Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Weary Arrival (England, Spring 2017)

Time January 12th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, England | No Comments by

Hi everyone! Spencer here, and I’m to be one of IFSA-Butler’s Spring 2017 bloggers.

First off, apologies for not posting sooner. I arrived in England (Heathrow, to be exact) early on the morning of the ninth, coming off from a fresh snowstorm back home in Massachusetts and about half an hour of sleep nabbed on the plane ride over. I meant to post before coming, but things ended up happening so fast that I lost track of time and wifi faster than I anticipated. I’ll give you a brief overview of my feelings pre-departure now: panic (did I remember to pack everything?), excitement (accents, yes please), and restlessness (enough of things about to happen, let’s get to the things happening part). Thankfully, once transportation actually started all of that faded into the background as I tried not to look too helplessly lost.

Given that I arrived in London at the same time as the tube system workers were going on strike, travel into the city and to the St. Giles Hotel promised to be… interesting. My flight was due into Terminal 3, the same location as the group flight, only about half an hour ahead of them. Originally, this meant nothing – I was to make my own way into the city and meet everyone else there. Thankfully, the IFSA-Butler team reacted quickly to the news of the tube strike and instead of panicking I got to hitch a ride with the coach the group flight was on instead. I still spent three hours in the airport waiting due to a delay, but everything ended well, and more importantly I got some coffee. Then came orientation.

First off, London is huge, and moving around feels not unlike moving through the centuries at times. Building styles changed rapidly as the coach took us deeper into the city, ranging from more modern cement-block-of-gloom types to buildings that’d seem right at home 300 years back. It was exciting to watch the change from out the window, and a welcome distraction to keep my eyes from closing of their own accord. The hotel where we were staying at was more modern than some, and built with the high cost of space in the city in mind (politely, the rooms were a cozy size. Less politely… well, I had a bed. I’ll count my blessings). We had a run-down on safety and emergency and contact procedures for IFSA-Butler over the next couple days, a guided tour of London, and a lot of free time for those who could keep their eyes open after seven without keeling over from jetlag. Pub life is everything you might imagine it’d be; I had a porter and Fish&Chips and felt very British.

Yesterday, I came to UEA. The train ride (while squeaky) was efficient and comfortable, and the countryside sped by in shades of green, grey, and sheep. I arrived a little before noon, caught a glimpse of Norwich – which along with being absolutely gorgeous apparently has a castle in the middle of it – and then started to move into my flat. Haven’t met my flatmates yet, but it should be interesting when I do get around to it. The room itself is nice and the kitchen looks good, so that’s a plus. I’m living with the U.K. equivalent of freshmen, so that’s a… something to deal with as it comes. I had a bit of sorting out to do classes-wise, but everything is a lot more settled now, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of campus with every passing day. East Anglia is quite modern, and quite pretty, and promises to have everything I could want so long as I’m willing to look for it.

I’ll end on that note for now. The rabbits here are as large as some cats I’ve seen back home. I worry about an uprising, but comfort myself with the knowledge that I probably won’t be the first to go.


Pre-Departure Video Blog

Time January 9th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by


Leavin’ on a Jet Plane…

Time February 21st, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Don’t know when I’ll come back again.  Hi all, and thanks again for tuning in.  I’m writing this post today because the time for my departure is almost upon me, and I wanted to update y’all on my travel plans, and talk a little bit about my host family.  Tomorrow, I’m going to board a plane from Denver that takes me to Atlanta, and then from Atlanta I have my 12 hour flight (8 AM to 8 PM) with the majority of my IFSA-Butler Study Abroad group to Buenos Aires.  From there, we are whisked off into the 2nd largest city in the Southern Hemisphere for a few days of a orientation, introductions to our host families, and registration for our classes (as well as much more, I’m sure).

And speaking of host families, my new folks seem absolutely wonderful.  I will be living with a family of four in a lovely house in a nice suburb of Buenos Aires called Almagro.  My host father, Javier Carroll, works for the Department of Justice, and my host mother works for the hospital as a hematology technician.  I also have TWO younger brothers named Julian and Martín, who are both high-schoolers and look like super fun guys.  After growing up with a younger brother my whole life, I can’t wait for more of that experience.  Bottom line; I can’t wait to meet my new family, and I’ll post pictures of all of them as soon as I am able.

My life is about to change in so many ways, and while I’m a little apprehensive, I’m mostly stoked.  After spending my whole life living in some variety of a small town, I can’t wait for some big city life.  Wish me luck, and I’ll for sure send out an update once I land in beautiful Buenos Aires.  Until then, enjoy some quality old school rap.







Time January 12th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

Only 13 days left until I board a plane to Scotland and begin my adventure!  I am feeling both extreme excitement and nervousness.  So here is what I am doing now, with only 2 weeks left!

  • Making sure all my medical stuff is taken care of
  • Thinking about starting to pack my suitcases
  • Making gifts to bring to my family in Scotland

In truth, I have not packed anything yet, and with just 13 days to go, I should probably start!  It seems to overwhelming when I think about it, so I keep putting it off.  Knowing me, I will probably start packing a week before I leave lol.  I am sure there are more things I am doing/or should be doing lol, but I am just too excited to remember them all right now.  Here are some things I am nervous about.

  • Leaving my cat
  • Leaving my family and friends
  • Being too shy when I get to Scotland
  • Getting lost while I am overseas
  • How different the classes will be run
  • The long plane ride

Not too many fears lol!  I really will miss my cat, he is my baby, and I will probably miss him more than he will miss me! X)  I tend to be an introvert, but I love meeting new people. I am hoping that when I am abroad, my introvert sort of disappears lol.  Now on to the best part; THE EXCITEMENT!

  • Visiting the castles
  • Experiencing cool little restaurants
  • Shopping
  • Making new friends
  • Meeting my family who lives in Scotland
  • Taking pictures
  • Learning about a different culture
  • Experiencing how the school system works over there
  • Using the University of Stirling’s pool, (I love swimming!!)
  • Meeting the other people I will be living with!! (I’ve talked with them via Facebook, and they seem lovely)
  • Having the first big adventure of my life!!

Photography is one of my favorite hobbies in the world.  I do not do nearly as much as I would like, so this trip will be the perfect opportunity for picture taking!! J I love my home University, Saint Martin’s University, but unfortunately, we do not have a pool. Hence the reason I am stoked for using the University of Stirling’s pool.  Swimming is one of my favorite extra-curricular activities.  If I am lucky, I will acquire a swim buddy!  This will be my first time traveling outside the United States, and my first time being away from my family for an extended period of time!! The challenges I will face will be many, but I am excited to take them head on!! J  I cannot wait until I step onto that plane on the 25th!! I hope that everyone who has studied abroad, or is planning to, is/was as excited as I am!!!!


Farewell Australia

Time November 16th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My final vlog from Australia. A top 10 and a small tribute.


A Walk of Coogee

Time October 31st, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

A little walking tour of the town where I live. Only 2 more weeks!


London Orientation

Time October 18th, 2011 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment by

So, I finally arrived.  I landed in London Heathrow Airport the morning of Thursday, September 29th, where I was met by several smiling IFSA-Butler staff members who shuffled all of us who arrived on the group flight onto a bus and swept us away to the center of London where our orientation was being held.

And center of London it was!  Right off Tottenham Court Road, we were within walking distance or short tube rides of many of the sites to see in London, and you can bet we were all ready to go explore.  But first things first, everyone jumped through the shower (trust me, you too will feel gross after traveling all night on a plane), then a few of us headed across the street from the hotel to the nearest Carphone Warehouse to purchase our new mobile phones that would get us through our term abroad.  I highly recommend this store to all because it offers probably the widest range of phone and pay-as-you-go carriers than others.  You can truly find the one that is best for you.

Unfortunately, shopping and comparing carriers took awhile, and add that to all of our complete and utter exhaustion, by the time we were all through at the store, it was time to head back to the hotel where we could rest for a few minutes before meeting up with the entire group and heading out to dinner.

Dinner was delicious-a selection of typical British fare, we were told-as was the opportunity to meet several of the other students we had not met yet.  By the time it was done, most of us were dead on our feet, so we simply headed back to the hotel and called it an early night.

On Friday, our IFSA-Butler orientation took off in full swing.  We meet in the conference rooms of the hotel where we had a cultural orinetation meeting with Lynne and Andrew, the two directors of the Butler London office.  It was quite entertaining and a lot of fun.  Following that we had university-specific academic talks with suggestions on what to expect academically at each of our host universities.  Next, Lord Taverne was a guest speaker from the House of Lords who updated us on the current political, social, and economic concerns in Britain, which is actually quite useful so that you know what some of the hot topics are and can seem somewhat knowledgeable when they come up in discussions!

After lunch, our meetings continued with a safety talk from a former London police officer, who was quite helpful in giving tips and tricks to keep ourselves safe and avoiding being targets of petty crime while abroad.  While somewhat frightening, it was actually refreashing to know that Butler cares enough to ensure that we are at least aware of some of the dangers facing us while we live here, since we as Americans are apparently a lot more trusting than the rest of the world.

Finally, that evening, the truly fun part of orientation began.  We were met outside the hotel by several tour guides who split us up into small groups and took us on a grand walking tour of London, helping us get oriented to where we were locally (though most of us ended up terribly turned around) and pointing out a lot of destinations and culture of the surrounding area.  The tour ended at the Fortune Theatre where we had the privelege of seeing “The Woman in Black,” a thrilling ghost story.  It was amazingly well done-essentially a two person play, that definitely had me jumping at times.

Afterwards, we walked back to the hotel, and Megan, Krystal, and I then ventured back out to explore London again.  We headed back to Trafalgar Square, then walked up to Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey.  It was positively breathtaking, so much so that I was mad that I had left my camera back at the hotel.  We ventured out a little bit on Westminster Bridge over the Thames, and as I looked out over the water, at the Eye of London and Big Ben all lit up, it finally hit me: I was in London.  I was, for the first time in my life, in England, in London, the place I had always dreamed of going.  I couldn’t believe it.

Saturday brought the last of the orientation meetings and the first departures of students out to their individual universities.  Megan, Krystal, Lauren, Clark, and I spent the afternoon wandering around London, exploring, taking in the sites, and taking lots of pictures.  It was a very long day, and by the end of it I was exhausted and footsore, but I would not have traded it for the world!

Sunday, for those of us still left in London (another wave of students departed for their hosts), an outing to Greenwich was planned.  We met up with one of the tour guides from Friday night, and headed down to the Thames where we caught a clipper that took us down the Thames and deposited us at Greenwich.  It was a lot of fun seeing London from the river, and a lot of things look so much more striking from that point.

After a quick orientation tour, we were turned loose for two to three hours to get lunch an explore where we wanted to.  Krystal and I grabbed lunch, wandered through the market, then ventured up to the Queen’s House.  While we didn’t spend much time inside, and the outside was surrounded by scaffolding, the parts that we did see were beautiful.  The Tulip Staircase is also just as amazing as it could possibly be.  Afterwards, we headed back to the Royal Naval Academy grounds where we went into the Painted Hall and marveled at just how ornate it was.  When we were finally done with that, we headed back to the group randezvous spot.

From there, we hoped on a train back across the river and got off at Stratford. Stratford is the location of the 2012 Summer Olympic games being held in London, so we walked up to the lookout point so we could see what they had built so far.  Our guide told us about how the Olympics were changing the face of the area they were being held in.  Stratford used to be home to a lot of soap factories, which left the soil unusable, and not much used to be there.  Thanks to the Olympics, all of the soil has been washed, all sorts of new developments are going in, and the area is now being considered the new up-and-coming area of London.  It is amazing how the Olympics can change an are for the better, and I can’t wait to go back when everything is completed!

Monday saw the rest of the students venturing out to their host universities with the exception of those of us attending St. Catherine’s College, Oxford.  Instead, we were given the day free to continue our explorations of London and the surrounding area.  Jon and I set off and visited Buckingham Palace, and were even privileged enough to see the Royal Horse Guard go by.  I think my favorite part of that was the little cleaning vehicle that followed the horses to ensure that any manure was cleaned up.  Coming from Texas, this seemed a bit ridiculous, but the English are a very different breed than us Texans.

After we had had our fill of the Palace, we caught the underground to Tower Hill, where we bought our tickets and spent the afternoon exploring the Tower of London.  We opted into taking a short tour with one of the Beefeaters, and I have to say that we had the best one.  He was funny and knowledgeable, and you could tell he loved his job, loved telling stories and history, and most of all loved cracking jokes with the tourists.  After the tour, we went and saw the crown jewels, toured the White Castle where they had armor on display, walked through the Bloody Tower, and then wandered through the mideival castle.  It was amazing to be surrounded by so much history.  Finally, though, we called it a day and headed back to the hotel, where we met up with all the other St. Catz students and went out to dinner.

Tuesday morning was our last bit of time in London, so a small group of us headed over to the British Museum.  An important note: almost all museums in Britain are free, so I highly recommend making the most of them!  The British Museum is home to so many wonders, including the Rosetta Stone.  We spent an hour or so wandering through different parts, though I think my favorite was the clock rooms.  Finally, though, it was time to head back to the hotel to meet up with Andrew and the coach that was going to take us out to Oxford and to St. Catherine’s.  We were finally headed to Oxford!


Rugby World Cup Highlights

Time September 14th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | Comments Off on Rugby World Cup Highlights by

I spent my Spring Break in Auckland, New Zealand with the main goal of experiencing the Rugby World Cup. These are the video highlights from the Opening Ceremonies and Opening match.

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16 Days…

Time September 12th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

…and I’m remembering what it is like to be a new student headed off to college.  The joys of getting your log in set up, receiving your new university email, being contacted by people at your new school, and finding out what courses you will be taking.  It is amazing how fast the excitement and novelty comes back as you begin to get ready to head off on your new adventure.

After spending a week working with the new students at Rice University’s orientation, I am reminded of my own orientation and matriculation into Rice, and of my upcoming orientation to St. Catherine’s College, Oxford University.  I can’t wait.  At times, it seems like the excitement will simply spew forth, bubbling over, unable to be contained.  It often hits at some of the most random times: while I’m eating lunch, before I fall asleep, while I’m driving.  But the truth is, in 26 days, I will be studying at Oxford, one of the best colleges in the world, and I can’t wait.

So, I leave you for now with this quote from Mark Twain:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Right now, I am at home spending time with my family and friends.  But in 16 days, I will be taking Twain’s advice and will sail off into new, uncharted waters for the adventure of a lifetime!




6 Weeks in

Time August 18th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’m 6 weeks in to my adventure abroad. I’ve gotten to do some pretty fun things recently and I’ve seen home sickness rear its ugly head.



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