Week 6


“Out of college, money spent.

See no future, pay no rent.

All the money’s gone, no where to go.”

The Beatles – You Never Give Me Your Money

Clearly this post is very late, and the more important (and long) one about my crazy week-long journey is coming up very shortly, but I can’t skip a week – that’s cheating!

So, I’ll keep this short and sweet.

London is expensive.  I mean really, really expensive.  It’s the plight of living in any city, I know, but there’s something about London prices that are like nowhere else.

Ironically, a friend and I decided to have a fancy day at afternoon tea at this amazingly elegant place in Chelsea.  I do a lot for what I call the “when in Rome Factor,” so naturally high tea was something that had to be done.  It, actually, was a really great experience with a really great friend, and we dressed up, closed our eyes when the bill came, and had a blast.

I will say, one thing bothered me.  While we were there, we were taking photos of everything…analyzing things from the food we ate to the architecture to the HARP PLAYER (yeah, there was a harp player) that played throughout our 2-hour tea/lunch.  I can say that we really tried to appreciate everything.  That being said, these two guys at the table beside us couldn’t have had more of a different experience.  I won’t speculate who they were to each other or how much money they had/didn’t have or any other thing about them, but all I know is they sat at the table, scarfing down an even more expensive meal than we had, earphones in both ears, not saying a word to each other or looking up from their phones.  It honestly was astounding.  From that, I gleaned one thing: appreciate where you are.  I really hope that I never get to the point where beautiful things are so commonplace that they pass me right by.  I want to try and always experience where I am, not just be there.  Of course, that’s a huge task to take on, but seeing things like those two guys at that exquisite place made me more self aware.

Also, as an end note, I saw a REALLY wacky/amazing play called You Are Not Alone.  It was almost a theatrical comedy sketch….it was brilliant and horrific and ungodly gross and sad and hysterical all at once, and I really enjoyed it.


Week 5

Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 preset“I’ve been walking, walking these shores all my days.

But with you by my side, I am walking on the waves.”

Skipinnish – Walking on the Waves

This past week was one of the best weeks I’ve had in a long time.  The complexity of my emotions are difficult to express, but I will do the best I can.

This weekend, I went to Scotland.  I went into the trip with little-to-no knowledge of the country, even with my part-Scottish roots.  The experience was nothing short of incredible.  When we first arrived in Edinburgh on Thursday afternoon, the sun was shining and the air was crisp.  Edinburgh is a city unlike any other I’ve been to in that the old and new parts of the city are, by-in-large, divided.  It feels as though some of the city really has been frozen in time…like I had entered into a snowglobe preserved for hundreds and hundreds of years.  I walked through an old graveyard where some of the names of the Harry Potter characters originated, and felt the fires of the Catholic vs. Protestant feuds.  I went up to the Edinburgh castle, and I was astounded by the 360 degree view of the city.  The thin, meandering lanes, the brick roads, the Gothic landscape, and the intricate architecture far outweigh the new-age convenience stores, cafes, and chain food places.  I drank a coffee in the place that the Harry Potter idea was born (the Elephant House), I sang to the tunes of a folk singer in one of the oldest pubs in the area (the origins came from “half-hangit Maggie”), I danced, I explored, and I met many new friends.  I tried Cullen Skink, too!

The next two days, however, were what really made the trip one that I’ll never forget.  I went up to the highlands of Scotland – Loch Ness being the furthest point north that I reached – where the air was bone-chilling and the winds were vicious.  There are times in our lives where we feel rather insignificant in the most marvelous of ways.  For me, I’ve often felt that way learning about astronomy or thinking about religion or in a big city, but never before had I felt as astounded by nature as I did in the highlands.  Looking out at hill after hill – mountain after mountain – and seeing wild deer and yaks (“harry coos”) and other wildlife and seeing how it all somehow survives even in areas uninhabited by mankind highlights your place in the world, your obsession with the material world, and the complexities that interrupt life for humans.  I also got to see the lands of clan MacKenzie and walk on a battlefield where many of them died.  I didn’t expect it to affect me, but I felt a twinge in my heart as I thought about how incredibly old the clan warfare was, and how my own ancestors were the ones who fought in it.

Whooooooaaaaaaaaa, soooooo deep, Hope, right?!

Well, the night before I left with my tour group, we all stayed in a hostel near Loch Ness.  There were a total of four places to eat in the small “town” (I’ve seen bigger rest stops, honestly), and two of them weren’t even open.  That night, I mustered up the courage to try Haggis, and I must say that I actually enjoyed it!  I even had one of the 20+ different kinds of malt whiskeys served in the pub at the hostel for the “when in Rome” factor of it all.  Besides my tour group, there happened to be a few other Scottish travelers in the hostel (because, really, who else would be visiting the northern highlands in January….?).  Before I knew it, we were all dancing on the wooden tables of that pub, singing to a Scottish song by a band from the highlands that we quickly learned the words to (its the song at the top – give it a listen!).  I don’t want to have an “and in that moment, we were infinite” a la Perks of Being a Wallflower moment, but I don’t know what else to say.  It seemed that the song lasted for days – that our bodies were somehow suspended in time, all jumping and dancing and stomping together in that small little pub on a freezing night in the highlands.  I laughed the whole night through, and I thought of nothing else but being in that room with those people in January in the Highlands.

This has been a long one, and Scotland was the most important part of my week, but I will say that I saw a verryyyyyyyyy odd play last night called Islands and I have a lot of feelings about it, and not all of them are good.  But I will say that the show was nothing less than interesting, and I’d much rather be interested in any degree than bored.

Till next week, folks.

Week 4

10888398_10153620594413009_150332443446608378_n“Gonna be the biggest thing to hit these little kids;

Bigger than guns, bigger than cigarettes.

Atmosphere – Guns and Cigarettes

Before I recap my week, I’d like to start out with something that has really been bothering me as of late.  I noticed this in Spain and Germany too, and although the problem is still prevalent in America, I find that it’s much more woven into culture here.  The issue at hand is smoking cigarettes.  To put it in some kind of perspective for any Americans reading this, I took one school day (and evening) to count as many people smoking as I could.  I did not know how many cigarettes they smoked that day already or how many they would smoke later, I just tallied up the total number of smokers I saw.  On campus alone, only in the 35 minutes of walking to and from my classes, I counted 68 smokers. I counted 14 in my living accommodations throughout the day, and another 37 out at a local pub that night.  This totals to a stunning 119 smokers that I could see and count in one day (if I did the math wrong: whoops).  It pains me when I see students walking out of the doors of a classroom (not even outside yet) with a filter in their mouth and their hands digging in their pockets for the supplies to roll one up.  Drinking is something I rarely ever (basically don’t) do, but I understand.  Even illegal substances are things that I understand.  But I really cant wrap my mind around the concept of inhaling toxins into your lungs each day as if to say, “Cheers, mate” and tip your cap to the large caution signs and skull-and-crossbones warnings on every pack.


I’m packing now to go on a three-day weekend to Scotland, and I’m REALLY pumped.  I don’t know very much about what’s in store, but I’m ready for a great time!

Last night with my theatre class, I saw this mime/contemporary dance/movement show that explored the Oedipal complex visually.  It was called Peeping Tom, and it was really, really awesome.  I found so much meaning in it, and I was impressed by the use of the stage space as well as the physicality of it all.  I would highly recommend this show if you like something a little weirder and don’t mind something with few words.

Last weekend I went to Camden Market with a few friends.  It was an overwhelming, yummy, cultural, strange, and overall-sick experience.  I will go back to Camden Market later this semester and write a more comprehensive piece on that (with photos).

I also found a Banksy, as told by this photo!

I also was taken by a local to a Speakeasy in a location that I can’t even name.  True to form, it looked like an abandoned nothing from the outside but came to life in the basement with a small, hip community.  We left and went to a super tiny bar with a live French band with a hairless, strange vocalist and a cast of musicians that all seemed to know how to play every instrument from the keys to the drums to the trumpet to an upright bass.  I actually really dug it.  I tend to like these places instead of the large tourist attractions.  Let’s all hope I can find these on my own (spoiler alert: I cant).

Week 3(.5)


“Gonna live while I’m alive,

and sleep when I’m dead.”

Bon Jovi – Sleep When I’m Dead

I’m suffering from the biggest first world problem of my entire life – there is so much to do here in London (so much to see, to taste, to experience) that I am literally exhausted and my body is shutting down…#FluLikeSymptoms

I realize I’m late with this post, and it might not be a very thought-provoking, deep one, but I think I should just recap some of the more interesting things to happen to me since I’ve been here.

1. I still don’t drink more than one drink (Sober Sally forever), but I had Bailey’s and milk with 4 people from Dublin in their flat with a friend, and we talked about Ireland.  It’s amazing how difficult it is to understand my native tongue in a different accent.

2.  I had Italian wine with an Italian man who showed me some really awesome music that he created himself.

3. I drank English Breakfast Tea at breakfast in England.

4.  I tried crumpets and was unimpressed by the lack-luster experience (it was still quite good, I don’t really know what I was expecting).

5. I saw two shows thus far – one experimental bit of theatre, and one show based on the last incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu.  Both were interesting to say the least.  I much preferred the first one.

6.  I was complimented in my acting class for my rendering of the opening of Henry V.  I was told to look into doing more Shakespeare in the future (huge shout out to TPS Drama).

7. I was taken (very excitedly) by a British friend to an “american” diner for milkshakes.  I applaud their efforts in keeping with the ’50s theme, but gave the food a 7/10 at best.

8. I’ve successfully eaten peanut butter every day, in one form or another.  And by peanut butter, I mean “peanut spread” #WheresJiff #ItsNotTheSame

Week 2


So don’t be frightened of the future, full of possibility.

Life is just on the horizon, come on, say you’ll go with me. 

Mark Beasley – Let it Come Down/Quietly Into Empty Spaces

After a snowstorm, engine failures, three-hour delays while sitting on the plane, train cancellations (the Heathrow Express), the maze that is the tube while lugging around just about 100lbs of luggage, and a complete lack of sleep, I finally (somehow) arrived in London in one piece (:

There are about 85 other study abroad students coming for the Spring from all over the world – namely the US, Norway, and Holland.  The orientation for us has been really fun, and I feel like I’ve met the coolest people thus far. YAY TO MAKING FRIENDS!

My classes seem incredibly interesting.  In addition to my two Media and Communications classes, I’m taking two theater classes.  One of these will take me to about 15 total shows (for free!) during my six-month stay.  Dope…so incredibly dope.

I have forced myself to go to all of the events and meetings and hang-outs, no matter how exhausted I have been.  I’ve been ignoring the cash I’ve had to shell out and will continue doing that for the next week or so.  I have six months to scrimp and save, but only a week or two to learn and explore.  I basically saw all of central London in one day, and I found many spots that I’d love to revisit.

All in all, here are some points of interest thus far:

1. Goldsmiths (and South/East London in general) seems to be where creativity lives.  I’m beyond excited to be here.  It’s not real yet.  Also, the campus/surrounding area is beautiful, quirky, and filled with cool local tidbits that I must discover.

2.  It’s nuts how much of the youth smokes here.  That’ll definitely take some time to sink in.

3.  Drinking is a part of culture – it was even encouraged by the orientation staff to get to know each other.  I felt similar vibes in both Spain and Germany during my previous European adventures.

4. I have an abundance of free time (including four-day weekends…).  People here seem to learn for the sake of learning…not study and memorize facts.  Sadly, that’s a foreign concept for me to accept.  In the states, I feel like studying and working are about 75% of my life.  I’ll definitely have plenty of exploration and travel time.

5.  I’ve noticed how much slang and colloquial speech I use (whoops..).  Even some Americans don’t know the words I use.  For some reason it’s hysterical to hear the locals use the slang I teach them.  I taught this British dude how to use “jawn” the other day and it made my life.

Week 1 – The Beginning


“Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes, and she’s gone.”

The Beatles – Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

It’s the morning of my study abroad semester in London, and even with two suitcases, a backpack, and my camera bag, I know that I will inevitably forget everything important at home.

I guess I should start off with a brief introduction.  My name is Hope MacKenzie.  I’m a sophomore studying Communications at the University of Pennsylvania.  I’ve got a smile that keeps dancing even when the song is over, hair that resembles that on an ear of corn, and an overall desire to discover, learn, and create.  I decided to study abroad not only for the “cultural awakening” of stereotypical college students and not at all to escape UPenn (I really do love my school…no matter how difficult it can be).  Instead, I decided to go abroad to get lost.

I normally search for the familiar in life – I seek long-standing relationships and comfortable surroundings, and I excel the most when I know I have many to lean on.  I’ve been blessed with many gifts, but I believe that the greatest of these is companionship.  Whether family members, friends, teachers, or even just peers, I have felt encompassed by support in many different ways.  Though those close to me praise me for always being able to “find” myself in various situations, most call it being “adaptable,” my mind and body reject change, and I cling to all that is familiar.

So, though I travel on my own to London for the next 6 months for many reasons – the culture, the art, the history, the food, the education, the friends, and many others – I really go to surround myself with the unfamiliar. Paradoxically, I hope that through losing myself, I find the person I really am.

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