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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"

By austineliasdejesus

When I got here, everyone--from other students to advisors to professors--told me that London is an expensive city. Turns out, they're absolutely right. So far I've lived in D.C. and New York City, and London is by far the most expensive place I've lived. But London does have some great hidden gems, though, you just have to look a little bit harder and be more willing to accept the fact that we're all still college kids, and it's probably not yet our time to go around spending money like we're 30-somethings.

1. 5£ Groundlings tickets at The Globe 

We've all heard about Shakespeare's Globe, so I'm not going to explain it any further. But it is worth mentioning that Globe tickets are actually pretty cheap if you're willing to stand the entire time. These are called groundlings tickets and they're definitely worth it for their cheap price. Yes, you'll be standing for the entire show which is actually pretty long. And, yes, you run the risk of getting rained on and you're not allowed to open your umbrella. But it is still a once in a lifetime experience, and, speaking from experience, you actually feel like you've really experienced the Globe after your feet and back are sore because you've stood in place for 3 hours and you're kind of cold because the heavens opened up and you got rained on for about 20 minutes. That just made this sound very unappealing, but I mean it. Get the groundlings tickets.

2. Go to your school's hangouts

I can't speak for other unis, but UCL has their own pubs and coffee shops. A lot of these are lively and full of other students almost every day and night. Also, beverages tend to be a lot cheaper here, and a lot of them host student performers who are actually pretty good. If you and your friends are looking for a place to go on a Wednesday or Thursday night, try going to one of these places. Also, who knows, you  might even make a new friend or two by hanging around.

...continue reading "5 Fun Things to do in London When You’re on a Budget"

By austineliasdejesus

This week marked UCL's first week of classes, and I learned two things:

  1. I'd sooner attempt to swallow a minivan than draw attention to myself/be a disturbance to a group of people.
  2. I've never questioned why a world map looks the way it does.

In regards to Lesson #1: I've always hated bothering people, even if only for a second. That's been a theme throughout my life. But I've never known just how much I hated bothering people until this week. I had to go to my Art History class on Wednesday, and I got terribly lost trying to find the lecture room because a construction site obscured the normal entrance to the building. By the time I found the building that housed my destination, I was seven minutes late for class. Once I got inside, I still couldn't find the correct room. The room I was supposed to be in was 104, but the only room I could find was 104. I thought I would take a gamble and see if 103 was some weird room connected to the inside of room 104, because that's the kind of thing that I tell myself is logical when I'm desperate and sweaty and fed up with being lost. I went into 104 to find a class was in session.

The professor whose class I'd disturbed kindly told me to take a seat, which I did. It took me about three minutes to realize that I wasn't, in fact, in the room for 19th and 20th Century Art and Architecture in London. I was in some class about Modern Art. And, obviously, there was no "connecting room" inside this room. So I was just in the completely wrong room. The way I saw it, I had two options: 1.) I could face my fears and just get up, disturb this lecture for the second time, and look for the correct room and, in turn, disturb that lecture, too; or 2.) I could just sit in on this lecture, suffer in silence, and not disturb anyone.

...continue reading "Britishness, Americanness, Questions…ness"

This week, people at GW began to brace for mid-terms while UCL students tried to figure out how to spend this week of nothing before classes start on Monday.

I really had no idea that UCL classes didn’t begin until the first week of October when I applied to the university last spring. I’m not complaining about it. If I were doing anything close to that, I’m sure everyone back at GW would remove their world’s smallest violins from their tiny cases and play a concerto just for me.  I’m grateful for the free time; it makes me feel like summer is breathing its last breath. But deciding what to do with free time is a challenge, and one that I’m sure a lot of American college students can sympathize with. Like a lot of American college students, a dogged pursuit of learning about who you are has led to me being very busy since I was probably 12 years old.

This is really the first time in my life where I don’t have some kind of club, activity, practice, class, internship or job I have to go to every day. It’s jarring to be taken out of that as abruptly as I have. While a lot of college students quickly stumble into adulthood, we build up a culture among young people where one’s busy-ness and even lack of self-care is a telltale sign that you are a Very Serious and Very Motivated young person. So to have a week in London as a study abroad student where I don’t have any responsibilities would surely make anyone in my situation feel anxious, and even a bit guilty.

So what do you do with all this free time? How do you spend it at least somewhat productively? Well, you try to learn in other ways. You learn about the people around you who are from different nations and cultures. You learn how you can form a daily routine here. You also learn how to save money because it’s finally hit that you shouldn’t be spending money like how you would if you were vacationing in London, but rather like you would when you’re actually living in London.

...continue reading "Much ado about doing nothing"