Welcome to my first monthly recap! After writing weekly recap posts right after my move to the UK, I realized two things: I really enjoy recap posts, and they will start getting very boring if I continue writing them every week. So instead, I decided to switch to monthly recaps and get the best of both worlds! Here’s what’s new this month.

Where I Went

Krakow (Poland)

York, Whitby, Peterborough (United Kingdom)

Best Moments

Ringing in the New Year in Krakow. Poland is an amazing country and Krakow is such a beautiful city. I had such a blast on New Year’s Eve (even though I fell asleep “early” at 4:30 in the morning), and just in general revisiting the city: wandering around the Market Square (Europe’s largest), eating pierogi, and hanging out with friends. It was such a great end to a trip, and I already can’t wait to go back to Krakow sometime soon.

The Katherine of Aragon Festival!!! Every year on the last weekend in January, Peterborough Cathedral holds a festival in honor of Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife (who was buried in the cathedral following her death in 1536). Katherine of Aragon is my favorite person in history—my undergraduate senior thesis on her was a culmination of years of study. I had previously attended the festival in 2014 (during my study abroad), and it was so wonderful to return again, this time as a permanent UK resident.

My favorite parts of the festival this year were the Commemoration Service (a representative of the Spanish Ambassador to the UK always attends), meeting one of my favorite historians/role models, Suzannah Lipscomb, following her brilliant lecture on Katherine, and taking lots of photos with Tudor characters. I also got to share it with Adam, which was so wonderful for me (and probably a little over the top for him). And putting both my senior paper and flowers on Katherine’s grave was a particularly special moment for me.

And of course, Peterborough Cathedral has to take center stage. Wow. No matter how many times I visit, I am still stunned by just how magnificent the building is. I already can’t wait to go back.

A visit from two of my best friends! My best friends had found a cheap flight deal and bought tickets to come see me (and the UK) a few months ago, and it was so wonderful to see them again and just hang out! They were the first two people that have stayed with Adam and I in York, and I just had a blast with them. We went to Whitby for a day, explored York (despite the rain), had pies and a pint at my local, went to some of my favorite pubs, and just in general had a great time. It was so good to see them, and I already want them to come back!

Photobombed by the bartender…

A fantastic night out in York. Of course when my friends came we were going to go hard. We had such a fun night out when they came to visit. We even experienced our first pub lock-in—we stayed past closing with a couple other regulars and got locked in! It was a great night with great people, and we ended it with kebabs. What more could you ask for?! And of course, a shout out to Jackie, the only 73-year-old woman I’ve ever met who spent 11 hours drinking on her birthday and then chugged a glass of wine in one go so that she’d make it to her bus on time. Goals.

My first snowfall in York!

3 months of living in the country! I celebrated my 3-month anniversary of moving to England over hot chocolate and brownies with a new friend from work. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been here for ages—sometimes it feels like I just moved yesterday. Sometimes it still seems weird that I actually (finally) live here. All in all, it’s been three crazy hard but wonderful months.

I’ve been very popular on Instagram. Since my trip over Christmas, I’ve been doing really well with Instagram. I’ve had a few photos featured by travel accounts (!) and gained lots of followers. It’s great being able to reach more people! I really do love using Instagram for the blog, and I’m constantly adding to my bucket list of places to visit because of the ‘gram.

 

Another payday. I’m not kidding, I feel like such a baller on payday. After having such a lengthy period without a paycheck, it feels so good to be earning money. The only thing is that I get paid monthly, and I absolutely hate it. I love that payday-I-worked-hard-and-earned-money feeling, and it’s annoying that when I get paid, all that money needs to last until the next payday in a month. But it’s still nice getting another big paycheck in the bank.

Finally switching banks. I dealt with so much stress and drama when I first moved to England setting up a bank account. It took 5 weeks to set up an account (which meant I also couldn’t get a phone contract). It took me months to get online banking. And the main reason I set up that bank account in the first place was so that I could get a “recommend-a-friend” bonus to switch to Adam’s bank. So it is with great relief to say that I have left HSBC for good, and all my money is in one bank!

A nice dinner out with work. Yesterday was our work’s post-Panto (and also Christmas) party, which was just really, really nice! It was really fun to hang out with my work friends outside of work, and just in general enjoy a nice meal and then drinks out with great company. I’m really glad that I have such great co-workers. And I’m never going to say no to free prosecco.

An unexpected gift. I’ve come to know a lot of great regulars during my life in customer service. But an old man whose name I don’t even know, but who I’ve chatted with many times when I’m working the café, came up and gave me my very own white rose of Yorkshire flag! It was so sweet and I was so touched. It was so kind of him and I love my new flag!

Worst Moments

The executive order on immigration in the United States. The latest racist and unconstitutional executive order banned immigrants (including some green card holders aka legal US residents, and visa holders) from several (predominantly Muslin) countries. As an immigrant myself, this was really hard for me to watch. The US has some of the strictest border controls in the world. Any person or refugee who has legal documentation to enter the US should be allowed in. This new process is absolutely awful. I have no more words.

Being unable to engage with the inauguration and US politics in general. Things have been so scary, so absurd, so horrible. In general, I have just been completely unable to engage with what’s been going on in America. Scrolling through my Facebook makes me cry. I just try to freeze it out. The only real exception to this was the Women’s March. So many people I knew went to protests across the country (and across the globe as well!) and I was so proud of them. I was so proud of my country on that day. We need to keep that momentum up to keep fighting this fight. I’ll be here in England, supporting you all however I can.

Money and bank problems. Now that I’ve finally got my bank accounts here in the UK sorted, of course I would have tons of issues with my bank accounts in the US! Basically, my savings account from home charges a monthly fee unless you have $300 in the account—which I didn’t have, since I don’t keep money in those US accounts anymore. I transfer money to myself between pounds and dollars on PayPal, which generally works fine. But they froze my transfer (aka all my money) and I was almost late paying my (US) credit card. Luckily I can still keep my US checking account open, fee-free, but it’s just a pain to transfer money every month to pay bills.

Stress about work. I don’t feel like talking too much about this, but work has been fairly stressful this month. I feel like I have lots of things I need to decide and dealing with some disappointments. But at least I’ve got some really great co-workers at my job!

Being charged an extortionate fee for an ATM in Lviv. I didn’t realize this until I got home and thoroughly went through my online banking. But I was charged an astronomical fee getting cash out at an ATM in Lviv. I went to withdraw 200 hryvnia (UAH), which is roughly £6 (~$7.50 USD). My bank account posted a withdrawal of £25—WAY overcharging me! I’m 98% sure that this happened because I said I would convert to Euros when I clicked through the ATM screen when I made my withdrawal. So I was charged at a horrific exchange rate, and the bank in Ukraine pocketed £19 from my own idiocy. Lesson learned—never EVER convert in another currency, always convert in the local currency since your bank will give the best exchange rate!

 

Posts From the Month

All of my published posts from this month:

My Top Experiences of 2016

The Best Places I Visited in 2016

First Impressions of Lviv, Ukraine

10 Things You Should Know About Poland

A Guide to Warsaw

Off the Beaten Path: Lviv, Ukraine

The Warsaw-Lviv Night Train

 

Top 3 Instagram Photos

My top 3 most popular photos on Instagram from the month!

Coming up in February

Most of February will be pretty low-key (that whole full-time-job-thing). I’m headed to the Yorkshire Dales National Park for the weekend before Valentine’s Day—fingers crossed for good weather! And at the end of the month I’m headed to Lithuania for the first time! The plan is to spend most of the four days in and around Vilnius, with a day to see the Hill of Crosses on the other end of the country. Having visited Latvia in 2013, I’m so excited to get back to the Baltics and see more of the region!

What has your month been like? Any exciting plans for next month?!