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

Casey Cuts Class

Time November 7th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Wales | No Comments by

Want to know more about me? More about my adventure? More in general? Check out my travel blog “Casey in Cardiff” by clicking here or typing the following into your browser:

A trip to the Lake District

Time October 31st, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Last weekend IFSA-Butler, hosted a weekend at the Lake District for us.  The Lake District is located in the north of England, almost near Scotland.  To get there we took a bus from the IFSA Butler House in Central London.  The buses were grouped based on where you were staying, so my bus had a ton of people studying abroad at Queen Mary, KCL, and UCL.  We stayed at the Borrowdale Hostel and it was a great group of 80 boys and girls.

The bus ride there took longer than expected (almost 9 hours), so the pub quiz we were supposed to have at Glaramara (the hotel where all the main activities took place) was cancelled.  We arrived at our hostel and were surprised to find out that Annie, Allison, Chelsea, and I (all Queen Mary students) had been assigned to the same room.  Chelsea and I had put each other down as roommates, but it was a nice surprise to be in a room with people we were comfortable with.


Borrowdale Hostel



Our hostel room

After setting our luggage in our room, we headed to dinner.  Dinner was nothing special, but lucky for us we were with a great group of people and ended the night playing Kings and getting to know each other.

The next morning after breakfast, we headed to Glaramara to be divided into our different activities.  My first activity for the day was dragon boating and unfortunately I don’t have any photos because I was told that we had to bring all our stuff with us on the boat.  This wasn’t true and made me really sad because the scenery was excellent.  In addition to rowing we got to hop off and explore some of the islands.  We saw where a famous hermit once lived and the house that Beatrix Potter once lived (she wrote the Peter Rabbit books).  After dragon boating, we went back to Glaramara, ate lunch, and proceeded to our next activity.  This time I did gorge scrambling.  We put on wool onesies, suspenders, jackets, helmets, and wellies to do this.  It was so much fun climbing the rocks in the water and sliding down the waterfalls.


From top: Sydney, Sydney, Sam and I.

Girls I met at orientation before heading off to our separate activities

That night after eating dinner at the hostel, we once again headed to Glaramara.  This time for the pub quiz and a party afterward.  It was so much fun.  I got to hang out with some of the Davidson students and the friends I made during orientation.

Davidson does Lake District



Sydney (my roommate from orientation) and I

The next morning we woke up, packed all our things, and headed to Glaramara for our final activity.  I decided to go into Keswick, which is a super cute little town with shops, coffee places, and of course bakeries.  As it was raining when we got there  we stopped for coffee at a cafe.


As we left the coffee shop Chelsea pointed out a store to me that sold 99s!  I decided I needed to get one then and there.  Even though it wasn’t an Irish 99, it didn’t disappoint.


Next, we were told that there was a Christmas shop right down the street that we had to go into.  I bought some fudge there and browsed the massive amounts of candy and trinkets they sold there. We ended the day by strolling down the street before heading back on the bus to London.

All in all it was a great weekend.  I’m excited to share my next trip with you…Budapest!

xx,  Francesca


My travels have kept me away…Sorry!!

Time November 6th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello Everyone!

I have not updated everyone in awhile, I am so sorry for that!! Things have been crazy since my last post but I will now update your thoroughly.

Two weeks ago I went to The Lake District in England with IFSA on Adventure Weekend. Let me just explain to you how I fell in love with this place, it is so far away from the city, and there are mountains everywhere, and you don’t have cell reception, and there was nature and lush fall colors everywhere, needless to say it was the perfect getaway! I did not think about Colchester at all really, and if I could have stayed I would have. My recommendation to anyone who is coming to England at any point in their life, go to The Lake District! It is worth the trip. London is great, but it is always hectic. The Lake District is very peaceful, and sometimes that is what you need in a vacation. It is my favorite destination in England next to London.

My second trip, which was a week ago, was to…Warsaw, Poland. I have mixed feelings about Warsaw. The best part about Warsaw is that I met up with Victoria Busse, one of my best friends from school!! She is studying in France and was on Toussaints break and came to travel with me. It was great to see her and made me miss home a little less. Now back to Warsaw. It is not the prettiest place but there are pretty aspects to it. It was cheap which was really nice! The food was good. It snowed which in normal cases would make this Alaskan girl happy, but this time I was not happy to see snow. The wind was piercing so it made the snow hard to appreciate and Alaskans are such warm people, even in winter, the Polish however, are not. The nicest Polish people we encountered were at the hostel and on our walking tour. Finding things in Warsaw was close to impossible because we cannot pronounce anything in Polish. This made our activities limited so we only walked around Old Town, which was very beautiful, and saw The Palace of Culture and Science.

This past weekend we went to Oslo, Norway Andrew Stegman, a friend of mine from Essex and a fellow IFSA participant. This is one of my favorite destinations in the world! I went to Oslo when I was 11 with my dad and I always wanted to go back, so I did. Unknown fact about me: Oslo was actually the first place I ever drove a car and it was a Mercedes…I did not crash it! This time I did not get to drive, but I did get to traipse around downtown Oslo. The only downside to Oslo is how expensive it is to visit there. The exchange rate will fool you into thinking it is cheap, do not buy into the lie because here is a little known fact about Norwegians, they are either very well off or they are not, so unless you have an American Express Black Card or you know a parent with you, shopping, eating, heck staying in Oslo will be very, and I mean VERY, expensive to you. However the experience was worth it. We saw Parliament, City Hall, The Statue Garden, the harbor, The Palace, The Icebar, and The Opera House. All together this was a fabulous trip!

As you can see, I am not just neglecting my readers/watchers. I have been gone and in school when I am at Uni, so I am sorry. This week I am going to a Bluey Robinson concert in London on Thursday staying until Friday, and then to Manchester on Saturday staying until Sunday. I will come back on Monday and update you again, I promise! But until then…



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Operation Spring Break: the Lake District, Edinburgh, & Liverpool

Time May 14th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello there loyal blog followers, and welcome to the start of my 3 week spring break!  Yes, you read correctly: 3 weeks!  Yes, I know spring break started March 30, but seriously, for the past 6 weeks, my life has been crazy.  Here’s what I’ve been up to: March 30-April 23 = spring break, April 21-May 2 = my dad came up and visited me in Cardiff, so I was traveling between London and Cardiff for that time.  After my dad left, I had to focus on final exams and essays.  So, as you can see, I was very, very busy.

Anyway, let’s talk about my first week of spring break!  That’s an amazing amount of time considering I am used to one week of spring break in the States.  While the regular full time students revise and study for final exams, us study abroad students travel all across Europe.  We aren’t necessarily irresponsible students, but this is our biggest opportunity to travel with this much time off.  The biggest challenge for me was figuring out where I’m going to go and who I’m going with.  My flatmate Sarah offered me to stay at her house for a few days, and I gladly accepted that opportunity.  Sarah lives in the village of Hawkshead, a small village with a population of 300 that sits right in the middle of the Lake District in northwest England.  The Lake District is like no other place in England: it’s full of mountains and meres, tarns, waters, waites (like a mini lake, but not deep enough to be classified as a lake, and these 4 classifications have slight differences to them), and it has its own rich Cumbrian culture.  This place is definitely no London, and for all those who say they’ve been to England because they’ve been to London, they have not truly experienced England.

Friday March 30 – This was the last Friday of classes before break began.  Since I have no Friday classes, I was able to enjoy my Friday without any interruptions of class.  The Taf, Cardiff Uni’s student union pub, organized a special event this Friday: VIP Breakfast Club and Drink the Bar Dry (D.T.B.D.).  What does that mean?  It means you pay £8 to get a D.T.B.D. T-shirt, breakfast, and entry into The Taf for reduced priced drinks.  All the students were leaving for break, and The Taf needed to get rid of its alcohol.  It’s a great concept, and the students were eager to help The Taf.  The theme of the event was the American West.  Here’s the UK’s interpretation of the American West: baked beans at breakfast (though I later found out beans are a part of a “Full English” breakfast), pictures of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood as cowboys, random Indians everywhere, country music, and lots and lots of Confederate flags, with a few American flags thrown in.  It was quite a spectacle, and I absolutely loved it, even if they mixed the West and the South up a bit.  After breakfast and mimosas, we went straight to The Taf.  I won’t go into too much detail here, but I spent the entire afternoon at The Taf and had a great time with friends and new acquaintances.  It was a fun way to start off break, and I will never have that experience again.  No American university will agree to such an event, and that’s why I love Cardiff so much.



The Decorations

Monday April 2 – Traveling.  Traveling, traveling, and more traveling.  I swear that’s all I did on this day, oh!, but I did go on a pub crawl, but I’ll get into that later.  This is the day we (Sarah & I) traveled from Cardiff to Hawkshead for 6 hours.  It included an hour layover in Manchester, 2 train connections, a walk down to Sarah’s mom’s workplace in Windermere, and finally a 20-minute drive to Hawkshead.  Thank god I bought some Welsh cakes at the Cardiff Market before we embarked on our journey.  Despite the longevity of our trip, it was pleasant viewing the Welsh and English countryside.  It’s quite beautiful and green, and nothing like the boring Midwest countryside of endless brown farms.

After we settled in a bit, Sarah’s two high school friends joined us for the infamous Hawkshead pub-crawl.  We started at one end of town and crawled our way back to the center of the village, stopping at 6 pubs along the way.  The only rule: local ales only.  It was a great time, and I got to hear the local Cumbrian accent as well as walk along a ton of sheep.  We retired back at Sarah’s for an epic night of Cardiff Monopoly until 2 am.  It was definitely a long and busy day.


Like my view?


This was my first time over a style.  They keep the sheep from escaping while people use the public footpaths.


One of our 6 pubs

Tuesday April 3 – Forget it being “spring,” on Tuesday, I got to enjoy a nice surprise: a blizzard!  Sarah and I were running errands around Ambleside and Hawkshead most of the day, and it was frigid.  The week before had 60 degree weather (15°C), so the snow was not a welcome change.  I felt bad for Sarah because she was only wearing a sweatshirt, but at least we stopped for some hot chocolate at a local café.  We had planned to go see The Hunger Games in the late afternoon, but unfortunately everyone in the L.D. had that same idea, and it was sold out right as we got to the theater (or cinema as the Brits say).  We ended up going at the evening show, but driving back home through the blizzard at night was a headache.  Props to Sarah for being the expert driver and not crashing us :-)


Where I stayed.  The pharmacy is on the ground floor.


Stopping for some mint hot chocolate!

Wednesday April 4 – Edinburgh.  This was my one opportunity to travel to Scotland, and Sarah and I decided to make a day trip out of it.  We took the train from Oxenholme to Edinburgh Waverly.  Of course, starting out on our adventure didn’t go exactly as planned.  Firstly, Sarah and opted to have her train tickets delivered to her home, but they never arrived.  She needed to buy new tickets at the station.  Secondly, we needed to pay £8 for our parking spot at the station.  The dumb machine doesn’t take bills, so we had to compile all our change, which only came out to be £7.40.  So I stayed out in the freezing cold to guard the car and look for lost change in the parking lot (Brit word= car park).  Thirdly, our train was delayed by around 40 minutes.  Lastly, I slept for most of the train ride there.  I usually don’t oppose to sleeping, but the ride into Scotland has fantastic views through the mountains.  These mountains had new snow on them from the day before.  Oh well, c’est la vie.

Edinburgh is quite a unique and beautifully old city.  It has its own atmosphere that is clearly “Scottish” and not necessarily “British.”  We walked around a lot and were the ultimate tourists.  We got hop on/hop off tour bus tickets that took us through much of the city while we listened to the Haunted Histories stories of Edinburgh.  It was a cold day on the upper deck of the bus, but it was all worth it.  The sights were beautiful and historic.  We stopped at Edinburgh Castle and the Scottish National Museum.  Regrettably, the museum was closing in 5 minutes when we got there, so we ran around the place and saw as much as we could within that 5-minute timeframe.


View of Edinburgh


At Edinburgh Castle

Thursday April 5 – After the past few cold days, the weather finally warmed up a bit, and Sarah and I went on a lovely hike up large hills (possibly mountains) to check out the nice views of the L.D.  The Lake District is a huge tourist destination because it has one of the most beautiful vistas in the country.  At our highest peak, we had a picnic in a tree and ending up hiking throughout forests for the rest of the day.  We walked by a ton of sheep too!  Sarah definitely took the city girl out into the country, and it was a wonderful change of scenery.  This was probably my favorite day in the L.D.  It’s rare I get in touch with nature, and I wish I was able to do it more often.


One of the route signs we passed along the way


At the top.  Like the view?


Through the woods


More beautiful sights along the way

Friday April 6 – This was just a lazy, relaxing day.  We were recovering from yesterday’s long hike day (or at least I was).

Saturday April 7 – I was traveling back to Cardiff this day, but I decided to make a stop on the way back: Liverpool.  I spent about 7 hours in Liverpool sightseeing and going on a Beatles Magical Mystery Tour.  On the tour, we went to the childhood homes of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, Strawberry Field, Penny Lane, Brian Epstein’s house, and the Cavern Club.  I was definitely the youngest person on the tour, with the average age being 55.  The tour guide was hilarious, and he had a thick Liverpudlian accent (I couldn’t understand a word he was saying at times).  After the tour, I walked around the docks a bit and headed towards the main shopping district.  Liverpool was hosting Manchester United that day for a huge football match, so the city was crazier than normal.  All in all, it was a great time, and I’m glad I made my Beatles pilgrimage out there.


My awesome tour bus.  I was actually on the Magical Mystery Tour!


“And nothing to get hung about…strawberry fields forever”


Where the Bealtes played over 250 times

My first week of break was definitely exciting, and it was one of the highlights of my study abroad experience.  I loved the atmosphere of the Lake District with nature surrounding me, and there was a calming effect waking up to a view of mountains out the window.  Whenever I come back to the UK, the Lake District is definitely one of those places I will visit again.

Beatles fact of the entry:  “Hey Jude” is only sung 24 times in the song “Hey Jude”, despite its long running time of 7:04.



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

Last night, Monday night, I got drunk and screamed at people I didn’t know. Unless you’re at a rugby match, this generally isn’t acceptable. Conveniently, I was at a rugby match. I’ve never felt so British in my entire life. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.

On Friday morning I hopped on a bus headed to the north of England, a place called The Lake District, for an event that my study abroad program called “Adventure Weekend.” The seven hours I spent on a bus were worth it: I saw the high peaks and red mossy bluffs of Wordsworth’s youth, climbed through the trickling streams that brought water to the fluffy sheep down in the valley; I lodged in an old manor house beside the Derwent, the same lake referenced in Lyrical Ballads, and tried to brave black mold and not get eaten by ghosts. I succeeded on both fronts, and even got to go climbing, an activity I haven’t participated in since I joined a local climbing gym in the fifth grade. My Bar-Mitzvah party was “extreme-sports” themed, and this weekend was all that and more. Nothing says “local” like eating a Cumberland sausage in Cumberland.

Although I didn’t know it when I got on the bus, Adventure Weekend wasn’t just for the IFSA-Butler Oxford students: it was for IFSA-Butler students from all over England. This was why several of my friends from Duke were also there. It was great catching up with them, sharing the natural beauty of the Lake District with them, and drinking with them on Saturday night. I actually didn’t partake in the drinking, as I caught the “freshers flu” the previous week, but the party atmosphere was contagious. We danced and sang and laughed when a girl nearby fell flat on her face (after making sure she was alright, of course). Later in the night, the same clumsy girl asked me for a lighter.

“Doyouavea lighter,” she said.

“Smoking will literally kill you,” I replied. She wasn’t pleased with my answer.


“I said I don’t have a lighter,” I said. “Sorry.”

On the bus ride home the next day, after we figured out the spirit animal of everyone on the bus but before I tried to begin working on a 15 page paper about the occult influences in W B Yeats’s The Tower, my friend Josh casually mentioned that he was going to a rugby game on Monday. Josh was a rugby player and Physics major from Baltimore. Sometimes, because of his fascination with the subject, we called him Neutrino Boy.

“What did you just say?” I asked.

“I’m going to a rugby game,” he said.

“How do I get tickets?” Like punting, drinking at a pub, and sneaking into forbidden parts of the Bodleian library, no trip to Oxford was complete without seeing a rugby match.

“You can have my extra,” he said. I was ecstatic. All that night, even as I broke into the Christ Church meadows to watch the fog rise over the grass, all I could think about was rugby. The next night couldn’t come fast enough. Then it did. I sipped a glass of whisky, put on two coats, and met Josh in an underground pub that smelled of age, oil, and damp wood. Together, we conquered beers and talked about physics, and then made our way to the rugby pitch.

“What is it like?” I asked Josh as we walked. He pulled me back onto the sidewalk.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “Just non-stop action. You know the point, right? You have to move the ball from one end of the field to the other.”

“Like football!” I yelled, and he pulled me back onto the sidewalk again.

“Yeah, and each position has a number. That’s what the numbers on the back of the jerseys mean.”

“Like billiards!”

“Exactly. Touchdowns are called trys, and each one is worth 5 points. The equivalent of a field goal is worth 3, and a conversion is worth 2.”

“Like hockey!”

“No. Not at all like hockey. Get back on the sidewalk, you’re going to get hit by a car.”

When we arrived at the pitch, the game had already started. To my great pleasure, the Oxford Blues were ahead of the London Wasps three to nil. I yelled in giddy excitement as a caveman in a blue jersey destroyed the scoring hopes of a smaller, agile player in white, and sighed in sadness as the ball somehow ended up in the hands of another player in white. He too was taken to the ground, but again another white player mysteriously got the ball and the Wasps continued to move their way up field. Then the whistle blew.

“Oh look, a throw-in,” said Josh. I watched with a detective’s curiosity as a white player threw the ball in from out of bounds and multiple players from both sides were launched into the air.

“Like cheerleading,” I whispered, and it was.

In the end, the home team heroes beat the adversarial visitors 30 to nil, a score I was happy to chant as the losers trudged their way off the field. I peed in a bush and reflected on the experience. In a way, I decided, rugby is like football, billiards, and cheerleading, but rugby is also like art: I can look at it, stare at it for hours, scratch my head and scream and stomp my feet, not understand a single thing that’s going on, but love it all the same. It was beautiful.