Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Panther Traveling the World - Kara Poppe

Hi, my name is Kara Poppe, and I am a sophomore Geography: Environmental Systems major. Throughout the last several years, I have taken a greater interest in environmental issues. I jumped on the opportunity to go on this trip to expand my passion to the international level. So, here I am in London with 14 other awesome UNI students seeing how other cultures interact with our world. First, I noticed that there are signs in our hostel about "saving the planet." They encourage really short showers and recycling everywhere.  In the bathrooms (or the "toilets" as the British call it), I have yet to see a paper towel! I have really noticed how they do not use disposable products. All of the public transport promotes going green and hardly anyone owns cars. Many of the apartment buildings have cute rooftop gardens. In just two and a half days in London, I have been quite impressed by this minimalist lifestyle.

Now to hear about all of the fun activities that we have been doing! London reminds me of New York City. There are always swarms of people going in every direction. The diversity of the people and places is incredible. So much to see, so little time.  We began our London time with eating fish and chips before catching a ride on the famous Ferris wheel, the London Eye (which also highly supports clean energy)! Yesterday, we took a hop-on, hop-off double-decker bus tour around the city. At one of the stops, I tried having my picture taken with one of the horse guards, but the horse turned its head sharply into my arm. My sweatshirt now has horse slobber on it, but it was definitely memorable. After lunch and pictures in Trafalgar Square, it was off to the best part of the day...the Harry Potter walking tour! Our tour guide was awesome; she was Scottish, had bright red hair, and was a true Harry Potter geek. We walked to the places where many scenes of the movies have been shot and through the area where J.K. Rowling received her inspiration for Harry Potter and Diagon Alley. Can you believe that the Queen cannot shut down the streets of London, but the filming of Harry Potter can?!  We then rode the bus to Buckingham Palace, and we had pictures taken right in front of where Prince William and Kate Middleton shared their two kisses. Then, there was dinner in Piccadilly Circus, which reminds me of Time Square. Of course, we had to take pictures at Platform 9 3/4 in King's Cross Station, too.  Finally, we ended the night by joining the locals in watching the England vs. Sweden football game in a pub. England won 3-2, so there were cheers all around.

Today, we cruised the Thames River from the Tower of London to Westminster, then all the way back to Greenwich. Greenwich was an adorable town with a lot of charisma. It is home of the Prime Meridian. While being at the point at where the east and west meet was cool, seeing the stadium where all of the 2012 Olympic equestrian activities will be held was even cooler. It is still under construction, but I cannot wait to watch the Olympics on TV and be able to say, "Wow, I have been there!" Unsure of what to do in our free time, some of us randomly hopped on our tour bus, and we found adventures. We watched an incredible royal-like parade near the Houses of Parliament, wandered off the beaten path, and strolled through the back of Westminster Abbey.

Happy to be a Panther traveling the world, learning more about myself and others along the way. We have already met two UNI alums here! Who knows what else is in store or who else we will meet? :)