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Sunday, December 4, 2016

It has come to my attention that Zouk in Singapore had its last night at its Jiak Kim Street location. The internationally famous club is moving to Clarke Quay, a hotspot for Singapore nightlife. For months, various high school friends still in Singapore have been sharing posts about saving the Jiak Kim Street location. Once it became apparent that there was no saving the location, Zouk switched to recalling the good times it had there. It has been amazing to read people's stories about what Zouk means to them.

When I was in high school in Singapore, I didn't start clubbing or really drinking until after I came of age. Anyways, I cut my teeth  into the clubbing world at Zouk. I remember dressing up in a black bodycon dress with overly high black heels. The bouncer scrutinised my ID at the door before wishing me a happy birthday and allowing me inside. I remember drinking vodka cranberries and dancing with my friend while waiting for Disclosure to perform. Some woman spilled her drink all over one of my friends and she smelled like apples for the rest of the night. I still had a curfew (I think it was 2am?) and when I got home I remember feeling a bit guilty because my mother had stayed awake waiting for me to come home safely.

Before Senior Prom, another coming-of-age celebration!

In my memories, Zouk Singapore will always represent my coming of age. I only went there once, but I wish I had been able to go back before they closed their Jiak Kim Street location. Zouk was a cool location and I am so glad that I went there to celebrate my 18th! I hope it is very successful in Clarke Quay.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

I don't do reviews very often,  but I figured one of Sweet Bakery was a good way to start a mini-series about living and eating here in Boston. Sweet Bakery has five locations in Boston, but I went to the one on Beacon Hill. I like that they focus on not wasting food and donate what doesn't get sold at the end of every day. I'm also a fan of their insanely long hours-- 11-9pm -- which means I could theoretically run out in the evening for a cupcake fix. Actually, that has the potential to be dangerous!

Yesterday I finally went down and bought two cupcakes to share with Erik-- raspberry chocolate and gingerbread. I forgot to take pictures of the inside, but it was cutely decorated for the holidays and generally had a girly pink theme. The ceilings are really low (ah, Beacon Hill), but makes for a cozy rather than cramped feel.  I can definitely see grabbing cupcakes and coffee with a friend there.

The raspberry chocolate cupcake was reasonably pretty overall and had very tasty frosting.  The frosting had a light raspberry flavour  and was not overly sweet. It was also generously piled on top of the cupcake... to the point of seeming a bit out of proportion to the cake itself. The cake ought to have been more flavourful... more chocolate would have balanced out the frosting, or more raspberry to drive the raspberry-chocolate cupcake home. To be honest-- it was bland. 2.5/5

The gingerbread cupcake is a seasonal offering (yay, holiday season) and was substantially better all-around than the raspberry chocolate cupcake. The little cooke on top was both cute and tasty. The cake itself was moist, tasted strongly of molasses and was well spiced overall. It paired well with the vanilla frosting on top, which was more modest in amount. Since I can't figure out how they managed to make a cupcake that moist without being overpowering, it's a definite 5/5.

Final Thoughts: The gingerbread cupcake was good enough to get me to go back to Sweet Bakery again, but I was  disappointed with the raspberry-chocolate cupcake.  I can see ordering a set of these for a party, but would definitely try the flavour before buying a series of them since there was such a range in tastiness of the cupcakes.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

While I have definitely talked about aerial dance before on this blog, I have not mentioned the other activity that has defined my university experience very much. I started learning how to skate during my second semester of freshman year, and have skated at least twice a week every semester thereafter. When I started skating, I couldn't skate backwards to save my life. Now I am able to land single rotation jumps, I can spin (sometimes), and my "party trick" is doing an extension whilst traveling backwards.

University is probably one of the best times to start a new activity. Loads of people are trying new things, so it's not embarrassing to be a beginner. At Boston University, ice skating is offered as a physical education class (but also open to the public). Another good reason to start a new activity is upon moving to a new city. Most hobbies are also good ways to meet new people and explore the local community. I'm looking forward to doing aerial and hopefully skating wherever I end up moving to after I'm done with university. Actually, there are lots of great ice rinks in Geneva as well... so I'm definitely bringing my skates to Switzerland when I go back next semester.

A video posted by Natalie (@natalie.mei) on

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Friday, November 11, 2016

I really debated about posting about the election on the blog, as this blog is a largely non-political space focusing on travel and my life in general. I'm a little worried it could cost me a job opportunity in the future or something. This election is far too impactful to stay silent about, though. Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows my opinion on this election... and that I'm not pleased with the results.

I hoped to see the first female president get elected. I hoped, but I also knew that Trump had a very real chance of winning. I was in Great Britain shortly after Brexit happened, and I remember Londoners feeling very confused about why their fellow countrymen voted to leave. Now I sit in a solidly blue state feeling very much like a Londoner did this summer. But, Brexit and Trump appeal to a very similar demographic: people who felt ignored and irrelevant in their nation, and wanted major change. The popular vote may have gone to Clinton, Trump and the ideas he campaigned on won.

Frankly, the thing I am the most disappointed about post-election is the level of disrespect between Democrats and Republicans-- and neither party is innocent. Fears about racism, hate crimes, environmental degradation, restrictions on women's reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, foreign policy changes... all of those feeling are valid and should be expressed. I worry for my friends, many who will be/have been directly affected by the emerging racist and xenophobic atmosphere.

 I've never been so scared to be Asian before in this country.

All of that being said, I don't think hate is any sort of solution. Slinging insults at Trump supporters, stirring up fear, making up stories to appear more sympathetic... none of that is acceptable behaviour. There is a line between expressing anger/disappointment/sadness/fear and creating a toxic, hateful environment. Discussion is one thing. Vicious attacks on people who don't share your worldview is another. Clearly, my hopes that America would accept the results of this presidential election with grace were naive.

At the end of the day, the Republicans won the presidency, House and Senate. It is still far too early to tell what sort of a president Mr. Trump will actually turn out to be. Will this be a pleasant four years to be a Democrat? Absolutely not. Yet, I am proud to see many people rolling up their sleeves and getting ready to fight to preserve rights likely to come under fire.

 The United States will survive these next four years.

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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Okay, so you've probably read the post about my favourite cities in Europe already if you've made it here. If you haven't, you should definitely check it out. Unfortunately though, not everywhere can be a winner... even beautiful European cities. Here's the list!

1) Prague, Czech Republic

I don't have a very good reason for disliking Prague, but it is a bit of a story. Prague is a cool city and it's surprisingly laid back while still being cultural. However, I got some sort of stomach bug from a classmate in London and spent 6 hours throwing up and another 12 hours being totally miserable. While I liked Prague Castle, the beautiful bridge and the architecture of the city, my memories of Prague are currently tainted by my total stomach-bug misery.

2) London, England, United Kingdom

Speaking of London, I don't really like it. I loved visiting London, but I absolutely despised living there. Part of the problem is probably that I was in South Kensington, which is one of the whitest, poshest and generally stuck-up areas of London. It's also the French sector of the city, which means that the local pubs weren't that "English" of an experience. London's museums are great, the food is getting better, and it's still a city worth visiting. Yes, you can laugh that I titled that post "Loving London". The first few days living there were definitely awesome. It was just the last three weeks that I wished I was back in Geneva!

3) Berlin, Germany

I have to be honest with this one... I have a really hard time understanding how this is anyone's favourite city in Europe, much less Germany. Germany is full of beautiful, historical cities! Then theres Berlin. I understand that Berlin was basically bombed flat and had to be rebuilt. I respect that it  holds immense historical and political value. I also admire the museums there-- the German History Museum and Museum Island museums are wonderful. That being said, I think the city is very cold, industrial, and lacks any charm. Maybe it's because I'm not really a party person, but I have no idea why so many people say it's a "must' while visiting Europe. It might be a "must" while doing a proper tour of Germany, but I wouldn't go out of your way for this city.

What do you think? I honestly think my reasons for disliking the first two cities are pretty weak (a stomach bug ruining my Prague experience is hardly reason to dislike the city, it's just that being ill overshadows everything else that happened there!), but I really don't get the appeal of Berlin. Whatever! I am really looking forward to going back to Europe and exploring new cities... and hopefully finding new favourites.
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Friday, October 28, 2016

It's hard to believe that I'll be back in Europe in January... it's only three months away! While I'm currently enjoying living in Boston and hanging out on Charles Street, I am very excited to go back to the Old World for some good cheese and pastry again. Seriously, American needs to sort its pastry game out... also its politics, but I won't expand on that issue further.

 I think some of my friends think I'm a walking travel-book sometimes, since they have recently been asking me which cities are my favourite. So, here's the list! The cities aren't in any particular order since that would just be mean. I've got a separate post coming up on cities that are often people's favourites but aren't mine... though frankly, some of the reasons for disliking them are a bit silly. 

Geneva is not the "best looking" of the cities on the list, but it's still one of my favourites because it has so much influence on the world. The Jet d'Eau is super iconic, and the waterways are very pretty.  Despite being tiny, Geneva packs a punch on the international arena. Also, the League of Nations building (now the United Nations) is gorgeous. 

Vienna, Austria

I had quite a romantic view of Vienna since I was obsessed with Habsburg history in high school, and it more than lived up to expectations. Vienna is one of the most ornate and mind blowing cities I have ever been do. While it has all the useful technologies of a modern city, Vienna has successfully held on to its rich history. It has a rich art and food scene as well, which made it amazing to visit. If I could move to Vienna to work, I would do it in a heartbeat.

My friend Joey and I went to Budapest during the mid-term break over the summer, and I can honestly say it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. It's got really interesting architecture, delicious food, and a lovely river running through the two cities (Buda and Pest). Also, its Parliament building (pictured above) almost looks fake because it's so pretty. Hungarians are very proud of their heritage, too, which helps give their capital so much personality.

...why not Venice or Rome, you ask? Venice is pretty for a day trip or maybe even an overnight. Rome almost made the list for an Italian city, but Florence's Duomo is what made me pick it over the Italian capital. Florence feels like a city that you can never stop exploring. The food is outstanding, the architecture is beautiful, and the people are surprisingly friendly. It's worth visiting Florence if you like art or architecture... which is why I visit cities in the first place!

I'm so excited to head back to Europe and have more travel adventures. This blog will naturally turn into a living abroad/travel blog while I'm away, since I try my best to keep this current with what is going on in my life. I'm already making a list of places to go! I have this idea of taking my ice skates to major cities with a rink and skating all over Europe. My skating friends think this is a cool idea, while everyone else seems to think it's a bit silly.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

It's midterm season!

...wonderful. If you've wondered why I haven't been posting lately, it's because I've been busy studying for what seems like an endless set of midterms. The best part is, most of my classes have more than one midterm, so it's not like it's one cycle and then I can relax. I made over a hundred flashcards for South Asia History alone! Despite being a quarter of the way through my last semester in college, I still don't know how well flashcards work for me. They do make my daily commute to and from class significantly more educational and people are more inclined to give me a seat on the train, so I guess for that alone flashcards are worth it.

 It's a vicious cycle... the cycle of my LAST semester at the Charles River Campus at Boston University. Thank goodness. I promise to get back on the blogging-horse soon! I'll definitely have more to write about once I'm in Geneva again.

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Erik loves pumpkin spice things more than I do, so of course I make fun of him for being a basic white guy. The problem is, I dragged him to Trader Joes a few days ago to go grocery shopping. They have all of their pumpkin stuff in (yay, autumn) so naturally I had to pick up some odds and ends. I think I'm less about pumpkin spice things and more about pumpkin (and apple) things though.

So, I got two little treats for myself at Trader Joes. I really like the "This Fruit Walks into a Bar" series, and the pumpkin one is a delicious seasonal treat. The bars make really good on-the-go breakfasts if you're inclined towards something light.

The pumpkin body butter smells really, really good. It is pumpkin rather than pumpkin spice, so it's got a much lighter scent than one would expect. It's quite a thick formula even for a body butter, and a little goes a long way. Unlike other companies, Trader Joes doesn't artificially colour its products so the body butter is white. And let me tell you, it' smells SO good. I love smelling like a little pumpkin!

I made pumpkin ice cream the other day as well but it doesn't photograph well since it's in a big Tupperware, so I'll just say that it is also delicious. Just throw a can of pumpkin into a sweet cream base, add some pumpkin pie spice, and you're good to go :)

Happy Pumpkin Season!

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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Back in September I worked with an experienced photographer called Paul Gerard Smith. While Paul primarily does art nudes (which are NOT my thing), he agreed to do a dance-based shoot with me. Here are some of my favourite photos from our shoot. 

Hope you liked the photos! I've been really busy with school so I haven't been writing much. I also don't feel like I have much to write about these days... but I'll figure something out. 

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Friday, September 23, 2016

I'm so excited to officially announce that I've been accepted into the BU Geneva program for the spring semester!

...yes, my last semester in university is going to be spent abroad. Yes, they tell you not to do this. But you know what? My university experience has been anything but typical in enough ways that I think spending my Senior spring overseas will be brilliant.

Lots of people talk about how their college experience was the best four years of their lives.  If this turns out to be the best period of my life, then my future must be pretty bleak.  I spent too much of my Freshman year in a relationship that was never going to work and too much of my Sophomore semester trying to figure out what I wanted out of my education. I've only been happy since my Junior semester (last spring) at Boston University... and while I don't have any regrets about how things happened, it's definitely time to do a semester for myself.

In Geneva, I'm going to take French. I'm going to spend way too much money eating myself sick on cheese. I'm going to grocery shop across the border in France, day trip around the Alps, and hopefully explore more beautiful European locations. I'll finally take a formal French class, get an internship, and live in a French-speaking canton for more than a month. It's going to be brilliant.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

New Englanders are a very special sort of people. They regularly weather winters that would make Californians cry (then retire down to warm, steamy Florida), eat weird sea bugs that turn red when you cook them, and head to the "Cape" for a long weekend to swim in the cold ocean. I came up with this post whilst walking to the T drinking an ice coffee... which is an extremely Bostonian sentence. Anyways....

1) If you ask me what to order at Legal Seafoods, I will say "a cuppa chowda".

People from Massachusetts seem to have their own language sometimes, and I definitely speak it on occasion. From telling you about how wicked (great) the ice cream is from my hometown's local favourite Bedford Farms and looking at the queue for Boston University's "lobstah" night in horror, we certainly have our own manner of speaking! While I don't have a full blown Boston accent, I do have a few distinctly Bostonian phrases in my vocabulary.

Me when I was little! We love our pumpkins in New England. 

2) I talk about the weather, winters and foliage a lot.

New England weather is all over the place. When you grow up here, you're used to wearing a coat in the morning to school and going home and changing into shorts. It doesn't make any sense, but we know and love to complain about our weather. In reality, after three years in the tropics I missed having four seasons more than anything! I can tell you that two years ago was the worst winter in almost anyone's living memory, and certainly the worst winter I have ever seen. I can also tell that this year isn't going to be a pretty leaf year (you know, when the leaves change colour and the tourists come up here to go on tree walks) because it's too warm during the day and too cool in the evening.

The house I grew up in, covered in snow. 

3) I have strong opinions about the MBTA.

This is sort of a recent thing that has happened since I became a Bostonian rather than a townie, but MY GOODNESS is the MBTA absolutely terrible. It is simply remarkable that a system so slow, unreliable and generally a pain to use is the main form of transportation for a good part of the city. The buses are definitely more reliable than the trains, and the Commuter Rail is more reliable than both... though they've started cutting funds and train rides there too. The MBTA is a disaster and anyone who has to deal with it on a regular basis knows exactly what I'm talking about.

What are some things that you say or do that help people figure out where you're from?
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Friday, September 9, 2016

It's absolutely insane that I'm officially in my senior year at Boston University. I suppose it's so insane because I've gone and skipped a year of school-- thank you, external credits and study abroad programs! When I was a little girl I always wanted to skip a grade because I thought it was cool. Now in university I've finally gone and done it.

This semester is already turning out to be strange because I wasn't meant to be on campus. Initially, the plan was for me to spend this semester abroad in Singapore. Unfortunately things fell through and I'm back on the Charles River campus... and it feels like everything is lining up. I have a single dorm (finally) with wood floors (yay, no mice) that I have definitely 100% unpacked and moved into (not at all).

Continuing the chaotic theme of this term so far, I've been switching around classes like a madwoman. When I was a freshman, my schedule was set in stone and I was terrified at the idea of changing my perfectly balanced schedule. Now I'm switching in and out of classes at will. As a senior, I don't want to waste my time with unprepared professors. It's time to start getting things done so I can finish my degree!

The good news is, it seems like everything is going to work out just fine :)

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

It recently occurred to me that I rarely see bloggers post about their friendships. Maybe it's out of respect for their friends' privacy or people think there are more interesting things to write about... but I digress. This post is dedicated to my friend Lea, who is currently in Paris drinking good coffee and eating lots of bakery goods (I hope). We were roommates in Geneva and London, and I think it's fair to say we sort of turned into partners in crime. 

By "crime", I mean we encouraged each other to eat cookies and sweets. I introduced her to one of the most amazing cheap sweets on the planet: Jaffa Cakes. We also did silly things like visiting Briton and trying vegan food at some hipster cafe, only to eat delicious fish and chips later that day.  Lea was obsessed with this song called "Roses" (pictured above on my Spotify) and played it practically every time she was getting ready for something. Now whenever I hear it, I think of her!

Now as I get ready to head back to BU, Lea is enjoying her time in beautiful Paris. So, I hope she has a lovely semester there. We'll graduate together in May 2017 :D

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

I think it's safe to say that I've been on a health kick lately. I'd like to believe that everyone goes on health kicks occasionally. I think mine started after Europe thanks to a terrible 24 hour stomach bug in Prague. It took me like three days to start eating normally afterwards, and I was terrified of touching alcohol until almost the end of the trip. When I got back from the trip, I realised I was very close to my pre-university weight and not terribly far off from my slimmest high school weight. Though I have no desire to get down to my slimmest high school weight (I'm not kidding about the starved-into-my-dress thing), I'd like to get down to my pre-university weight.

Me at my slimmest in high school. Yay, prom!

Anyways, I've been doing all sorts of silly things in hopes of getting down to my pre-university weight (my slimmest high school weight is not feasible or healthy for me). So far, this has included buying chia seeds and convincing myself that I like them, doing yoga even though I think it's incredibly boring, and doing this horrifying activity known as cardio workouts. Honestly though, how does anyone enjoy yoga? I think it's the most dull activity on the planet... especially when dance, aerial, and skating exist! I've also been doing this thing where I leave my yoga mat out all the time in my bedroom in hopes that I go on it and do some variety of exercise. Turns out that the mat is quite comfortable to sit on whilst crocheting... which exercises my brain and fingers, I guess.

Another goofy thing I've done since being on this health kick is getting my father to take pictures of me in fancy poses. Since he's a photographer he doesn't really mind, but it's still a bit funny. I'm essentially asking him to indulge my vanity... but I'm going to try not to think about that. Look, I can do a pretty full-blow dancer pose.

A photo posted by Natalie (@natalie.mei) on

Perhaps most people had their pre-summer health kick, but has anyone else had a pre-school year health kick? I head back to university next weekend for my SENIOR year (woohoo!) and I guess I'm trying to slim down before dining hall food and endless coffee sustains me for another semester. 
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Monday, August 22, 2016

It's hard to believe that I'm getting ready to go off to the final year of my undergraduate education! Time has really flown by, and it's hard to believe that I started writing this blog before my Freshman year.

Confused? I did a Freshman year, a Sophomore semester, a Junior semester, and will be doing a Senior year. Yup, three years. That's the best way I have managed to come up with explaining what I'm up to and why.

Looking back, I had a rough Freshman year of college even though it didn't necessarily feel like it at the time. There's a lot I wish I could have told myself back then, but the good news is that I made it out. My Sophomore semester wasn't that easy either, but it was made a lot better when I realised that I could graduate early. It was also made better when I met my boyfriend! It's so funny how meeting someone new can change your entire outlook. Junior semester was by far the best semester I've had so far.

I've never been so excited for a semester of university, and I think it's because I realise it's almost over. I'm not sure why I have not cherished my university years in the same way that you're supposed to... but it's also not that big of a deal for me. I don't think you have to have an amazing four year experience in university. In my opinion, getting a degree and learning as much as possible is what counts. The experience is good and definitely a rite of passage, but I don't think cutting mine short is a bad thing at all.

Oh, and it's exciting but also terrifying to be heading out into the "real world" so soon. Mostly exciting. The scary part is that I don't have a concrete plan for after graduation... no definite grad school or law school or joining the Peace Corps or whatever else people who after university. Here's to trying to find a job in an economy that isn't actually that bad, but everyone seems to think is horrible.

Maybe I'll write more on the whole, "going off to/returning to college" thing more later. In the meantime, I'm gearing up to apply to study abroad AGAIN!

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

I shared this picture on my personal Facebook recently (actually, it's my new profile picture) but it occurred to me that one of my most dedicated readers hasn't been able to see it. So Aunt Nancy, this post is mostly for you, but also for everyone who would like a bit of a laugh.

For a bit of context to the picture...

Game of Thrones is partially filmed in Croatia, and Dubrovnik is basically real-life "King's Landing".  There's a little island called Lokrum off of Dubrovnik that has a mini museum with a bunch of Game of Thrones stuff in it. They don't charge you to sit on the throne and take pictures, unlike the place in the city proper, which is great. Then again, you've paid for the boat fare to get there, so I'm sure it all evens out.

Anyways, "Kings Landing" is where the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms lives. Right now, that ruler is... something else. Therefore, I feel it was a good idea to temporarily replace them on the Iron Throne. I think I look like a proper ruler already!

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Belated posts are always better than no posts, so here we go. I've been meaning to write about where I was taking aerial classes in London for weeks, but never got around to it. After a good amount of research in Geneva about potential places to take aerial in London, I settled on Flying Fantastic.

I went to their Battersea location for silks, hoop practice and slings, and even brought a newbie friend once. The Battersea location is nice because they are able to hang a lot of apparatus. The ceilings are kind of low though. I also went to the Old Street location for a hoop class once but didn't go back because it was such a pain to get to. Not Flying Fantastic's fault, though!

Flying Fantastic classes are pretty difficult and there is a lot of emphasis on conditioning. It's more of a workout class than a performance class, which is what they market their classes as anyways so I guess that makes sense. There was generally one person who ran warm up for the group, then a number of teachers to handle different ability levels for apparatus work. I was generally in the "not beginner, but not advanced" section because I'm quite strong and have done aerial before. Sometimes they run multiple apparatus classes at once. My favourite classes that I went to were the silks classes at Battersea which really surprised me since I don't generally like silks. The sling class was fun as well.

I was particularly impressed with the level of personal attention despite the relatively large class sizes. I was used to 4-8 people per class in Boston, but oddly enough never felt like I was getting that individualised of an experience. Flying Fantastic makes a point of keeping track of everyone's ability level and offering individual advice when appropriate. I think I made their lives difficult by refusing to turn up to the same class twice (I kept changing times and doing different apparatus), but it was still a lot of fun.

Here's a picture of me doing this thing (can someone please tell me what it's called?) that I learned there! I had a lot of fun and I can definitely recommend Flying Fantastic for aerial in London. 

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

This summer, I went on 18 airplanes and nine countries over three months.

It was a complete whirlwind of an experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I saw more people from more places than I think I ever have before. I learned so much not just from my courses in Geneva/London, but from learning to adapt to different Western cultures. I've been back in the United States for three days. It sort of feels like I never left, because I've found myself back in my parents house in New Jersey. At the same time, I've been running into a bit of reverse culture shock again. It's not as bad as when I came back from China last summer, but it's still something

Anyways, I had a fantastic time in Croatia. It was definitely one of my favourite countries that I visited this summer. First, we went to a park that has eighteen waterfalls. It is easily one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.

The next day we went to Split. I think Split is kind of a funny name, but it's an enchanting city. I am already making plans to go back. 

Dubrovnik is a very neat walled city. They shoot Game of Thrones in both Split and Dubrovnik, so it was fun to walk around and see some of the locations. 

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know where this is within the Game of Thrones universe. If you don't, you should 1) follow me on Instagram and 2) guess where this place is before you cheat by looking it up.

So, now that I'm stateside again it's back to more random things about my life. Thankfully, I'm doing exciting things this summer (sort of). I've started a workout/stretch regime that I'll blog about sometime later, I'm eating healthier, and I've learned some new beauty tricks. It's safe to say that all is well in Natalie's world!

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Monday, August 1, 2016

I have to confess that I've had a bit of a history-crush on Maria Theresa since I was sixteen or so. I did a giant paper on her in my Junior year of high school that took up too much of my time that year, and learned a lot about Austrian history.  However, I never learned anything about its capital, Vienna... and had no idea it was this beautiful. I've never heard anyone say Vienna is their favourite city, but it might by mine. It's full of museums and statues and history. There's a giant statue of Maria Theresa in it, which makes me really happy. Vienna is also a city famous for its pastry, which as a sweets-addict is simply perfect. 

^^random people that got in my picture.... oh well >.<

We went to Schonbrunn Palace today (where Maria Theresa lived) and took the most amazing guided tour anyone in my family can recall taking. It was a very in depth tour through 40 rooms, including three personally decorated either by or for Maria Theresa. There was a Sisi room (Empress Elisabeth of Austria and Queen of Hungary, plus other titles) with a little model of her and her incredibly long hair. Additionally, there were the beautiful grounds! We couldn't take pictures inside the palace for security reasons or something though....

My parents! 

The palace, with Vienna in the background. 

I meant to post yesterday or the day before, but I got incredibly sick in Prague! After doing a good bit of walking around the Old Town on Saturday, we went back to the hotel before potentially heading out to the national galleries in the Prague Castle. I then spent like twelve hours with  fever and being sick, which was horrible. One of my classmates had a bit of a stomach bug before leaving London, so I'm going to blame it on her I guess. At least I got better in time for Vienna, because no part of me would want to miss a minute of this city. 

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Friday, July 29, 2016

It's hard to believe that my program in Geneva/London finally ended.

In some ways it feels like the program lasted forever, mostly because of petty things like girl drama and the last paper that almost killed me. Mostly, though, it felt like it was flying by. It was so tempting (especially when the weather was bad) to sit around all day inside and do nothing. But since I was in two beautiful cities for a month each, I made a point of getting myself up and at least enjoying the neighbourhoods I was in.

All that being said, I'm now in Prague! The Czech Republic is treating us well so far. Most places in the tourist area speak English, the tram system mostly makes sense, and the castle we're staying next to (Prague Castle) is simply magical. Prague looks like something out of a fairytale, particularly because a lot of the buildings are pastel. It makes me think about cake all the time, for some reason.

Today and yesterday was a busy day. Yesterday we went to Prague Castle, which was a very pretty complex with lots of different unique areas. Today we went to the Old Town, which was something out of a picture book. First we went to the St. Nicholas Cathedral, which was in the baroque style and very pretty. We also saw the famous Astronomical Clock and took pictures in front of it.  Later we  went to the 700-year old Old New Synagogue today, which I couldn't take pictures of but was still an interesting experience. It's amazing to think that it lasted through everything that happened to the Jewish community in the Czech Republic.

This is a really interesting part of Europe and what I think most people think of when they think of a "European City". The area has changed many hands over the years and experienced a communist ruler that wasn't too bad by popular memory, which I think is fascinating. I've been reading history on Wikipedia late into the night and there's just so much to learn!

A photo posted by Natalie (@natalie.mei) on
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Friday, July 22, 2016

I've been busy having lots of adventures in England (but also class), but I haven't felt like anything has been worth writing about. That's clearly very silly of me... and since my time in England is quickly coming to a close, I figured it would be best to write something before I'm headed off to the Continent on family holiday. My parents are flying in next week and we're headed to Eastern Europe... more on that as it happens.

I've been up to quite a bit since coming to London. I was taking aerial classes at Flying Fantastic  which was really a lot of fun. Highly recommended... in particular if you are new! They give an incredible amount of personal attention and their equipment is quite good. I was really impressed with the warm ups as well- quite a lot of work. Though I haven't been dancing since coming here, I had to take a picture dancing outside a phone booth as well. There has been a fair amount of site-seeing as well! There's lots to do here in London, and it's been a great experience.

Now it's really time for me to write the term paper so I can relax and enjoy the weekend!
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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Today when wandering around the Victoria and Albert Museum (which is where the title images come from), it occurred to me that blending in as a Londoner would be a nice skill to have. So far, I've noted five major things that one can do in order to pretend to be a British person/Londoner.

1) Queue for everything and make a distressed sighing sound if someone tries to cut it.

Queuing appears to be the British national pastime, and nice orderly queues are everywhere. This isn't dissimilar to the United States or Singapore, but some people still seem to have a problem with it.

2) Complain about the weather.

Another British national pastime is complaining/commenting on the weather. People frequently compare the weather to days past. Others hope for a "proper summertime" starting soon. Some people even compare the weather to years past. There are a lot of ways to describe the weather here in London, lately it's been rather overcast and cloudy.

3) Drink copious amounts of tea.

The British drink a LOT of tea. This is a habit I've picked up, and since black tea around here is just so dark, I've also started drinking it with milk and sugar. I'm not entirely certain why I picked up a 160-bag box of tea, but it's given me motivation to start drinking something like 3-5 cups a day.

4) Say "sorry" constantly.

I've definitely picked this habit up in the time I've been here so far. Londoners say "sorry" when they are trying to squeeze past you on the Underground and basically a million other situations as well. If in doubt, apologise even if you have no idea what you are apologising for.

5)  Be silent and grumpy looking on the Underground.

One can always spot an American on the Underground because s/he's the one talking very loudly, and giggling every time the station "Cockfosters" is mentioned. Most Londoners sit on the Underground looking very quietly, and avoid eye contact if all possible.

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Friday, July 8, 2016

 Life has been absolutely insane since coming to London. It feels like we've been here forever, even though it really hasn't been very long at all. Though during the week we're mostly in class, thanks to a long weekend most of my class has been able to do some site-seeing. I've realised that while I've been to London, before, I haven't actually seen that many of the sites. Either that, or I simply didn't remember seeing them. For the past two days, I've been walking around with my friend Lea exploring this glorious city. 

Some how, I've never seen the horse guards or Westminster before... but I have seen the Globe Theatre thanks to my school trip back in high school. It's a funny feeling, being familiar with a place but not entirely certain where things are. At least London is a very walkable city. 

I saw the Book of Mormon with some classmates for Lea's 21st birthday, which was extremely funny. The only things I knew going into the show was that it was about Mormons and Africa and contained a lot of swearing, which was completely accurate. If you're ever in London or New York, it's definitely a show worth seeing. I'm thinking about seeing Matilda while I'm here because apparently it's a great show as well... and there are ads everywhere reminding me that I haven't seen it yet.

I think that's all for now. I'll try to be a bit better about posting to keep everyone updated about what I'm up to. London is a really fun city and there's lots to do... which means its really tiring me out!

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