My All American London trip can be summed up in one word….FAMILY! My Varsity family, new friends, Robbie our group leader, my teammates and my mom all made this experience a senior year highlight.

For most of us the trip to London started at camp, but for me you could say my trip started 27 years ago. My mom told me stories about her love of UCA Camp when she was in high school and college. She told me about her All-American year and how sad she was that could not go when she had the chance. When it was my turn to try out I felt the burden of making it so we could go together. It was incredible getting to call her to say we needed passports! It was an honor to walk the London New Year’s Day Parade for us both.

Here is a rundown of my London experience:

Day 1: The flight was long but worth it. Even being in the airport was exciting. Our hotel had the most incredible view of the Thames River and Tower Bridge. We got checked in, had dinner and our first meeting. We learned the lay of the land, got our tickets, subway pass and food cards.

Day 2: The real fun began with a bus tour of historic downtown. Taking in sights like Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Victoria & Albert Museum, eating at a pub and seeing Wicked were my highlights.

Day 3: A free day to explore on our own.

Day 4: This was my second favorite, Windsor Castle. The little town and grounds were just breathtaking. I also got to blog for Varsity.com and host UCA’s Instagram story.

Day 5 was another free day— for me it meant shopping! They have a four story Victoria’s Secret that I had to see. We also walked Kensington Palace and saw the crown jewels in Tower Castle. I made sure to get in obligatory phone booth shots. It was NYE and they threw us a great party back at the hotel.

Day 6: My favorite… PARADE DAY! We got up early to get into our Varsity uniforms, took lots of pictures and loaded the coaches to the warm up area. The energy was electric. Once the parade started I didn’t want it to end. Performing in front of the grandstands was like being on a competition mat.

Day 7: We squeezed in some last minute shopping before heading back to Heathrow.  It was so sad to leave.

The Varsity Spirit team who ran the London New Year’s Day Trip were first class. Everyone made sure we were well taken care of and had a great time- they delivered! I take home with me memories that will last a life time with my mom by my side. Thank you to everyone involved with planning and executing this adventure. I would not have wanted to ring in 2020 with anyone or anywhere else!

– Tori Olchawa, Varsity Fashionista & IT Girl