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14 September, 2015

Guest Post - Stephanie Gibbs

How to Survive the Bath Trip

Ah, the Bath trip.  A staple in every Ithaca College student’s London experience.  However, this trip is not for the faint of heart.  Let it be known before you dedicate yourself, and £85, that this trip will test you.  It will test what you thought you knew about history, what you thought you knew about your new roommates, and what you thought you knew about yourself.  …But mostly it will test how long you can sit on a bus without going crazy.  If any of you are wondering, “Should I go”, I hope this post adds some clarity to your decision (I’ll let you decide in what way).

Step 1: Signing Up

One of the hardest things for college students to do apparently, is to sign up for things on time.  It doesn’t matter that there is a dirty great big obvious sign stuck on a post in the middle of the London Center lobby, nor does it matter than this sign does not move for an entire week.  More likely than not, you will forget to sign up and you will have to suffer through the influx of Snapchats of people snoring on the bus.  Not only that, but you will have to dutifully like all the poorly filtered images of the Wells Cathedral on Instagram as you eat cereal in your PJs.  And to top it off, you will try your hardest, but you will fail to ignore the ever so punny Facebook posts saying “This rocks” as all your friends stand in front of Stonehenge.  SIGN UP FOR THE TRIP ON TIME.

Step 2: The Bus

You will be expected to be on the bus in front of the London Center by 7 am.  Not bad, except for the fact that for most of us that means waking up around 6:30 am and that was no fun.  It was around that time that I started to envy my roommate still sleeping in our flat.  Bring snacks for this essentially giant road trip and please, for the love of god, DO NOT bring a salami sandwich that makes the whole bus smell like a deli.  I’m looking at you Seat 27.  Other than that, try to sleep as much as possible, pee at every pit stop, and remember, you paid to sit on this bus.

Pro Tip: Bring a backpack instead of carry-on luggage.  Your bus driver will thank you.

Step 3: Avebury, Glastonbury Abbey, Wells Cathedral

Now the fun stuff.  I’m going to graze over this part of the trip partly because its beyond words, partly because I want you to experience it yourself, and partly because it’s all blurred together.  I will tell you this: Avebury is where you’ll get the best pictures of your friends standing dramatically on a hill.  Glastonbury Abbey is where you will get to write fun comments in the visitors’ book like “Jesus would have loved this place” and where a man wearing old clothing will take you through an old church to realize that England is old.  Wells Cathedral, in my case at least, is where you’ll realize that the rule for photographs (aka: you have to pay to take them) is a lie and you should take as many photos as you can.  Trust me, you don’t want to spend £2 to find out everyone’s taking pictures for free.


Did I say this was a Bath trip?  Oh silly me, by Bath I meant that you will be in Bath for about 18 hours and 12 of those hours will be spent passed out in a hostel trying to recover from waking up at 6:30 am, spending half the day on a bus, and the other half looking at things too old to comprehend.  If you’re still up passed 9 pm, you’re made of stronger stuff.  When you arrive you will be given free time during which many student try to do a pub crawl.  To put that into perspective and to give you a little fun fact, Bath has more pubs per square mile than London (or so I’ve been told).
Get excited everyone, your hostel has free breakfast!  …It consists of cereal, toast, and fruit.  I usually hate cereal, but seeing as it free and I’m cheap I ate about three bowls of Frosted Flakes.  After this, it’s time to pack up once again and head to the Roman Baths! This was probably one of the most amazing “museums” I’ve ever been in and you really just have to go to find out why.  Also, since you’re there and since you just spent three hours walking around, you will have to drink some of the bath water and you will realize why they say it tastes like boiled pigeon feathers.  #WorthIt
After the Roman Baths, you can choose to go out on your own or take a walk around bath.  DON’T GO ON THE WALK, DON’T DO IT!  Your legs will be dead and you’ll have missed out on awesome things like the Jane Austin museum.  To be honest the “museum” (aka: a house they kept looking really old) wasn’t so exciting.  The exciting part came at the end where you could dress up in Regency era clothing, write with a feather and ink, and drink proper tea and biscuits.  But the REALLY fun part comes when you almost miss the bus and have to sprint down the cobble stone streets of Bath.

Step 5: Stonehenge

An hour on the now smelly bus and we’re at Stonehenge.  People will tell you a lot of things about Stonehenge.  They will tell you, you have to stand far away from it.  False. You can’t touch it but I wouldn’t say you’re fair.  They will tell you, you have to walk to get from the gift shop to the stones.  False.  Take the free shuttle that comes with your student pass and wave at all you friends walking on the side of the road as you pass by.  Finally they will tell you that there’s not much to do after about the first 5 minutes.  Bullsh*t.  They obviously weren’t trying hard enough to come up with the best touristy photos ever.  Luckily, I succeeded.

Step 6: Go on this trip no matter how poorly I’ve described it, no matter how long you’re stuck on a bus, and no matter how many times you wish your feet would stop hurting.

I’m so glad I went on this trip.

07 September, 2015

2 WEEKS - Guest Post, Mike Levine


Anxiety overwhelmed me on the ride to JFK airport in NY, as I prepared for my departure. However, the anxiety melted away when I saw some friendly Ithaca College faces sitting at the gate; all of us filled with the same emotions of fear and most importantly, excitement! I got a burger from Shake Shack with my friends Maddie and Taylor, strapped on my travel fanny pack with my passport and papers (thanks mom and dad), and got ready to board the plane. Two movies, two beers, a nap, and a muffin later we finally landed and my adventure began. Not even 4 hours in the UK and I was on my way to look for at a flat, and the rest is history.

It’s been two weeks here in London, and I already feel like I’ve aged 5 years. I pay bills for an incredible flat in Bayswater (with a rooftop deck!!!), I’ve mastered the underground rail system, I’ve planned trips to Bath, Dover, Budapest, Berlin, Dublin, Amsterdam, Edinburgh and Italy, and have downed 32 cups of proper tea since I landed in London, Heathrow, and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. I’ve had a week of classes and secured a marketing internship at Love Home Swap on Oxford Street (the equivalent to 5th Ave in NYC), as well as a job here at ICLC, where I was given this blog assignment.

It’s only been two weeks, but in addition to becoming a full-fledged adult I’ve had some fun as well. I’ve gone sight seeing around Westminster, saw Richard II at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, experienced Notting Hill Carnival, and strolled around Portabello’s Market. I also rode a Santander bike through Kensington Garden, hit up some bars and pubs, threw a flat warming party for our friends at IC, and to top it all off, got stuck in the worlds smallest elevator for an hour with four of my flat mates while two British firemen worked to pry us out of the non-ventilated lift. Needless to say I wouldn’t change any of these experiences for the world! (Except maybe the elevator disaster). 

Two weeks in, and every morning I wake up and have a cup of tea (because it’s better than instant coffee from Tesco), sit out on my deck, and get ready for my commute to school and/or my internship; tasks I normally wouldn’t be able to do in Ithaca. In New York I would sleep until the last possible second, literally roll out of bed, put on my layers and head out into the tundra with my head down, making sure not to slip on sheets of ice. Here, even when it’s raining (and it rains, A LOT) I walk to the tube station with my head up, eyes wide, and I’m excited. Thank you I SEE ELSIE.

31 August, 2015

"How's London?" - Guest Post, Allison Taylor

“How’s London?”

Today I sit, on a mostly stable chair, trying to write about my first week in London. What is there to say? I seem to be torn between wanting to say too much and too little, between wanting to list out every detail of these first few days and wanting to hoard some of the moments for myself. Truthfully, I know much of the emotion and sensation of London will be lost as I try to bring focus to a series of unfocused experiences. And by unfocused, I do not mean that the sensation itself is clouded, just that the emotions start to bleed into each other as things just seem to keep happening.
This leads me to what I think is going to be my focus of this post: the most difficult question people ask me…

“How’s London?”

I know that people ask this out of just politeness and curiosity. Many probably expect little more than a “Good.” from me, but I have never been the type of person to just compress my feelings into the expected answer. So, I end up giving them something much more lengthy than expected. I attempt to say everything and nothing all at one.

I say something like this…

London is… more than I can say. It is good and bad. Comfortable and frightening. Loud and quiet. Big and small. And it is many of these things all at the same time. I can go from one emotion to another in a moment. The worst day can become the best and vice versa. And suddenly I find myself feeling so many things at once. It makes me want to dance and cry. Scream and sing. I can never really decide how it makes me feel. Maybe I never will really know how I feel in London. It is a city of places, people, history, and moments. London is especially a city of moments. These moments keep happening, faster than a tube from one stop to the next. You experience something… and before you have a moment to consider its significance and to reflect, another moment occurs. And another. And they all make me feel different things. My emotions overlap until London makes me feel nothing and everything all at once.

I am in a big city made up of little things. Little towns/boroughs that make up London like a patchwork quilt, all in different colours and patterns. And I am experiencing a big semester that will be made up of little moments, some good and some bad, but all of them mine.
So I suppose you could say London is good, but that is only a very small part of it. And I think it does the rest of my experience a disservice. London is more than I will ever be able to say or even remember. But for a little while, London simply is… where I live. The patchwork city of moments.

And I think… I think that is good.

09 December, 2014

GUEST POST by Samantha Guter:
27 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Coming to the ICLC

1. Sign up for rewards cards!

Waitrose gives a free tea or coffee every day to myWaitrose card holders. Tesco, Sainsbury's and Boots give you money off for points you rack up. It's worth it. You can even order them so they're there for you when you get to the ICLC. 

2. TfL will be your best friend and your worst enemy. 

3. Short-let flats aren't your only option. 

The flat hunt is infamous, but you don't necessarily need to deal with creepy landlords to get a good deal. My flat mates and I found a student housing complex with really great rates that had a community internet room, laundry in the building, and gave you the opportunity to meet a bunch of other international students. Keep these types of things in mind when looking for flats. What's available in London may surprise you. 

4. Go on Bill's walks!!

You learn! You conquer! You get free things!! You get to spend time with Bill!

5. Go to the Primark near Tottenham Court Road, NOT Marble Arch. 

This is why.

6. East London is trendy, West London is posh. 

7. Group up on groceries. 

My flat mates and I consistently spent about £15-20 on groceries per person per week because we planned out what we wanted to eat and shopped carefully (Lidl, Aldi, Asda and Morrison's are the cheapest grocery stores). That often included alcohol, desserts and snacks. Not all flat groups are willing to do that, but even going in with one other person makes it a lot easier so you don't have to buy a litre of milk for one. 

8. The exchange rate will hurt. 

For both GBP and euros. It'll be okay. 

9. Book early. 

If you're planning on travelling, look into tickets and hostels as soon as you can if you're interested in saving money. Make sure to book transport to and from airports, too. London is the worst with these - we found EasyBus was the cheapest if booked in advance and Terravision was the most flexible. The fastest will always be the trains to the airports but they can be more than double what coaches cost, so it depends on what you prioritise. Pro tip: Kayak.com is generally the best for comparing flight offers. They include the most amounts of low-budget airlines. 

10. Tesco's £3 meal deal is the best thing in the world. 

11. You won't get a cocktail for less than 6 quid anywhere.

Unless you hit up happy hours. Get drunk early. On a related note,

12. Say goodbye to weird alcohols. 

London doesn't have a lot of options for specialty liqueurs, so don't get your heart set on recipes that call for things like cotton candy vodka. You're not going to find it. 

13. The monthly or weekly tube travel cards are so worth it. 

14. Get out. All the time. 

For the love of all that is holy, don't stay in your flat on the weekends. If you don't have the cash to travel, don't worry. That's the best thing about London. I funded my semester entirely on my own and I understand being short on money. There are tons of free things to do (check out Time Out, the Londonist, Twenty Something London, London for Free and the weekly email the ICLC sends out). If you're in on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, you're doing something wrong. 

15. Allow your bank to do the conversion rates. 

ATMs all over Europe will ask you if you want to do the transaction in USD (US Dollars). Always say no. The conversion rate through your bank will be much better. On a related note, if you book RyanAir flights, make sure to uncheck their little box (it's hidden on the last page before you confirm your flight - there's a selection that says "see more" next to the final price and if you scroll down you'll see the box. I see you, RyanAir). 

16. Bill is everything. 

Even if you're not sure at first, you will see. Join the "Bill Sheasgreen Appreciation Club" on Facebook. Just do it. 

17. "Off-Licence" doesn't mean anything illegal. 

"Off-Licence" has to do with the way the stores pay the government. It's just like a little convenience store that are often open late - even if it looks sketchy, I promise they're wonderful. 

18. Chocolate chips are impossible to find. 

You can get a tiny bag for like £1.50. Bring some with you if you enjoy baking. 

19. McDonald's has mozzarella sticks and they are heaven on earth. 

20. Look right then left. 

When crossing the street, think "right, then left." Eventually it'll become habit, but I had to think the directions in my head every time in the beginning so you don't end up looking both ways a million times and appearing idiotic. 

21. Google Maps will tell you which tube and buses to take. 

If you get directions from one place to another, you can click the "public transport" option and it will tell you exactly where and how to get on and off and where to transfer. Amazing! 

22. Unlock your smartphone. 

You have to call your phone company to do this, and they often have requirements for unlocking (i.e., having the phone for a certain amount of time, in good standing with the company, etc), but you can insert a new SIM in an unlocked phone over here. Three offers a great Pay-As-You-Go plan with "all you can eat" data for £15 a month. You can also get a 99p Nokia from Carphone Warehouse and just put money on it. 

23. Platform 9 3/4 isn't actually AT platform 9 3/4.

In fact, there is platform 8 and 9 and platform 10 and 11, so there's not even a wall to run through on the actual platform. That set you see in everyone's photos is a lie on a random wall in King's Cross. I'm sorry to ruin your dreams. 

24. Planning isn’t everything.

I am a Type-A plan-everything-out kind of person (you should see the spreadsheets I made before flying over here). It’s okay to not have everything planned out - sometimes spontaneous adventures are the best kind of adventures.

25. “Arcade” isn’t a place where you go to play games.

It’s a like a shopping area. 

26. Stand on the right.

When you go on an escalator, stand on the right so people don’t run you over trying to get places. It’s annoying when people block my way. You will learn this. Trust me. On another note, people don’t really talk on the tube. So if you and your friends are drunkenly (or not) having a really loud conversation (especially in obnoxious American accents), you’re going to get some nasty looks.

27. You may fall in love with the city. You may not.

A lot of study abroad blogs/tweets/people will talk about how you’ll “fall in love” with whatever city you travel to. This isn’t necessarily true, and don’t feel bad if it doesn’t happen for you. I know plenty of people this semester who want to live in London forever, and others who had a grand time but don’t see themselves here forever. It’s okay. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. 

10 November, 2014

Remember, remember, these dizzy days of November

November is a tough month in US study abroad. The weather turns windy, cold and wet, you are practically ‘skint’ given some unanticipated outlay on fall break, work is piling up, you miss family and friends, you’re getting a  sore throat, your internship is getting pedestrian, etc.

To most Americans, the month of November means several things: (1) Thanksgiving, the holiday [and religious observance, with origins in harvest festivals] that looks backward to a legendary past and which reveals so much of the American mind-set; (2) travel misery, made worse - especially in the north - by bad weather: brave is the person that has a stay-at-home, behind locked doors, with phone disconnected,  couch-potato holiday; (3) Black Friday, frenzied start of the Christmas shopping season, when puffs of smoke arise from over-heated credit cards; (4) the midterm or full term elections which generally tell us two things: the electoral fickleness of the democratic crowd [which is true in most democracies]; and the French writer Alexis D Tocqueville’s argument that US liberties were rooted in decentralised government.

(5) And with the Giants beating the Royals in a great baseball post season, the gridiron comes into its own. London welcomed 6 NFL teams this autumn.  Last Sunday, America’s team, the 6-3 Dallas Cowboys, lined up against the 1-8 Jacksonville Jaguars, the squad with the best prospect of becoming the first non USA franchise in the league’s history, if it moves to London. To home campus students it also means the CORTACA JUG Match, lost on the pitch in 2013, but won in the media as Ithaca students, however wild during the game, did not riot in the streets as the SUNY Cortlanders did.

In Britain in general, and London in particular, November means four things.  First, on the 5th of November, comes Guy Fawkes Day.  You will have noticed the fireworks displays recently.  The fireworks are part of “bonfire nights” when people get together to watch the spectacular displays and also to throw their “guys”, i.e., their effigies of one of the leading conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot, Guy Fawkes, on to the fire.  Fawkes and his co-conspirators were arrested, tried and executed for attempting to blow up Parliament on November 5th, 1605, the day King James I [James VI of Scotland, the only child of the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots] was due to open Parliament.  The conspirators were Catholics disappointed by the failure of the Stuart king and parliament to repeal Elizabethan anti-Catholic legislation.  So bonfire night is popularly conceived as a celebration of the liberties of the Englishman compared to the intolerance, superstition and oppression of other regimes [see the allegorical treatment of this theme in the Painted Hall at Greenwich.] Bonfire night also suggests how brutal society was during the wars of religion in the 16th-17th centuries. We have already witnessed two such locations: (1) the Martyrs’ Memorial in Oxford where the coach dropped us off, and Smithfield in London where Queen Mary [1553-58] reportedly ate her chicken lunch while watching protestants burn. I wonder which wine the sommelier would suggest to go with this royal repast. Incidentally, the events of 1605 also link to the USA. More radical protestants were equally outraged by Jacobean intolerance that they risked everything on the dangerous 3000 mile sea voyage in rickety ships like the Mayflower to practice their version of Christianity freely.

The second great November day is Remembrance Day, the 11th.  At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, World War One came to an end on the Western front.  Most observers and participants had expected that the war would be over by Christmas 1914. But the war developed into an appalling stalemate, especially on the Western Front, until American intervention and the collapse of the German home front led the German High Command to throw in the towel before “bolshevism” spread any further in the German fleet, army and work force.  The British had fought most of the war in Flanders and northern France. This is wet and rich farming land.  With the ground churned up by millions of shells, the whole terrain looked like a no man’s land where nothing could survive.  But the British noticed that poppies grew in the churned up soil.  The poppies were therefore both a symbol of the appalling waste of human life in the war and the hope for renewal and better times ahead. So wear a poppy this week. Proceeds generally go to various veterans’ organisations.  Every year, on the Sunday closest to the 11th, there is a ceremony at the Cenotaph – the national war memorial – in Whitehall.

The third important November event is the Lord Mayor’s Parade on the 2nd Saturday in November [November 8th this year].  This is a tradition dating back to 1215 when King John gave the City of London the privilege to hold an annual mayoral election so long as the Mayor presented himself to the King or the Royal Justices to swear allegiance.  John was trying to win the powerful support of the London financial and commercial elite in his political struggle against the barons.  The procession has become a parade with bands, livery companies, the Lord Mayor in his/her official coach [which normally resides in the Museum of London], youth groups, charities, etc.  The parade is a useful reminder that the City of London is NOT the London that we live and work in.  It is rather the Roman walled city, the so-called square mile, which is home to the banks, stock exchange and other financial institutions that make London one of the world’s leading financial centres.

The fourth big November day here is colloquially known as “SO LONG” day as in ‘so long, it’s been good to know you”. It is rooted to the flip side of thanksgiving and refers to events following the Declaration of Independence. It expresses a British sentiment that it can do without America now that it has Australia to send its convicts and supernumerary agricultural labourers to. Besides, if America had not rebelled in the 18th century it would be the world’s greatest cricket and [proper] football power. Where would that leave the Germans, Brazilians, Argentinians and English?

PS. Pulling American legs on the last one.

01 October, 2014

Guest Post: Bronwyn Bishop

Stuff to do in London: Bronwyn’s Recommendations!

            Can you believe it’s already October? We’ve all been here in London for almost two months now, and most of us have done the classic tourist activities already (Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, etc.). Tourist stuff is fun, but it’s also awesome to get involved with local culture and find events, places, and activities that are a little off the beaten path. So if you don’t have plans for the weekend and need some recommendations, read on!

·         Markets: Markets are not only great places to buy fresh and delicious food, they’re also fun to walk around in. They’re teeming with activity everywhere you look! My favourite market is Brixton Market, where gospel and reggae music play, people with all kinds of accents shout at you to buy their wares, and you can find such interesting items as a whole octopus for a pound. (Because we all need a little octopus in our lives, right?)

·         Local music: Concerts are so expensive! Unless, that is, you know where to look. Love punk and hardcore? (Me too!) Punx.co.uk (http://www.punx.co.uk/areas-item/london-punk-gigs) is your guide. Or if classical is more your style, download an app called Student Pulse (http://www.studentpulselondon.co.uk/) for information on concerts and how to get cheap tickets!

·         Athletics: Itching to get back into your workout routine? There are plenty of opportunities to keep fit and meet people from around the world at the same time! Runners should check out the London City Runners Club (http://www.londoncityrunners.com/). After their runs they often meet up for a pint or a curry! You can also sign up for a free outdoor class with British Military Fitness (https://www.britmilfit.com/).

·         Fashion: Fashion week is over, but you can still check out some amazing styles at all of London’s shops and fairs. I recently went to the Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair, where I saw amazing coats, dresses, hats, gloves, jewellery, furs, and more from the Victorian era through the 1980s! And yes, there were men’s fashions, too. The next Clerkenwell Fair will be October 19th.

Got any recommendations of your own? Share in the comments or in our Facebook group!

18 September, 2014

Things I wish I had known as a student before moving to London part 2

1.       Transport. It’s worth knowing your way around it. Even though you are busy and only here for a short time. I suggest you do some calculations: work out how much you spend and what it is worth buying in terms of travel cards. Buses can be a cheaper way to travel around London than the tube although getting used to the different routes/ times can be tricky also certain times of the day i.e. with more traffic but it’s definitely an alternative worth thinking about and not dismissing.

2.       Getting out and meeting people. London is a huge city with a lot going on but it is very easy to feel lost and lonely at times. Don’t forget that even though students have not already arrived at Imperial if you have classes there it can be a good idea to go to the bar maybe before or after class as bill says in his previous Blog you might meet some British or other international students there. Also I know some of you have been to the ISH bar and been somewhat underwhelmed because not many other students that have started their terms yet, although many will be starting soon, and so there was hardly anyone one there. If this is the case don’t forget that there are lots of different activities that ISH puts on check out their facebook page to keep up to date with what is going on https://www.facebook.com/InternationalStudentsHouse

3.       Sport is also a good way to meet others. Gyms can be expensive but signing up for a cheap trial period is a good way to keep costs down. Gyms usually do introductory offers, and if you can work out something clever out you could just rotate numerous offers so you never have to pay full price membership! Groupon also do gym deals. Look out for cheap yoga listings on the Broke in London website too.

ParkRun is an event held every Saturday at 9am in various different locations. It is totally free: just sign up, print your barcode and go along to join a 5km run round your local park (check on their website to see where the nearest one is to you). It’s very friendly and community-minded, and there is coffee afterwards so you can meet fellow runners (and you’ll see Hannah if you go to the one in Finsbury Park).