As CDC guidelines change once again in the US, COVID-19 rages on across the globe


As of Thursday, May 13, the CDC has officially adjusted their COVID-19 mitigation guidelines for the United States to say that those who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or social distance, indoors or outdoors, except in healthcare settings and where mandated by state or local policies, signaling to many that the worst may be over. However, while I do feel optimistic about things in the US improving further by the end of the year, I also don’t necessarily think that we should be acting like things are 100% back to normal, especially as hundreds of thousands are still becoming infected daily and dying in other countries. 


For example, India is one of the hardest hit regions at the moment, with cases growing by over 300,000 from May 11-May 12, and deaths increasing by over 4,000. While population size and an overwhelmed healthcare system are factors, especially in more rural, poverty-stricken areas of the country, it is proof that just because things are improving closer to home does not mean that the pandemic is anywhere close to being “over”. Variants are circulating, and even though so far vaccines seem to be providing at least some immunity against them, they are not a complete cure. 


In my opinion, if anything, the shared trauma faced by the world over the past year should be an indication that world leaders should work together to ensure that things such as vaccines and other healthcare aspects are widely available to ALL, not just “all in wealthier ‘western’ nations” to ensure a healthier, more collaborative world. However, unfortunately, this may not happen. Heck, even within the US, especially last year but it hasn’t completely stopped, governmental leaders were putting economic profits over lives, hence our situation being what it was. Otherwise, we could have been like Australia, who imposed much stricter lockdowns but are now even closer to pre-pandemic life conditions than the US is.


As for me, even though the guidelines are changing, I don’t see my habits changing much, at least for the immediate future. I might be more likely to actually go into a store instead of ordering everything online, and once concerts start coming back more I will be going to one eventually, because I do want to get back to my life, but it would be selfish to completely disregard our collective experiences of the past year in order to do so. 



Study Abroad Cut Short


My flatmates and I on March 13, the last night before we had to start dispersing back to our home countries.

And, to conclude my posts about my study abroad experience, I will discuss said experience’s early conclusion thanks to the freaking COVID-19 pandemic that we are still dealing with today. I do believe that everything happens for a reason, but that does not make lost potential experiences sting any less.


As the spread of COVID-19 began to increase in countries such as China and Italy, I was definitely monitoring the situation through social media, but even as late as the beginning of March, I didn’t think that things were going to go the way they did, with everything shutting down and whatnot. Even that last weekend before things changed rapidly, which was around March 7, my flatmates and I had gone into London and visited multiple crowded places such as the Camden Market, and everything still seemed normal considering how much things were about to change.

Camden Market in London on March 7, just one week before COVID-19 was officially considered a pandemic and life would be forever changed.


I would consider March 11 to be the day that marked the beginning of the end, so to speak. It was the day that the WHO officially classified the virus as a pandemic, and it was also the day the NBA saw its first initial shutdown after the OKC Thunder/Utah Jazz game was cancelled right before tipoff due to Jazz player Rudy Gobert testing positive for the virus. I remember sitting in my flat in Hatfield and seeing all the tweets about the Thunder game, and that was definitely a sign in my brain that stuff was about to go down, but even then, I didn’t realize I was going to have to come home so soon. The next day, March 12, the first University of Hertfordshire case had been confirmed, and by Friday the 13th, of course, all of their courses had moved online at least through the end of the Easter holiday in April, though this later extended further, and I had booked a plane ticket home for Sunday the 15th. 


I am extremely grateful to have been able to have the experience that I did. My main, and pretty much only, regret, is that I did not experience more while I was over there because I thought I had more time. For example, in early February, most of my flatmates went on a weekend trip to Oslo, Norway because a couple of them had gone through the wrong gates at the airport and therefore had the wrong visa stamps for the length of time they planned to stay and therefore had to leave the country and come back. That weekend, however, I had elected to stay behind and go see Birds of Prey at the local movie theater on opening weekend instead, because I was planning to save all of my international travelling for the two-week Easter holiday in April… clearly that didn’t happen. I don’t regret my plans from that weekend in general, especially since that ended up being my last time in a theater too, but I definitely would have at least explored other parts of the UK a bit more if I had known at the beginning that I would be flying back home two months early.


That’s another thing that I felt conflicted about at the time, and still do today, to be honest. I am extremely sad that I didn’t get to have the same full travel experience that my older sister did the year before, and definitely plan to remedy that at some point when international travel becomes safer again, but I was also in turn given an opportunity to spend extra time with my parents that I wouldn’t have gotten to have otherwise. How quickly everything changed was definitely a bit traumatic, especially having to say goodbye to all of my flatmates two full months before I had planned, but as I said earlier, I do think that everything happens for a reason, and I also believe that those first couple of months of lockdown would have been even worse if I had gotten stuck over there or if otherwise I hadn’t been able to spend it with loved ones, especially as our ferret Snowberry became somewhat of an emotional support animal.

Live Music in Britain: Palaye Royale’s “The Bastards” Tour


The marquee outside the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on February 20, the night before the gig.

As much as I loved getting to explore London with my fellow world-travelling flatmates and getting used to life in another country, my favorite weekend of the entire experience was, by far, February 20-22 of 2020. On this weekend, I ventured into London alone, scared but also extremely excited, to see one of my favorite bands in concert. Palaye Royale, a US band who I had seen once before in 2018, were headlining a sold-out show at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on February 21 during the UK leg of their “Bastards World Tour”, with Counterfeit and Charming Liars as support, and I was extremely excited. I didn’t know at the time that this would end up being my last pre-covid concert, but I am glad that honor was able to go to such a phenomenal show.


My weekend started on a Thursday, as I only had classes on Monday-Wednesday (another perk of the University of Hertfordshire-each class, or “module” only met for two hours per day once a week). I woke up and was extremely anxious, as I had never gone into a big city like London alone before, but I was also incredibly excited because I am a huge fan of Palaye Royale, so much so that I even bought my ticket for this tour back in August of 2019 when it was first announced, before I had even finished applying for my study abroad program, just to make sure it didn’t sell out before I could.


Thursday, I took a train from Hatfield to King’s Cross Station, then took the underground to the Shepherd’s Bush neighborhood where the venue and my hotel were located, and what would essentially be “home base” for the weekend. After checking in to my room, I stopped by the Westfield Mall briefly that was nearby to pick up a couple of essentials from Superdrug (The UK equivalent of a CVS basically), then I travelled to the Old Brompton Gallery where Palaye was going to host a pop-up merch shop/gallery showcase of some art made by drummer Emerson Barrett. I hung out there for a bit, bought a little merch, and even got to meet Emerson and their guitarist Sebastian Danzig. (This even made a split-second appearance in a behind-the-scenes video from the tour, a screenshot of which is below). I then went back to my hotel for the night, except to grab dinner at a nearby Italian place.


Friday, the gig was center stage. I went back to the mall and browsed around, because it is a HUGE mall that I would definitely recommend visiting if one ever finds themself in the area, then I went back to my room to get ready for the show. And enjoy the show, I did. Charming Liars, half from the US and half from the UK, started things off, and while I had listened to a couple of their songs to get ready for the show, I wasn’t too familiar with them, but they were full of energy and they earned themselves a new fan that night. 


Next up was Counterfeit, a UK rock group fronted by actor Jamie Campbell Bower, who some may recognize from his roles in the Twilight Saga, Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, or Sweeney Todd, and will also be in the next season of Stranger Things. Counterfeit put on a phenomenal show as well, although I wished they had played a few songs from their 2017 album Together We Are Stronger instead of solely new music, most of which was unreleased. That being said, since they ended up breaking up during lockdown, I am grateful to have been able to see what was one of their last shows together.


And finally, Palaye Royale took center stage, and absolutely brought the house down. I wish that I could describe the amount of energy that was in the room that night, but, honestly, you just had to be there. The venue was stunningly beautiful architecturally, the acoustics were amazing, and everyone just seemed to be having the time of their lives. I can honestly say that that show was one of the happiest nights of my life so far, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel and be there, especially since it has now been over a year without live music, and that is driving me a little crazy.


The weekend ended with another trip to the pop-up shop on Saturday, as the band played a free acoustic show at the nearby Redcliffe Gardens, and the first 100 people who showed up that day were able to listen to a new unreleased song from their album The Bastards that came out on May 29. I also had to exchange a skirt that I had bought the first day that did not fit right at all, and bought even more merch because I just love this band so so so much.


Overall, it was my favorite memory of the trip because it involved me having to overcome anxiety of travelling alone, and I actually got to just do whatever I wanted those three days instead of my itinerary depending on other people. There are definitely benefits to travelling in a group, both for safety and social reasons, but it can also be nice to just go where you want to go, especially when shopping. I sometimes like to take my time browsing, and tend to feel guilty if I know someone is waiting around for me. The shoe was on the other foot the next time we all went to London, as I found myself waiting around while everyone else was browsing through Abercrombie, although that weekend trip was otherwise fun as well, especially since it ended up being our last, unfortunately.

Study Abroad Tips




Even though my study abroad experience did not exactly go as planned, I do want to share some tips and tricks that I picked up for anyone who may be planning to study abroad in the future, keeping in mind that some policies/practices may have changed due to the pandemic since my experience was pre-covid. Some of these will be UK/England specific, and others will be more universal.


  1. Order local currency at least a month before you plan to leave.

Most US banks do not necessarily carry foreign currencies in-stock, but they can order them for you and will notify you when the currency is ready to be picked up. This is what I did, and it was so much easier than trying to use an airport exchange kiosk, as well as being free from some of the additional fees that these kiosks charge. You can technically also just bring a debit card (as long as you’ve notified your bank that you’re travelling, of course), and withdraw from a bank’s ATM, which I did when I spent a month in Italy in the summer of 2019, but this will come with foreign transaction fees. Also, I just think it is better to already have at least some local currency in case one ends up needing to pay for a taxi from the airport or a similar expense.


2. When you get to your destination, try to resist the temptation to nap.

Trust me, you will be exhausted after an international flight, regardless of whether you slept on the plane or not, and jet lag is a real thing. However, especially since you will need to adjust to being in a different time zone (or clock-land, as Jason Mendoza on The Good Place would call it), try to power through, otherwise you may wake up with it dark outside at around 4 pm with little to nothing open because it’s Sunday and everything closes early. This did not happen to me, but it did to someone else I talked to before my trip.


3. Make SURE that you have your bank(s) put a travel alert on your account for the duration of your trip.

Again, I personally did not have any issues with this, as I knew other who had traveled that gave me this advice, but you do not want to be trying to buy food or something somewhere and have your card get declined because your bank flagged it even though you did tell them you were going to be traveling. This is also another reason that keeping local currency on hand is important, so that you still have a payment method in case there are credit card troubles.


4. If there are live experiences you may want to do, start looking at them before you depart.

This is more applicable to a long-term experience (semester or academic year vs. summer), but if you’re like me and might want to try to catch a gig or two, start paying attention to things that get announced even before you arrive, and potentially buy tickets ahead of time, too. Otherwise, you might hear that a band you love is going to be close enough where you could feasibly travel to the gig, but by the time you hear about it it’s sold out already. 


5. Research local customs for the area you are visiting.

This should be a no-brainer, but find out information about local laws, customs, wardrobe expectations, etc. of the area you are going to be visiting. Obviously you should be yourself, but it is also important to be respectful of the local culture, whether that means not getting loud, drunk, and/or obnoxious in public, being willing to cover up if entering a sacred space (not really a UK thing but common in Italy, especially when entering churches/basilicas), familiarizing oneself with the area’s tipping culture or lack thereof, and other things of that nature. It won’t be expected that you will be an expert, but respect of locals is one of the most important things. Dressing more like a local is also helpful in not immediately seeming like a tourist, because especially if you are alone, seeming like a tourist can potentially make one an easier target for pick-pocketing and such.



Obviously your school work is important, because you are doing a study abroad experience, not just taking a vacation. However, as much as you can, make sure that you are also making time to explore your surroundings and do things that you can’t do back home, whether that is checking out local restaurants, even if they are chains that they don’t have back home (looking at you Nando’s), or going to the nightclub on campus, or even just making time to hang out with your flatmates in the flat playing games or watching movies. Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I wish that I would have prioritized fun time a little more, especially since study abroad work just comes back as pass/fail, at least at OU, so getting straight A’s does not matter in the slightest.


My flatmates and I in our flat.

An American in Britain


My flatmates and I outside Buckingham Palace.



Hello all! It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted anything on here, but as we all know by now, the world just kinda got super crazy last year and to be honest, it hasn’t really stopped. Last time I posted on here, I was getting ready to spend a semester abroad, and I wanted to post a bit here about some of the experiences I had studying in the UK, even though the trip didn’t last as long as originally intended (which will be explained more in its own post, to keep this one from being overly long and rambly).


In January of 2020, I embarked on what was probably simultaneously one of the most terrifying and most exciting experiences of my life thus far by flying, alone, across the pond over to the UK to spend my spring semester at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield. I did not know anyone else that was going to be there, and for an introvert like me, I think that was even more scary than the whole “being on another continent” thing. However, per my sister’s recommendation (she had studied abroad there in spring of 2019), I was staying in a townhouse on their College Lane campus with 10 other students, which helped ease some of my social fears because having 10 roommates quickly turned into having several new friends, even if they did come in loudly after a night of partying while I was trying to sleep a few times.


Despite the occasional differences, I could not have asked for a better group of flatmates, especially since we were all international students so it gave me a chance to get to know people from different countries even better than some of OU’s programs have. Amongst the crew of Flat 35 in Bellingham Court, about half of us were from the US, one was from Canada, one from Australia, and the remainder from various parts of Europe such as Spain, France, and the Netherlands, so we had a fairly diverse group which made socialization more fun in the best way possible since there were so many different cultures coming together. At the same time, we were able to bond over shared interests such as a mutual love for the Shrek movie franchise, of which we watched at least the first three films as a group and proceeded to play selections from the soundtrack basically any time we were “partying” at the flat. I use quotes because “partying” usually just meant drinking and playing Uno, Jenga, or some other card game. And even though it was legal for me to drink, as I was 20 at the time and the UK drinking age is lower, I did it more than I did here but still not as much as most of my peers, which I was completely fine with.


Having built-in social companions also made two of my three trips to London more fun, especially when we went the first full weekend after we had moved in and did a lot of the more tourist-y things like going to Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, walking by the still-under-construction Big Ben, and other things like that. In hindsight, I honestly wish I would have explored more than just Hatfield, St. Albans, and London, but I had also planned to be there for four months instead of two, so time got away from me.


In terms of culture shock, I think the biggest things for me were the streets being reversed, which I knew was going to be a thing but prior knowledge didn’t make it look any less strange, and having to either walk or use public transit to go to the grocery store. Between only being able to buy as much as I could carry, and the fact that there are a lot fewer preservatives in foods there than here in the US, we were making weekly trips to ASDA (UK Walmart), sometimes even multiple trips per week. There was also an Aldi sort of close by, that I wish I would have checked out at least once, but it was usually just easier to tag along for a group ASDA run.


Also, a tip: If you’re shopping and someone asks “Are you alright?”, that’s the equivalent of “Can I help you/Do you need assistance?” And, this is fairly common knowledge, but chips=fries and crisps=chips.


Overall, I am extremely grateful for the time I was able to spend in the UK, even though the trip did not go as expected, and I definitely hope to return at some point and will try to explore more.

Big Ben (still under construction, of course…)
The London Eye.
A Lego sculpture of Big Ben at a Lego store in London.

International Music Spotlight: Bring Me the Horizon (UK)

Hello again!

In highlighting different music artists from around the world, I also wanted to take a minute to talk about Bring Me the Horizon. Though they are definitely more well-known than some of the other acts I’ve featured, their influence on the rock scene is too great not to make note of.

Bring Me the Horizon is a rock band originally formed in Sheffield, UK in 2004, and their current lineup consists of vocalist Oliver Sykes, guitarist Lee Malia, bassist Matt Kean, drummer Matt Nicholls, and keyboard/synth player Jordan Fish. While they have undergone many stylistic changes throughout their career, with earlier records having a metalcore vibe (in other words, lots of crunching guitars and screaming vocals), they started to veer into more commercial hard-rock territory on 2013’s Sempiternal, which was my introduction to the band since that was around the time I started listening to that type of music. They have since taken on somewhat of a more alternative/pop-leaning sound on some of their tracks, but they’ve managed to put hard rock jams and poppier tunes on the same album and made it work, even if not everyone loves every single song. But that willingness to go out of the box and refuse to keep making the same album over and over again is one of the reasons why I like them: they do their thing and don’t seem to give much of a fuck about what anyone else thinks.

Lead vocalist Oli has also opened a vegan bar and arcade in Sheffield, called Church: Temple of Fun, that I think would be interesting to visit if I can make it up that way during my travels.

I actually had the pleasure of finally seeing BMTH

live a couple of months ago on their “Threesome Tour” with Sleeping with Sirens and Poppy, and their set was very energetic and enjoyable despite the fact that Oli was definitely using a backing track, though he was singing over it so it wasn’t completely phoned-in, plus I had to leave early because too many people were vaping inside (yet another issue for another time). Overall, though, it was a very enjoyable performance.

Listen to their song “sugar, honey, ice and tea” below, off of their most recent album amo, which has been nominated for “Best Rock Album” at the 2020 Grammy Awards.

Until next time,



A “Brit” about Brexit

Hello again!

Since I am going to the UK, I wanted to write a little bit about one of the biggest news topics from the area in recent years: Brexit. For those who don’t know, Brexit – short for “British Exit” – is the ongoing attempt of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. The initial vote to Leave was in 2016, though as of writing this post, the exit still has not officially happened. (2016 was just an interesting year for global politics now wasn’t it?). The exit was originally supposed to happen in March of this year, then it got pushed twice eventually sitting at October 31. That deadline was missed again, though, and the current leave date is sitting at January 31, 2020, so only time will tell if the exit will actually happen then. Much like the 2016 election in the US, the Brexit vote did and has continued to cause disagreement among UK citizens, as many didn’t think that Leave would actually win. Then again, many US people didn’t think Trump would win in the US, but here we are… Anyway, there are still a lot of unknowns regarding how the exit will impact life in and around the UK, and only time will tell what will happen in the future. Personally, I think it will be interesting if the official exit happens while I’m over there to see if anything changes right away, and to see how things change from the perspective of a visitor to the area, if much even changes at all during those first few months.

Until next time,




International Music Spotlight: Counterfeit (UK)

In honor of my upcoming travels, I wanted to take a couple of posts to highlight some of my favorite artists from the area. First off is Counterfeit, based in London. Counterfeit was formed in 2015 and features Jamie Campbell Bower as the lead vocalist and guitarist, as well as Tristan Marmont and Sam Bower on guitars, Roland Johnson on bass, and James Craig on drums. If the name Jamie Campbell Bower sounds at all familiar, you may recognize him from past acting roles as Jace Wayland in 2013’s Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, as Anthony Hope in Sweeney Todd, or as a young Gellert Grindelwald in a couple of Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts films. This project is not about that, however.

Counterfeit’s music is what I would consider to be a fusion of punk, rock, and grunge, with plenty of heavy, distorted guitars and interesting drum patterns. What really stands out to me, though, is Bower’s vocals, which range from fast-paced spoken sections, to some screams (though not the rough deathcore-type), and some more melodic verses as well. My favorite song of theirs (and, admittedly, the only one I know well so far thanks to hearing it on Sirius XM Octane a couple of years ago), is the single “Enough” from their debut album Together We Are Stronger, featuring most of the musical traits described above.

I also wanted to highlight Counterfeit since they will be appearing on the UK dates of Palaye Royale’s upcoming “The Bastards World Tour”, which I will be seeing when it comes through London, and I’m very eagerly looking forward to it. I will likely post a review of the show afterward, as I know it will be an unforgettable experience.

The video for “Enough” can be watched below, and Counterfeit’s upcoming tour dates are available on their website,

Until next time,



A Trip Across the Pond: Study Abroad Plan Update


I just wanted to take a minute to give an international travel update: I’m going to the UK! I’ve been accepted by the University of Hertfordshire to spend the next semester taking some classes there in the spring. I’m both nervous and excited, as I’ve never been away from home for that long, especially in a different time zone, but it will also be an opportunity for new experiences, new sights, and potential new friendships! Knowing that my sister survived her experience there last spring also makes me feel better about going, and I’m eagerly awaiting whatever this experience has in store for me. I am definitely looking forward to exploring London and the surrounding areas, especially in February when I venture into the big city to see Palaye Royale on their UK headlining run. I’ve seen them before here, but it was in a support slot rather than a headliner, so I know it will be an entirely different experience. I also hope to be able to do some travelling to other areas of Europe during breaks; I definitely want to see parts of France and Germany if I’m able, and I wouldn’t mind visiting Italy again. I am a little anxious, and that will probably get worse as my departure approaches, but I’m trying to remain optimistic that this experience will help me become a stronger person.

Until next time,


Another OU Cousins Thanksgiving

Hi again! This post is definitely later than intended considering it’s almost Christmas now; I blame finals week for draining all of my energy. For this semester, I once again tried to get involved with OU Cousins because I love what they do to make our international students feel more welcome during their time here. As I was once again faced with the all-too-common message of not being matched because of there being more OU students signed up than international students to be matched with, I elected to at least go to their annual Thanksgiving dinner as an opportunity to socialize.

The evening started out as it has in the past, with a brief introduction and a video about the history of the holiday that acknowledged the not-so-pleasant origins of the day. The celebration of Thanksgiving has been a point of debate in recent years as more people are realizing that the “happy stories” of pilgrims and Native Americans many of us heard as children are not true, and I do think it is important to acknowledge these things, but at the same time I also feel like the holiday has evolved to become just a day to be with family, whether it be a biological family or a chosen family of supportive friends, and be grateful, even if many of us then rush off to go shopping (which is a tangent for another time).

The food provided was a “traditional” Thanksgiving meal, with turkey and ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pecan and pumpkin pie, and it was fine enough, though I am biased towards my dad’s Thanksgiving cooking so most foods will pale in comparison.

One of my favorite things, though, was relatively simple but it reminded me of simpler times of youth: the construction of a hand turkey. For those unaware, a common tradition around this holiday for children is to trace the outline of one’s hand on a piece of paper and decorate it to look like a turkey, with the thumb resembling a head and the other fingers looking like feathers. At the dinner, we were instructed to make hand turkeys if we chose, and to write things we are grateful for on each of the “feathers”, then they were all glued onto a large banner.

Overall, it was a very pleasant evening, and I look forward to participating in more events with OU Cousins in the future.

Bye for now,