23 December, 2011

Celebrating 100 rather than 40 for a change

I've just spotted that this is our 100th post.  I'd like to say that my delay in putting this up has been because I wanted to attach importance to our 100th, but that's not true.  As so often happens, I have been a bit stumped for ideas.  And then our first student of the spring semester arrived (yes, already!), and I had an idea!

I'm going to make comparisons:
  • Last year at this time we still had Fall 2010 students stranded at the ICLC due to adverse weather conditions at Heathrow.  The Fall '11 students mostly left 2 weeks ago.
  • 53 students just returned to America.  125 will shortly be arriving.
  • Last year's Doctor Who Christmas Special had Catherine Jenkins.  This year it has Bill Bailey.
  • Last spring we had one visiting faculty member from the home campus teaching at the ICLC.  This spring we have 3.
I'm going to state some little known facts:
  • Keith Moon is posthumously developing an interesting relationship with the ICLC.
  • Kenneth Branagh is the ICLC's bizarre watchman.
  • We aren't sure, but there's compelling evidence that Bill may live in the ICLC.
  • Jack Hrkach believes in Elsie.  So do the rest of the staff.
I'm going to dispense some advice:
  • If you can't carry it, you've packed too much luggage.
  • Toiletries are heavy.  Buy them when you get here.  Similarly, so are peanut butter and mac and cheese.  Eat like a native for a few months!
  • Make sure your money is in your checking, NOT your savings.  If you are drawing from an ATM you will not get a choice to take from your savings.
  • Keep up to date on what's happening here.  bbc.co.uk
Spring 2012, we'll see you soon!  Fall 2011, I hope you're missing us already!  Spring 2011, the sandwich press is safe!  Fall 2010, what were you doing at this time last year?


15 December, 2011

In with the New, in with the Old

Claire Mokrauer-Madden: Hello Bill!  It's nice to see you again and catch up.
Bill Sheasgreen: Yes, it's nice to see you again, too.  I always look forward to being interviewed by you. 
CMM: These are pretty effortless for you, aren't they?  I wanted to ask you a few questions about the end of the fall semester.  To begin generally, how do you think it went?
BS: Our cricket results aside, I think the semester went really well.  One particular highlight was last Tuesday.
CMM: Why was last Tuesday special?
BS: We took our photo of group 79 to immortalize them in the vast halls of the ICLC.
CMM: Do you mean in the stairway?
BS: Yes, that's the one!
CMM: I'm glad to hear that the group photo went well.  Was there something about this photo that made it special?
BS: Yes, quite independently of my efforts to establish an ICLC uniform, one has begun developing!  Though I prefer plaid to sequins, in light of waning support of my uniforms, I'll take what I can get.
CMM: Wow! I'm impressed that this may be coming together for you!  Can you tell me more about the new uniform idea?
BS: It's a celebration of color bringing together traditional Britain with the Spice Girls.
CMM: I'm not sure I follow you.  Are you saying that group 79 had a particular affinity for the Spice Girls?
BS: As I mentioned, this design developed independently from my plaid campaign.  But that's an avenue of research I would like to explore.  If this is what youth culture these days prefers as a uniform, then as a man of the people I can bend to the requests of the masses.
The overall trend seems to be winter coats, but there is a small contingency sporting the sequined uniform option.
CMM: By my math 3 of 52 is not quite 6%.  Is anything more that 5% the masses?
BS: Well, the plaid campaign is at 0%.
CMM: Getting back to the design itself, what can you tell me about the burgeoning motif?
BS: The union flag represents the students really embracing their time in London.  And the overall form looks back to Geri Halliwell, or Ginger Spice.  Usually I just call her Ger.
CMM: Letting your relationship with a Spice Girl lie for the time being, I see that you only have female representation of the uniform.  Will male students be wearing something similar?
BS: Similar themes, represented differently.  Notice that Ian models the uniform over his casual attire.  Having experimented with the short cut of the smock, this seems best.  The length is the modern reflection of Ger's dress and the hat and belt give it a medieval feel that may have been seen in the Hundred Years War.
Ian wears a sample, so unfortunately Sam, Clay, Will and Emilio could only model hoodies.
CMM: Bill, I'd like to thank you for this quick analysis of the successes of this semester.  Perhaps next time we can delve deeper into your friendship with Geri Halliwell.
BS: Delve all you want, she's in my bad books right next to McCartney.

14 December, 2011

Some Thoughts on Getting Ready

I hope you don't find this cheeky, but where I would normally write a new blog post about getting our incoming spring 2012 students thinking about money (accessing it abroad, forms to carry it, paying rent, etc.), I'm going to direct you to a blog post I wrote on this very subject last June by clicking here.

Instead, let's take a quick look at the pile of things on your mind right now.
  • I got my visa!/I haven't gotten my visa yet!/I have my student visitor letter!/I haven't gotten my student visitor letter yet!
As I think I start most of my emails, that's great news if you have your visa!  If you haven't already let us know that you have it, please email the London Center.  If your visa is a work in progress, there's no need to start sweating.  Let us know if you have any questions about the process.  Student visitors, if you should have a student visitor letter and don't yet, contact International Programs.  They should have everyone's letters.  These are only needed for students who are not getting visas and do not carry an EU passport.  If you are getting a visa you should not have this letter.
  • I've heard about my work placement (internship)!/I haven't heard about my work placement!
Some people know where they will be working some don't.  It's the nature of the beast.  Some sites take longer to get back to our coordinators than others.  Some students' fields of interest are difficult to find placements in.  All I can say is that our coordinators want to find the best fit they can based on the forms you filled out on our website.  And our best advice is to be open minded.  Placements are easier to find, and often provide more work for students to do, at smaller companies rather than large.  Placements are also harder and harder to come by in the current climate.  Unemployment seems to be spreading like plague.  Work placements are part of the cultural exchange of studying abroad, so even if the work isn't exactly what you had in mind, there is always something to be learned from every experience, even if the lesson is that this isn't the kind of work you want to do.  For the most part our students are happy in their placements, though, so again, please don't sweat this.
  • What do I pack?
Very good question, start with the practical aspects.  What is the luggage/weight limit of the airline?   Research this so that you aren't surprised by surcharges at the airport.  What's the weather like?  If you ask me, it's a cold winter here in London.  It's not a snowey Ithaca winter, but it's chilly and windy.  How much should I pack?  You're coming over for 4 months and will have the ability to do laundry, so don't weigh yourself down with your entire wardrobe.  Bring what you wear to class (aside from pajamas, no one really wears those out of the house in London like they do in college towns) and bring something appropriate for your work placement.  Bring comfortable shoes (some people swear by their rain boots, some say they were a waste of luggage space), most classes utilize London and don't spend the entire semester in the classroom.
  • When do I register for classes?
I promise that's a work in progress.  It is a very busy time in International Programs and Rachel will let everyone know as soon as she can.
  • Where will I live?
Bill has sent out details for a couple student housing options which can be prearranged (Foundation for International Education and Anglo American).  Please drop us an email if you would like more info about these options.  Another option is a home stay.  This means living in a family home somewhere in London.  You often have your own room, and depending on the arrangements this may or may not also include some meals.  As usual, email the London Center if you would like more information.  If you plan on flat hunting during orientation week start thinking about a housing group.  Some students have already started posting on our Facebook group, this is a great forum to get in touch with most of your spring 2012 ICLC classmates.
  • What am I forgetting?
If you would like an ISIC card, do this through OIP as the one you get in America before you arrive comes with insurance.  Plan your budget before you get here.  Rent is advertised by week but usually paid by month.  To figure out your monthly rent multiply the weekly amount by 52 (weeks) and then divide that by 12 (months).  Your deposit is also about 4-6 weeks more of rent (this should be returned to you at the end of your stay).  During fall 2011 our students' rent ranged from about £110-170 per person per week.  Familiarize yourself with the terms Council Tax and TV Licensing.  You are full time students so you are exempt from paying Council Tax, but YOU MUST APPLY FOR YOUR EXEMPTION.  Anywhere that has a television has to buy a tv license.  This fee keeps the BBC commercial free, and not paying can lead to a fine in excess of £1,000.  It can be paid monthly, or the landlord/estate agent may have already paid it.  It is important to know where you stand, because TV Licensing doesn't care if you plead ignorance.  You can't do these things before you arrive, but they may be foreign concepts, so we are raising awareness early.

This on top of finals, and probably loads more thoughts are circling in the developing whirlpool of your mind.  Please don't stress about any of it!  Stay aware of everything going on.  Read people's Facebook posts on our group page, read our emails, read the news.  We want you to find your feet in London as soon as you hit the ground.


PS- The fall 2011 group wishes you well in their new adopted city and sends this message to you:

12 December, 2011

Photo Competition, Fall 2011

So many study abroad students spend what seems like the whole semester with their camera in hand.  With an impressive turn out of entries into the ICLC Fall 2011 Photo Competition, students, faculty and staff voted on their favorite student photos in 3 catagories- people, landscape and architecture.  The winners were announced at the End of Term party and are now being published on our blog.  Congratulations to Gabby Napoli and Ian Crawford for their winning entries!
People- Canterbury Bobbies, October 2011, photo by Gabby Napoli

Landscape- Sunset at San Marco, Venice, October 2011, photo by Gabby Napoli

Architecture- Venetian Canal, October 2011, photo by Ian Crawford

09 December, 2011

Travel Writing Competition, Fall 2011

As ever, semesters come to an end, competitions are entered and competitions are won.  Fall 2011's winner has words of wisdom for anyone traveling the world, including bravery in the face of octopus.  Congratulations on winning the travel writing competition, Sara Gardner!  Here's Sara's essay, and if you like her wit and want more of where that came from, she's got a blog full of it: http://a-girl-abroad.blogspot.com/

As I lounged leisurely on the white sand with a cocktail in hand, the rays of the sun warming each of my pores, I pondered the things I had learned since being in Europe, the relationships I’ve gained and the meaning of life.
    …Okay. That’s not exactly true, although at one point I was on a beach with white sand and a balmy sun, however the closest thing to a cocktail would have been the bucket of nuts that a man was trying to peddle to everyone and their mother, and the only thing I was pondering was why ladies slightly past their prime really feel it necessary to sunbathe without a top on. But in all seriousness, I have had some enlightening and wonderful experiences while traveling abroad, and me being the kind and generous person that I am, will share a few of them with you.

1.    RyanAir: A Blessing and A Curse.
The prices of the flights are heavenly; when I saw that I could get a plane to Italy for a mere $24, I practically choked on my own spit. But, what ensues afterwards is like a cruel sitcom. You’re guaranteed to have to travel to one of the obscure London airports (my favorite is Luton… mismatched warehouses in the middle of nowhere? Perfect!) You can be sure that you’ll have to travel at the wee hours of the night when the tube is closed. After navigating the night busses and taking some sort of coach or train, you’ve arrived! False. Now try and make your way to the ticket counter, where you will need to wait with your already printed boarding pass to get a stamp on it and have your passport checked the first of three times, just to be sure. After edging your way through the security line (and being behind incompetent Sally who leaves her belt and five necklaces on going through the scanner) you arrive at the gate! This would be joyous, except for the fact that now everyone will passively aggressively try and inch their way to the front of the gate, in hopes that they will snag that illustrious perfect seat. Even after being on the flight, you’re bombarded with buy this, buy that, get a lotto ticket, pay for the loo, et cetera. But hey, it gets you there and back. And it was $24.

2.    When In Doubt, Gesture It Out.
There were two things I was always guaranteed of when traveling: one, that the country I’m going to will have their own language and two, I wouldn’t be able to speak it. Sadly, I don’t know a lick of any other language besides English… and American English, at that. Usually I can get some sort of a gist of what words are referring to or communicate by pointing and nodding, but when it came to ordering food, well… That’s when things get a bit iffy. For instance, in Spain I asked the waitress for “tap water.” She looked at me as if I had a big, oozing sore festering in the middle of my face. “I do not understand,” she says. I replied, “Water from the faucet? The sink?” I then proceeded to mime turning on a sink. My sore must have been pulsating, because I got more horrified looks of disgust and confusion. Then she made a gagging noise and gaped at me some more. I gave up with my tap water endeavor after this and said “bottle” and made some bottle motions. She looked skeptically at me and walked away. (I did receive a bottle of water, thankfully.)

3.    Just Go With It…
Things don’t always go as planned. Actually, most of the time they don’t go as planned. The only real option is to simply roll with the punches and the quirks of traveling. If someone asks you to hold their baby while they take a picture on top of the Eiffel Tower, just go with it. Hold that baby, and try not to be too sad when they ask for it back. If you’re sitting at a table and two guys who speak little to no English approach you and want to buy you roses, just go with it. You’ll know you’re doing it right when you’re acting so uncomfortable it prompts one of the men who can hardly speak English to ask, “Why can’t you just be normal?” Or when you order something called ‘mixed fish’ on a menu and receive a plate full of octopus tentacles with the suckers still on, just go with it. Pretend like it’s the best octopus tentacles you’ve eaten since last week, and secretly pawn them off on the people who are eating at the table with you because well, let’s face it, octopus tentacles are disgusting.

Sadly – or awesomely! – all of these experiences are my own and completely true. Although I’m not sitting at a beach with a cocktail in my hand and the sun beating down on me, I can’t help but to reflect on how amazing my experiences have been and how truly awkward I have acted in every single one of them. But each place I’ve traveled to and each culture I’ve been exposed to has helped me to grow more as a person and enabled me to gain an understanding of other cultures that I wouldn’t have been able to learn had I not been put in some of the situations that I have been in. It’s been a crazy, wonderful four months in Europe that I’ll never forget. I will also never forget that I’ve eaten an octopus. Ew.

01 December, 2011

40 Things We've Learned

Combining my need to quantify anything I can with the end of the semester, here are 40 things we have all learned this semester.

1. Austrian radio IS a gangster's paradise.
2. It's really hard to find things with the number 40 in them.
3. Charlton is having a great season.  Arsenal's is just ok.
4. How to handle a legal drinking age.  Hopefully.
5. We were lucky to survive another Antony Gormley statue that won't be at the Olympic Park.
6. Elsie isn't a person or a poltergeist, she's a chair.
7. The London Center is highly trustworthy.
8. One person can actually carry the big table in the common room.  The London Center needs to recruit more wrestlers.
9. Bill may secretly be on Marks & Spencer's advertising team.
10. Ask Jack to show you how he ties his scarf...
11. Bill can be as vague on Facebook as he is in real life.
12. Carry an umbrella, even if it's sunny.
13. Never forget your Tesco Clubcard.
14. Will the taxi coming down the road stop before it hits you? You can never tell...
15. It's not getting any easier to climb the Glastonbury Tor.
16. Playing cricket in the Common Room is a lot of fun!
17. Everything you need to know about Westminster and the City of London can be learned in 5 hours.
18. The London Center staff have limited space in their stomachs for Jaffa Cakes.
19. Can we get a dog next semester?
20. Taking the coach to Paris is a lot of fun, right?
21. Kenneth Brannagh is really good at knitting!  And knitting is cool.  Just like a fez.
22. The jumping in front of Stonehenge thing remains a mystery...
23. We'll never be able to kiss Oscar Wilde again!
24. Songs at football games are both humorous and rude.
25. 4 months is not long enough in London.
26. Will Jack make a surprise appearance to next August's Edinburgh Festival?
27. Bill is EXTREMELY miffed that no one wants to dance with him at a ceilidh.  He would have worn a kilt, too.
28. American Thanksgiving in London is possible.  Even on a Thursday.
29. This semester's quizzers are few but very good.
30. Probably only a few people read the book of the term.  Probably no more than 39.
31. Mudlarking could become a mandatory class excursion.
32. You can pick up and move a cow's reproductive tract!
33. A Christmas Story is capitalist and It's a Wonderful Life is socialist.  Are our leanings determined by which we prefer?
34. What's still the number one way our students try to stay in the UK?  Find a Brit with a charming accent and get married, of course!
35. Who can say no to some lovely, homemade baked goods?  Not our students, not our staff, and not the guys who come to look at our gutters.
36. Americans can sometimes put their foot in it by misunderstanding slang.
37. Did you think you knew how Hamlet ended?  Micheal Sheen may just do your head in...
38. Sainsbury's may be further away than Waitrose, but pounding the pavement can save you pounds (that you can spend on baked goods).
39. A good chocolate Hobnob will never go amiss.
40. London is wonderful!