Beginning a Photography Journey... by Amanda Liew

I purchased my first DSLR (Nikon D3100!) right before Thanksgiving, so I had a mighty fun time playing around with it for the first time when I visited my cousin’s family in upstate New York! Fun fact: my dad is the youngest of 12 siblings all from one mom and dad. Aside from my dad, there was only one other son… and 10 sisters!!! Insanity! My uncle is one of the oldest, so his kids are only slightly younger than my dad. Therefore, THEIR kids are only slightly younger than I am! Even though I’m technically a generation older, Olivia is only 6 months younger. Nevertheless, staying with the Lees is always a good time. I got to practice out my photography skills while they got some cute family portraits! Luckily, my cousin’s family also had Nikon DSLRs and taught me a few things. My cousin recommended first shooting in the “A” (Aperture) mode rather than “M” (Manual) to start with. 

Here are some more cousins that I actually met for the first time! I’m the baby of the family, as you can tell.
Thanks to Christmas shortly after, I got to practice even more with my own family back in San Diego! With my brother away in China for two years and myself in school 3000 miles away, it’s been difficult to get some family pictures of all of us together. I came up with a great idea for my grandparents’ Christmas gift, though: a collage frame and a photoshoot to fill it up! We finally got some great family portraits. I, of course, enlisted my lazy brother to share the cost and agree to hanging the large frame up in their apartment! Meanwhile, I got even more practice and tried out a tripod with a timer for the first time. 
Aren’t my grandparents adorable? I loved their matching Christmas outfits!imageimage
I definitely struggled with shooting in artificial lighting. Comparing the pictures between my cousin’s family and my own, I’m realizing how much of a difference natural lighting makes! Over Christmas break, I’ve been searching for some basic DSLR tutorials online. I found a really great one by Aimee at It’s Overflowing. She runs through Aperture, ISO, Shutter Speed, and Metering very thoroughly and simply! I’ve found that a lot of tutorials online make a lot of assumptions about your photography background which can be very frustrating. Aimee, however, does a wonderful job of explaining every step and even assigning little “assignments.” If you want to check it out, click here.

I found out that one of my high school friends has a Nikon D3100, too, so we’ve decided we’re going on an adventure throughout all of San Diego to practice! I’m really excited and loving my camera so far! 

Leaving London never happened.. by Amanda Liew

It’s been a year since my last post. What started out as a little abroad blog just to show my parents transformed into an international sensation, garnering me more awards than I could imagine, and a following of thousands. I wasn’t ready to handle it, though, and quickly withdrew from the limelight for the fear of losing myself….Hahah in reality, I loved blogging to be able to share my thoughts with my friends. That plus my long-awaited purchase of a DSLR, motivated to me start this up again. 

I realized that I never left London fully. Sure, I was back across the pond, shuttling back and forth between California, Philadelphia, and New York, but I feel like I left an old version of myself abroad and came back a completely changed person. I’m sure those of you who have gone abroad understand my sentiments exactly. When I first arrived at college, I was excited to “start again” - to break out of who I was in high school and become this new and fabulous version of myself. The only problem, though, is that at 18 I hardly knew who I was or who I even wanted to be. Fast forward to junior year, and I’m experiencing freshman year all over again (quite literally! I fully participated in KCL’s Fresher’s week and lived with first years!). The only difference this time, was that I was 20 with 2 more years to learn about myself outside of the confines of my household. I found an amazing group of friends of Brits, Americans, Australians, and Italians, and I felt “natural” in all the right ways. I didn’t try to impress every single person, but rather stuck close to the people who made me laugh constantly. I was truly amazed that in such a short period I had solidified such a strong group of friends, but also such a strong sense of my own personality. I came back to America KNOWING who I was, and that made all the difference. My self-confidence has been stronger, and my eyes have been open to how much more I can do in life. Spontaneously using every weekend possible to travel the world made me realize how much time I waste normally. This fall, I did what I could. I made a goal to leave Penn’s campus once a week to experience something new, and I have to say, it was a success! I brought my friends to Chinatown for the Mooncake Festival, finally experienced First Friday, visited the Poconos for a weekend Greek InterVarsity retreat, and more. 

The biggest take-a-way of all, though, was that amazing friend group. For two and a half weeks, I gave the Brits a taste of America. Stephen, Max, and Sarah flew to San Diego for a Southern California extraordinaire where we visited everything from glorious La Jollan beaches to Disneyland to Jake’s frat in USC.


Stephen and Max then flew with me to Philly only to go up to DC the next day to meet Beccy (via London), Matt, Jose, Lauren, Nick, Sebastien, and Arielle.
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We then went to NYC where we casually bumped into Michelle Obama in front of the Rachel Rae studios (no photographic evidence, unfortunately)

And finally we came back to Philly to see the birthplace of America, watch a Phillies game, and show the Brits  a good ol’ American “freshers” week celebration. 

Needless to say, going abroad was the best decision of my life! I hope you guys look forward to the rest of my posts documenting life “abroad” back at home!