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The Real Advantage of IFSA-Butler Living

Time November 30th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I have an exciting story to share with everyone. I will start at the beginning…

Because UCL housing was full, I was placed at 21 Pembridge Gardens, IFSA-Butler’s office in London. It is a beautiful white townhouse in Notting Hill. I live with about 30 other Americans studying abroad and have made a lot of new friends. I’m lucky because at the same time that I am meeting people from all over the world, I am also meeting friends who I can visit more easily in America.

Notting Hill is a great area, as you would know if you saw the film of the same name starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. It is fun to say that I live 2 doors down from Stella McCartney (yes this is absolutely true and I see her and her family all the time!). It is also nice that so many opportunities are within walking distance. Notting Hill is just a short walk from the famous Portobello Market, Hyde Park and, of course, Kensington Palace.

You may remember that years ago Princess Diana resided in Kensington Palace with her sons William and Harry. Now it is home to Prince William and Kate Middleton. The Palace is just a 10 minute walk from my house. I loved this part of my housing location because I am a real royal fan. I even woke up at 5 a.m. to watch the Royal Wedding last April. Okay here is where the story gets interesting.

Last week as I was walking back to my house from High Street Kensington (a main shopping street with stores like Zara, Whole Foods and H&M), I noticed a woman with the most beautiful hair I had ever seen. It was brown, long, curly at the ends and very bouncy. She was also very impressively dressed in all black with a fancy looking leather handbag. Not to mention the man walking very closely behind her. I had a fleeting thought that the woman looked like Kate Middleton. Then all of a sudden she turned her head and I realized it was her! A real life royal! I didn’t know what to do. I was in shock that I was seeing such a huge celebrity on the streets of London. She was carrying a shopping bag and stopping by a local flower stall to pick up some white lilies for her royal apartments in Kensington Palace.

I knew I would always regret it if I didn’t say anything to her, so I went for it. “Hi, um, are you Kate?” I asked nervously. “Yes,” she replied. I think I might have started shaking right about here. Hopefully Kate didn’t notice. Now I was speechless. “Oh wow, well, um, I just wanted to say, well, um, hi” I muttered. “It’s very nice to meet you,” she replied in her beautiful English accent. I smiled and left her alone to pick out her flowers, but not before taking a few pictures of her first.

This is a memory I will never forget. I have to thank IFSA-Butler for placing me in their Notting Hill office. Otherwise, I never would have talked to a real life princess and future Queen of England!


Adventure Weekend

Time November 30th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

A few weekends ago, IFSA-Butler organized a trip to the Lake District for Adventure Weekend. The Lake District is in the North of England and is full of, of course, lakes and beautiful hills. We were so lucky to go in the Fall and see all the beautiful leaves. There were a lot of activities planned, like mountain biking, hiking, canoeing or just going on a sightseeing tour (which I did). I got to see so many wonderful sights and meet students who went to other schools in England besides UCL which was really fun because I got to meet new friends!

The first night, IFSA put on a pub quiz. We organized into teams and did a fun trivia game. Questions ranged from identifying a picture of Pippa Middleton to answering questions about the periodic table. Pub quizzes are common in English pubs but I enjoyed getting to play with all my IFSA friends. Unfortunately, our team didn’t win but we did come in 5th place which isn’t too bad I’d say.

The next day was my sightseeing tour! We went all over the Lake District and saw ancient stone circles (quite like Stonehenge), William Wordsworth’s house, a waterfall, many different lakes and different villages. We also went into a church that was over 1000 years old. The US hadn’t even been discovered back when that church was built! I am not much of an adventure/outdoorsy girl so I am glad that IFSA arranged this sightseeing option for those of us who weren’t the most physically capable!

That night, there was a party held for all the students on the trip. We listened to music, danced with all our friends (and even our staff) which was a lot of fun. We had to be up early the next morning though to go into the town of Keswick and explore a nice village of the Lake District. It was delightful to go into such a quaint town after all the hustle and bustle that is London. In fact, I didn’t even get cell phone reception. It was such a relaxing weekend and I am very grateful that IFSA took us away for the weekend!


Starting in London

Time October 5th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

I’ve been having such a great time in London. I am living in the IFSA-Butler house in Notting Hill. The office for the program is right downstairs and its so great having the staff available anytime we need something. I’m living with other students from the USA studying at UCL so I’m getting to meet new friends both from back home and from England. I’m starting classes tomorrow. I can’t believe it is finally time! Class in the UK starts much later than I am used to. The class I am most excited about is London Architecture. Every class we are going to a different site in the city to learn about the building’s history and style. I’ve never taken an architecture class before so I’m excited to learn about it in such a historic city.


Speaking of history, my friends and I have been super tourists since we arrived. We have seen Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Hampton Court Palace, Tower Bridge, London Bridge, the London Eye, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, Big Ben, Parliament, the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery and many more. So far my favorite attraction has been Buckingham Palace. I loved getting to tour the magnificent staterooms. However, the best part of the Palace was getting to see Kate Middleton’s royal wedding dress, veil, tiara, shoes and earrings on display!!


Besides being a tourist, we have also decided to get to know other parts of London. We realized that a great way to go beyond our little area was to take advantage of the markets that pop up on streets throughout the city during the weekends. For example, Portobello Road Market just around the corner from us is bustling every Saturday with vendors selling jewelry, crafts and vegetables to hundreds of customers. Today we went to Columbia Road Flower Market and Brick Lane Market. These markets are both in the East End of London, while we live in the West End. Although it was a (comparatively) long tube ride, it was worth it to explore other areas. Columbia Road and Brick Lane seem to be dominated primarily by foreigners so there were a lot of great ethnic shops and restaurants. The smells that came from the Ethiopian, Indian and Turkish food stalls in Brick Lane are enough to make anybody’s mouth water! I love getting to explore local crafts and foods, while also getting to talk to the people selling their handmade products. Another plus to going to these markets, besides the fact that they sell well-priced quality items, is the music. Musicians line the streets and play for the crowd.  I loved getting to hear them play and getting to explore London this way.



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Next Stop: London

Time September 13th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My bags are packed. Getting them to zip, however, will be a different story. For my 3 month study abroad adventure in London, I didn’t know what I needed and what I didn’t need. So, of course, I just decided to pack everything. One of the original newsletters sent out to us study abroad students said to pick out everything you want to pack, and then take only half of it. I’m not sure I took that advice too well.

Just like my over-stuffed bags, I’m sure that when I return home from London in 3 months, I won’t be able to zip up my mouth. I know I will have long stories to tell my friends and family about getting to explore a new city, meet new friends and explore Europe. Until I arrive, my memory space for London is empty, just like my suitcases were empty two days ago. The thing about empty spaces though, is that as scary as they are, you can fill them up in just a few minutes. That’s what I’m expecting as soon as I land in London in 2 days.

I know I will be overwhelmed with the sights and sounds of a new culture. Suddenly, I will hear people with British accents, see the word “color” spelled like “colour” and eat fish and chips. Or maybe I won’t eat fish and chips. Nevertheless, I know that so many fun and exciting memories await me.

I’m excited to see Kate Middleton’s wedding dress on display in Buckingham Palace, see Big Ben and ride on the London Eye. Classes start in a few weeks at UCL and I am also excited about getting to be in class with British students and experience another classroom culture. I can’t wait to pick my classes during orientation next week! I am a Politics major so I am in the European Social and Political Studies department. I anticipate getting to study about European governments. I think it should be interesting, especially given the challenges that Europe is currently facing.

Well, I am off to try to zip up my suitcases now. My next entry will be from London. I can’t wait to post videos and pictures of my adventures abroad. I would have posted a video with this entry, but I figured nobody really wanted to watch me struggle to zip up a suitcase!