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By agoudsward

I've now begun my final two weeks in London, and seeing as though I'm stuck in the stress and pressure of finals week, it seems appropriate to think about what I'm looking forward to doing when I get home.

I'm looking forward to sinking my teeth into some classic New Jersey dishes like pork roll, egg and cheese on a fresh baked bagel and a warm slice of New York-style pizza. It'll also be nice to have some home cooked-meals and not have to worry about buying food or eating at the dining hall.

I'm looking forward to being able to watch the New York Giants play American football without having to stay up until 2 a.m. to watch the game.

I'm hoping to maybe see some snow over winter break.

I, of course, can't wait to spend Christmas and New Years with my family, sitting around the tree and opening presents on Christmas morning. I'm excited to see all my friends from back home who I haven't seen since the summer.

...continue reading "Thinking of home"

By agoudsward

I'll admit, it was a little nerve-wracking boarding the EuroStar in London bound for a weekend in Paris. I had never traveled for a full weekend away by myself before, but I knew I had to go to Paris at some point as part of my study abroad experience. I don't think there's any place on Earth that has the allure of Paris, the monuments, wide avenues, palpable history, thriving culture, cafes with the smell of fresh-baking bread wafting out into narrow alleyways. I knew my experience abroad would be incomplete without going there.

However, as it's getting close to the end of the semester, friends were either starting to work on final papers or already had travel plans, so I decided to go on my own. There are drawbacks, going for meals is a little bit different and you're deprived of being able to share a extraordinary experience with another person.

...continue reading "Alone, but amazed in Paris"

By agoudsward

Compared to almost every other major city in Europe, London isn't exactly renowned for its food. Next to Italian pasta, French bread and cheese and Spanish tapas, bangers and mash don't really stack up. I was told on several occasions that going to study in the England, I'd be giving up good food for a while.

However, I really haven't found that to be the case. London is so multicultural that you can find delicious food from just about every corner of the globe... and I've even found some of the local cuisine to be pretty good too. Here are my favorite food places in London that won't break a tight budget.

1. Italian street food

Down the street from my residence hall is a park area that is filled with food stands at lunchtime during the week. My favorite is one that sells Italian street food. The stand serves up great paella and a delicious assortments of Italian paninis. I usually get the full house with breaded chicken, spinach, mozzarella and salsa. It's amazing.

2. Ponchon Korean Fried Chicken

This unique stand has become one of my favorite lunch stops near UCL's campus. They have some sort of special method of frying the chicken that leaves sort of a glaze over the breading. It's served in a chicken box over rice with a side of chili mayo. ...continue reading "My 5 Favorite Cheap Eats in London"

By agoudsward

It's a strange thing watching momentous events in your home country on the "international news." Especially when what happened in itself is so bewildering and distressing. Hearing the reaction of foreign media talking about a potential strongman taking power and a massive protest movement mobilizing in response, you could close your eyes and easily think it was in some far flung corner of the world. I'd heard talk like that on the news many times, but never about America, never about home.

I'm talking of course about the presidential election. I stayed up until dawn watching the results in London and, then since I was on fall break, headed to Amsterdam to spend a couple of days away. Of course my tour group of American study abroad students wanted to talk about what happened and my Dutch tour guide wondered "why Americans always do things that are irrational." One unexpected thing about studying abroad, not only do you learn more about other countries, but you learn more about your own.

...continue reading "Fear and fun in Amsterdam"

By agoudsward

One of the things that I fear will happen the longer I stay here is that it will all start to feel routine. Waking up, going to class, reading at the library, eating dinner at the dining hall, going to sleep and waking up the next day and doing it all over again. There's a danger for me that after a while I won't recognize that I'm some place special,  I won't appreciate that I'm in the midst of an experience that I've been looking forward to for years.

Some people would say that's natural, that living in a place (even for only a few months) will take away that special newness when you first arrive, but after a while you get a know a place intimately, as a kind of home and not just a tourist destination. I think there's truth to that, but still I don't want to wake up thinking the city and this experience has somehow turned ordinary.

...continue reading "My Favorite Walk in London"

By agoudsward

Some of the most exciting experiences in my life have been going to see my favorite teams, the New York Yankees and Giants, live and in big games. There's just something special about being there in person, cheering along with thousands of like-minded fans.

So I knew when I came to London, I had to see my other favorite team, Chelsea, (nicknamed the Blues) live at least once while I was here. Fortunately I was able to get last-minute tickets to Sunday's game against English giant Manchester United. There was added anticipation going on as the match would mark the first team that Chelsea's former manager Jose Mourinho, who was largely responsible for making Chelsea a European superclub, would return to Chelsea's home now managing one of the club's top rivals.

It was a game millions around the world would be watching and felt so fortunate to be one of the 40,000 or so who could actually see it in person. So, I arrived at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea's home ground, along with throngs of other blue-clad supporters ready for an authentic taste of English soccer, or football to be more exact. It did not disappoint.

...continue reading "Going to see the ‘Blues"

By agoudsward

The last three days I was finally able to take part in the time-honored study abroad tradition of traveling around Europe. I went with a few friends to spend the weekend in Barcelona. It is probably the most picturesque city I've ever visited.

Situated on the shores on the shores of the Mediterranean and at the foot of the Montserrat Mountain range, from virtually every vantage point the city is stunning. It has something to offer for just about everyone.

Beach people can soak up the sun on Barcelona's long stretch of beaches, for history buffs there's the winding streets of the medieval Gothic Quarter, for art lovers there's the Picasso museum and the whimsical architecture of Antoni Gudi, a huge point of pride in the city, there's hiking for those who love the outdoors, night clubs for party people and sports fans can go see F.C. Barcelona, probably the greatest soccer team on Earth. We were fortunate enough to take in a match on Saturday and see Lionel Messi, arguably the best soccer player who ever lived, score a goal.

...continue reading "A weekend in Barcelona"

By agoudsward

This week classes finally began at UCL and it felt almost strange to be back in class after a nearly five month break. Classes here feel pretty familiar, there are many similarities to GW, but something also feels different. Here are a few thoughts about academic culture at UCL and the U.K. more broadly.

First, students here have much more free time than at GW. Classes only meet once a week, one hour for a lecture and one hour for a seminar for larger classes. That means you're not really in classes a whole lot, but be prepared to spend much of that free time reading.

Reading lists for classes, or modules as they're usually referred to, are massive. As a student, you're expected to do much more independent study than in the U.S. There are always several required readings per week, but also an extensive list of optional readings some of which have to be used for papers. It's more about you as a student taking the time to read up and become something of an expert on a topic rather than a professor telling you most of what you need to know.

...continue reading "College life in the U.K."

By agoudsward

Whenever I tell people here that I'm from the U.S., there's usually one topic they cannot help but discuss: Donald Trump.

People I've encountered from Greece to China to Germany and the U.K. have all asked me with a sense of curiosity and often a healthy dose of friendly ridicule how the man they knew as a brash and boastful reality television star became the Republican nominee for president.

Without getting too political, let's just say he doesn't appear to be too popular overseas.

There's usually a similar set of questions: What do you think of Trump? Can he win? Why does America like him? Do you know people that support him?

...continue reading "The (American) Elephant in the Room"

By agoudsward

My first week in London has been a bit of a roller coaster ride. It has been a whirlwind of new and unique experiences. Each day almost feels like a week in itself.

First of all, if you're planning to study abroad in the U.K., I'd highly recommend not coming through Ireland. I did because it was a cheaper fare, but it was a mistake. If you come through Ireland, you don't go through immigration upon arrival in the U.K. which means I wasn't able to get my student visa on arrival as I planned.

It wasn't a pleasant experience landing alone in a foreign country for the first time and having customer service at the airport tell you that they "don't have a clue" how you could get a visa that you need to enroll at your new University in three days.

Luckily, after consulting with GW England staff I was able to get the visa, but only after taking a last minute EuroStar train to Paris and then returning to London the same day so I could reenter the U.K. and get the visa, the night before I had to officially enroll at UCL. I know, you don't feel bad for me that I "had" to go to Paris and truth be told the city was magical... during the 90 minutes I spent there.

...continue reading "A Whirlwind First Week"