Alexandra Esposito - 2014 Program Participant
Why did you decide to apply for an international program?
I decided to apply for an international program because I love traveling and seeing the world and I felt like this was my opportunity to do so. Also, ever since I could remember, I have always wanted to study abroad; once I got to college and once I got the opportunity to do so, I took it. Lastly, I felt like this was my best opportunity to discover who I am as a person and to learn about a new culture along with broadening my horizons and changing my perspective on the world.
Why did you choose ISA in London?
When I first started the study abroad process, my advisor suggested that I go to either London or Paris. Since I was in the school of business, going to two cities that are known to have good business schools, and London specifically being one of the financial capitals of the world, I would have the best chance at finding a school with many classes that I could take. And that I would receive a good education by going to one of those two cities. Luckily for me, I have always wanted to go to England, but I wanted to go to London specifically.
When I started the process of studying abroad I looked at many different programs that were in England, but London specifically. I also wanted to go to a place that was completely out of my comfort zone and a place that I would not have normally picked to go to. The University of Westminster (the university that I attended in London) stuck out to me the most along with the ISA program. I loved that ISA was so accommodating, and I loved everything that ISA had to offer too. As for the university that I attended, the University of Westminster offered so many classes and it made it much easier for me to find classes to take while I was abroad. Also, the University of Westminster is a very good business school and as an accounting major I knew that I would be receiving a very good education while attending this university.
Lastly, something intuitively made me keep coming back to ISA and the University of Westminster and boy were my intuitions right. This program and University was well suited for me and definitely the perfect fit for me as well.
What was your favorite part about living in London?
Picking my favorite part about living in London is extremely hard. I could go on for days saying all of my favorite things about living in London. However, if I had to choose just one thing, it would be living in a proper big city, that you could just get up and go somewhere whenever you wanted, and that you could always discover something new. London is so big that it would take a lifetime to see it all, but even then you still would not have explored all of London. I loved that aspect of it, that everyday was a new adventure and that I was always able to discover something new. I could still go to the same place and find something else that I hadn't seen the last time that I visited that section of London. I really loved going on adventures and exploring new and different places.
What makes ISA’s program unique?
What makes participating in the ISA study abroad program unique is that they do not treat you like you are a student just going on a field trip or that they are your parents and you’re the kid tagging along with them. They took us on many excursions; and they let us have our time to ourselves while we were at these excursions, and did not make us feel like we were in school going on a field trip. They tried to treat us as much like a local and as an adult as possible, and not too much like we were people from a foreign country, even though we technically were.
They wanted us to succeed and see us grow to our fullest potential. They helped us out when we needed it but they also allowed us to spread our wings and fly when they thought that it was necessary to do so. The ISA staff are always on top of things; they were always so well organized and ten steps ahead, and always had backup plans in case it was needed.
Lastly, the ISA staff was so knowledgeable on everything that you would ever need to know about the study abroad process, in general, and about things that you would need to know while you were abroad. This was such a nice thing to have because you knew that they were super passionate about their jobs. If you ever had a question, you knew that it would more than likely be answered and that you would be given the best answer possible.
I loved ISA and if I could put it on a scale of 0 to 10 stars, I would give it 12 stars. ISA is an absolutely exceptional program and I would highly recommend studying abroad through ISA.
How supportive was local staff during your program when you needed help?
The local staff was so supportive throughout the whole program. They were always there for you if you ever needed anything or if you ever needed to talk on any day of the week, and at any time of the day too. They were extremely friendly and laid back, and they made you feel like you were one of them or a friend versus just another student in their program.
The staff gave us a walking tour of London when we first got there and they even showed us how to use the tube as well. Also, if you needed to go to the doctors, they would take you to the doctors and have someone stay with you if you were sick and needed someone to help you out. This was extremely reassuring. Being in a foreign country everything is different, including their health care system, so having someone there that is familiar with you study abroad country’s healthcare system makes you feel so much better, especially about what to do if you should get sick while you are abroad. Furthermore, the local staff did their job when necessary and gave discipline when necessary too, etc.
Lastly, the local staff was always so well organized and so on top of everything. Our safety to them was their number one priority and they always made sure that everyone was safe if we went on an excursion. They would have us email them if we were going outside of the country or even outside of London, and send them our itinerary just so they knew where we were or had an idea of where we were in case something happened to us. Overall, the local staff was amazing and they could not have been any nicer to us.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
The only thing that I would have done differently is have done a full year abroad. I still would have continued going to the same University in London and still have gone through ISA. I had debated doing a full year abroad and did not have the confidence to do so.
What was a typical day like as an international student in London?
A day in the life of my program would be: I wake up and do my morning routine, which consists of me showering and getting myself all put together and having breakfast. However, sometimes I would go to the gym in the morning if I had enough time before my class. Then I would go to the tube station and make my way to class. It would normally take me about 20 to 30 minutes to get to my class (this 20 to 30 minute journey was the total amount of time that it took me to wait for the train, the train journey, and for me to walk to the academic building). I only had one class per day, Monday to Thursday, and each of my classes were three hours long per day.
If I didn't have time to go to the gym in the morning, I would go at night or in the early afternoon. After my classes I generally tried to go and see a certain section of London. I tried not to sit around in my room too much. I tried to go out and see as much of the city as I possibly could. I was determined to see as much of the city of London as possible and I wanted to go out and do as much sightseeing and activities in general, because doing those types of things were well outside of my comfort zone and I was determined to break out of my comfort zone too.
Lastly, I mostly made my own meals but I did go to pubs to have dinner with some friends or go to a restaurant in general to have dinner every now and again. I also would generally try and go out for a walk late at night; not only to see the city and the area that I lived in but to have a late night adventure and have a moment to myself to be able to think about things, or even to just not think at all and relax a little bit.
What did you like doing on your freetime?
My favorite activity outside of my normal day to day schedule from my program was to go to Regents Park. As I said earlier, going on adventures and going exploring of new sections of London that I had never been to before was one of my favorite things to do, but going to Regents Park was another one of my favorite things to do. I would go to Regents Park, sit under a tree and read a book or just listen to music, or even sometimes both. I loved going to Regents Park because it gave me a chance to get away from being in a city, although I really did not find London to be as hustle and bustle as most cities generally are. It was nice to see green grass and trees every now and again too.
I found being in Regents Park to be the most zen, calming, peaceful, and soul cleansing thing ever. It allowed me to have another moment to myself, and to take a step back and look at my life along with pondering my thoughts and to just think about things in general.
It is good to have moments and days were you unplug from always being on the Internet or always being on the go, and take some time to relax and actually enjoy the natural things in life instead of always being attached to technology.
What type of accommodation did you have in London?
The type of accommodation that I had in London was an apartment, or what British people call a flat. I had my own bedroom and bathroom. I had six other flatmates who each had their own rooms and bathrooms as well. There was a kitchen and living room, which was all one room, that we all shared. I had to do all of my own cooking and cleaning. I did not have a meal plans while I was abroad so I had to cook and do all of my own grocery shopping too. However, there was a cleaning service what came once a week, mostly on Saturday's to clean the kitchen and living room.
The best thing that I loved about living in my flat was my view. I lived right next to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. I felt so honored and grateful to have been surrounded by such historical monuments and to have the privilege of living in such a historical area of London. Living in a flat was amazing, but being surrounded by history was even more amazing and the best thing about my living accommodations.
How has studying abroad in London impacted your life?
Studying abroad has impacted my life in more ways than one. It broadened my horizons and gave me a new perspective of the world. Studying abroad exposed me to a new culture and it allowed me to see some of the most amazing places in the world; I even got to see Stonehenge; which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Studying abroad taught me to take the time to stop and smell the roses and to not take things in life so seriously because life is all about the little things and if you let those little things pass you by you will miss out on all of the wonderful things that life has to offer.
I realized that it is not about the things in life that you have but it is the things that you do and the things that you see in your life that count.
Lastly, studying abroad taught me to take a step back and look at my life for what it is and to be grateful for everything that you have in your life, because not everyone is as fortunate as you and would do anything to be in your situation. Furthermore, I grew and changed in ways that I never thought possible. I went into the study abroad process as a very shy and closed off person. I was always afraid to do things outside of my comfort zone and I used to have a lot of anxiety and some other issues as well. Studying abroad changed all of that and changed my life for the better.
I discovered who I am as a person and I gained a lot of confidence and self-esteem in myself too. I discovered things about myself that I never knew were there, and things about myself that were always there but I just never knew about them and how to bring those qualities out in myself. Studying abroad brought me out of my shell and made me do things outside of my comfort-zone. I learned how to be independent and stand on my own two feet and to be my own person, my own tough, strong, resilient, and independent person. I didn’t know my own strength before studying abroad and I have since discovered my full potential as a person and that I can do anything and that I have the potential to do, anything if I set my mind to it. I finally blossomed into the person that I always wanted to be and always knew that I could be. Most importantly, I was able to get rid of my anxiety and conquer a lot of my fears and my past issues too.
Would you go back to London if you had the chance?
I miss London every day and I long to go back someday; hopefully I can return someday soon. I would absolutely love to live in London one day. Until then, I just have to remember all of the good times that I’ve had there and all that London has done for me personally. I am so beyond grateful and appreciative that I had the opportunity to study abroad both from a financial perspective and for my home University for offering a study abroad program in general. I will have memories that will last a lifetime. Studying abroad was the best decision that I ever made and I would absolutely strongly encourage anyone who wants to study abroad to go for it. You will not regret it and it will be one of the most beautiful and best experiences of your life.