Marissa Baglione - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

Studying abroad in college has been at the top of my to-do list since high school. I have a love of travel and discovering new places so that's definitely what inspired me.

Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy
Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy

Why did you choose CISabroad?

I liked CIS because of the necessary elements of the program (cost, GPA requirements, etc.) but they also included great day trips and other group outings, as well as a great support staff before and during my trip.

What was your favorite part about London?

London is so big and diverse, each section of the city is different. It allowed us to not get bored and constantly see or do something new. The accents aren't bad either.

What made your experience abroad unique?

The group of friends I made are truly some of the best friends I have ever had. We mostly all went alone and instantly connected at the airport that first day.

Eiffel Tower, Paris
Paris, je t’aime!

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

They connected with us via email and Facebook - giving us updates, helping with any questions, and making sure we were all where we needed to be. The optional group dinners, outings, and day trips were also really great.

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

If I had done anything differently it would have been to either pick a location closer to central London, or to not travel quite as much and really experience England. I don't regret how I spent my time though: I loved all of the places I got to see, and I loved certain aspects of my university being a little ways from the center. You pick and choose!

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

Usually I'd sleep until my classes (which I had Monday and Tuesday), get lunch with some of my friends on campus, do some schoolwork, and then depending on the night my friends and I would go to the bar on campus where they had karaoke, go to the discount club nights or the Friday night on campus "club", or just hangout and have movie nights together!

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

I basically traveled in my free time. I got to go to nine countries outside of England, and they were all beautiful, incredible, and special for their own reasons.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

The accommodation was great! We were put into halls where everyone had their own room (some with en-suites). I shared a kitchen and a bathroom with five other people. It was great! I liked having my own room because there are points where you get a little homesick and just want your own space.

Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

Take advantage of the free trips and meals, pack less than you think you'll need, travel as little or as much as you want, and you will get homesick but you will also have the most incredible time of your life.

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

The hardest part about studying abroad for me was the anxiety I faced before I left because I was going alone (which turned out to be amazing), and the wave of homesickness that hit me really late into my program. I was absolutely fine until about a month before I came home. My grandfather passed away and it was really hard to deal with that without any of my family around, but luckily I had such an amazing group of friends to be there for me in London.

What surprised you most about London?

I think what surprised me most was how big it is. Every city has different parts, but I thought New York City was big and London has 135 square miles MORE area. There is so much to see, which is amazing.

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

This isn't necessarily something I wish I had known (I really, really did my research) but I wish I put more consideration into the price of everything in London itself. It's an expensive city and you take public transportation a lot. Plan accordingly!

Budapest, Hungary

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

I would probably go to Budapest. The city was just really different and had such a cool vibe. It's definitely an underrated place to go and I'll definitely go back and spend more time at some point!

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

Meeting new people and expanding your worldview. I met so many people and learned so much from them, they absolutely changed me. 

Travelling and living in different places puts so much into perspective about how to live, think, and work.

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

Definitely pack a waterproof jacket and rain boots, but you can probably leave the umbrella at home. This is for anyone studying abroad - pack, and then take about 30% of that out! You don't need as much as you think because you're going to end up buying a few things over there and wearing the same 10 items just like you do at home - I'm serious!

Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life? 

I am constantly looking for my next adventure, even if it's close to home. I also made such amazing friends who really inspire me to work hard for the things I want, and encourage me to achieve them. I met people from all different places and backgrounds, and it really helped open up my world view.

Would you recommend CISabroad to others? Why?

Absolutely! They were so great with questions before, during, and after my program. You can always find someone to talk to when you need help, and the on-site people know what they're doing.