[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

Spontaneity

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

Trainsportation

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.

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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!