28 April, 2017

A Firefighter Abroad – By Nicholas Palatella



As I look through my google calendar at all the greyed out events of the past four months I can’t help but smile. What was at first an uncertain journey became the best adventure of my life. Coming to London as a theatre production major I was excited to immerse myself in the world of London theatre from the West End to well…zone 4. Seeing theatre was very important to me during the last 4 months, but was not my only goal.

Before flying out in January I was sitting at my firehouse back home thinking about what I would want to do in London. From the beginning, I knew that I wanted to immerse myself in the culture as much as possible. I wanted to become a local and experience as much of a Londoner’s daily life as I can through the sights, smells, and sounds of the city. I also knew I wanted to do something else. That something else didn’t hit me until the pager at the firehouse went off dispatching us to a fire alarm activation. Donning my gear and boarding the engine suddenly made me realize what that other goal was; to learn as much as I could about the similarities and differences between firefighting in America vs London.

Firefighting has been in my blood since I joined my local volunteer fire department when I was 15. Along with lighting design for the theatre, firefighting is my other passion in life. Waking up at 3am by the sound of a pager to go help someone who quite possibly you’ve never met before seems crazy to some people, but for me it’s the norm. Being on the fire department for 6 years now has taught me so much about life. There really is no greater feeling in the world than helping someone, even a total stranger on what could possibly be one of the worst, or scariest moments of their life. Being that light in the darkness for them. It is truly a hard feeling to describe.

During the summer of 2014 I got sent to the fire academy in order to receive my firefighter 1 certificate. During this 3-month certification class, I distinctly remember a lecture on the history of the fire service including major fires in the UK. As expected, the class went in depth with techniques on firefighting in America, but not anywhere else. Specifically, about London, we were taught about the great fire, but nothing else. My only other knowledge about the London Fire Brigade was that the trucks had funny sirens. That was all.

Coming here with just that knowledge along with this goal in mind drove me to want to learn as much as I could about the fire service here. Yes, one can just “google” the differences, but to immerse yourself in real life brings about experiences that will last you a lifetime; which in fact it did.

It was a cold January Saturday afternoon when I took the tube over to SoHo where the nearest firehouse to me was located. As I walked up to the firehouse, I saw the door was open as the truck had just gotten back from a shout (what they call an emergency call here in the UK). Excitement filled me as I walked up and introduced myself to the officer who had just stepped off the truck. As soon as I told him that “I’m a firefighter visiting from America” his face lit up as the rest of the crew started to gather around and introduce themselves to me. I explained to them my purpose for visiting the station, and what I wanted to learn. With open arms they invited me to stay and offered me an in depth overview of the fire service in the UK.

During the next two hours at the fire station, they showed me every nut and bolt on all 4 trucks inside. We first talked about the equipment on board, what’s similar and what’s different. Next we had conversations about the daily life, firefighting tactics, building construction, training, lingo, and gear. They even went out of their way to pull a truck outside in busy SoHo, blocked off a sidewalk and showed me (and let me try) to connect a fire hydrant to a fire truck here in London! I was like a kid in a candy store!


The two hours concluded by them being dispatched to a shout, but not before I was able to express my gratitude to the crew for taking time out of their day to show me around. Sitting on the tube on the way home made me think about this unique experience and how thankful I was to have had this opportunity. Although UK firefighters think American firefighters fight fire with axes rather than water, the main thing I took away besides the difference between tactics and equipment is that what remains the same; the heart behind the job. 

11 April, 2017

"Comfortable"

Now that I’m leaving soon, I’ve become increasingly worried about reverse cultural shock. Why is it that just when I’ve started to feel comfortable, things have to change again?

Coming to live in London changed my life – not in a cheesy or very vague way, like when people say, “Wow, that ice cream changed my life”, or not even, “Wow, this song changed my life”. This changed my life in a real, tangible way. I have become more daring, more able to find my way alone and solve a crisis that’s thrown at me. For the first time in my whole life, I have been able to figure out new foreign cities, airports, train stations – in fact, the city of London’s transportation system – and not be afraid. I learned to have confidence and trust (in the way of the world, in the good will of most strangers, in myself).




I’ve found myself thinking about the fact that after so much excitement, my sleepy suburb will probably be unimaginably difficult for me to live in this summer. It in no way compares to living in a city as alive as London.

When I am home, I am not constantly academically, physically, and mentally stimulated like I am here. I don’t have to put as much of myself or my hard work into things. I feel like I’ve gained some momentum here – I feel stronger, not only physically, but emotionally too. I don’t want that progress to be erased by me sitting on my couch all summer.

I just hope that I can take what I’ve learned here and try to keep doing it so I can ease some of that reverse culture shock. I want to make sure I don’t revert back to my old self. I need to avoid becoming too cautious again. I need keep up that sense of spontaneity that I’ve gained here. I hope I can still find it in me to actively seek out new experiences, to go places, to do stuff, and to continue to be amazed by even small things.

Some things that I wish I could take with me but I physically cannot: the accent, the prices at Tesco, Hyde Park in full bloom, my flat in Earl’s Court, the relative cleanliness of the tube, the old and beautiful architecture, the pub food, the proximity to the rest of Europe.



The one thing I can take back (actually, that I pretty much have to take back) is myself. I think the whole point is that I got to see Hyde Park in full bloom and I got to live in that flat. And I got to see a lot more of the world. So hopefully I’m better for it. I hope I can carry those things with me for a really long time.

And above all, I probably need to remember to just enjoy what’s left of this. I keep thinking about how little time I have left, but that only turns it into a negative feeling. I just need to remember to look around me and to be thinking about this moment, not about May 6th.


Part of the sadness about leaving comes from the fact that I feel like I just got comfortable here, but maybe that's how it’s meant to work. Maybe if we’re trying to grow, we are not supposed to be comfortable for too long. 

15 March, 2017

Meet Ups - By Aaron Zufall

Okay, I admit that “Let’s do some professional networking!” is definitely not your first thought when you land in a foreign country for a semester. But if you want to go beyond the tourist attractions and actually dive into a new culture, meeting professionals who work in your field is a great way to do it.

It’s not that hard to do, either. In one night during my second week in London, I met some technical advisors from Deloitte, the employees of a product design firm, and the directors of a London nonprofit. We worked together to come up with ideas to increase engagement in a London homeless shelter.

Oh, and there was free pizza and drinks.

We were at an event called “Experiment Studio,” a monthly event where people interested in design, experimenting, and problem solving come together to experiment with ideas for products, services, and business design. Events like these are called “meetups.” They’re a big deal in tech, but there are also meetups for artists, writers, entrepreneurs, and more. Not all of them are business-y, either. Want to go play badminton? Meet fellow mountain bikers? Join a book club? There’s a meetup for that.




The go-to place for finding meetups is meetup.com. It’s free to join, free to browse, and most meetups are free to attend. When you sign up, you can join groups that look interesting to you and get an email when a group schedules a meetup. You’re bound to find a meetup that fits you—I’m writing this on a Wednesday in March and I counted over 220 events happening around London today.


Meetups are a great place to network, meet new people, hear talks from professionals, and learn new skills. And even if you’re not looking to network, you can always look for the ones with free food.

20 February, 2017

My Adventures in London by Irene Case

Upon arriving in London, I was extremely excited for the adventure of a lifetime. I’d lived in a foreign country before, but this was different because a) London is very different from South Korea, and b) I was doing it without parents breathing down my back. I finally felt like I was an adult – living on my own, exploring the world on my own – and I couldn’t wait to get started.

My adventures in London so far have been great, and I’ve found that the most valuable experiences come from visiting ordinary places. Every weekend, I’ve gotten on the tube and gone somewhere I hadn’t seen before, and so far, my adventures have mostly consisted of going to parks and markets. However, doing this has been a lot of fun, and I’ve learned many things about the area.

As far as markets go, I’ve been to Borough Market and Brixton Market. Comparing and contrasting, I think I like Borough Market better, but both are wonderful in very different ways.

The first market I went to was Brixton Market, and it totally reminded me of the market I went to with my Mom while living in South Korea. There was a mostly immigrant population there, selling their produce, and I was amazed at how cheaply I could buy a bag of potatoes for. In a sense, I was grateful, but in another sense, I felt bad for the people who worked so hard and made so little.

This was reflected in an experience I had buying strawberries there. Out of curiosity, I asked the price, and the man said £1.20. I thought that was very reasonable, and decided to buy them, but when I was fishing through my pocket for exact change, the man assumed I didn’t have the money and said I could have them for £1. After arguing with him for a bit about this, I tried to pay him the full amount, but when he kept saying ‘no, no, it’s really fine,’ I felt too embarrassed to argue back and left him with the £1. This experience really struck me at how poor some people must be, as they might not have a few extra pence for a box of strawberries. In hindsight, he might have been one of those people, which made me feel very guilty about not forcing him to take the full price, especially because I could easily afford it.

Borough Market is slightly more expensive, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the food is much better, and that it’s worth the price. There are a lot of small, organic farms that sell their fresh vegetables there, and there are also bakeries, cheesemakers, butchers, and street food vendors. So far, I’ve bought some delicious veggies, homemade bread, apple strawberry juice, and a venison apple burger which claimed to be fresh from the field. All of the food tasted amazing, and now I know where I am going to do most of my grocery shopping while I’m here.



The parks I’ve been to include Hyde Park and St. James’ Park. I have yet to explore these areas in full, but from what I’ve seen so far, I’ve been nothing but impressed. I went to Hyde Park during my first weekend in London, and was amazed at how big it was. There I was, in the middle of a busy city, and I’d entered into a natural area that I couldn’t see the end of. It was breath-taking! I adventurously explored its paths, enjoying the birds and squirrels going about their daily lives, as well as the trees whispering in the wind.

I also got a look at the Italian Gardens and the Princess Diana memorial playground. Two things I learned: that the English can do gardens right, and that the English can do playgrounds right. Despite it being winter, the Italian Gardens were beautiful (especially the fountains), and I wished I could have stayed longer sitting in them to get inspired (the weather was a bit cold for that). From what I could conceive of the playground, it was set up in this natural area with complex wooden play structures that kids could actually have fun on. Seeing all this, I wondered, ‘when will Americans ever learn?’

St. James’ Park was also beautiful. I went there briefly one day between classes, and managed to see some ducks, geese, pigeons, and other cool birds, and walked halfway around the pond. This park wasn’t near as big as Hyde Park, and it was much more crowded, but it was still a joy to take time off during my work day and enjoy the outdoor sunshine.


What amazed me most about both parks was the fact that they existed, and the fact that there are so many other parks like them that I have yet to explore. Since London is a big city, it’s wonderful how there are so many large, open areas for wildlife. Granted, city parks are not the most natural habitat, but the fact that people make the effort to make spaces for plants and animals is beautiful. Additionally, the parks are some of the nicest places to go to because you can get some fresh air, and are free to explore whatever you want at your own pace.

So, parks and markets sum up my travels in London thus far. However, my thirst for adventure has not been stilled, and I can’t wait to go and explore more of this amazing city.

01 February, 2017

Since Arriving In London by Edward Passero

             

                                     Since arriving in London, it has been a roller coaster in the matter of 2 weeks. From some of the best nights I’ve had to times where I question whether I am cut out to be this far away from home, I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. Being in a different country, even one that still speaks your first language, is a journey that is unlike anything I could’ve ever imagined.

                This is my first time travelling to Europe, so naturally I want to take in as much as I can in these 4 short months. Planning trips is expensive, and always be prepared to spend more than you expected because even if you think you find a cheap flight and/or hotel, there will always be costs thrown at you that you hadn’t anticipated. For example, I spent the weekend after my first week of classes in Paris. We found a relatively cheap flight for Paris and a hostel to stay in for a very cheap rate. One thing I know I hadn’t accounted for was travel to and from the airport, and when the airport is an hour from your hostel, it’s a decently steep rate. Additionally, travel within Paris (when I managed to lose my metro card three times in 2 days) and getting fined 35 euros put a little dent in my budget. But to be honest, it was the experience of a lifetime and you can’t let something as trivial as money bring you down. I mean, how many times am I going to get to stand on the top of the Arc de Triomphe and watch the sunset over the Eiffel Tower?




                Although the process of doing so is extremely stressful and time consuming, planning trips around Europe and having those to look forward to makes the time here much more exciting. I recommend booking trips ASAP. Right now, I have trips to Barcelona, Rome, Florence, Pisa, Siena, and Iceland confirmed and booked. This may seem like a lot, but there is still so much more I want to be able to do. Although it may seem like a lot of money is flying out of your pocket at once, having that stress off your shoulders and having it all paid for so far in advance may actually help you budget your funds more efficiently.

                Other than Paris, I haven’t done too many exciting activities since I’ve arrived in London. I’ve gone out on the weekends with my friends a few times and it certainly is a treat to be of the legal drinking age in this country. Having an internship is stressful, but I can already tell that it is going to be one of an extremely rewarding experience, so I highly recommend obtaining one if you are considering studying abroad in London. The Ithaca College London Centre (ICLC) will basically find the internship for you, and although the process of obtaining a visa is a pain, it is well worth the effort. If you do decide to get an internship, also seriously consider cramming work study into your schedule. You’ve got some of the nicest people here at the ICLC and I am not hyperbolizing when I say that I actually look forward to coming into work here and getting to work with these 4 amazing women.

                 Finding a flat also wasn’t as difficult as it may sound. We found ours very early into the process, and although it may take others longer to find their flat, you will not be without housing, that’s for sure. Just like housing back at IC, it can be stressful and scary, but it all works out in the end. Our flat has had its fair share of issues already, from our washing machine leaking water all over our kitchen to our drying rack breaking, but no place you pick is going to be perfect.


                The message I’m trying to convey is that this is not an easy experience, but being a foreigner is not meant to be an easy experience. For the first time for me, and for many others as well I would wager, I am the outsider. I am the one who showed up to a country that is not my homeland and instead of making people adjust to my culture and behaviours, I am the one that needs to be adjusted. It’s hard. It’s scary not being able to have my closest friends or my family next to me when I need them. Every day is a challenge, but it is a challenge you have to be willing to meet. Live every day to its fullest, especially while you are here, because before you know it, you’ll be back home, wishing you had more time in London. If someone tells you this is easy, they’re lying. But trust me when I say that if you have even a slight urge to study abroad, then you need to do it. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I plan to have this experience be among the stories I tell my children one day.

21 November, 2016

Stepping Out of Central London by Arham Muneer

While living in London, it can become easy to stick to your daily routine of home to school and back home followed occasionally by a play or concert you have to go to for class. I think I usually stay within Zones 1 and 2 of the Tube but the few times I have been gone further gave me a chance to see London the way locals see their city. I have gone to some of these places for a couple of classes to learn more about the area’s history and to others just for fun. Enjoy!

Brixton (Zone 2)



Okay so Brixton is still in Zone 2 but I’ve been there twice for two different classes and I really like the area and its history. Brixton is in the Lambeth borough of London and has a long and interesting political history. Some cool places to visit are the Brixton Market for food and cafes, the murals, including a David Bowie mural (he was born there), and the Bohemian art scene. 

Cool fact: Brixton has one of the oldest windmills still in operation (kinda). Yes, a 19th century windmill! I actually got to go in and get to the top because you know, when in London, you just gotta go to a windmill.

Wimbledon (Zone 3)

This trip was also for class and we walked from the Southfields tube station to the All England Lawn Tennis Club a.k.a Wimbledon. Being a tennis fan, I felt like I was in heaven. We got a tour of the tennis grounds, the players’ lounge, the press room, and other amazing things. We also spent some time at the museum and the shop. The tour costs a bit of money (£21) but it’s worth it if you love tennis. The general area was very suburban and truly gave a different perspective from what we see in central London. Far less people and traffic and yet still London.  



Cool fact: There is a man from Yorkshire (I think) who comes down every year to count every single blade of grass (which by the way, no one from the public can ever touch) before the tournament. Literally, his job title would grass-counter. #goals 



Southall (Zone 4)

Southall is located in the borough of Ealing. Also rich in history, today Southall is primarily a South Asian residential area. It was also the main location for the film Bend It Like Beckham. There is not much touristy stuff to do there but it’s still a cool place to visit to check out another side of London. 

These are just three out of a handful of places I’ve been to but I will hopefully get to see some more. If you are done traveling around Europe, I would suggest going to new places within London. It’s a huge city and while none of us can probably see it all, it’s worth it to get out of central or inner London. Worried about travel costs? Remember buses don’t operate on a zone based fare so you can essentially go anywhere in London on a bus (which might not be as slow as they are in central London).



07 November, 2016

Places To Eat In London! by Patty Quijada Salazar

I would say that I love food.  My Instagram probably has more photos of food than anything else.  With that being said, I’m going to let you know of the places I’ve been able to try in London so far, and also the places I have planned before the end of the semester. 

One of the first places I went to when I first came London was My Old Dutch.  I’ve been to the one near the High Street Kensington Station, and I’m glad I found it.  This place makes Dutch pancakes that vary from the savory to the sweet.  They also have other foods if you want to try them, but since I’m gluten free I stick with the pancakes.  The pancakes are pretty big and filling and they remind me of crepes more than American pancakes.  I’ve been here a couple more times after my first week in London, especially on Monday’s because they have a deal where the pancakes are £5.25 and I’m totally down to have pancakes when they are almost at half price. 

Another place I went to in the 2nd or 3rd week of the semester was Arepa & Co. This restaurant serves Venezuelan food.  I was very excited to go here because I had been wanting some home-like foods and you can’t get more Venezuelan then some 'Arepas'.  I had some 'Tajadas' and two 'Arepas'.  Tajadas are ripe plantains that are fried and usually come with some cheese sprinkled on top.  Arepas are basically cornbread that is filled with whatever you want.  

I had a Pabellón arepa and a Mariana arepa.  Pabellón which is a combination of shredded beef, cheese, black beans, and plantains.  The Mariana had chicken with mayo, avocado, cheese, and plantains. To drink, I had what my mom calls' Papelón con Limón', which is sugar cane lemonade – not what the British call lemonade – and it reminded me of my summer while growing up because my mom would make it during really hot days to help my siblings and I stay cool.   I would definitely recommend going here if you haven’t tried Venezuelan food because they have a lot of different Venezuelan foods that you can try that are still very traditional and at a decent price.  The dishes ranged from £3.75 – £12, which for dinner isn’t horrible for London.  They are in Haggerston area and open until 10:30 every day but Sunday

Another place I’ve gotten a treat from is Cookies and Scream in Camden Market.  Cookies and Scream vegan cookie bar that doesn’t use any dairy, egg, wheat, and gluten-free in their products.  Their location in Camden Market is tucked away in a stall area, and they are cozied up next to a couple of other food venders.  I originally found them last year on Buzzfeed and

Instagram after I found out I was going to London, and was super happy to finally go and try their stuff out.  I got their Cookie Dough Shake, which was super good! In the future I would just get something salty to go with it because I was super sweet and cookie doughy.  I also got a Peanut Butter Choco Locos to go for a treat after dinner that night.  If you’re ever in the Camden Market and are curious to try some vegan and gluten-free sweets, then I would definitely recommend trying this place out. They’ve also opened up another shop in Holloway Rd if you want to check that site out as well.  

I’ve also been to Gourmet Burger Kitchen.  I went once with my dad and again with some friends.  This place has, as the name says, gourmet burgers and it’s at a somewhat reasonable price.  They have a gluten-free menu for those of you that also need gluten-free foods.  I’ve gotten the Salvador Burger and the Avocado Bacon Burger.  They were both very good.  The only thing that wasn’t super great was the gluten-free bread is very dry and crumbly, which makes eating it hard.  I also got their Caramel Brownie that comes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and it was delicious

With only a little over a month left in London, I still have some many food places I want to go and try.  I want to explore new markets along with some I’ve already been to.  Some of the one’s I really want to go to is Borough Market, Pimlico Road Farmers’ Market, Old Spitalfields Market, and Maltby Street Market.