25 August, 2016

British Biscuits - Guest Post - Cat Proulx

Hello Future ICLC Students,

Isn’t this so exciting?? You are going to be coming to one of the coolest cities in the world, surrounded by other amazing historical, culture, and holy-crap-beautiful places, and on top of that you are going to be introduced to the wonderful world of biscuits. EXCITING. This post is dedicated to all you sweet lovers out there that are literally going to spend half of their budget on food. I am you, you are not alone, I understand.

So, to help y’all out, here are my top five biscuits (which I have legitimately taken the time to compare and review.) LET’S BEGIN.

Note: Due to taste preference, these biscuits are rated in no particular order, they are just my five favorites.

Another note (sorry): With all of these biscuits, I tasted them with Tetley English Breakfast Tea with whole milk. However, these biscuits also work GREAT with other teas (sometimes better). I was just going for consistency.

1: Fox’s Jam and Creams

Okay, out of the two main jam brands out there (Jammie Dodgers is the other one) Fox’s Jam and Creams are far superior. I can rant for a long time about it, but practically on every level, from taste to absorbency to texture, Jam and Creams take the cake. These are great with tea, great without tea, and the jam looks like it’s actual jam. Jammie Dodgers can take a hike with their fakety fake fake jolly rancher-esque jam that never really quite works with tea. If you like jam cookies or fruity cookies in any way, definitely go Fox’s. They will not disappoint. You can find these at most market stores, I found them at Tesco.

2: McVitie’s Ginger Nuts

Okay, so I know that ginger is not the easiest flavor for some, but I love ginger, especially with tea. If you also like ginger, you have to try McVitie’s Ginger Nuts and not Fox’s Ginger Crinkle Crunch biscuits. I am very particular about this, because it is all in the texture. McVitie’s has perfected the art of balancing the ginger and molasses in their biscuits so that when dunked in tea, you only get biscuit texture: and it’s smooth and great. Fox’s, on the other hand, has not perfected that balance, and when you dunk those in tea? You get this wimpy biscuit surrounding a hardened layer of molasses, and it’s just plain weird. It’s not what you want in a biscuit. You want Ginger Nuts. Please, go for Ginger Nuts. These are usually at Sainsbury’s, but actually due to flooding in December they were off the shelves for a while. Luckily, by the time y’all get here, they should be back in full swing.


3: McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes

Ok, ok, ok, I know, these clearly say ‘cakes’ in the title, and I understand your wariness, because if you’ve tried Jaffa Cakes you’re probably like: ‘Cat, you’re an idiot, these are soft and cake-like and I don’t believe you when you say it’s delicious with tea.’ Well, friend, please hold onto your hat and let me take you for a ride. For those that aren’t in the know, Jaffa Cakes are orange flavored cakes with orange jam on one side, and covered in dark chocolate. They’re brilliant on their own, but when you are ever so careful and give them one nice dunk in tea? You got a whole lot of ‘!!!!!!!!!’ emotions coming your way. Too long a dunk and it’s a little risky, but hey, you gotta risk it to get the biscuit, am I right? Find ‘em basically anywhere, I got mine at Tesco.

Last thing about this: even though it’s great with English Breakfast, do yourself a favor and try this with Earl Grey or Chai.

4. McVitie’s Penguins

I have to thank Hannah, aka one of the ICLC HBIC’s (Head Brit In Charge) for the Penguin representation in this blog post, because she is the one that gifted me that sweet, sweet chocolate snack. Available pretty much anywhere, a Penguin is a chocolate biscuit covered in chocolate. Yes, double chocolate for all you fiends out there. Though Penguins aren’t the most environmentally friendly because they are all individually wrapped, they kind of make up for it with the completely awful jokes that come on the back of each wrapper. Many puns, many cringe-worthy laughs. Penguins are great on their own, and if you want to be basic you can just dip it in your tea (hold it for a long while—they thick) and be done with it, OR, you can be an adventurer. You can choose to sacrifice your reputation (because you WILL look ridiculous) for taste bud glory. Which path do you choose? If you choose glory, continue reading the next paragraph. All you other cowards can skip it.

When you begin to eat your Penguin, the first thing you must do is make sure you have a full cup of hot tea. This is imperative. When that’s done, bite off one northern corner of the biscuit, and the opposite southern corner of the biscuit. If you need a mental image, you want to have a diagonal path with the entrance and exit being the bit corners of the biscuit. Now. Place one of the bit corners into your tea, place your mouth over the other bit corner, and suck on the biscuit like you are trying to get the tea to your lips. Do not give up if you don’t think it’s working: it is. Now, this is the tough part. Based off of pure instinct, find the perfect time to stop the straw action and flip the biscuit up and into your mouth. No need to get the whole thing in there, just mainly go for the bit that got a lot of the tea all up in it. As you’re eating, revel in how delicious it is, but more importantly, how superior you are to your classmates who probably only eat their Penguins by dunking them like lemmings. You have swum against the current, you have boldly gone where few go because they are worried about being laughed at! And now, you feast…victorious.

5. McVitie’s Milk Chocolate Digestives

The holy grail of biscuits. Nay, I daresay, the biscuit. With milk chocolate on one side and a graham cracker type deal on the other, Milk Chocolate Digestives are the only biscuit that you HAVE to try if you go to London. Unless it’s against your religion, you’re allergic, or the spirit of McVitie himself came to you in a dream and forbid you from eating them, it is your obligation as an ICLC student to go to whatever convenience store is nearest your flat, find yourself the McVitie’s MCD (cool kids use acronyms), pay for it (cool kids don’t steal), brew yourself a cuppa, and prepare for your life to be forever changed. Eat these biscuits plain. Eat ‘em with tea, with milk, with coffee, whatever it takes, just go and eat them. Bless up, you’re welcome, mic drop.

End Note:

I realize this post is all about biscuits, but honestly, try every new food you can (based off of your dietary restrictions, and choices, obviously). Food is a great way to learn about a culture, and you’re going to be experiencing lots and lots of cultures while abroad. Bring yourself out of your comfort zone when it comes to food, because you never know what food might change your life. Cheers!

28 March, 2016

Striking the Balance Between Exploring and Traveling - Guest Post - Erika Olsen

When I was first accepted to the Ithaca College London Center for Spring of 2016, I could not have been more excited. I immediately began writing a list of all the countries I wanted to visit and what I wanted to see in each. I knew I wanted to see Vienna (thanks, Billy Joel), but also the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland and who could skip on trying a German pretzel? My list also included Glasgow, Amsterdam, Venice, Brighton, Prague, Norway, Paris, Edinburgh, and many others.

However, as I sat down to write out my calendar, I realized that I would have to shrink my list; I slowly started to realize how short the semester really is, and recognized that, while I really wanted to travel through Europe, I also wanted to see and experience London. I slowly started to cut down my travel list to what was really important to me and wrote out a list of things I wanted to do in London and the surrounding area, such as touring the BBC Broadcasting Centre and exploring Harrods. Slowly, my weekends started to fill up and eventually, I was satisfied with the balance I had reached between traveling and seeing the city I’m living in.

I have already been to Amsterdam, Bath, Wells, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest and have trips planned for Edinburgh, Paris, Nice, and Stratford. I am also looking forward to making a day trip out to Liverpool to see the birthplace of my favorite band, the Beatles. Through my classes and my own curiosity, I will be visiting more museums and palaces, such as the Victoria & Albert Museum and Buckingham Palace, and spending time at my favorite markets, including Brick Lane and Borough Market.

While the allure of traveling through Europe and spending the weekends country-hopping is truly tempting, I think it is important for anyone studying abroad to experience their temporary home. London is a city rich in history and culture and definitely has some hidden gems lying in its markets and winding streets. While I am already more than halfway through my time here, I am excited to make the most of the upcoming weeks traveling and spending time exploring all that London has to offer. 

21 March, 2016

Traveling To Expand - Guest Post - Dillon Watson

Traveling To Expand

            So many times I get caught up in the rush of travelling that I forget to stop and look deeper than my immediate surroundings. In this day and age, travelling can easily become an impartial experience. People are constantly racing around the world just to see as many attractions as possible in the shortest amount of time. There are many benefits and bragging rights to be earned by doing this, but what does it actually accomplish on a deeper level? People are having more and more trouble living in the moment because of the overuse and competition associated with social media. It’s everywhere. From concerts to political rallies to art museums and to national parks, people are getting taken away from the free flowing natural world and are being brought to their safe, planned out, two dimensional platforms.

            As travelers of the world we have to realize how this holds us back. The possibilities if one is able to break free from the restrictions of craving likes on an Instagram picture are endless. When all someone wants to do is get that one clich√© picture in every city they visit, they are not actually going to see the real city. You have to dig deeper, meet people, and experience the culture instead of observing it from afar.

            The main way you can help yourself dig deeper while traveling is by planning less. Planning is a magnificent thing that helps a vacation go smoothly, but I feel as though too much planning in my recent travels has held me back. Just last month I found myself in the streets of Barcelona running around from monument to monument in a feverish fashion trying to cram in as much as possible. It was cool to see so many amazing architectural buildings, but as I left I realized that in comparison to my other, more laid back visit to Athens, I accomplished less.

            By putting yourself on a strict schedule, the unexpected, spontaneous moments that make life so worth living do not occur. It is important while traveling that people open up their peripheral vision and let their surroundings flow into their lives. As I make my way around the world, I like to think of myself as a droplet of water, ready to make my splash, and instantly become one with the land. A droplet of water may be able to choose when or where it falls out of the sky, but it does not control what happens once it hits the ground. All it knows about its future is that it is going to create and expand life.

11 February, 2016

How to Vote in the 2016 U.S. Elections from the UK - Guest Post - Anna Doherty

Hello Everyone!!
This year is very exciting for many reasons, but particularly because we get to engage in one of the great steps of our democracy, voting for the next president! As you know, this year we are going to elect a new president. Now while the general election is in November, the primaries are upon us. As you might have noticed, we are currently living in England and therefore we are not able to find a physical place for us to go and vote on the date of our states’ primaries. But don’t let that discourage you! I have done my research and plan on helping all of you make sure your vote counts. The primaries are extremely important and every vote matters, so make sure your voice is heard.
To begin, if you want to check your registration status you can look yourself up at this link
Sorry if you live somewhere where the voting has already occurred. Also check the primary schedule because some state’s primary voting occurs after the London program ends.
Did you know that many U.S. elections for the House and Senate have been decided by a margin smaller than the number of ballots cast by absentee voters? All states are required to count every absentee ballot as long as it is valid and reaches local election officials by the absentee ballot receipt deadline.
Follow a few simple steps to make sure that you can vote in the 2016 U.S. elections:
1.     Request Your Ballot: If you are not residing in the U.S. currently (us) you have to let the government know where you are living! Complete a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA).  The completion of the FPCA allows you to request absentee ballots for all elections for federal offices (President, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House of Representatives) including primaries and special elections during the calendar year in which it is submitted. The FPCA is accepted by all local election officials in all U.S. states and territories. 
You can complete the FPCA online at FVAP.gov.  The online voting assistant will ask you questions specific to your state. They encourage you to ask your local election officials to deliver your blank ballots to you electronically (by email, internet download, or fax, depending on your state).  Include your email address on your FPCA to take advantage of the electronic ballot delivery option.  Return the FPCA per the instructions on the website.  FVAP.gov will tell you if your state allows the FPCAto be returned electronically or if you must submit a paper copy with original signature.
Great job on step one! The next step is even more exciting (it includes actually voting!).
2.     Receive and Complete Your Ballot: States are required to send out ballots 45 days before a regular election for federal office and states generally send out ballots at least 30 days before primary elections.  For most states, you can confirm your registration and ballot delivery online.
Ballots are generally mailed out only 30 days before primary, special and run-off elections. Depending on your state and your status abroad, you may receive absentee ballots for all elections or abbreviated ballots for elections for federal offices only. 
Overseas voters have a number of options for returning voted ballots:
·       Local mail   If you have good mail service to the United States, put your ballot in the mail with appropriate international postage.
·       U.S. Embassy Pouch/APO/FPO   You can drop off your ballot request or voted ballot at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for return to the United States, or you can have someone drop it off for you.  It must be addressed to your local election officials and have sufficient postage or be in a postage-paid envelope. A postage-paid envelope is available on the FVAP web site.  Contact the voting assistance officer or visit the Embassy website for specific instructions.
·       Fax, Email, or Internet  A number of states now allow the electronic return of voted ballots.  Consult the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s Voting Assistance Guide for electronic transmission options for your state.
·       Express Courier Service   If time is short or local mail is unreliable, you can use professional courier services such as FedEx, DHL, or UPS. NOTE:  FedEx does not deliver to P.O. boxes.
You did it! You made your decision! Congrats on voting. Maybe make a fake “I Voted” sticker and wear it around and confuse some people.
I hope you all do some rigorous research on the candidates before making your decision! Voting is very exciting. If you have any questions feel free to email me at adohert1@ithaca.edu

29 January, 2016

A Day Trip To Dover - Guest Post - Suzanne Fitzgerald

A Day Trip To Dover

If you’re looking for a day trip outside London, I highly recommend the White Cliffs of Dover. They’re only about 2 hours away by bus or train, and if you leave early in the morning you have the whole day to explore. I originally arrived in Ramsgate, which is about half an hour North of Dover. Ramsgate is an adorable little sleepy seaside town that is great to wander around. The journey to Dover is so beautiful and you pass through many little towns that might be worth stopping to explore.

Once you get to Dover, it’s a little hard to figure out how to actually get to cliffs because there are not that many signs to direct you where to go. The roads are very old and bumpy so if you are traveling by car make sure your car is in good shape! I had to walk a little ways along the top of one cliff to make my way down to the beach. Once down on the very pebbly beach, the cliffs are so incredibly gorgeous. They are shockingly white (I don’t know what I was expecting). I never knew rocks could be that pristine! The town of Dover itself is quaint and very nice.

Overall, a day trip to the White Cliffs of Dover is definitely worth it! 

04 November, 2015

City - Guest Post - Liam Whalen

Liam Whalen


I have never spent so much time in a city. I am constantly aware of the presence of others when I walk on the street at all times of day. The streets are long and intersect in an endless web that seems to go on forever. It is inviting at first, creating endless possibilities in my mind. There is energy that feels like something extraordinary could happen at any moment. There are lights and signs for food, drink and entertainment elsewhere. Shows, shopping and travel gleam in the eyes of newcomers. Everything is accessible to those who can afford it. After weeks of routine and exploration I find repetition that simulates peace. I take the same streets constituting an eight-minute walk from home to class.  

                Then I find out there is nowhere to hide. Solitude is not welcome in the city where the day is never done and work never ceases. Sounds from outside invade even the most closed and airtight spaces. Neighbours are present on all sides making themselves a part of your business. I try to take walks at night to feel at home and channel the tranquility of a simpler place. All I hear are sirens and cars flashing by. I feel the smoke of a thousand cigarettes burn my throat and eyes as I walk towards Brompton Cemetery. It is the one quiet place I have found where no one dares to yell or talk too loudly. They have locked the gates by the time I get there, but I can see the domed building in the centre and wish I could sit on the steps for a while by myself.

                I see people suffer the effects of the city far worse than me. I see a man on the street one night as I am walking back from Notting Hill. His legs are wrapped in a dirty blanket and his back rests on a newspaper stand. He sits on a bed of Evening Standards from that day to stay dry. His hat is askew and his hands are buried in the pockets of his worn and faded black jacket. He looks at the ground with a blank expression, waiting for commuters to cross his path on the sidewalk. I realize I have passed him by before and remember that I haven’t given him a single penny. I reach in my pockets, knowing I have nothing but my keys and tube card. I dread passing and receiving a look of disappointment. He asks in a whisper as men and women stride by without a moment’s hesitation. I look at him and nod. An attempted apology and sympathy all in one, definitely not what he was hoping for.

                I see men and women on the tube with packets of tissues and umbrellas they are trying to sell. They hold signs talking about their starving family and rarely speak. When they do speak, it is quiet and they never share eye contact. If they receive no response they move on or just stare ahead solemnly. Women sit outside of stations on cardboard with hoods and coffee cups. I am surprised by how many people I see on the streets walking home from internship gigs and night walks. I only have small change to give.

                I hear the sound of hammers and drills on the roof as I wake up every morning. They have been working my building for about three weeks and there a no signs of completion in sight. The construction crew set up scaffolding outside of my window yesterday. I enjoy living here, but I am constantly reminded about the bitter realities of the city environment. I have it far better than many who live here, but I miss simple pleasures of home. I miss the sound of crickets, the quiet of a lazy afternoon with no obligations, complete dark and stillness at night, feeling clean after wandering in nature and seeing the faces of friends and family.

23 October, 2015

Survival Guide - Guest Post - Francesca Esce

Survival Guide: 9 Tips to Surviving a Night in the Airport

by Francesca Esce

If you are spending a semester abroad, chances are, you’ll have to take a plane or two; unless there’s a group boat trip across the Atlantic that was organized by the Office of International Programs that I wasn’t filled in on. There’s also a good chance that you will become more acquainted with flight while in Europe, or wherever else you might be studying. Cheap flights within Europe, for example, are much easier to come by than cheap flights within the United States. With apps like Hopper and Skyscanner, it’s easy to find the best deals to shell out some dough to get to a place you’ve always wanted to go. In fact, just last week for Fall Break, I visited 3 amazing European cities in 6 days. Which, by default, means I was on 4 flights in 6 days. Which means, coincidentally, I spent a lot of time in airports. The unfortunate truth is that often times, the more flights you take, the greater probability there is of something going wrong and perhaps leaving you no choice but to sleep overnight in the airport. Maybe the coach bus (*cough* National Express *cough*) you booked a ticket for was an HOUR AND A HALF LATE and you missed your flight to ROME, so you had to pay an extra £50 to spend 16 HOURS in LUTON AIRPORT instead of the cozy AIRBNB THAT YOU BOOKED IN THE HEART OF ROME and MAYBE NATIONAL EXPRESS WOULDN’T EVEN GIVE YOU A REFUND…(ok, calm down, Chessie.) Anyway, there’s always a chance that this may happen to you, so here’s some tips that I’ve picked up that might help you stay sane for whatever amount of time you may have to spend in an airport.

1.    Set-Up Camp
If you don’t have enough room in your luggage for a pop-up tent or a hammock of some sort, I’d recommend taking the time to scan the airport for the comfiest chairs you can find. This will be key. Don’t be afraid to lurk around seats that are already occupied, you are going to want to comfy chairs. Chances are, you will be at the airport longer than whoever is currently occupying the chair, and you will be able to snag it as soon as they get up. Finders keepers. Once you’re in the chair, mark your territory. This chair is yours now. Maybe even hiss at passerby so they know not to mess with you and your chair.

PRO-TIP: Combine two chairs into a bed for maximum comfort.  

2.  Find An Outlet (And Protect It With Your Life)
In a small airport like London Luton, wall outlets are like a watering hole. All the unlucky people who would rather spend the night at the airport than stay at a cheap hotel are gonna want an outlet at some point. Be warned: if you have your chair-bed set up near an outlet, chances are you will befriend 3 Italian men, one of which only speaks Italian and keeps talking to you in Italian even though you literally cannot understand him at all. This may continue for 4-6 hours, but he might buy you french fries from Burger King, which is a huge plus.

PRO-TIP: Invest in a portable battery USB charger in case no outlets are available near you.

3.  Find a Way to Watch Netflix
I don’t care what you have to do, get the Netflix app on your phone. Not enough storage space? Delete useless things like old photos or your entire contact list. You can also stream shows on your browser if you’re really desperate. This makes the time go by faster. 


4.  Pack a Book
Always be prepared, if you are taking any sort of transit, to have to wait. Always having a book on you is a good way to combat boredom and to keep others from talking to you while you are in your chair-bed at the airport in a bad mood.


5.  Make Sure You Eat
Airports aren’t always the cheapest options for food, but you’re bound to find a meal deal of some sort. Make sure you eat something, and hope that something isn’t a burned, over-priced cheeseburger from Burger King. Your best bet would probably be a £3.79 meal deal from W.H Smith and maybe a package of gummies to get you through your Grey’s Anatomy marathon. 


6.  Make Sure You Snapchat Excessively So Your Friends Feel Bad For You
If your friends are going to send you snaps from their fall break destinations, best be ready to send them some “I just cried in the airport bathroom” selfies. Maybe even send out a tweet that explicitly says “feel bad for me” so everyone will.


7.  Try and Travel With a Buddy
Having a friend with you is really helpful to keep watch over your campsite if you need to use the bathroom or go cry to your mom on FaceTime in public. They are also good subjects for creative Snapchat stories and you can set up both your chair-beds to create a blockade around YOUR outlets. Airports can be lonely, and having a friend with you is always a plus. *(Thanks for being my rock, Eunice.)


8.  Beware of Thieves
Always have your stuff nearby. It’s sad to say but you really can’t trust anyone. Sleep with your valuables if you need to sleep and you’re on your own or sleep on your luggage. Otherwise, take turns sleeping with a friend, so one of you can keep watch. If you are really worried, there are always security guards around airports. Know where they are and ask for help if you need it. 


9.  Keep Things In Perspective
This may seem like the worst thing that could happen, but just remember that you get to travel to these amazing cities and experience wonderful things. This doesn’t mean you don’t get to be annoyed or angry, ‘cause let’s be honest, spending the night in the airport can suck. 



On a more serious note, in the midst of the Syrian Refugee Crisis, millions of people have been displaced from their homes due to the conflicts in Syria. Many of these people are making homes in train stations and transit, trying to find their next connection, and sadly, many nations aren’t welcoming them. For me, I knew I would be able to get on a plane after my 16 hour endeavor at the airport. There are so many refugees who don’t know when their waiting will end. Please consider donating and learning about the refugee crisis here.