Jordan Riley - 2015 Program Participant

The BBC building in London, England

UK media and politics field trip to the BBC

Why did you decide to study abroad?

I have always wanted to study abroad, and everyone that I knew who had done so highly recommended it. I love to travel, and really wanted to be able to understand a foreign city and culture in an immersive way.

Why did you choose IES Abroad’s program in London?

I have always wanted to go to London, and the IES Abroad London program was the only program my school offered that was based in London.

What was your favorite part about London?

I loved the metropolitan atmosphere, as well as the easy access to so many cultural influences. London truly feels like the center of the world.

What made your program unique?

The program was very close knit, with a smaller group of american students, and the staff worked very closely together; it allowed for very firm friendships to be built in an unfamiliar place.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

They were very interactive with the students, very available, and helpful. They organized a lot of fun and stimulating trips for the group, but also were very clear about students striking out on their own, and not relying on the program or the staff to become acquainted with the city.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish I had made more of an effort to make lasting connections with locals.

Do you have any packing tips for students headed to London?

My packing tip would be to pack less than you think you will need. Pack sweaters, a rain jacket, and only bring shoes you won't mind getting wet.

St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England

St. Paul's Cathedral in London

What surprised you most about London?

I was very surprised at how quickly I was able to feel comfortable with the mass transit, and getting lost in the city. I thought it would take forever to get the hang of, but it is actually very well planned out and explained, and most of the transit workers were very helpful.

Describe a day in the life of an international student in London.

I would wake up, walk to class with a friend, and we would probably stop for coffee or a paper on the way. I would have class until the afternoon. Then in the afternoon I would either go by myself or with a friend to some part of the city to explore. Perhaps we would go shopping, or I would go to a museum, or just walk around one of the neighborhoods. As it got dark I would head home, and make dinner, do my homework, hangout in a friends room, and then go to sleep.

What did you enjoy doing outside of your coursework?

I really enjoyed the trips that the program scheduled for us around the English country side, like Stratford upon Avon and Brighton.

What were your housing arrangements like?

We stayed in Nido Student Living. I liked that everyone in our program was in the student living together; it made it very easy to meet people and make plans.

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

The hardest part about studying abroad for me was leaving. When you leave you have to realize that there are some things that you won't get to do. Traveling means crossing things off your bucket list, but it also means adding things, and it is a little frustrating to realize how short your trip actually is. So prioritize and don't feel bad about maybe leaving things for future trips!

What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad in the United Kingdom?

One thing that I wish I had taken into consideration more was how expensive London would be. I was told by the program that it was an expensive city, but it is the kind of thing that it is hard to appreciate until you are actually there. Financial planning was very important, and I wish I had taken that a little more seriously before I made my decision.

Tower Bridge in London, England

Tower Bridge

If you could study abroad again, where would you go?

I would love to go back to England again, and hopefully will someday. There is so much more to do and I loved my time there. As for picking a different place, I also got to travel to Spain and would have loved to spend some more time there.

What do you feel the biggest benefit of studying abroad is?

The biggest benefit for me was leaving my comfort zone and really exercising my ability to adapt to a new situation. As a senior, that is a skill I am going to be glad to have very soon. It is also a great place to make friends and learn more about the world and the different roles each country and culture play in a larger scheme.

Now that you're home, how has studying abroad in London impacted your life?

I miss London all the time, and the the front row view I had of artistic, cultural, and political action. Now that I am home, I am more understanding of global issues, like the turmoil over the European Union. I also have a greater desire to travel the United States, and a greater appreciation for the varying cultures and landscapes that we have within our own country.

Would you recommend IES Abroad to other students?

Yes I would! I had a great time, and I think it was a very well setup program.