Anya Schulman took over our Instagram account in February to share her experiences studying with us in London. See how she adjusted to life in Europe’s most dynamic city.
Hey everyone! I’m Anya, and I’m a junior at Kenyon College. I spent last semester studying abroad at University College London. I’m an IFSA-Butler global ambassador, and I’m going to be taking over the IFSA-Butler Instagram this week, and sharing snapshots and stories from my study abroad experience. Please feel free to send any questions or comments my way!
Adjusting: it can be very challenging balancing school, making new friends, and everything an international city has to offer. I found IFSA staff members to be understanding and helpful throughout this process. If it’s your first time living in a big city independently, give yourself an extra half hour to get everywhere your first two weeks (at least—London is very similar to New York, where I’m from, but it is MUCH more spread out geographically—getting around takes time and practice).
Something I was struck by while adjusting to life in London was the feeling that my American accent immediately identified me as someone who was not originally from the United Kingdom or Europe. However, London is such an international city, not may London residents are, and you’ll probably hear five or six different languages on your daily commute! (London metro workers also have excellent senses of humor.)
I grew up in Buffalo, New York, and I go to school in Ohio, so bad weather doesn’t really faze me, but, if you study abroad in London, never leave your dorm without an umbrella. The umbrella we were given during IFSA orientation saved me from getting soaked on a biweekly basis (Exhibit A above). Also, make sure you have good waterproof walking shoes!
I had the privilege of living at 21 Pembridge Gardens, home to the IFSA-Butler UK headquarters. I really got to know the IFSA staff by sharing a space with them every day, and living in Notting Hill was a dream come true (pictured above: our neighborhood!). You can check out more information about housing options on the IFSA-Butler website.
Another perk of living at 21 Pembridge was being close to the wonderful programming that was based at the house, such as IFSA-Butler’s elective course, Communities and Culture. We also had a holiday party at the end of the term, and took a weekend trip to Wales. Activities on this trip included visiting a castle, hiking a mountain, and traveling to an old mine that has been converted into an underground bounce house experience (this is the activity I did & is pictured above with my friend Sue!)
The only time I really felt homesick was around Thanksgiving. This feeling quickly went away, however, when our whole house got together and made a Thanksgiving feast with all of our favorite recipes. (I’m in the very back, with a few of my friends from 21 Pembridge at our Thanksgiving celebration ft. some needles from the gorgeous Christmas tree we had in the common room!).
I loved being a student at University College London, but going from a college of 1,600 students to a university of 30,000 was a major shift. Something that helped me navigate being new at such a large school was the fact that UCL assigns all students in the English department a professor who they meet with one-on–one a couple times each semester. (above, at one of my favorite bookshops and publishers in London, Persephone Books!)
Did you know that the IFSA Butler U.K. Offices are frequented by HRH Queen Elizabeth? Happy birthday, your highness!
There’s so much to do in London, it can be overwhelming. One amazing amenity offered by the city is that almost all museums are free for students. This installation, called the Curiosity Cloud, was featured at the Victoria and Albert Museum during London Design Week
Studying in London meant that many countries were as accessible to me as a different state might be in the US—I was able to travel to Morocco with Sue to visit a few friends who were studying abroad there, and the flight was only about two and a half hours long. Here’s us in the Sahara desert as the sun rose—we went on a Camel trek there (you can’t tell, but we’re wearing our IFSA-Butler sweatshirts!)
You may experience culture shock during a trip. While we were vising Morocco, my friends and I encountered severe street harassment, and had to be mindful of conveniences that we take for granted (for example, the tap water was not safe to consume). However, traveling is one of the most exciting aspects of studying abroad! IFSA partners with a great student tour company to provide affordable, safe opportunities to do this: (https://www.internationalfriends.co.uk) (Above, in Prague, on the Charles Bridge!)
Friends and family told me that I would immediately love and want to move to London, but I didn’t feel that way until I established a routine, made a few close friends, and became comfortable navigating the city. After my study abroad experience through IFSA-Butler, I’m comfortable considering post-grad job opportunities in London, and qualified for those that require experience living abroad. Studying abroad is such a gift, and IFSA-Butler makes you feel like family throughout the experience. (Here I am with my parents, when they visited at the end of my semester).
Anya Schulman is an English and Creative Writing major at Kenyon College and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at University College London in 2015.