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.