself. I’m in such denial.

It’s not that it’s apathy. Of course, I’m excited to be in London. Maybe it’s that I can’t even begin to comprehend what this experience is going to mean to me. How it is going to change me.

London, England is about to take me far outside my comfort zone. I grew up in the Bay Area in the suburbs and I chose to go to college a mere hour from home. In one week I’m going to be living 5,371 miles from the Bay in one of the biggest cities in the world! How can I not change from this experience? I’ve never been so far detached from my home, my family, and all they represent in my entire life…

2013 is so far away. When it comes, I will be in my penultimate quarter of college,  about to begin my 30 page senior paper, about to begin my duties as a signer of TWANAS, about to plan for the next phase of my life, after graduation. 2013 will be a rude awakening, but it is so far away, farther even than the four and a half months that it is. I know this because in these next few months so many events and experiences will take place, that they will be richer than any I’ve ever known. Frankly it leaves me dumbfounded to even imagine…

So I’m going to go watch more TV now.