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Lasts in London

Time December 16th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Can’t believe my time in London is coming to an end.  I leave in a few days for back home.  Most of my friends left yesterday, the 14th, but I wanted a few more days in London after exams.  This semester has been so much fun and I’m going to miss so many things about living here:

1. Nandos– why is there not one near my back home?

2. Pear Cider– tastes so good and you can find it everywhere

3. The British accents– I’ve heard from friends at home it’s strange not hearing the accent everywhere

4. My flat mates– My flat and I are really close, so it’s been very sad having to say bye to them

5.  The tube– I’m really going to miss public transportation and never having to get in a car and drive

6.  Cadbury– I’m planning on buying a ton at the airport to bring back with me

7.  Christmas time in London– There are the prettiest lights lining Oxford street right now and the Christmas markets are so fun to pop into

8. Traveling– You can be sunbathing in Spain or staring at the Eiffel Tower in 2 hours

9. My friend Chelsea– She’s became my best friend during this time and we’re already have plans to see each other in June

All in all I’ve had an amazing semester.  I couldn’t of asked for a better group of people to spend it with or a better school to study at.  I feel like I got the best of both worlds: A campus atmosphere in one of the most wonderful cities in the world.  London, you’re going to be missed!

xx, Francesca



Crystal Palace vs. West Ham

Time December 16th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’ve never been to a professional football game, but last week Queen Mary’s study abroad office organized a trip to the Crystal Palace vs. West Ham game.  West Ham is our home football team for where we’re located in London.  However, our tickets had us sitting in the Crystal Palace section.  We were instructed to not wear either of the colors teams and to not cheer for West Ham while sitting in the Crystal Palace section.

We got there a bit early and were able to see what the stadium looked like completely empty.  About 40 minutes later hundreds of people crowded in and the game began.  It was so lively and so much fun to be a part of.  The cheers were hilarious and full of dirty humour.  If we cheered like that at NFL games back in the states, I’m pretty sure people would’ve been injured.

Overall it was an amazing experience and I’m so happy I got to go!  Although our home team lost I would definitely recommend to anyone studying abroad in England to check out a football game.

xx, Francesca



a WICKED night at the theatre

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

As is pretty obvious from the title, I recently had the chance to go and see Wicked.  IFSA-Butler organized the night, so that if we wanted to we were able to purchase discounted tickets. I hadn’t seen Wicked since it first came out. I saw it on my 13th birthday, but didn’t recall a lot from the show.

Chelsea purchased tickets, so that herself, her two friends from home and I could all sit together.  It was such a fun night! We started out by introducing her friends to our favorite pub food, steak and ale pie. I’m going to miss it so much when I go home. We also got Christmassy drinks. I ordered a delightfully warm winter cider that was delicious.

 After the pub we walked over to the theatre. IFSA had held a block of seats, so we sat by two Davidson students, who had snuck chocolate into the snow. Sneaky sneaky.  Then, the play started. It was amazing and so fun. All the songs came back to me and Chelsea and I had to refrain ourselves from singing “Popular” when it was performed.

 The night ended with the 4 of us taking a picture in front of the theatre and singing “Popular” on the walk back from mile end station to campus.


 xx, Francesca

It’s going too fast

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

I can’t believe my time in London is almost over.  It seems like just yesterday that we arrived in London and had orientation with IFSA.  Unfortunately, for us Americans the last week here isn’t going to be very pleasant.  In England all exams are taken in May.  Since the majority of us will not be here the entire year we have to take our exams this next week.  That means a whole lot of studying and work and not a lot of fun before we have to pack up and leave.

Fortunately my British flat mates have been trying to make the last week and a half exciting for us.  Last week we had a big Thanksgiving dinner together.  Although it wasn’t the same as home it was nice to be surrounded by all my friends.  This weekend my flat is going to Hyde Park for Winter Wonderland and the study abroad office has arranged for us associate students to go to a football game.

Although my time in London has almost ended I can definitely say I don’t regret any minute of it.  My flat mates have been lovely, I’ve taken some amazing trips, there’s always fun things to do in London, and with the Holiday Season upon us you can’t help but be cheerful when walking along the Christmas markets!  Our kitchen in our flat is all decorated and is so pretty with the all the lights on.

I will keep you updated with the football game and winter wonderland.

xx, Francesca



A Trip to Brick Lane

Time November 27th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

London has many wonderful markets that are especially wonderful on the weekends.  Not far from Mile End are two of these markets, Brick Lane and Spitafield Market.  This past Sunday I went with a couple friends to Brick Lane.

There are tons of clothing and jewelry vendors along the street and the most amazing smelling food.  We had researched online the day before and had found a Mexican Restaurant called “Loco Mojito” on Brick Lane.  This was the first time I had had Mexican food since August and it was amazing.  I got an apple mojito to start and then a chicken enchilada for my main plate.  The enchilada was so good and the rice was great as well.  I was definitely happy we had decided to come.

After lunch we strolled along the streets for a while.  Some of my friends ordered oreo hot chocolate from one of the street vendors.  I decided on a vanilla churro, which was so good.  I’m definitely coming back again!

This next weekend we’re planning on going to Borough market, which I’ve heard is famous for it’s wonderful food.  If there’s one thing I could tell you it’s definitely check out the markets while you’re in London.  You’ll find some of the most unique items and can stock up on fruit, vegetables, and other various food items.

xx, Francesca


Already 2 months

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

I can’t believe I’ve been living in London for 2 months now.  It seems like just yesterday we were boarding the plane from JFK to Heathrow.  Time definitely does fly super fast!

I am absolutely loving life in London.  Despite traveling most weekends, I’ve had the opportunity to take part in so many cool events in London.  Just last week a couple of my friends and I decided to attend the Hunger Games: Catching Fire Premiere.  As a huge fan of Liam Hemsworth, I was beyond stoked to go.

We weren’t expecting to have a good view or anything because we only arrived 3 hours before the premiere began, however we were able to get amazing places.  The premiere was so much fun.  At 5pm an announcer came onto the red carpet and made everyone dance and chant, “Catching Fire!”  Then came the best part…all the stars arrived.  From our places near the carpet we were able to meet Conor Maynard, Union J, Liam Hemsworth, Jennifer Lawson. Josh Hutcherson, PCD, McFly, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, and Ellie Goulding.  It was so much fun!  We even were able to take one of the posters back with us.  It was a little difficult to bring it onto the tube, but overall it was a great success!!

I would definitely advise anyone thinking of studying abroad in a big city like London to look up events online.  There’s some really neat things that happen during the middle of the week and you might be missing out if you don’t.  Below are some of my favorite pictures from the night.

xx, Francesca


Hungry in Hungary

Time November 12th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This past week has been what the Brits call “Reading Week”.  Basically it’s a week-long period where you are supposed to catch up on work.  I’ve been doing that, but I also took advantage of 5 of the 10 days I had off to travel to Amsterdam and Berlin.  Not having internet access for the past few days has led me to post this quite late.  October 24-26 I went to Budapest with a couple friends.  Hands down it has been my favorite trip so far, which was unexpected for me.  Budapest was a very random trip for us.  Whenever we searched places to go in Europe, Budapest always showed up as the most underrated city.

And I have to say it was beyond amazing!  I have never been in such a grand city.  According to Brigid, who is a history major, most Easter European cities were very concerned with the architecture and grandeur of there city.  They didn’t want to be labeled as “backward” compared to the Western European cities.  I would hands down recommend traveling to Budapest to anyone studying abroad or anyone interested in getting a taste of eastern Europe.

We stayed in a hostel called Pal’s hostel.  This wasn’t a regular hostel, it was more like a chain of apartments right next to St. Stephen’s Basilica. So we ended up staying in a 4 person apartment footsteps away from the basilica.

Besides our great location, another amazing thing was the currency in Hungary.  They are on the forint, which has an exchange rate of 1forint = .0046 dollar.  This was great as it was a nice break from the extremely expensive London, however taking out 25,000 forint at the airport was a bit odd.

I’ll leave you with this video to explain the rest:

My favorite things in Budapest:

1. chimney cakes–almost like funnel cakes, but better

2. St. Stephen’s Basilica–the grandest Catholic church I’ve ever been inside.  Makes Notre Dame look bad.

3.  The hop on hop off bus is a great way to get to all the cities main attractions.

4.  Ruin pubs–claustraphobic, but unique atmosphere of a chain of pubs surrounded by a courtyard in the middle

5. The drinking culture– people sit outside on the steps of the basilica and on the Budda Castle walls to enjoy the view while enjoying a drink

6.  The gelato– Very good and comes in the shape of a flower

xx, Francesca


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


Meeting up with friends in Dublin

Time October 29th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After we got back from dinner with my family we decided it was too late to go out (I know we’re boring).  Granted we had been up since 4:30am, so we planned what we wanted to visit on Saturday and headed to bed.

We got a much later start to Saturday than we were expecting, so we had to cross off some things on our list like The Book of Kells.  Luckily, my cousin gave us the lowdown on what to expect there.  His words not mine, “You go into the library and see all these old books and think, ‘that’s cool, but they’ll probably all fit in a Kindle anyways.’  Then you see two pages of the book of Kells and you’re done.”

We used the app Hailo to get a taxi from my cousin’s house.  *If you’re ever traveling and have a smart phone download Hailo.  It’s the best app for hailing a taxi.  It will give you the name of your driver, the license plate, and the ETA.  The best part is that you can also prepay using a credit card, so that they can’t overcharge you!*   And then we were off to Kilmainham Gaol.

Kilmainham Gaol was built in 1796 and was known as a “reform jail”.  Instead of having a ton of prisoners crowded into one room, each prisoner had his/her own room with a cot, a candle that had to last you two weeks, and a bucket (you know what for.)  This way you never knew who was in the cell beside you.


A typical prison cell




Door of a prison cell with a tiny hole



This is where Liam will go next time he gets in trouble


hundreds of cells with a pulley used to bring food upstairs.

Part of the rich history of this jail is that of the Easter Rising. 16 Irish men led a rebellion for Irish Independence on Easter morning 1916.  Unfortunately for them, it didn’t work out so well and they were all sent to Kilmainham, where they awaited death by firing squad.  The amazing this is what happened after.  One man in particular Joseph Mary Plunkett was able to mary his long-time love, Grace, moments before his death in the chapel at the jail.  This heart-breaking story is what caused many Irish to be moved and fight for independence.

Chapel where Grace and Joseph were married.


Cross that stands where 15 of the 16 were executed.

I would definitely recommend visiting Kilmainham Gaol if you’re ever in Dublin.  Our tour guide was great and it was really neat learning about the rich history that surrounds the Republic of Ireland.  You might even get lucky and have a girl who at the conclusion of the tour asks, “So is Ireland it’s own country now?”

 Next up was Temple Bar.  This is a really touristy area, but we were determined to get fish and chips and of course a drink at Temple Bar.  The Temple Bar area was really neat filled with little shops, pubs, and restaurants.  I was determined to find a 99 on the way from the jail to temple bar and in the temple bar area, but unfortunately we were unable to do so.


Fish and Chips at Burdocks



From Temple Bar we ventured to Dublin Castle, which was really pretty on the outside.  We were expecting it to be just as grand on the inside, but it wasn’t.  Troubled by the fact that a room entitled, “Queen’s Bedroom” did not contain a bed, we decided to ask one of the workers.  Apparently the Irish government is allowed to use the Castle for conferences whenever they wish, so they keep as little things as possible inside the rooms, so that it’s easier to set up for events.  Most of the original pieces are hidden away in storage!


Dublin Castle


Entrance to the Castle museum


Next up was St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  We were too late to go inside, but the outside was so pretty!  The park would be a perfect place to study if you’re studying in Dublin.


St. Patrick’s Cathedral


Pretty water fountain in the middle of the park


Outside the entrance


I was a little sad that I wasn’t staying later on Sunday, because it would’ve been wonderful to go to mass at St. Patrick’s, but after taking some pictures of St. Patrick’s we were back to the house.  We got ready fairly quickly and were off to see Caroline.  Caroline and a couple of other Americans studying at Trinity live in this beautiful big house.  To my surprise all the other Davidson students were there as well.  It was so much fun to see everyone.  We hung out at Caroline’s for a little bit before heading out to a pub and then a club called Dicey’s.  It was really fun at the club dancing with Americans (British people tend to not move a lot when they dance).


Davidson students do Dublin


Caroline and I
Dicey’s stamp on my hand

I had an awesome time in Dublin and am excited to be back there soon.  It is a much smaller city than London and is definitely a must see if you’re looking for the same social culture as London, but in a walkable place.




A weekend trip to Dublin

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

Top of the morning to you!


Two weekends ago on October 11-13 I took a little weekend trip to Dublin with a couple of friends from Queen Mary.  Myself, Chelsea (who you’ve already met), and Allison (a student from Lafayette College) came and stayed with me at my cousin’s house. The reason for this trip was that I really wanted to visit one of my best friends from Davidson, Caroline, who is studying abroad at Trinity College.

By coincidence Chelsea also has a good friend that goes to F&M with her who is on the same program with Caroline.  We decided this weekend would be perfect as it was her friend’s birthday weekend.  Unfortunately things didn’t go as planned and Chelsea’s friend had to fly home due to a family emergency.

 We left for Dublin early on Friday morning.  The flights we’ve been booking recently have been leaving really early, so it’s been quite a hassle getting to the airport with the tube opening later, but we’ve found one of the most convenient modes of transportation… The National Express.  The National Express is a 24/7 bus service that picks up right across the street from our tube station, Mile End, and goes to a variety of places including Stansted Airport.  So, we boarded a 5:17am bus to Stansted airport and off to Dublin we went.

 At the airport we met up with other Davidson students studying abroad in London, who coincidentally picked the same weekend to go to Dublin to visit Caroline.  We didn’t realize that you had to queue in order to get seats on Ryanair.  We thought the number on our ticket was the order you boarded, so we decided to join a bachelor party in line that had the most awesome t-shirts.   Our flight was extremely late, arriving an hour late to Dublin, but I guess that’s typical of Ryanair.

 We got a taxi at the airport and were off to my cousin’s house.  We ate lunch and then headed to the Guinness Storehouse.  There we met up with the other Queen Mary students and had a fun afternoon learning how to make Guinness, sampling, and enjoying the view from the top of the Brewery.


Queen Mary students do the Guinness Storehouse


“It’s supposed to taste like chocolate and coffee…”



Allison, me, and Chelsea with our pints


The view of Dublin from the top of the brewery


Me, Chelsea, Jessica, and Allison with our pints


After the storehouse we went back to the house, where we met up with my family for dinner. We went to an Italian restaurant in Dundrum, which is a large shopping center with really funny flat escalator ramps.  The dinner was so good I got a pasta dish and then my favorite dessert, tiramisu.  Dinner took a while so we headed back to the house after and planned what we wanted to do on Saturday.  I will update you on our adventures in my next post!


Meeting up with Family in Dublin




Hola Barcelona!

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



That’s about all the Spanish I know, which didn’t really help me at all when i went to BARCELONA last weekend, Sept 27-29th.  It was such an amazing trip and I was lucky enough to go with two of the most wonderful people Emma (my roommate from Davidson) and Katrina (one of my best friends from Davidson).

Katrina, like me studied French throughout high school and college, so we were helpless.  Emma, who is half Cuban and speaks Spanish very well (she thinks she doesn’t)  was our navigator and translator for the weekend.

I’m going to leave this little video to explain the rest of the trip and leave you with a list of my favorite things about Barcelona and a few pictures.

1.  The weather is simply splendid, quite a nice break from London

2.  Tapas.  My favorite are croquettes–basically processed ham that has a fried shell…so yummy!

3.  The history–We got to sit on the steps that Christopher Columbus strolled down when he landed in Spain to tell Ferdinand and Isabella about the Western World.

4.  The views.  If you ever get a chance to go to Barcelona climb the steps up to Parc Guille.  The view of the entire city and the Mediterranean is breathtaking.

5.  The sangria–hands down one of my favorite experiences sitting at a cafe on Las Ramblas and sipping out of huge straws with 2 of my best friends.


Emma and I after our first meal in Barcelona.  Where did the tapas go?


A cute little quote on the wall of our hostel–Fabrizio’s Petit Palace


Basilica de la sagrada Familia


Emma and I at Parc Montjuic with the Fountain show in the background



Katrina, Emma, and I at the Castle at Montjuic


On the steps where Columbus arrived in Spain


The beautiful view of the city and Mediterranean in the background


A Catalan Christmas tradition.  They hide these figurines in their nativity scenes!






Food, Traveling, and Upcoming Excursions

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

The past few weeks have been beyond busy.  I’ve taken full advantage of my time here and have gone on a few trips the past few weeks.  I went to Barcelona two weekends ago with two of my best friends and last weekend, I visited Stonehenge & Bath with 2 girls that are here at Queen Mary with me.  I will make a separate post for each of those trips, as I have way too many photos and they would not fit in this post.

In addition to those two trips I also have a couple of other trips planned.  This coming weekend, the 11-13 of October I will be traveling to Dublin, Ireland to visit family and one of my best friends who is studying abroad at Trinity.  The following weekend the 18-20 is Adventure Weekend at the Lake District.  I am beyond excited for this and can’t wait to be reunited with all the people I met during IFSA-Butler orientation!  And last but not least, the last weekend in October, myself and 3 friends will be traveling to Budapest, Hungary.  I don’t know much about Budapest, but I’ve heard it’s beautiful and is kind of like Vienna, Austria.

Despite all this trip planning, which takes longer than you might think,  I have finally settled into the Queen Mary lifestyle.  I’m beginning to really enjoy all my classes, especially my Molecular Basis of Disease class.  We learned about Mad Cow Disease the last two weeks.  My lecturer has researched the disease for the past 20 years and is so knowledgable and passionate about it.  On the food front, I’ve finally been brave enough to cook chicken for the first time.  I was really scared I would end up accidentally eating raw chicken, but it worked out perfectly and tasted really good.  The great thing about being abroad and “trying” to cook is that everyone is in the same boat as you.  My flatmates and I have all had our share of bad experiences already– runny omelets, raw meat, you name it.

I plan to post more about Barcelona, Stonehenge, and Bath in the next few days!  Hopefully you won’t be too overwhelmed by the amount of pictures I’ve taken.


xx, Francesca


Can we Move our Campus here?

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

Hi Everyone!

Sorry I haven’t posted in quite a while.  My dad was in London doing business last week and took out a couple of my friends and I out for dinner.  We had Italian food, which was really good, but unfortunately my 2 friends and I all got food poisoning from the red meat we ate.   Needless to say last week was not one of the best, however once we were done being sick my friend, Chelsea, and I were more than ready to get out and explore London.  Of course like most tourists we were eager to head straight towards Buckingham Palace.  Buckingham Palace is only open to the public May-September every year and each year there is a different exhibit. This year the theme was the 50th anniversary Queen Elizabeth II’s crowning as queen. However, as this was the second to last weekend the palace is open the queue was very long and we ended up purchasing tickets for 4 hours later.




Luckily we had arrived just in time for the changing of the guards.  The massive crowd surrounding the gates and the fact that we both suffer from short people syndrome caused us to get a slightly obstructed view.  Regardless we were able to get some amazing pictures and catch glimpses here and there of the red-suited guards.





From there we headed off to Hyde Park.  If you’ve ever been to Central Park or like me to Millenium and Grant Park in Chicago. Hyde park puts them all to shame.  We were quite hungry when we entered the park, and so we stopped at The Serpentine Restaurant and Bar.  This restaurant overlooks the Serpentine, and sitting outside was amazing as the view was so pretty.  I ordered margherita pizza and was content to sit and watch the paddle boats float by.





Next, we walked along the entire length of the park.  Our goal was to visit the Princess Diana memorial, but there were so many statues and gorgeous scenery along the way that we kept stopping to take pictures.  And Chelsea made us stop so she could chase the birds around.  A little boy joined in with her as well, which was hilarious.





When we finally arrived at the Princess Diana memorial I was very surprised by how simple it is.  However the plaque outside the memorial stated the it was designed with children in mind since Diana had been pushing the royal regulations to be as hands-on as possible with William and Harry.  They’re were even signs posted all around that suggested you dip your feet and hands in the water.






At the end of Hyde Park you run into Kensington Gardens.  On our way there we stopped to take pictures at the Peter Pan statue.  It was built in 1919 in honor of the author, who supposedly happened upon the idea for the story while sitting in Hyde Park.



The highlight of Kensington Gardens is of course, Kensington Palace where Will, Kate, and George will be living starting next year.  There are a lot of renovations at the moment to make the palace suitable for the new family, but it was still stunning.





After this we headed back to Buckingham for our tour.  You were not allowed to take any pictures while in the palace, but the exhibit was filled with coronation memorabilia.  My favorite part was seeing Queen Elizabeth’s coronation robe, which took 536 hours to make.  The end of the tour took place in the gardens, where we were allowed to take pictures.  We asked a group of young people to take our picture.  They happened to be from Miami of Ohio and were studying in Florence.  Coincidentally they knew people I went to high school with. It really is such a small world!






The day of frolicking around central London ended with the two of us buying postcards and heading back to Mile End on the tube.  All in all it was a wonderful day, I just wish our campus could be picked up and placed inside Hyde Park because it is that wonderful!

xx, Francesca


Cheers! We’re in London

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

Last time I blogged I was getting ready to depart for London..and now I’ve finally made it!

I have a really awful habit of not being able to sleep sitting up, so I was awake for over 24 hours last Tuesday.  My first flight from O’Hare to JFK was quite unadventurous, but my flight from JFK to Heathrow was quite different.  I arrived in terminal 3 at JFK and had to make my way to terminal 4 for the group flight.  If you’ve ever been to JFK before, please agree with me when I say it’s extremely confusing changing terminals.  Like most busy airports you have to take a train around, but at JFK you also have to go through security again.  This was quite hectic for me and made me a little irritated, however once I arrived at the right terminal I met so many college students, who were going to be in London with me.

We took a Virgin Atlantic flight, so we had our own personal TVs.  I watched the first 3 episodes of Nashville and  The Internship during the flight.  Regardless of my lack of sleep, I was entertained the entire time.  When we landed we were met by IFSA staff at baggage claim who directed us to a bus that took us to the St. Giles Hotel.

Unfortunately, the St. Giles does not have wifi, and it costs an arm and a leg to buy it, so many people were not able to contact their parents that they had made it safely.  The first stop for many people, including myself, was the phone store across the street.  Luckily, I have a Verizon iPhone 5, so I was able to get an international sim card with unlimited data and a certain number of texts and minutes.  Trust me when I say that apps like Viber will become your best friend for staying in contact with loved ones at home.   With my unlimited data I was able to call my parents and text my best friends.  If you don’t have an unlocked phone don’t worry, the phone store also sells pay as you go phones, which you can top up at basically any grocery store or drug store in London.

The information we received at orientation is kind of a blur for me now.  One thing that was preached to us was that British people are shyer than Americans.  This has been proven wrong by my flatmates, who are beyond friendly and love Americans.  Besides the information there are a couple of other interesting things that happened on orientation.

  1. You are placed with a roommate upon arriving at the hotel.  I would advise you not to change roommates even if you have a close friend on the program with you.  My roommate, Sydney, and I became friends fast and have been in contact ever since despite the fact she is studying abroad at University of Sussex.
  2. You meet so many people at orientation.  I met a great group of girls while I was there.  One of them even lives 20 minutes away from where I live in Illinois.  So don’t be afraid to go out of your box and hang out with people besides those who come from your home institution.
  3. IFSA gives you the option to attend a play on Thursday night.  Even if you don’t grasp the concept of British humour, go!  The play we went to was entitled Spamalot.  I haven’t seen Monty Python, but I found the play hilarious.  Another plus is that the bridge across from the theatre has incredible views of the city.
  4. On the last day there is a walking tour.  We didn’t get to see anything very touristy, but it was still fun seeing some famous sites.  My favorites were China Town, the place where Elton John composed “Your Song”, and the Australia House aka Gringotts in the Harry Potter films.
  5. IFSA allows you a lot of free time.  My friends and I took this as an opportunity to check out the various pubs in central London.  Each has its own “feel” to it.  My favorite was The Court, which is located on Tottenham Court (pronounced Tottnam).  It had great music, young people, and cool artwork in the ladies room.

All these pictures can be viewed below:

All in all, this past week has been filled with activities.  I’m still adjusting to the time zone, so I will update you with move in, Queen Mary, and my flatmates in my next post.

xx, Francesca



Last Day in the USA!

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

I woke up this morning and realized that not only do I have only one more night in my bed, but this is my last day in the USA!  The word “Excited” cannot even begin to explain how I’m feeling right now.  Tomorrow morning I will be leaving my house around 6am in order to  make a connecting flight to JFK, where I will departing on the group flight to Heathrow.  Once at Heathrow I will be met by the IFSA team and they will be taking myself and the other students to orientation.

People keep asking me if I’m nervous, and honestly the reality of it hasn’t hit me yet.  I’ve visited London before but, it’s going to be completely different living there for 3 months.  There’s going to be a bit of culture shock, however I’m ready for this new experience to start.

Last but not least, the dreaded packing.  Friends of mine that have already left for their study abroad programs have told me it’s extremely stressful packing for an entire semester.  In an attempt to make it a little bit more fun I’ve coupled my attempts at practicing on my new camera and packing by making a short spoof video.

In all seriousness I’ve only packed clothes that I can easily layer, some going-out outfits, warm-weather clothes (if I decide to travel to a warmer places), and of course shoes that I can easily walk around in.  Currently, the contents of my 3 month stay in London are sprawled out in neat, little piles on my ping pong table.  I’m crossing my fingers that they make a smooth transition to my suitcase and that they weigh in under 70 pounds.  My saving grace is that I’ve purchased a couple “space bags”  that will hopefully compress my heavy sweaters and jackets.   Like I said, *fingers crossed*.

xox, Francesca