Skip to content

By Raman Mama

One of the best parts of being in a European location during your study abroad is that you have the opportunity to see other primary cities in Europe.

My first stop in London was to Berlin - Germany's Capitol.

Getting to Berlin was relatively easy. I booked my flights through a website called Ryan Air, which is a premier option for students looking to travel on the cheap. The flights were about 50 pounds of 60 dollars all together. Then, I booked my hostel for about 15 dollars a night. Altogether, I was able to book flights and accommodations for less than 100 dollars, which is a pretty great deal.

When I was in Berlin, the weather was not great, but that didn't stop me from seeing all that I could..

I went to the Berlin Wall, Berlinische Galeria, and a very popular bookstore called "Another Country" where they host film clubs and dinners. I loved the bookstore because it was founded by a woman from London who one day, decided to open a store so she could share her collection with other people. I grabbed two new reads for myself.

...continue reading "Travelling in Europe – Berlin Edition"

By Raman Mama

Over my time in London, one of the things I’ve enjoyed doing the most is walking around the city and exploring new cultural nooks, to understand what ideas people value, and why. So far, the richest parts of the city in my opinion have been SOHO and Brixton. In these parts of the city, Londoners passion for culture and the ideas it promotes is on great display.

In these parts of the city, it becomes apparent how much British people value unique ideas and the stories behind works of art. In my first week walking around the city, I found several extremely interesting stores. There’s a store where each and every guitar is crafted by hand in Memphis to the specifications of the storeowner, then shipped over for sale. There’s a store that sells vintage records from the 70’s and 80’. There’s even a store where the owner hand curates each and every article of vintage clothing to be sold to her customers.

I find that in London, unique experiences related to stores and shopping are valued more so than chain stores. In major cities such as DC and Washington, this is still the case, and it’s sometimes hard to find truly unique brands and labels. Here, that is not the case.

Additionally, the music scene in London is vibrant. Intimate shows with bands are quite common, and good music travels around the underground quite quickly. The benefit to be had in this is that people connect extremely well off of ideas. There is always some fashion event, art show, and music room to go to, allowing for many opportunities to get to know the people, ideas and cultures that surround you.

“So where are you from from?”

I’m sure almost every GW student has been asked this question at least once. Sure, everyone wants to know where you’ve grown up and where you call home. But they really care about where you’re from from. It’s like when you have to check those boxes on questionnaires to say whether you’re Caucasian, African-American, Asian, Hispanic, or Latino.

My response? “My mom’s from India and my dad’s from Pakistan. But I’m 100% Muslim.” But growing up, the answer wasn’t so simple.

Before, when someone asked me where my family's from, I’d say Pakistan. Sometimes I wanted to say India because it’s easier, but then they’d think I’m Hindu. But was I lying to people if I didn’t include every part of my identity that composes who I am?

It’s definitely been complicated to really hone in how I share my identity with other people. Though I’m just starting to find a healthy balance between my ethnic identities, my Muslim identity is the strongest. To me, my Muslim identity matters more than the country I hail from.

I’m a Muslim girl who grew up in an American suburb. I’ve lived in America my whole life, but my parents have always kept the religion and culture of my ancestral home alive. It’s a result of colonization, globalization, and diaspora. I contribute it to a sense of longing and connection to the homeland. Is my established homeland America (where I was born) or Pakistan and India (where my culture and parents’ families are from)?

...continue reading "The Beginnings of a Muslim-American's Journey in the UK"

By austineliasdejesus

I don't know how, but my time studying abroad is over. My time as a study abroad student isn't technically over since I still have another paper to write, but all my classes are done and I am leaving London in two days.

Last Wednesday I met up with a GW friend studying at LSE to get a final dinner before we said goodbye. We're both seniors and she's staying for another semester, so the next time I see her will literally be at commencement. Before we went out separate ways, we talked about how crazy it is that it's all ending. Both of us could remember in March when we saw each other at Colonial Crossroads and tried to calm one another down about getting into the schools we wanted and getting all our visa and financial stuff in order. Last April wasn't that long ago, but it feels like it.

I've been walking around alone a lot this last week because all of my friends have left for home. So I've been ticking stuff off my London bucket list. And I'm happy to say that I managed to do the things I wanted. Which is a weird feeling because, in reality, I spent a lot of time in bed watching Netflix while I was here. I don't mean that as a joke--I really did spend a lot of time in my room watching movies and reading books. And I felt really guilty about those days. I felt like I was wasting money and opportunities and I was taking all of this for granted. I thought back to reading random blog posts off Google searches that warned me not to spend time on Netflix and to go out all the time and travel and explore and squeeze every ounce of joy I could out of this experience. Now that I'm at the end, I feel like I genuinely didn't do that, but I still had a lot of fun, and I saw so many things, and I feel like I got the most out of this.

...continue reading "If You’re Considering Whether to Study Abroad, Here Are 5 Things To Calm You Down"

By austineliasdejesus

I took a solo trip to Spain last week. It was the most affirming, anxiety-inducing, and wonderful thing I've done since I came to Europe. And, traveling alone is something you should all do if you plan to study abroad.

The trip started out as one that I was supposed to take with a friend of mine, but her visa wasn't processed in time, so I was forced to take the trip alone. I was admittedly nervous before going, which was weird for me. I pride myself on not being scared of travel or city life. I've done some pretty unsafe and questionable things since I was a little kid, whether it's walking around Times Square by myself, taking flights alone, or getting lost in the middle of Maryland by myself my freshman year at GW. I'd never felt that scared doing all those things, but traveling to Spain alone was something that genuinely worried me. I took Spanish for four years but my proficiency is still incredibly poor. I didn't have enough time to plan out the places I was going to because of finals so, in turn, I hardly knew anything about the three cities--Seville, Madrid, Barcelona--I would be going to.

The week leading up to my trip was a difficult one--I had three papers to write and one project to finish all while packing for this trip and taking care of some . . . let's call them "mishaps" that happened in regards to my booking details for this trip. I was feeling pretty hopeless on the Thursday night before my flight. I had to calm myself down repeatedly and tell myself that it would all be okay. And, of course, it was.

...continue reading "Everyday counts like crazy"

I've been in London for about three months now and I have been to the Tate Modern about 25 times. I don't know how. I somehow always end up going. If not going inside to look at some of the pieces, I go just to sit at the outside patio area. Staring at the massive museum. The Tate Modern looks odd from the outside. It's big and dark brown. A huge pillar rises into the sky that's noticeable from the other side of the Thames. I didn't like it at first. But if I've learned one thing here studying abroad, it's to think more critically about the ways in which we utilize the past to tell stories about the present and the future.

The building that is now the Tate Modern used to be the Bankside Power Station. It opened in 1891 and, if we know anything about the history of London, the city was pretty dirty then. I can imagine this building then. It's brown-ness probably bled right into the pollution that undoubtedly surrounded it. Smoke would billow from the power station's chimney to the point where citizens would complain about it.

And, throughout the building history as the Bankside Power Station, the grit and grime it caused was a source of controversy. After some evolutions and attempts to clean up the station and the area around it, the building was officially shut down right before the 80s. In '94, it was announced that the building would be recycled to be the new home for Tate Modern, and the rest is history.

...continue reading "Tate Modern"

By austineliasdejesus

If you’re anything like me, and in many respects I hope you’re not, you’re excited to travel all over Europe during your semester abroad. And, you can. You can travel all over Europe during your time here, but no matter how hard you try to save money, no matter how many friends you split Airbnb’s and meals with and whatever weirdly timed flights you take, those travel costs will rack up. However, if you’re studying in a country like the U.K., you’re lucky to live in a place that has a ton of great cities within it. These cities have their own cultures and atmospheres, so you’re still going to expanding your worldview. We shouldn’t treat nations and their people as monoliths, and traveling to different towns and cities within your home country will help dissemble that limited view. Here are some great trips you can take in the U.K.

1. Bath

You’ve probably heard of Bath. Not to be snarky, but it’s the place with the baths. The Roman baths. It’s a really charming small town and there’s some really nice nature scenery here. And it’s relatively close to London so you can make a day trip out of this and save a good amount of money.

2. Brighton Beach

Brighton will rejuvenate you. The peddled beach is expansive and fun to just hang around at, the pier is beautiful, and there are some great small restaurants and pubs lining the streets. And, the whole trip—if you choose to stay for only a day—will run you about £20.

...continue reading "Save Some Money, Travel Within the U.K. "

There's a fantasy that grows within every hipster once they hit their twenties. That fantasy is bumming it around Europe. So, for reading week, being the good, muted color-wearing, LCD Soundystem-listening, New Yorker-reading, caricature of a person that I am, I bummed it around Europe for a week. Of course, it was only five days, but I managed to hit three cities--Prague, Berlin, and Amsterdam--in that time.

I took the trip with a friend, whose criteria for a week-long European excursion were the same as mine, which were the trip had to be cheap and low-maintenance. And, on the other side of that week, I think we were somewhat successful.

I have never been particularly drawn to Europe. I've thought very little about actually exploring Europe prior to this semester. As an Asian American, my roots have always been in Asia, and most of my foreign trips have involved going to Asia to see family members. This general apathy towards Europe led to a somewhat profound ignorance of the general vibe of Europe. For example, before I arrived in London, I genuinely had no idea how much of the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe still bears the scars of the second world war. This was probably an obvious characteristic of Europe to others, but it was a genuine culture shock to me. And, traveling through all three of those cities last week, you could hardly go anywhere without seeing some sort of WWII landmark. The evident scars of war have never occurred to me as a characteristic of a city or a country--I guess that's the benefit of living in a nation in which an international war has never been fought within its borders.

...continue reading "An American Down and Out and Cold in Europe"

By austineliasdejesus

I partly came to London to run away from GW. But, over the course of the past month, I've come to appreciate GW even more. It's less of the school as an institution, but the idea that GW is a place where I feel like I've established myself. I've routinized it and embedded myself within it. It's not always perfect, but if one of those mini college-specific disasters struck--if I messed up a paper's due date or had to seek help from some kind of department--I'd know exactly what to do.

UCL's infrastructure is different, and, as a senior at GW, adjusting to that infrastructure is more difficult if only because I've become more stubborn regarding how I believe things should work at a university. It's an unhealthy and hard-headed way to live as a college student, but it's a lifestyle that I'm going to assume many students who study abroad lead.

Everything came to a head this week, and all my papers for my classes were due. Over the course of the past six months, I stupidly forgot how annoyingly stressful college can actually be. While researching and writing this week, I realized that I hadn't really done anything that I didn't really want to do since I left GW in May. Yes, I had to do work at my internship over the summer and being home brings about its share of responsibilities, but doing the daily college grind of college assessment is a particular kind of labor that brings its own particular kinds of anxieties.

...continue reading "Adjustments"

By austineliasdejesus

I finally traveled last weekend and went to Paris. For eight hours. Before my friend and I planned the trip, I didn't know how I felt about taking a less than one day trip, but it was probably the best decision we could have made. We tried planning our trip around this Huffington Post article, but it left a lot to be desired in terms of specific details and there were just some things we didn't have time for. So here's an incredibly detailed itinerary if you're planning on doing this kind of thing in Paris.

1. Take the first morning train out of your home city and arrive at Gare Du Nord at around 9:45. Immediately head to the metro and buy a single day metro ticket, which will cost you around 10 euros. You can go with the single day pass that covers Zones 1-3.

2. Take the 4 train towards Mairie de Montrouge for 3 stops to Strasbourg-Saint Denis, then switch to the 8 train towards Balard 9 stops to Ecole Militaire.

3. Get off at Ecole Militaire and, once you get out of the stop, head straight towards one of the many cafes that line the nearby streets to get some coffee and croissants.

4. Once you get your breakfast, walk towards the Eiffel Tower (you'll basically see it right after you get off the train). Hang out around there for a bit and leave at about  11:30. If you want, you can try to get in line to go up the Eiffel, but the line is long and you'll get a great view of Paris later on.

...continue reading "How To Do Paris in 8 Hours"