The Day I Met Ed Sheeran

Yes. I’m devoting an entire blog post to this day. Would you expect anything less from me?

On Tuesday, I did something I’ve been trying to do for over seven years: meet Ed Sheeran.

I woke up at 6 a.m. and was to the BBC Broadcasting House by 7:30 a.m. And NO MOM, I was not the first person there! I swear. I sat on the ground at the corner of the barrier that stood outside of the BBC Radio 1 studios.

After sitting on the cold, hard ground for just over two hours, it was time to stand up. Ed’s manager Stuart Camp, his guitar technician Trevor Dawkins, and the rest of his small team had arrived. Ed was not far behind.

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The forever sassy Stuart Camp and Mark 

At 9:52, a van pulled up and he got out. At first I was unsure if he would even stop to say hi to all the fans as the radio show he was going to be on started at 10 a.m., but in true Ed fashion, he did. Not only did he stop to say hello to us, but he literally stopped to take a photo with every single fan along the barrier.

I stood in the corner (the best spot), as I was able to take photos on my camera as he approached, and then, once he was in the corner, he spent the most time there as there were more fans in the area.

As Ed came closer, I noticed something very odd. When Ed got to an area of fans, everyone went silent and instead only stuck there phones out in his face. Barely anyone actually said hello or talked with him. It was weird.

Once Ed was in the corner, I worked up the courage to say hello. While it wasn’t the longest of conversations or filled with the most content, it is one that I will never forget. It went a little something like this:

Me: “Hi Ed!”

(Ed turns and looks at me, I freeze inside, what the heck did I just do???)

Me: “Happy belated birthday!”

Ed: (A small smile spreading on his face) “Aw, thank you!”

(Ed continues to smile, then turns back to take photos. I die inside.)

Then he approached and I handed him my phone to take a photo. It was amazing.

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Ed then went inside and was interviewed then performed five songs in the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge.

I waited outside with a few friends in the off chance that he came back outside to say hello again after. Good thing I did because the BBC Radio 1 doors are a hot-spot for celebrities I guess.

I ended up talking to Jedward, twin brothers from Dublin that are pop-singers (Ed is also obsessed with them). And then Nick Grimshaw, the host of the Radio 1 Breakfast Show, and then Katy Perry also spontaneously came out and talked to the crowd. You could say it was a casual morning. I now know where I will be hanging out on days when I don’t have class…

I still can’t believe this happened and it is most definitely a day I will never forget. 7 years in the making.

P.S.

I will be traveling on spring break for the next week and a half and will not have my laptop so this will be my last update for a while. You can expect a long blog post about my travels in Europe when I get back!

Paris on a Budget

So last Thursday was one of the longest days of my life.

After class, I went to Victoria Station and boarded an overnight bus to Paris, France. Why an overnight bus you ask? Well, they are extremely cheap. Not only do they provide transportation, but they also alleviate the need to book a hostel. Normally for a weekend trip, I would fly out Thursday night, have to pay for a hostel Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, and then fly back to London on Sunday morning.

So, we decided to try something different this time. It worked out well as Paris is not only close, but the buses are so much cheaper than taking the Chunnel or flying. When using the bus, you also don’t have to pay for the extra expense of getting to and from the airport which also GREAT.

So anyways, enough about expenses. We left Victoria Station in London at 10:20 p.m. and headed off on our overnight journey. We took the ferry across the Strait of Dover, so that was pretty cool. What wasn’t cool was arriving in Paris at 6:30 in the morning. Yep. 6:30 a.m. It was still dark out and we were extremely tired, as you can imagine, its slightly difficult to get good night’s sleep on a bus. But we powered through-the motto of the day.

After getting off the bus, we walked to the closest Metro station and made our best purchase of the weekend: a two-day pass for unlimited Metro rides in zones one and two. If you ever go to Paris, I highly suggest investing in a Metro pass like this as it allows you to get to all the monuments and touristy places quickly when you only have a few short days to see everything you want to. It was only about 16 Euro, and we definitely used more trips with it than 16 Euro  would have paid for within the first four hours of being in Paris so…yeah. Buy the Metro pass and save yourself the time and money it takes to get around via walking or taking taxis.

One of our first destinations was the Eiffel Tower. Despite it being a relatively overcast day, we had to go to the Eiffel Tower. When in Paris, right?

I definitely suggest going to the Eiffel right after it opens at either 9 or 10 a.m., that way you can avoid the two hour long lines that TripAdvisor says you can usually expect. TripAdvisor also suggests buying your tickets in advance so you can skip the lines, but luckily we were able to walk right up and buy our tickets with our student discounts (YAY) and then we headed right up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. If you’re going to the Eiffel Tower, buy the ticket to go all the way to the top floor. Its worth it. The views were incredible despite the slight fog.

After the Eiffel Tower, we used our wonderful Metro passes to visit a bunch of the other famous (and free) monuments of Paris. These included the Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, the Luxembourg Gardens, the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur (AMAZING VIEWS, but go early before all the panhandlers come out), Notre-Dame Cathedral, and of course, the Lourve Museum.

At the Notre-Dame Cathedral, they offer admission inside the Cathedral for free as well as free tours on certain days at certain times. If you’re interested in a tour, be sure to look that up ahead of time. We didn’t do a tour, and instead decided to walk through the Cathedral on our own. There were still many signs to read that talked about the history of the Cathedral and its architecture and we also got to spend as much time as we liked admiring how pretty it was inside.

We waited until later at night to go to the Lourve. After 6 o’clock to be precise. Every Friday after 6 p.m., admission to the museum is free for anyone under the age of 26 who can present a valid ID. We are currently under 26 and of course had our IDs so hellooooo free trip to the Lourve. While I’m not really one for museums, I was able to see the Mona Lisa (its pretty small tbh, but ts the Mona Lisa so).

On our second day in Paris, we planned to take the train out to Versailles. We thought it would be easy to get there, being that we had our Metro passes and only would have to pay a whopping seven Euros for a round-trip ticket. But, we ended up taking the right train, only going to the wrong end place. Needless to say, we ended up switching back and forth trying to get to the correct train station for almost four hours. Not great. But we eventually made it to Versailles.

In Versailles, we walked to the Palace of Versailles. The line to go into the Palace was extremely long, like two hours long, and we didn’t have that much time to spend there so we decided to simply walk the grounds. We braved the cold and explored the grounds for about an hour and a half and then took the train back to Paris.

Night bus round two happened Saturday night. I turned 20 on the bus ride back to London and celebrated with M&Ms and opening a few letters from home. It was a long but good  (and inexpensive) weekend, and ending with my birthday was the ‘icing on the cake!’

Fui a Barcelona!

Over the past weekend I went to Barcelona, Spain, and it was absolutely beautiful!

In high school, I took a semester long course on Spain, the culture, geography, food and history, and since then it had always been a dream of mine to go see and experience the unique country.

Our flight got in very late on Thursday night, and we took a taxi to our hostel. When I say very late, I mean that we got to the hostel by two in the morning. But it didn’t feel like it was that late at the hostel. Literally everyone was awake and the hostel was incredibly busy with people in the lobby, bar and lounge area.

When we got to our room, we were surprised to see a couple from Mexico also just getting to the room and unpacking. There was one girl asleep in a bunk bed and then two empty beds. We went to sleep rather quickly, only to be woken up at five in the morning to two Italian guys coming back rather loudly after having been out all night.

Bienvenido a España!

We were up and out the door by 8:30 a.m. the next morning and it was like a ghost town. In high school, I learned how unique the daily schedule was in Spain (waking up late, lunch at two, siesta around four, dinner at nine, sleep by two a.m.), but being in a big city like Barcelona, I thought things would be somewhat regular. They weren’t.

As we made our way to La Boqueria Mercat, one of Barcelona’s largest markets, barely any of the coffee shops or stores were open. Once we arrived at the market (a good hour and a half after it had already opened) almost half the shops were still closed. Spain takes their sleep and later schedule very seriously-clearly.

La Boqueria was (for the most part) very colorful and pretty. There were stalls everywhere filled with the most colorful fruit and juices I had ever seen. Many of the juice colors looked like they had to be artificial, but I highly doubt that they were. There were also shops selling baked goods, traditional Spanish croquetas and empanadas, and finally the ever disgusting meat stalls. The meat stalls showcased animal legs with the hooves still on as well as chickens with their heads or feathers still in tact. It was not very pleasant to look at, so we would quickly move away from those stalls and on to the prettier, more colorful fruit stalls.

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After La Boqueria, we made our way onto one of Barcelona’s most famous streets, Las Ramblas. Las Ramblas is a street in the heart of Barcelona that is quite busy each days as it fills with both tourists and locals. It has many little shops on it that feature tourist gifts as well as gelato and other food. It connects Plaça de Catalunya in the center with the Christopher Columbus Monument all the way near the water at Port Vell.

We walked along Las Ramblas until we reached the Christopher Columbus Monument and then we began to walk through the bay area. While doing so, we looked up and saw a sky gondola that stretched from the water near us, up into a small mountain in the distance. After looking up the sky gondola, we decided to do it.

The Teleferico del Puerto Cable Car offered amazing views of the city of Barcelona. We could see all the way up into the mountains and across the city to La Sagrada Familia Cathedral. There were also great views of the ocean! I am so happy that we did because the view of the city was stunning. The ride is only seven minutes long from the port to Miramar which sits on Montjuic Mountain, but is well worth it for the view and price.

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We walked around on Montjuic Mountain for a while and talked with two locals. It was so interesting to hear about how badly Catalan wants its independence from Spain and how long they have been fighting for it. I began speaking Spanish with them, only for the woman to correct me and say “We speak Catalan here, not Spanish.” She continued on to tell us how Catalan is the first language they learn, then Spanish. She also told us that she then learned English and then French and Italian. Incredible. The woman was an older woman who had retired from her job as a teacher and has now published one book and is about to publish another. Both were very pleasant and offered us ideas on what else we should see while in Barcelona.

After talking with the locals, we took the cable car back to the port and then walked around the beach for a while (yes, I know, I can’t believe it either. I went on a beach and touched sand. It was awful.) And then we found lunch. After lunch we made our way back into town and explored the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona.

The Gothic Quarter in Barcelona is known for it architecture, narrow winding alleyways and numerous little shops. We walked through the area for a while and stopped in a few shops. We then headed out of the area and toward the Arc de Triomf. Along the way, I made a pit-stop at the famous El Corte Ingles. In my Spanish class in high school, my teacher raved about El Corte Ingles, the largest department/supermarket chain of stores in Spain. She wasn’t wrong in doing so. The store was monstrous, super busy and had basically everything. It was crazy.

We then continued on to the Arc de Triomf, took some photos and explored the square area. Then FINALLY we started the walk back to the hostel. By the time we got there, I checked my Fitbit and we had walked just over 13 miles. CRAZY. But well worth it as we had seen a ton in only one day!

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On our second day in Barcelona (Saturday), we once again woke up “early” in local time and left the hostel by 8:3o a.m. to start our walk up to Park Guell. It was a primarily uphill walk to Park Guell, but luckily when it began to get incredibly steep, something amazing happened. We spotted OUTDOOR ESCALATORS ahead of us. And not just one, not two, but three escalators that took us up even higher. It was insane but really, thank goodness!

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At the top of the third escalator we turned around to look at the view and it was beautiful! Only thing was, we still had some climbing up to do still to get to the Park. We entered the park and wandered around a bit before going to the ticketed area.

For 7€ you can buy a ticket to enter the Monumental Zone of Park Guell that has the great views of Barcelona, the tiled mosaic seating area, the Casa Del Guarda, the gift shop and restaurant. The park was designed by Gaudí  between 1900 and 1914 and was officially opened as a public park in 1926. It was packed when we were there with countless tourists looking to see the park and the views of Barcelona.

We then left the park and made our way back down towards the heart of Barcelona to another Gaudí piece, La  Basilica de la Sagrada Familia. The basilica has been under construction since 1882, which sounds crazy but makes perfect sense once you actually see the basilica. One side is the original part while the rest of the basilica looks as though it was all made out of different stone colors, different designs, color schemes and pieces of history. Personally, I didn’t like how it looked (not the most visually appealing as it doesn’t match), but it is one of the most well-known tourists spots in Spain and the Spaniards are quite proud of it. I guess you can make your own opinions about it, but it was still cool to see and look at!

We walked to the beach again after and just sat around watching the waves crash for a while as it was a beautiful day in the mid 60’s. After a couple hours, we headed back to the hostel and I was able to watch the FC Barcelona game in the bar which was cool!

I had to pack as we had to be out the door to the airport by four in the morning the next day, so I headed back up to my room. The two Italian guys were also in the room packing. I didn’t say anything to them at first, but then I noticed while they were talking that they were speaking Spanish so I decided to attempt to speak to them in Spanish. They looked really surprised when I asked them a question, but understood me and responded. I understood them to and so we talked for a while. It was so cool to actually be able to carry on a conversation with people from a different country (Italy) in a different language (Spanish) and understand the other people and be understood as well. Thankful for all the Spanish classes I’ve had up until this point!

Overall, Barcelona was amazing and everything I had hoped it would be! Being immersed in the daily culture, seeing the sights and learning more about the history was amazing! My only regret is that I didn’t buy some of the delicious looking strawberries while at La Boqueria. Next time!

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A Stroll through Notting Hill & Camden

30 January 2017

Day 24 in London

As we had to stay in London this weekend for our day trip to Oxford on Saturday, I had my Friday off and decided to do some more exploring in London. The next borough to explore was Notting Hill and I went with a bunch of girls from my flat.

We took the tube to Notting Hill and decided to walk to Portobello Road which also just so happens to be where the Portobello Market is. I’m not usually one for markets as they tend to be way too crowded, but Portobello Market was quite cute and not too busy!

We came from Notting Hill Gate tube station, so we worked our way north up Portobello Road. There were both little permanent shops on the street with tables set up in front of them, as well as pop-up carts set up on the streets. There were little shops with books, jewelry, antiques, fruit, crepes, basically anything you could want.

We stopped in a little bakery where everything smelled amazing and then continued on our walk. It was so cool to stop and look at everything.

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I was so surprised at how bright and colorful Notting Hill was. Very different from the pristine white buildings I’m used to in Kensington.

We walked up almost the entire street and then decided to go back to the tube station and make our way to Camden for the last few hours of daylight we had.

Camden was…very very different and not quite what I had expected it to be. It was mainly full of young people with tattoos, piercings and individuals who looked pretty goth. There were open shops lining the main street, and once we crossed over a bridge, we entered a covered market area.

The one thing we had planned on doing in Camden was going to Chin Chin Lab. Prior to coming to London, someone had posted in our UW Facebook group page about Chin Chin Lab. They are known for their hot chocolate that has marshmallow fluff on the top.

The shop was packed, but we waited in line and made our way to the front. I’m not the biggest fan of marshmallow as it tends to give me sugar headaches, so I decided to go with their warm brownie-cookie with ice cream on it. It was amazing.

After Chin Chin Lab, we continued to walk through the covered market and wandered through different shops. I had read about the Cereal Killer Cafe online, and we stopped in just to take a couple cool pics of the cereal box lined walls. Its about 2.75 for one small bowl of cereal, so we weren’t interested in buying a bowl as you could get almost a whole box for the same amount.

We were exhausted at this point as it had been a long day of walking and exploring so we decided to head home. We didn’t spend much time in Camden, so I will definitely have to go back in the future and explore some more!

Harry Potter & Football

27 January 2017

Day 18 in London

I woke up and went for a run in Hyde Park and then came back to pay for and join the Women’s Football Club at Imperial College! The organization through which my program is organized by, FIE (Foundation for International Education), has an affiliation with Imperial College. Because of this, we are able to join any clubs or organizations at Imperial. I joined the football club team not only to play some “footy” but also to get out of my American bubble and meet some students that are actually from the UK.

I then took the tube to Soho to meet Sophia at the House of Minalima. The House of Minalima is a pop-up Harry Potter shop featuring graphic art from the Harry Potter films and other works by Minalima. Minalima is an artist duo of Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima. There were four floors, some featuring works from Harry Potter and other floors featured work from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The store is only open until mid February so we knew it was a place we had to check out before it was gone!

The ground floor was the dedicated gift shop containing prints, books, postcards and posters all things Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts. The first floor then contained the graphic art from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Sadly, I hadn’t seen that movie yet, so the floor didn’t mean as much to me as the Harry Potter floors did (don’t worry though, we went back and watched Fantastic Beasts with the flat later that night). Floors two and three were my favorite floors as they held all the graphic art from Harry Potter. From prints of the Daily Prophet newspaper to wanted posters of Bellatrix Lestrange to Sirius Black, I was in Harry Potter heaven!

The house even had some props from the actually Harry Potter movies on loan from the Warner Brothers Studios. Some of these props included original spell books used in the films.

On one floor, there was a fireplace that replicated the scene where Harry receives his acceptance letters form Hogwarts. The fireplace was filled with letters addressed to “Harry Potter 4 Privet Drive Little Whinging, Surrey” on them. AMAZING.

Before we left, I ended up buying a “Harry Potter, Undesirable No. 1” poster. I cannot wait to hang it up once I go home. I was between that or a Sirius Black poster, but I think I’d prefer to wake up everyday and see Harry’s face rather than the photo they chose of Sirius…

Day 19 in London

On Sunday morning, I woke up and walked to Beit Quad at Imperial College to meet the Women’s Football Club. Today was the first day of games that I could make and I was also very excited to meet some non-Americans!

While I hadn’t brought any of my soccer stuff with me, one girl who couldn’t play loaned me her cleats and I was able to borrow shin guards.

We drove in a van to the game which was a 35 minute drive away to north-east London. Not only was it interesting to finally see London from above ground and maneuver in the traffic, but it was also really fun to talk with the girls. They were all very talkative and welcoming.

We only had eight girls from Imperial to play in the 11v11 sided game…Luckily, they don’t have a regular goalkeeper so they were extremely happy when I told them that was my normal position. It was so cool to be playing on a pitch in England (despite it being on turf that ripped up my legs). Because the game was still in the city, the complex we were at had lots of little fields in what they called “cages,” and then also two larger fields with a bit more space around them. It was a very different setting than what I was used to but still a really cool place for some “football.”

We ended up losing the game, but for only having eight players, I think we did pretty well and it just felt so good to be out playing again!

Other Updates!

  1. I finally received my placement for my internship for later this semester! I will be working at a music magazine in Brixton called “Songlines.” The music they cover there is less well-known, but it looks like a quality magazine and is also connected to the music world in London so I am very very VERY excited about this placement! I have a confirmation interview with Songlines in mid-February and hopefully I will learn more about what my day-to-day tasks will be then. In the email I received, it mentioned maintaining their online presence (yay for social media), music research, editing and possibly writing articles, as well as other day-to-day tasks. I’m so excited to start the internship now! It should be a very unique experience and I cannot wait to dive deeper into the music world of London!
  2. My parents sent me a package a while ago and I have anxiously been awaiting its arrival until yesterday! It actually made it to the UK a few days ago, but they hold all packages at customs until the recipient pays a tax on it (price is dependent upon the worth of the contents ugh) and then they release it and ship it to you. The box was basically a Mary Poppins bag as I still have no idea how my mom fit everything that she did into it. She shipped my soccer gear (cleats, shin guards, socks, keeper gloves), a warmer jacket (I’ve been freezing over here in London in just my rain jacket), my beloved Skippy Natural Creamy Peanut Butter, ranch dressing (so I can finally make some spinach salads here), Dove Chocolate (FAV), and of course, I’ve been missing out on my Baked Cheetos and Quakes, which were also somehow squeezed into the box. It was amazing and the greatest early birthday present. Thanks mom and dad!!!

 

Winter Lights & Lord Henry Dashwood

22 January, 2016

Day 16 in London

After class on Thursday, I went with five other UW students from my flat to Canary Wharf where the Winter Lights Festival was being held. Some of our friends had gone to the festival the night before and the photos from it looked amazing so of course we had to go check it out ourselves.

When we walked out of the tube station, we immediately looked around for the lights and didn’t see anything so we turned left and walked until we saw the cutest ice skating rink, filled with lights and blasting pop music. There, we also found a man who was handing out a map for where all of the light exhibits were located.

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There were a few light exhibits that we knew we wanted to see because our friends had seen them the night before, the only problem was that we didn’t know what they were called. So we were off to walk and wander aimlessly until we found them all.

There ended up being lights everywhere, both inside and outside and we took so many photos. It was fantastic.

When we found the lights upstairs in one of the buildings, we also found a tropical garden area. It was such a random find but also really pretty with all the lights.

Day 17 in London

I don’t have class on Fridays, and as I stayed in London this weekend, a few girls from my flat and I decided to go out and explore London. We took the tube to Tower Bridge and then walked across the bridge. I had been there once before during the night and it was a completely different experience during the day. It also had quite the view from the viewing platform in the middle of the bridge. You could see down the Thames on both sides.

We then exited the bridge and took the stairs down to the walking path. We first passed the Tower of London which was filled with people walking around inside the grounds.

We continued on along the river until we came to the Southward Bridge. The Globe Theatre was across the river, so we crossed back over on the bridge. When we reached the Globe Theatre, we waled around it for a bit and then went inside to look through the gift shop. I of course ended up getting a little notebook with a quote from Hamlet on it.

After the Globe Theatre, we walked across the bridge that I was most excited for, Millennium Bridge.

One of my all time favorite movies is What a Girl Wants starring Amanda Bynes. In the movie, she comes to London and walks across the Millennium Bridge in one scene. St. Paul’s Cathedral is in the back and it just looks amazing. Since then, (aka since 2003 when the movie came out), I’ve always wanted to walk where Daphne Reynolds had walked. Specifically across Millennium Bridge. And so we did.

Don’t worry, it lived up to all my hopes and dreams. Now I’m just waiting to run into Lord Henry Dashwood on the streets of London…

Until that happens, you can find me roaming the streets of London for the next four months!

Live from the BBC

20 January, 2016

Day 14 in London

So, if you know anything about Britain, you know that there’s this woman who rules the country called the Queen of England and then this organization that does a thing where it covers the news called the British Broadcasting Corporation.

If you know anything, you should know those two things. And if you didn’t already, well, now you do.

My only class on Tuesdays is Media in Britain, and luckily, I don’t have it until six o’clock each day. But this Tuesday was particularly special because our teacher was taking us to the BBC studios for a short tour and then to see one of their shows produced live.

The BBC Broadcasting House serves as the worldwide headquarters for the BBC and is located in the heart of London just a couple minutes walk from the Oxford Circus tube stop.

Our class met in the coffee shop inside the BBC center and then made our way to the main building and through the doors under the large, lit up letters that spelled out B B C.

Once inside the building, we went through airport-esque security and then collected our visitors badges and wristbands for the live taping of the BBC One Show. After going through security, there was another coffee bar and gift shop. I bought a BBC Radio 1 mug (I love Radio 1, its great) to add to my collection of mugs for coffee that I do not drink…hah

In the coffee bar area, there is a counter that has windows overlooking the large, fantastic, amazing newsroom of the BBC. Our guide told us that the BBC prides themselves in having the largest newsroom in the world (besides China, but that is only because they won’t share information about how large their newsrooms are, so we will let the BBC call themselves the largest newsroom in the world).

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Before going to the studio where the BBC One Show is filmed, we were taken down the twisting stairs to the main floor of the newsroom. The 6 p.m. news was currently broadcasting live, and while we snaked through the newsroom, those watching the news were probably able to see us in the background!

We were then taken downstairs to see where the producers directed and produced the shows. That was really cool to see as well.

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Next, we went back upstairs and then outside into the main courtyard area. There was a gated area surrounding the entrance to the One Show and we put our bags in a locked locker outside then were ushered into the studio. It was a really small studio and we had to stand for the entire thirty minute show. The time flew by though because the BBC is a public broadcasting service and therefore does not have commercials. A big difference between the U.K.’s media system and that of the U.S.’s.

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The show was an interesting mix of entertainment and some soft news. The guest on the show was Sanjeev Bhaskar, a British comedian, actor and broadcaster. He was pretty funny and got along well the hosts  Matt Baker and Michelle Ackerley. It was really interesting to see how they interacted between the pre-recorded clips that played during the show.

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When the show was over, we took a photo with both of the hosts and then picked up our things out of the locker outside. Overall, it was a really amazing experience. My favorite part though would have to be when we walked through the newsroom. It was gigantic and the atmosphere was so cool just because people were working everywhere plus you could see the live broadcast of the news going on and wow just wow. Such an amazing experience!