[Guest Post] 5 Things I Learned in London

This post is the first in a “5 Things I Learned in __________” series, written by our returning students.

Geoff ZuHone is a senior Journalism major who has studied abroad twice: once on a short term faculty-led program in France and a second time at the University of Westminster in London, England. He is also a member of the inaugural class of STA4000G: Study Abroad Capstone.

5 Things I learned in…London

1 Produce Market

America Who

I’ve said it before, and I will continue to say it; the American way isn’t always the best. Just knowing that there are alternatives to how you live inspires reflection in other parts of your life. Studying abroad forces you (in an amicable way) to confront certain aspects of your life that might seem archaic or backwards. Now, I’m more likely to buy fresher food for a couple days, going back to the store 2 or 3 times a week rather than buying frozen or convenient food in bulk. Before studying abroad, I would always assume that I would drive everywhere I needed to go, but now I look for reliable public or mass transit options before setting out. It’s refreshing to know that seemingly unimportant aspects of your life can change just by visiting or living someplace different.

2 A Briton & I

Starting Anew

Studying abroad by yourself is tough and intimidating, but it’s rewarding beyond belief. Starting from scratch is rejuvenating, and it knowingly preludes the “real world.” I’m terribly glad to have been able to set new, shallow roots in London that will one day grow into a firm network of friends and colleagues. I implore anyone that will be studying abroad in a foreign country, do not only hang out with the other American kids only; find the locals, get to know them, and you will learn more useful information about a city, about a country, than there is in most travel manuals.

3 On the red carpet


This is the most important trait I acquired from studying abroad. Being in Europe, it’s customary to travel to close countries for long weekends away. After an hour of researching, I am proud to say I can book lodging and transportation to a foreign country for four people, all while finding popular and unique activities to fill three days with. These transferable skills have already allowed me to book a weekend in Canada during the middle of this school year, along with finding and renting out a New York apartment in less than 3 hours this past summer. Having the confidence to be spontaneous has allowed myself to become less reactive and more proactive. Now if only I could stop myself from researching flights to Paris around Christmas time.

4 Train Tracks in England


Growing up in the Midwest on a corn and soybean farm, I always thought of trains mostly as a means of transporting grain and oil. Now, having comeback from modernity, I see trains not only as the future of travel, but as the past and present of travel. Trains have been constant, especially in Europe, for nearly 200 years. Modern trains can easily cut the travel time in half compared to driving a car. It’s also much easier and less stressful than flying; showing up 10 or 15 minutes before the train departs is wonderful compared to showing up hours ahead of time to an airport terminal. Best of all, there’s hardly any security to go through, so there’s no liquid restrictions, body X-rays, or long-lines. It’s the most convenient, most enjoyable, and most fun way of traveling I have ever experienced.

5 Exploring the streets of London

Do, Don’t Just Watch

Culture just isn’t in the museums or around the monuments. Culture is an experience. The more you immerse yourself and get lost in a culture, the more you retain from it, the more learn from it, and the more you grow from it. This is one of the most valuable and priceless effects of studying abroad. There is always something new you can learn from another culture, whether it be a different way to eat, a different way to earn money, or a different way to dress. Every change to your personality, no matter how small or imperceptible, is a willful absorption and emission of a different culture; that, is beautiful.


Q&A: Kelsey in England

Big Ben, London

Posing with the one and only Big Ben

Kelsey Hoyt

A senior English major with Teacher’s certification from Highland, IL, Kelsey studied in Winchester, England for a full semester.

Q. Tell us about the food. The good, the bad, the ugly.
A. You would think the best dish would be fish and chips, but it was actually very difficult to find! They served mostly Indian/Thai dishes such as curry and things like that. I really enjoyed Pad-Thai soup and the weekly roasts that the campus served. However, one night there was Yorkshire Pudding which to my dismay is definitely NOT pudding of any kind. It was a soppy mess of bread, gravy, and meat, and was not tasty in the least! They also served baked beans with their breakfast, which I eat at home now!

Q. Do you have a favorite spot in Winchester?
A. My favorite spot was a small café that my friend and I would always go for breakfast. It was just so quaint and tiny, we felt like we had found a well-kept secret of Winchester. There was also a very small coffee place ran by a man named Harry in London. We came back to visit him and he remembered us every time!

Q. Let us in on a local tip, what do you recommend?
A. If anyone is in Winchester, head to Ginger Two’s! A wonderful little tea and pastry shop with the best cakes around! There is also a pub called William Walker that we spent every Tuesday night at. It was so delightful and we quickly became regulars as the servers learned our orders and even reserved a table for us!

Q. American English vs. British English. Discuss!
A. Quote: “This queue is dreadful!” Translation: “This line is so long!”
Quote: “Add a bit of colour, would you?” Translation: “That needs more color.”
Quote: “As you wish!” Translation: “Do whatever you want to do.”
Quote: “I’m so pissed!” Translation: “I’m a bit tipsy!”
They also don’t do double letters in some words which threw me off and got me a lot of papers sent back. They also don’t use the word cooperate. They use co-ooperate.

Q. You could hardly believe your eyes when you saw … What? Why?
A. The first time I saw Big Ben, I cried. I also cried when I saw the Globe Theatre. I just never thought that it would happen. My fairy godmothers made my wildest dreams come true, and I will never forget what I felt when I saw those landmarks.

We’re glad those fairy godmothers support study abroad 🙂 Thanks, Kelsey!

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

A weekend trip to Ireland, seen here at the Cliffs of Moher

Q&A: Taylor on Interning in London

Big Ben

Posing with the iconic Big Ben in London

Taylor Gandolfi

Charleston native and rising senior at EIU majoring in Graphic Design, Taylor is currently enrolled in a graphic design internship at a web design firm called Digital Broadcasters in London, England.

Q. How did you decide that London was the right place for you to complete an internship?
A. I decided to do my internship abroad in London because London is a good place to make contacts. Another big reason why I picked London is because since I am working instead of studying I need to be fluent in the language of the country that I am working in, and I don’t know any other languages other than English.

Q. What is your daily workload like as an intern in the UK?
A. At my company, I am working 40 hours a week, from 9:30-5:30 every day. I work along side the Graphic Designer, and the owner of the firm and she gives me projects designing various things such as web lay outs, advertisements, flyers etc while working with Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign.

Q. What has been the most rewarding part of interning abroad?
A. The most rewarding part of interning abroad has been being able to work with other interns from around the world. My office has interns from France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and England, and it has been really interesting to compare cultures and to hang out with people my age from all around the world.

Q. And the most challenging part?
A. Probably one of the most challenging things about interning abroad was figuring out how to use the tube/bus station. Another thing that was really hard to get used to was the time difference, which has also been challenging to talk to people back home, but it isn’t bad once you get used to it. The one complaint that I have is no ranch dressing.

Q. Have you been able to travel? What are some of the highlights?
A. I was in Paris last weekend with one of my room mates and we got this “Paris Pass” that got us into all of the major attractions (Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph, Montemarte, and all of the museums). it also got us on a river cruise with amazing views of the whole city and a wine tasting, and all we had to do was show our Paris Pass! Next weekend I will be traveling to Amsterdam while the following weekend I will be traveling to Dublin, and the last weekend I have I will be traveling to Zurich. With my work schedule I am only able to do weekend trips, but my boss has been pretty flexible letting me leave early to get cheaper flights.

Q. Has your time abroad met your expectations? Do you feel well prepared from your time at EIU?
A. My time abroad has far exceeded my expectations. Some of the things that my professors have had me do in class that I thought was a waste of time (for example tracing things in Illustrator) have been very useful in the different tasks given to me. I feel like EIU has prepared me very well with the different programs that I have to use, the one thing that EIU Graphic Design doesn’t really cover is working with clients.

Q. Any advice for others considering a term abroad?
A. When first arriving here I wasn’t sure what to do with my phone, and the easiest, cheapest way has been to get a UK SIM card (which is only 12 pounds a month for unlimited data, and texting, while calls I have 250 minutes) and to talk to people from home using Viber.

Merci beaucoup, Taylor!

Eiffel Tower

A weekend in Paris, seen here at the top of the Arc de Triomphe!

Student Blog Spotlight: Helen & Danielle in England

Two is better than one, and a castle is better than none.

We’re following two EIU students in tandem on their tour de force of English Literary Landscapes. On this faculty-led program, the students are reading the words and walking in the steps of famous characters and authors alike. Imagine: Brontë, Wordsworth, Stoker, Coleridge .. and a castle in the background.

This is Harlaxton, through the eyes of Helen & Danielle. See more by checking out their blogs below:

* Adventures in England: http://daniellesadventures.wordpress.com/
* Living in a Castle: http://helengland.wordpress.com/

[Guest post]: Solo Study Abroad

“All by myself… don’t wanna be…”

Actually, going off to study abroad on your own isn’t cause for Eric Carmen/Celine Dion power ballads. Calm down. (Actually, I mean, if you are down to belt it, belt it. Don’t let me stop you.)

While it may seem daunting at first, going solo when studying abroad is actually a great learning experience, and not just in the academic sense. What do I mean by that? In my case, I’m the only person from EIU at the University of Westminster in London. Because of that, I’ve become more self-reliant, assertive and have learned so much about myself!

Living outside your comfort zone isn’t all rainbows and sunshine, however. I’ve made mistakes, looked like a fool, and haven’t had any familiar faces to rely on for help. 

Does that freak you out?

First piece of advice: Don’t freak out. (If you watch Chuck, bonus points!) It may seem overwhelming. It may seem scary. But remember to breathe. Remember that you’ve done things like this before.

Yes, you have done this before. Remember when you knew next-to-no-one at EIU your freshman year? What did you do? You probably knocked on someone’s door on your floor, maybe you went to the icebreakers in the quad, and you surely met people in your class. And what did you do when you needed stuff for your room? You jumped on the Panther shuttle or drove to Wal-Mart and bought it like a big kid. In short, you put yourself out there and made friends. You adapted to your new environment.

Studying abroad isn’t all that different. When you’re studying abroad in another country you meet new friends in much the same way. And you’ll quickly find a store for all those flat/apartment/room/shoebox necessities. (Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can.)

And after tackling such an experience, imagine how well you’ll do when you move into the big bad “real world” everyone is always droning on about! Scary, right? But if you can jump in to another country, another culture, and make it work, that big, bad, real world will seem like a breeze.

So far, this experience has been fantastic, and I look forward to what more it will bring. Studying abroad alone can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. If you are open-minded about the culture and country you’re in, and remember to be yourself, you’ll have the time of your life. I am!

One last piece of advice that isn’t really pertinent to this, but I think everyone should know:
– Walk places! Don’t just take public transport or you’ll feel like you’re teleporting everywhere and miss all of the good things in between.

Adventure is out there! (Yep. Went there.)


student study abroad england

Mattie Korneta is junior History major studying abroad at the University of Westminster in London, England for the academic year. You can keep up with her adventures at: http://astudyinthesmoke.wordpress.com/ 

[Guest post]: Feeling Foreign

Cat’s asking me if I want to drive her car.  I’m so busy thinking about how numbered my days are with her and the family that I don’t hear her at first.

“Shelby, come up here. Have a go,” she says again, opening the driver’s side door and climbing out. I look at Clare, who’s grinning like a fool. She urges me with her eyes to follow our host-mother’s orders.

I climb out of the back seat and go around the vehicle to the front door on the right, which Cat’s left open for me. I crawl in and strap myself into the driver’s seat, my breath quickening from excitement and nervous fear.

“You can drive a manual, yeah?” Cat asks.  I grin.

“I’m a farm-girl, Cat. Everybody drives a stick where I’m from.”

Driving Cat’s car isn’t as easy as I’d expected it to be. Everyone had been telling me, the British don’t drive on the wrong side of the road, just the other side. This kind of rhetoric led me to believe that learning to drive in a foreign country was cake, like I was already an expert and only needed to position myself about six feet to the left—like I would be fine behind the wheel of a British coupe, driving my host mom and best friend to Sir Isaac Newton’s home.

In the driver’s seat, all I feel is wrong, wrong, wrong.

* * *

I’d been trying so hard since Day One to be anything but what I was—American. All of us—every student at Harlaxton—shook off our USA garb the second we touched down at Heathrow. We shopped at Primark and Boots hoping it would make us British. We drew out our “a’s” when we spoke and spelled color with a “u,” hoping we could pass as citizens. We fought about which football team was better and we loved the queen. We ate biscuits, not cookies. We said “cheers” instead of “thank you.” We used the metric system.

Day after day, our British professors would stress that there was no such thing as a “British identity.” We were listening, but we knew they were lying.

Everyone but us was, oh, so British, and we were

Just. So. Foreign.

Not just foreign. We were American. They could pick us out in a crowd at a glance. We started to pick out the Americans too, hoping that it would gain us some credibility, but in the end, it didn’t change who we were, and we were never able to mask it.

Why we wanted to, I’m not sure, but it seemed as though all of us were struggling with knowing we somehow didn’t fit in. It was more than culture shock or homesickness; it was feeling misplaced. We’d expected things to be different, and we took to those differences so readily, but we hadn’t expected to never really belong. We hadn’t expected to try so hard to overcome adversity just to fail.

I was coming to terms with this in the driver’s seat of Cat’s car. I was realizing that four months wasn’t enough time to become British. I was facing the reality that I might never be British. I’d come here an American with the intention of changing herself, becoming more culturally aware through immersion, and emerging from her experience as a bright, British butterfly.

I was going to fail.

* * *

I wake up from a hard slumber aboard Flight 86 to Chicago. I’ve missed the safety demonstration. I look out the window on my right.

I’m somewhere over the Atlantic.

I feel the tear streak down my cheek when I realize I’ve missed my chance to say goodbye to England. The woman next to me shifts in her seat to comfort me.

“Oh dear,” she says in an English accent. “Are you leaving home?”

I laugh as I wipe my eyes and say, “No, I’m going home.”

“Oh, you’re American!” She laughs at her mistake and pats my hand.

At 30,000 feet above sea-level, I start to understand what re-entry shock is. They’d warned us about it back at the Manor, but what they didn’t explain to us is that going back where you came from after you’ve been away, after you’ve changed, after you’ve spent four months trying to fit in elsewhere would make you feel like a foreigner in your own home.

Maybe I failed at becoming British, but I became a different American than I was before. I know how it feels to be foreign. I know how scary it is to feel misplaced. I know how depressing it can get to not know where home is. I know that being stuck between coming and going is unnerving.

But I’ve learned that the time you spend in the interim is the time you spend really living.

Shelby Koehne is an English major who studied abroad at Harlaxton College in Spring 2011.

England: One Year Later

This is Kristina’s last post for our office, as she is off to student teach in the Spring. We will miss her dearly & are grateful for her work as a Peer Advisor these past two semesters!


We tend to look back on our favorite memories with a certain nostalgia…and it’s true, I am probably guiltier than most.  Every moment lodged in my mind is played back on a reel in slow motion, bathed in a radiant, warm glow.  We remember our excursions with more adventures, our misfortunes with more laughs and our regular days with more discoveries and revelations than ever occurred in reality.

It is sometimes hard to remind myself that not every day was so easy,
not every journey so magical. 

But it was in those authentic slumps that I was truly stripped to the core, ready to reflect and willing to learn.

It is difficult for me to look back on my time abroad and pinpoint the perfect story that illustrates this notion.  But it was some time in the middle of the semester, late October,  classwork piling up, the manor seeming smaller than ever and the sky bleak as usual, threatening rain, that I decided to take a trip to town: alone.

The whole alone part was a pretty big step.  Yeah, I was one of “those” girls that didn’t even go to the bathroom alone.  But that’s another story.  So what was so special about this moment?  It was the fact that I felt so comfortable driving on the left side of the road, didn’t blink in wonder as I paid with pounds and no giggle escaped in response to that oh-so-enchanting British accent.  All of those things felt normal.  England felt like home.

It was in that exact moment, I think, that my experience abroad found roots, it became real.  I was no longer visiting a foreign country; I was not a tourist exploring a new land.  I was living, learning and growing in a place that, even if for the briefest of moments, I called home.

It is because of this memory, along with a few others, that I refuse to romanticize my past.  I believe that when I sensationalize my memories, I lose the one thing that ever made them so great in the first place: authenticity.

Creating an International Education Experience

As a future teacher I have always understood the importance of travel, in learning as much about the world and its inhabitants as possible, so that I am better equipped to educate my future students. Needless to say, I was beyond excited to get the chance to study abroad last fall in a small town right outside of London, England. As I prepared for my departure, anticipation mounted.  I couldn’t wait to make new friends, travel to new cities and discover new perspectives.

My semester in England was amazing. I enjoyed a new culture, met fascinating new people,  and learned more than I ever imagined I could have. But what made my trip extraordinary was something else entirely. Interestingly, I didn’t  realize the lasting impacts of my experience abroad until after I returned home. While reflecting upon my trip, I realized that to really learn in life, you must be more than a participant, you must be a creator.

So what truly made my experience one of a kind? What helped me really grow as an individual? It was taking the initiative. Instead of lamenting about my classroom-less semester, I got active, getting together a group of several other future teachers and talking with some of our professors about possibly teaching at a local school.  After countless emails, phone calls we got the approval to teach in a local primary school. We were ecstatic!

We put together creative lesson plans about Thanksgiving and chatted excitedly about what this foreign classroom might be like. It was amazing! Leading that British classroom is an experience that I can’t even put into words. I learned more working with those students than I ever could have from reading a book or sitting behind a desk. At the time, I merely chalked it up as another part of the study abroad experience. But, today, I carry with me more from that British classroom than any other experience I participated in while abroad. We get out of life what we put in to it, and studying abroad afforded me opportunity to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience.