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A part of me will always think of London as home

Time January 3rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’ve been home from London for two weeks. Sometimes, when something wakes me up in the morning, I still half expect it to be the hall door slamming across from my room in London. At some point during every day I have a moment of “was that all just a dream?” because that’s exactly how it feels. Returning to the familiarity and the routine of my life at home and going back to work makes it feel even more like a dream. Once I go back to school in North Dakota, I think I’ll finally feel like I’m where I belong again. Every time I talk to someone that I haven’t seen since I’ve been back they all ask, in slightly different words, “how was London” and my response never suffices. When my friends and I were in Barcelona on our last night there, we stood above the big fountains and talked about how no one will ever understand our experience and what it was like for us. So when people ask me how it was, my usual answer is that it was amazing. I don’t go into detail about how it was the craziest most life-altering experiences of my life and that I don’t think I’ll ever do something that good for myself ever again. I have friends that are considering studying abroad sometime in the future, and the only thing I can tell them is to do it. Don’t worry about the financials because if I could do it, anyone can do it.

I’ve been putting off writing this last blog because that means it’s actually over and that I’ll never be able to do it again. Also because it’s been impossible to put into words how being home feels. The only thing I can say is that I feel like every morning I’m waking up from the longest, most detailed dream I’ve ever had. I’m very sad but also excited that I have these stories and memories with me for the rest of my life.

There isn’t much else I can say about my time in London that I haven’t already said over and over in my blogs. It was the best time of my life and I will cherish it forever. Not only did I learn an incredible amount about the world around me, but I also learned a lot of things about myself. I will take all of these lessons with me in every experience over the entirety of the rest of my life. I’ll never forget my time at 21 Pembridge Gardens and all of the people that made it so memorable.

A part of me will always think of London as home.

 

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future Londoners, pay attention

Time December 11th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

My last post was somewhat similar to this, but today’s is solely aimed toward future Londoners for the most part. This is just a quick list of things that might help you save a couple of minutes or help you get home when you’re lost or just provide you with some insider information while in London. This is my list of things I was thankful to have while in London and things that I wish I’d had.

Things I was thankful to have while living in London

The London tube map app on my phone. This thing was a lifesaver. Sometimes you just don’t want to look like a tourist and spend five minutes staring at the tube map in the middle of the station, or you just don’t have time. This is when your handy-dandy tube map app comes into play! Everyone else just thinks your just another social media junkie but really you’re only doing your best to hide the fact that “she doesn’t even go here…” Another cool thing about the tube map is that you can just type in your point A and your destination and it gives you the fastest way to get there.

Along the lines of the last one, the CityMapper app. This is basically just a higher-tech version of the tube map. You put in where you’re coming from and where you’d like to end up and it gives you directions. The cool thing about this is that it isn’t just the tube, although it’ll tell you those details too. But it will also give you walking, driving, the quickest bus to take. Sometimes I ran into issues with it, but it was helpful when I needed it.

Basically, I was just happy to have really good public transportation here. The tube is great – for the most part, when it isn’t rush hour and half of London is trying to fit into one tube car – but it closes at midnight. I have heard rumors that they are beginning to make steps toward being open all night, but that won’t happen for a couple of years. When the tube is closed, usually around midnight, there are night buses. The buses are great, when you can find the stop that you want. I don’t even want to know how much time I spent walking around aimlessly just trying to find the 94 bus at night when all I wanted to do was go home and sleep. Once you give up on finding your bus, or you’re too cold or whatever to keep walking or even begin looking in the first place, there are the cabs. You’re always warned to only take the Black Cabs because they are the only legitimate cab service in London. They’re all over. You never have an issue finding a cab no matter the time of day.

Living in the technologically advanced world that we do, I was also extremely happy to have a working phone, that also had unlimited data, while I was here. I paid 15 GBP a month for unlimited data, a certain amount of calling minutes and like 3000 texts and it was well worth it. The wifi in our house is limited and is the most annoying thing ever. (as I’m typing this, I’m disconnected from the internet to save wifi) When I was making all my plans when moving here, I didn’t think I’d have a good phone. I thought I’d just buy a throw-away phone or a small amount of minutes. Thankfully, it wasn’t much more expensive just to keep the phone that I had and get the unlimited data plan. I can’t tell you how many times this came in handy.

Things I wish I’d had while in London

I wish that I’d had a debit card that didn’t charge me fees every time I wanted to take out cash. I had to take out large amounts every time I needed cash in order to avoid getting fined all the time. I don’t even want to know how much money I spent just on international transfer fees. I avoided swiping my debit card because most places only accept the kind of card with the chip in it, which mine does not have. I didn’t know that before I came.

Unlimited wifi might have been nice… Maybe I’m too spoiled living in America where there is wifi literally everywhere, but having to budget my wifi allowances was no fun. Especially when it came to skyping or late-night netflix binges. (I couldn’t really help this – in the house that I live in they limit our wifi for their own purposes – I don’t really remember what they are, but I’m sure they’re reasonable.) Still, its annoying.

Laundry is ridiculously expensive here. You wouldn’t believe it. I don’t even want to know the total amount I spent on laundry this semester. So I would have liked even just a washing machine in my house. I could have done without a dryer. But seriously, having to lug my super heavy laundry bag a block away got old reeeeal fast, especially because I waited until the last minute to do it because it was so freaking expensive. Anyway – this is another thing that I know I can’t change, and that if you run into the same problem you won’t be able to change it either, but this is just me, informing you of what I wish had been different.

My time in London has gone by sooooo fast. Too fast. I’m not ready to be writing these posts to you guys about the things that I wish I had known because that means I’m leaving soon. Too soon.

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My semester in pictures

Time December 9th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This slideshow follows my first weekend in London where I discovered the fountain in Trafalgar Square, to my first trip in September to Paris with four of my friends that I live with, back to London where I rode the Eye, then on my trips to Italy, Barcelona, and Norway.

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A note to future study-abroaders

Time December 9th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

As I’m preparing to tragically abandon this crazy/amazing city within the next week, I know that some people are just getting ready to come abroad. So I thought I’d make this post about my advice/the things I’ve learned while in London for a semester — First of all though, everyone is going to tell you something different. Every person that I talked to before coming abroad had some sort of insight as to what it would be like and what I should do to prepare. The first thing I’m going to tell you about coming abroad is that no one knows what it is going to be like. No one can tell you every single thing that you’ll need/experience/miss while you’re here. All I’m attempting to do here is to tell you some of the things that I wished that I had known or thought of before I left. I am in so respect an expert on studying abroad. I’ve been in my little London-bubble for the past three months and I may never come out. So I guess the first piece of advice I have for you is, don’t take everything you hear too seriously. I made that mistake once or twice. I panicked about sleeping in dirty hostels with creepy people lurking and waiting for me to leave so they could steal all my precious things. I panicked about bringing too many of this or that, or too little of others. Take the things your loved ones (and random bloggers) tell you, to heart, but don’t think that it’s all 100% true. It may be true for them, or me, but not necessarily you. I wish I had known that before leaving.

The second piece of advice I have (which is mostly directed toward girls or the fashionable guy… sorry) is – also along the lines of the last one – pack using your gut. I had so many people in my ear telling me that I wouldn’t need all the clothes that I wanted to bring and that I was being unrealistic with it. I let them talk me out of bringing things that I have genuinely missed. I came into this house with one suitcase and one big travel backpack. Everyone else came in with two huge suitcases and carry-on’s. There are guys in my house that have double the amount of clothing that I do, here. Obviously, you should be reasonable when packing because the space in your suitcase is valuable. Just listen to your gut while doing it. There are so many things that I wish that I had brought with me when I came, and then I ended up spending way more money on them here than I would have if I would have just brought them from home. — Another side note on packing, its really easy to buy toiletries here. Don’t waste too much space/weight on them.

Make sure you spend some time outside of your comfort zone and don’t spend too much time thinking about it. When I first arrived in London, I was basically tossed off the airplane (or so it felt) and left to my own devices. I had to take the underground from the airport to my house in Notting Hill. It ended up being ridiculously easy, but I panicked so much beforehand because I’m the most anxious person I’ve ever met. Now I take the underground multiple times a day, and still laugh to myself about how nervous I was at the beginning. Getting lost in London – or any of the other cities that I’ve visited while I’ve been here – has been one of the highlights of my trip. I’ve seen so many things that I never would have, had I not been completely turned around. So don’t worry about not knowing exactly how to get where you’re going because getting there is half the fun.

My last and final piece of advice for you is, travel. Travelling around Europe is so cheap and so easy. Yeah, I’ve had to wake up at 4am to catch an 8am flight on multiple occasions, but I wouldn’t take it back for anything. I was worried about how I was going to pay for my travels but if you know how to do it, you can spend a weekend in any city you want for a reasonable price. Book your flights early, find a decent hostel and go! That’s all there is to it. Explore a place of the world that you’ve always wanted to see – or somewhere completely random. My favorite trip of all the trips I’ve taken this semester was to the one place that I had never really considered going before. Europe has a million different things to offer, and I promise you, there is never a dull moment.

I could sit here and go on and on about the do’s and don’t’s of studying abroad and getting ready to go abroad but for me, learning all of those things turned out to be some of the best life lessons I’ve ever experienced. The bottom line is – your semester/year/summer abroad is going to be the most amazing time of your life, that I can say with complete confidence for every single person. You will learn so much about yourself and the world that right now you have no idea. I don’t believe anyone could ever regret studying abroad. So if you’re going to take one thing from my blog, I’d hope its this; don’t spend too much time worrying because half of the things that you experience while abroad, good and bad, you’d never expect or be able to anticipate. So just make the best of every crazy situation and never regret a second of your time abroad because one day you’ll blink and you’ll only have a week left.

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Barcelona, Norway, Thanksgiving and a whole lot more to look forward to

Time December 2nd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I realize that I haven’t written in a preeeetty long time, and for that, I apologize. As I said before, November was a very busy month for me here in London. All of my papers (which ranged from 40%-60% of my overall grades) all happened to be due within a week of each other, so that kept me occupied for a while. After my papers were turned in and out of the way, I took a trip to Barcelona with some friends from my house. I won’t go into every detail about what we did there and why I loved it so much because that would take up all of the time I have left in London. I’ll just leave it at, it was theee best weekend of my life. I had way too much fun there, and before the weekend was over I was kicking myself for taking French in high school, and seriously considering starting over with Spanish next semester…

After Barcelona I was home for all of three days before I made my way to the tundra that is Norway where I was greeted with a bouquet of roses. There, I had an equally amazing time (aside from my toes being perpetually numb) and I was able to see a part of the world that I had never considered visiting before. We had our own improvised Thanksgiving dinner (although it didn’t contain turkey or mashed potatoes… but that didn’t make it any less special). I even insisted that we go around the table and tell each other what we were thankful for because obviously it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without that cheesiness. After, we skyped my family for an entire two hours, during which they enjoyed their real Thanksgiving dinner talking to a computer screen. I’m hoping that someday I can return to Norway when the weather is a little warmer! But, then again, I should probably be preparing myself for subzero weather as I’ll be returning to the midwest in just 12 days!

My semester in London has gone by way too fast. Although there have been times where I’ve been itching to get home and return to my familiar life, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve spent the past week making mental lists of everything that I still need to do before I leave, and let me tell you, it is growing by the minute. There isn’t enough time in the world to see all the amazing things that London has to offer, and with finals and packing to worry about, I don’t have nearly enough time. I’ve stumbled-upon a quote numerous times on Pinterest that says “the trouble is, you think you have time” and I’ve never found that more true than when I realize that I’ll be boarding a plane back home in 12 days. People told me over and over again that my time would go by so fast and that I’d find myself back in North Dakota wondering where the time went, but I didn’t really believe them.

Four months is a long time, right? Wrong. It isn’t nearly enough time to see the wonders of this city, country, continent. I’ve visited so many places that I never imagined myself having the opportunity to visit. If I could go back in time and tell my 10 year-old self that she’d be spending a weekend in her dream city, Paris, she would never believe me. Although, I’d rather go back and tell my freshman year of high school self that taking French was a waste of time because I’m 99% sure that Barcelona is the most amazing city I’ll ever have the opportunity to visit. All I can do is hope that someday I’m able to return.

I’ve been trying to focus on the positive side of returning home, so I’ve come up with a few things that I can’t wait to get back to. The first of which is my family and friends because A) I know they all miss me so much! 😉 and B) I have countless souvenirs to hand out and I can’t wait to feel like their own personal santa. The second is being able to drive around blasting music in my car. The walls are paper-thin in this house full of 30 people, so you could say I’m a little hesitant to sing to One Direction at the top of my lungs… Another thing that I’m looking forward to doing is saving money! I’ve probably spent over $100 just on laundry this semester because my house doesn’t have a washing machine and the laundry-mats are ridiculously expensive. Doing laundry in the dorms next semester is going to feel way too good. I am also really excited to get back to UND and all the fun things that comes with that. The last (and probably most important) thing that I’m looking forward to is a Christmas with my family and friends, because skyping over Christmas would just be depressing…

I’m sure you’re all looking forward to hearing all about (for the second time) how difficult of a time I have while attempting to pack, next week… and I would never deprive you of your wishes. Until then, it’s studying for finals and last-minute tourist activities for me!

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a visit from my “unofficial” tea & crumpet list

Time November 18th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

In case you’ve forgotten, are too lazy to go alllll the way back to August, or just didn’t care enough to read it in the first place, here is my “unofficial” tea & crumpet list. (to find out why I called it that, you’ll actually have to revisit the blog post) Anyway. I figure, since I have almost exactly a month left in London, I should address this and let everyone in on what I’ve accomplished thus far.

1. Enter a red phone booth. If it’s even possible to make a phone call in one still, call someone. I actually have not done this yet. Obviously, I’ve walked past hundreds, but still have yet to go inside of one. Honestly, they look a lot more germy than I pictured them… I still hope to do this before I leave. Maybe on my way to the airport in a month…

2. See Big Ben. Take a cheesy tourist photo. Done and done. Multiple times. Except I wouldn’t call my photos cheesy or touristy, they’re just pictures of it. I haven’t gotten in front of the camera and pretended to lean on it… yet.

3. Ride a double-decker bus. After midnight, buses are the only mode of transportation home. So I checked this one off within days of being in London.

4. See Kate Middleton, Prince William, Prince Harry, or The Queen. Or all four. Or just someone famous. (Unrealistic? Maybe. Do i care? Not one bit.) Alrighty. Here’s the tricky one. Obviously, I haven’t seen anyone royal yet. Nor do I really plan on it… Although Will & Kate did just move into the palace down the street from me… Buuuuut. Within the past week, I have seen my fair share of famous people. I originally meant this to mean that I would have to see them just walking down the street casually. Although I have juuuust missed people (Anna Kendrick… I cried inside. She was in the tube station right down my street) I haven’t actually seen anyone just out and about. This past weekend, there was a lighting ceremony on Regent Street in central London where I SAW TWO OF THE SPICE GIRLS PERFORM (baby spice & sporty spice) I also saw Passenger that night too. But let’s go back to the Spice Girls. If my 10 year-old self would have been told that I’d see them live in London someday, she literally would have peed her pants. That was probably the most exciting thing that has happened to me here in London. Next, the world premier of Catching Fire was in London tonight. Just a quick 20 minute tube ride away. After everyone got done with class, we ventured into Leicester Square and did some hard-core creeping. Definitely tied for first place as the most surreal experiences. Now all I have to do is actually see the movie…

5. Perfect my British accent.Along with that; be able to use “bloody” as an adjective in a sentence without feeling/sounding completely ridiculous. (this may be a stretch, but a girl can dream) I haven’t actually spent that much time with real British people (besides my professors) so I can’t say I’ve checked this one off yet.

6. Travel! So far, I’ve made it to Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Toulon, and Nice. Within the next month, I will return to Barcelona for a full weekend, and then make my way north to Norway. I think I can check this one off the list.

7. Go to a pub. (this may not seem very exciting or extreme to some people, but ever since P.S. I Love You, I’ve always wondered if they’re all actually as cute and romantic as they were in the movie… Guess I’ll find out.) Some are just as cute as they are in the movies. Others, pretty average. But either way, obviously I can say that this one has been accomplished.

8. Go to afternoon tea. I’m not even sure that I like tea… But, when in Rome… (or London..) We had a real tea party in our garden the first week that we were here that all of the IFSA students from around London came and mingled while eating little desserts and drinking tea. (I didn’t actually drink any tea… they had diet coke, how was I supposed to pass that up?) I did do my fair share of snacking and let me tell you, some of them were delicious. Not all of them though. Not all of them. (I still don’t know what the definition of a crumpet is though…) I can’t believe how fast my time here has gone. I remember starting this list in the middle of the summer thinking about how long it would be until I was actually going to be doing these things. Now, its almost over. I guess time really does fly while you’re having fun…

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the daily struggles of a wannabe Londoner

Time November 4th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Remember one of my first posts titled “things I learned while packing?” One of the things that I learned while packing for my semester abroad was “I suck at packing.” Well, here I am, two and a half months into my abroad experience, living proof that I really do suck at packing. Every day I find new things that I wish I had brought with me, or things that I realize I’ll never use here. Today, I’ll just focus on the things that I wish I had brought with me, because that list seems to be growing more and more every day. (If you didn’t already notice, I really like to make lists…)

Things I’m kicking myself for not bringing abroad:

1.) An umbrella. – I live in London. How was this not the first thing I packed?

2.) Rain resistant shoes – Again, I was moving to London. One pair of Sperry’s as my only waterproof pair of shoes was not a good idea. Here’s the thing, I know everyone that gave me advice on packing is going to say “i told you so” at this point, and maybe I deserve it. But my shoe choices before coming here were sooo stupid. I brought a pair of sandals (still glad I have those) my Sperry’s (glad I have them, but I hate wearing them with most of the pants that I wear on a daily basis) a pair of Sketcher’s Go-Walk (proud of myself for owning them, but I don’t wear them super often. I am still happy that I brought them, though) a pair of Target brand Ked-like sneakers (not at all waterproof, got super dirty my second week here and I’ve been considering throwing them away since I got here) and a pair of suede boots. (suede. you don’t wear suede in London! it rains here! duh… haven’t worn those more than once) so – bottom line here, for anyone considering studying abroad somewhere like London, learn from my mistakes – make better shoe choices than I did.

3.) More than one adapter – Choosing between a charged phone or laptop is not fun. Constantly playing the game of “how much time do I have before I have to plug this in” is never a good time. Thankfully, a couple of weeks ago I came across an abandoned one in our house otherwise I’d still be going crazy.

4.) More skinny jeans, less straight-leg jeans – Newsflash: straight-leg jeans are not a thing here. No one wears them. Ever. If straight-leg jeans were myspace, skinny jeans would be twitter. I only brought one pair of denim skinny jeans and wear them way too many times a week to be socially acceptable. I have one pair of black skinnies that I wear almost every other day that I don’t wear my denim pair. Also, I haven’t been able to find a pair in the stores here that fir me right. 1, I never learned the big number measurements. Still don’t get it, obviously. 2, online shopping is always a gamble. Life is hard being a girl.

5.) A real jacket – I thought, coming from going to school in the tundra that is North Dakota, I’d be fine without a real winter jacket. It doesn’t snow much here, and apparently to me, that means it also doesn’t get super cold here. I was wrong. Very wrong. So now I’ll have to go out and spend money on a jacket that I probably won’t have room for in my suitcase going home. Again, life is hard being a girl.

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When in Rome… (and Naples, Tuscany, Pompeii, Nice & Toulon)

Time October 28th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I spent this past week cruising the Mediterranean, touring Italy, reenacting the Titanic, and soaking up the vitamin D that I’ve been deprived of here in London. Saturday evening I flew to Barcelona to meet the rest of Team Josef (we had matching t-shirts, pictures to come) then on Sunday morning we boarded the biggest boat I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Needless to say I made my fair share of Titanic references and may or may not have even gone so far as to refer to myself as ‘Rose’ a couple of times… (granted, my departure from the ship was much less tragic than Rose’s) Either way, it was an amazing week. We stopped in Toulon and Nice in France, Rome, Naples, Pompeii and Tuscany in Italy and took tours of Rome and Pompeii and had a wine tasting in Tuscany. It was a dream. (I realize that I constantly refer to my life here as a dream, but its the only way I know how to describe it) The tours were probably the most exciting parts of the week, but coming in close at #2 was (sadly) being able to eat real food! I forgot what a real meal was like. Now I’m even more excited to return home to the world of fast-food. You’d probably think that after that I’d be more motivated to make myself some real meals, buuuuut that’s probably not going to be the case.

My favorite place that we visited on the cruise was Rome, and more specifically, the Colosseum. It was unfathomable, being there. Trying to picture life in that time and all the things that happened there was mind-blowing. The entire city of Rome is incredibly historical. Half the time I didn’t know what I was looking at but it was all just so amazing. Visiting the Vatican made me wish that I was more religious because of how beautiful and historical it is. I felt incredibly overwhelmed the entire time that I was on and off the ship, but in the best way possible.

It seems that I am always having issues with the airport, train station, etc when I travel out of the country… This time, it was much easier for me to get back into London at the UK border agency, but that isn’t to say that I didn’t have my fair share of issues getting to and from Barcelona! I almost couldn’t find a cab when I arrived in Barcelona on Saturday night and then this morning the clocks changed on the boat without anyone knowing so I was an hour late to my meeting place to get a bus back to the airport, then had to wait another hour before the bus actually left… But I managed to make it to the airport with almost exactly an hour and a half to spare. Go me!

But, now I’m back to life in London. (How strange is it that “going home” now means going to London? It still amazes me that it has become so ordinary to me) I ran all kinds of errands right when I got home and am now ridiculously exhausted at 8pm. Little did I know, I was coming home to a hurricane tomorrow… I’ll be walking to class in 80mph winds. Wish me luck!

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coffee, Shakespeare & rainy days

Time October 17th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I have finally found good coffee in London! You probably wouldn’t expect this to be a big deal, but it is. The first quality cup of coffee I had was at the Globe Theater. Not exactly somewhere that you expect to find good coffee, but I’m not complaining. – Speaking of Shakespeare’s Globe, one of my classes this semester is Shakespeare in London, so we’re reading a bunch of his plays but also going to see them. The first play that we saw with class was Hamlet at this teeny-tiny theater that from the outside looked like someone’s house. The inside, just like the outside, looked as if it had once been an apartment and then renovated into a theater. The “stage” was really just a room with about 20 chairs and two doorways. I expected that I’d have to be constantly pinching myself to stay awake during the play, but it ended up being amazing. The second play that we saw for my class was Macbeth at the Globe. Earlier in the day, we took a tour through the theater and then had time to check out the exhibition which features everything from a page out of Shakespeare’s will to costumes that would have been used in the original performances. Then that night we returned to the Globe for the show. Since tickets were so popular, we ended up having to watch the play from the yard as “groundlings” like the poor people would have done in Shakespeare’s time. Unlike in Shakespeare’s time, the ground was actually clean and it was a very pleasant experience. The play itself ended up being something that I will look back on happily for the rest of my life. Not many people get to say that they’ve experienced a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theater. I only wish the Globe hadn’t closed this past weekend, so I’d have a chance to go back and see another play. We see one more play for my Shakespeare class this semester, but that doesn’t happen for a few more weeks.

Aside from the loads of homework that I’ve been keeping up on, I’ve also been working on planning a couple more trips. Not only am I (spur-of-the-moment) going on a Mediterranean cruise this weekend with my wonderful boyfriend and his family, but I also have a couple other trips planned for the coming month. November is going to be a crazy one! (I also have a lot more, important, school work coming up too) I fly to Barcelona this Saturday, which is where the cruise leaves from. We will spend the week visiting various places in France and Italy and then return to Barcelona on the next Sunday morning. I also go to Barcelona in the middle of November for a weekend with a few of the girls that I live with. Then three days after I return from Barcelona, I go to Norway for Thanksgiving. I’ve got a lot to look forward to, but also a lot to get done in order to be able to fully enjoy these trips.

It’s so crazy to think that I have less than two months left here. It has been flying by. I know I’ll look back and wonder where the time went, so I’m doing my best to make the most of every day. That isn’t to say that I don’t spend some time watching netflix in bed, but in my defense it rains a lot here! Since we’re on the topic of rain, I should probably say that I’m kicking myself for not bringing more rain-resistant shoes. Yesterday on my way to class, it was raining pretty hard and all I was wearing was a pair of ballet flats. Let’s just say that my shoes were doubling as pools by the time I got to class. I spent my three hour long class barefoot in an attempt to dry them out. (they were still wet when I left class) … whoops.

I’m incredibly excited to get away from this house (that still hasn’t lost its Real World nickname) next week. Although the drama is dying down, I think I’ll be able to come back with a better attitude after being away for a week. I think I’d come back with a better attitude regardless though because, hello, Mediterranean cruise… Bring on the sunshine!

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Somebody pinch me; am I really homesick?

Time October 8th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I think, after more than a month, I am finally beginning to become homesick. One would think that this would have happened early on in my time here, but for some reason, it didn’t. Coming here, I didn’t expect to become homesick. I go to school 300 miles from home, and have never had a problem with that. This past week, I had a special visitor (as I mentioned last week, and as I’m sure most of you have seen on facebook) and now that he’s gone, I think it’s hitting me. Having any kind of familiarity here is always appreciated. Now that I’m back to only having social media as my reminders of home, its all starting to kick in. I don’t think it is that I necessarily miss home, just that I’m getting tired of all the drama in my house here and I’m finding the schoolwork incredibly hard to adjust to. (I’ve already been over the details, so I won’t bore you all again with that) but let’s just say that the episode of the Real World that I’ve been living in doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon.

This isn’t to say that I no longer appreciate the opportunity that I have at hand. I am incredibly thankful to everyone that helped me, or rather pushed me, to follow my dream and take the once in a lifetime chance to live in London. I just think now, after completely adjusting to living here, I will be ready to go home once the time comes. Sometimes when walking to our from school in the center of the city, I find myself imagining that I’m just in a big city in the US and that I’m just visiting for a weekend or something. Then I walk into the tube station and realize that I actually live here. It is a dream come true every day, just to be here. Time has already been flying, and I know these last two months are going to go even faster. IFSA has a bunch of weekend “excursions” for all of the London students coming up, and I’m really looking forward to getting out and seeing parts of the UK that I wouldn’t necessarily do on my own. I’m going to continue with the positive attitude that I’ve had this whole time, but I find myself becoming more and more ready for December to come.

I find myself missing the strangest things about being home. Like cars. As much as I hate paying for gas, insurance, etc. I miss being able to get in my car and go where I want to go, without worrying about the packed tube in the morning and evening rush hours. I also miss drive-thru’s, as bad as that is… Sometimes I even miss work; or maybe I just miss having something to do all the time. I’ve already decided that as soon as I land in Minnesota, I’m stopping at the closest McDonald’s for a large diet coke (with ice!) because I can’t even express how much I crave those on a daily basis. I miss real food. Providing/making my own food has proven just how cheap and lazy I really am. (whoops?)

And of course I miss everyone at home – I guess everyone can say “i told you so” now because I, Isabelle DeGayner, am homesick. Who would have thought that would ever happen?

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Why my life has become an ongoing episode of The Real World

Time September 30th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This week has definitely had its ups and down. It feels like half of the people that I live with have been sick, or getting sick – myself included. I’ve been doing a lot of half-napping during the day, where I lay in bed and accidentally fall asleep for twenty minutes, wake up, and do it all over again. The worst part is that the weather has actually been decent for the past few days, but I haven’t had the energy to put it to good use (although I have ventured to the post office, laundry-mat, and grocery store alone a few times). I wish I could be enjoying it more though. The worst of my cold seems to be over, so I’m in that weird in-between phase where I still don’t feel great, but don’t have an excuse anymore because my voice has returned to normal. Once the sun came out at the end of last week, it felt like everyone was much less on-edge, but then everyone started to get sick and it all went downhill from there. Another thing that’s been attributing to everyone’s foul moods is that 15 more people moved into our house last week and it’s become quite a bit more crowded. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in the most over-populated season of The Real World, London: Study Abroad, without the fun of being on TV. (we have joked about creating a confessional room like they do in the real world, where we could go film ourselves complaining about everything that’s been going on in the house. I volunteered my room.) Let me just tell you that living in such close proximity with so many people isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. I should mention though that I’ve made a ton of great friends here already. But that doesn’t mean that this place hasn’t had its fair share of drama.

Keeping up with classes is rough. Taking four, three-hour long English classes a week is definitely taking its toll. The day that I have two classes my days are virtually over by the time I get home. I find myself unable to enjoy and actually understand the works that we are reading because I focus too much on just getting through it all in a week. (So far, I’ve read two novels, two Shakespeare plays, and half of Oliver Twist. And by class this week I’ll have finished Oliver Twist, read another Shakespeare play, and another novel.) You could say that I’m in a little over my head. Even as an English major, that’s too much. Someone asked me the other day if I’d recommend the program that I’m in. I found myself sad to say that the city is the most amazing place I’ve ever been, but that I’d suggest finding a different school. I don’t enjoy being in classes with only six or seven other people. If I had known that it was going to be like this, I probably wouldn’t have chosen this program myself. Coming from a decently sized school, I feel like I’m totally missing out on the social aspect of school. There are only three people in my classes that I don’t live with. I have yet to meet one British student because the school that I am attending is mostly a night school for “the working man.” As much as I love where I live and the fact that I’m here, I don’t love the situation that I’m in when I’m in classes.

The good news is, I get a very special visitor in less than 2 days! I’ve been counting down to this week for a long time, so I have a really good feeling that all the negativity will cease when he arrives. I can’t wait to finally have some familiarity in this crazy city, let alone a reason to finally go back out and do some more exploring!

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Bonjour!

Time September 18th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I spent this past weekend in Paris! How crazy is that? …probably crazier to me, than anyone else. We left London at 5:30am on Friday to take the tube to the train station, where we met our tour guide and the rest of the group. I was travelling with four other girls from my house, and we all were able to sit together on the train. The train only took a little over two hours to get from London to Paris. I had never been on a train before! (unless you count the tube… which I don’t). Once we arrived in Paris, we walked to a bus (or “coach” as they call it here) and took a sightseeing tour of Paris. We were able to have an hour free on the Champs Elysees for lunch. The first meal I ate in Paris was a happy meal at McDonald’s… We saw the Arc de Triomphe and took lots of pictures! Then we got back on the bus and it took us to our hotel, where we got to relax for an hour. After our break, we took the metro to the Eiffel Tower, where we boarded a boat and took a cruise on the River Seine. We saw so many of the famous Paris sights. After the cruise, we were left to do our own thing.

The line to take the elevator up the Eiffel Tower looked like it would take hours to get to the front of, so we decided to climb the stairs! We only made it to the first level, because we were exhausted by the time we made it there. The view was still amazing though! Once we finally made it back down, we walked around the area by the Eiffel Tower and took tooooons of touristy pictures. Then we made our way back to the metro and back to our hotel. I was so surprised that we were able to navigate the metro, but most of the signs and announcements were in English as well as French. We stopped and got some seriously delicious sandwiches (I ate too much bread while I was there) before we went back to the hotel.
Saturday morning, we had breakfast in the hotel (croissants!) and then took the metro to Sacre-Coeur, one of the oldest churches in France, along with another (I think it was called St Pierre, but I could be wrong). We weren’t able to take pictures in Sacre-Coeur, but we could in the other. After that, we were left with an hour before we had to meet the group for Notre Dame, so we explored the area and found a souvenir shop. Then we took the metro to Notre Dame. We went inside and were also able to take pictures there. It was unbelievable. (The gargoyles on the top didn’t move like they did in the movie… That was the only disappointment). After Notre Dame, we got on a bus to Versailles. The bus ride took about an hour with traffic, so I took a much-needed nap. The Palace of Versailles was so overwhelming. Half of the time, I didn’t know what to take pictures of, because there was so much! It rained basically all day Saturday, but it was still an amazing day.
Sunday morning we had breakfast at the hotel again (more croissants!) and then took the metro to the Louvre. Just like Versailles, the Louvre was completely overwhelming. We walked around inside for about an hour, saw Mona Lisa, and then decided to go walk around again. We had a lot of time to kill before we met back at the hotel. We had crepes for lunch and explored some of the souvenir shops, then headed back to the hotel. Once we were at the hotel, we boarded the bus to the train station. The girls that I was with and I almost didn’t get through border patrol… That was frightening, and probably a story for another time. After another two hour train ride, we were back in London! I actually found myself excited to come back home. (I find myself calling London “home” and it’s so weird!)
I had an amazing time in Paris. Although it was a lot of money, I couldn’t be happier that decided to go. I think I can officially call myself a world traveler! That will probably be my biggest trip while I’m in London, but I’m completely alright with that. I got to see everything that I’ve only dreamed about seeing in person, and made a ton of good memories.
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(not all that shocking) culture shock

Time September 11th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s crazy to believe how fast this first week has gone by. I still don’t really feel like I’m living in a foreign country, and again, I’m not sure if it will ever sink in. We had our first day of class yesterday, and I survived! It is going to be hard to get used to sitting in one class for three hours at a time, because I only attend each class once a week. Thankfully we were given a twenty minute break in the middle of each class to go get coffee or a snack other wise I’m not sure if I would have been able to keep myself awake. My first class of the year was British and European Cinema (I love being an English major!) which isn’t much different than the film class I took last year at UND. The biggest difference between classes here and at UND is the size. There were only 12 people in my class yesterday, and wait for it… 5 in today’s! And about 85% of the people in my classes, I live with. So that will be something that’ll be hard to get used to, and is kind of disappointing because they’re making it really hard for me to be able to make friends with anyone other than US students… Not to mention again that I already know most of them. I’ve been thinking about stopping by the University of London union, because I hear there are all kinds of clubs that I could sign up for which would help meet actual British people.

 

A few other things that I’m going to have to get used to:

1. Crossing the street.

I literally never know which way to look. Thankfully, a lot of the streets have “look right” or “look both ways” painted in front of the crosswalk, or I’d probably be dead by now.

2. The food.

Apparently Brits love their prepackaged food. It isn’t what it sounds like though. Literally every other “restaurant” you walk into is the same layout; you walk in, go up to a cooler, choose a sandwich/wrap and maybe some fruit or a yogurt, then go up and pay for it. The food is all made daily, but it’s soooo weird. It’s probably all much better for you than anything like that that we would pick up in the US but it’s like eating the same thing every day. Even the grocery stores have them. They all come in the same shaped box and all basically are combinations of the same foods. I felt like I hadn’t had a real meal since I got here, so one of the girls that I live with and I decided to take the two minute walk to the tex-mex place right down the street and had the best meal. (it was probably so good because we were so hungry… but still) I think I just found my new favorite place in London.

3. When they say a sandwich is ham and “pickle” they don’t mean real pickles.

I don’t know what it was, but it wasn’t pickles. And it wasn’t good.

4. The diet coke is different.

…and it’s literally breaking my heart. Anyone that knows me,  knows how much I love my diet coke. Also, they don’t use ice in their drinks. When you go somewhere, you literally have to ask for water WITH ICE other wise they’ll give you lukewarm water, and the same goes with soda. …why?

Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely in love with this city. Coming to London, I didn’t really expect any serious culture shock. I’ve always heard that London is comparable to New York City (I’ve never been, but you get the point…) so I didn’t think much of it. I wouldn’t even really call this “culture shock” really. Just a very mild, less shocking, version of it. Whatever you’d call that…

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Week one!

Time September 6th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Everything has been such whirlwind so far. I’ve officially been in London for four days. I arrived by myself (almost everyone else took the group flight and was provided transportation from the airport to the “flat”). I, on the other hand, had to navigate the tube by myself with my fifty pound suitcase, a travel backpack that was almost bigger than me, and a full purse. To my surprise, and delight, it wasn’t as scary as I expected it to be. (this is the time where you all say “I told you so…”) I did have to change trains at one point, which was interesting. I definitely got some weird looks, but I survived! Now that I’ve been here for a few days and have ventured underground some more, I’m starting to get the hang of things. I’m seriously impressed with their public transportation.

The city is crazy awesome. We took a walking tour around Westminster on Tuesday and saw the typical tourist sights. Then on Wednesday, we had a free day, so a few of us went back to Westminster and walked to Buckingham Palace and through Green Park. (it is only about a fifteen minute tube ride to the heart of London). Then we went to the National Gallery and came face-to-face with Van-Gogh, Monet, and Picasso. That was so unbelievable. All of the museums in London are free, so I plan on hitting as many as possible while I’m here. After the museum, we walked outside and saw a bunch of people just hanging out with their feet in one of the huge fountains outside, so we decided to join. While we were sitting there, I was contemplating the fact that I actually live here. It is the weirdest thought in the world. It honestly doesn’t even seem real. Like, one day I’m going to wake up and be back in my bed in Minnesota and this will all have been a dream. I am living in a dream. Sometimes I feel like it won’t seem real until I’m about to leave, or I’m already home and missing it.

I’ve only been here for four days and I already love it here. The city has so much to explore. Yesterday a couple of us went for a walk and found a bunch of things that we didn’t even know existed. I have a feeling that’s going to happen often. This afternoon we have tea in our garden, and then we’ll probably do some more exploring!

 

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My (unofficial) tea & crumpet list

Time September 5th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Tomorrow is the big day! I’ve been waiting all this time for it to finally hit me, that I’m moving to a completely new country for four months. I’m still not sure it has yet. Saying goodbye to everyone has been hard, but I’ve done it before, and I know I’ll do it again. I’ve always dreamed of visiting London, and now I’m going to be living there. It is so unbelievably crazy to think about. So I figure, to make the best of it, I should make a list of all the things that I would like to accomplish (at this very moment) while I am abroad. I’m sure things will be added to this list while I’m there, but for now, these are the few things that I plan to accomplish.

If a bucket list is something that you want to accomplish before you die, what would you call a list of things that you want to complete in a semester in London? I’ll have to research clever names, or British slang for “bucket.” So as of right now, I suppose we’ll call this a Tea & Crumpet List, since a cup of tea is smaller than a bucket, and because British people are known for drinking tea. (I’m not entirely sure I even know what a crumpet is, but “tea and crumpet list” sounded better than “cup of tea list”…)

1. Enter a red phone booth. If it’s even possible to make a phone call in one still, call someone.

2. See Big Ben. Take a cheesy tourist photo.

3. Ride a double-decker bus.

4. See Kate Middleton, Prince William, Prince Harry, or The Queen. Or all four. (Unrealistic? Maybe. Do i care? Not one bit.)

5. Perfect my British accent. Along with that; be able to use “bloody” as an adjective in a sentence without feeling/sounding completely ridiculous. (this may be a stretch, but a girl can dream)

6. Travel!

7. Go to a pub. (this may not seem very exciting or extreme to some people, but ever since P.S. I Love You, I’ve always wondered if they’re all actually as cute and romantic as they were in the movie… Guess I’ll find out.)

8. Go to afternoon tea. I’m not even sure that I like tea… But, when in Rome… (or London…)

I will definitely follow-up on whether or not I actually do accomplish these things.

The next time I write, it’ll be from across the pond! Cheers!

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