Taylor Rea - 2015 Program Participant

Red phone booth in London, England

Quintessential London shot

How did you decide to study abroad?

I always knew I wanted to study abroad because the opportunity to truly live, study, and experience a city for more than a visit is an experience that I probably won't have many chances to do. I decided to apply for an international program because the ones offered directly through my home school did not charter to where I wanted to go and what I wanted to study. My school has really strong summer abroad programs, but I knew I wanted to go to central London for a semester.

Why did you choose IES Abroad for your international experience?

I decided on my specific program for a number of reasons. First, I only heard great reviews from friends who went through IES Abroad and their website definitely was easy to navigate and answered a lot of my beginning questions when I first started doing research.

Second, the dates of the program fit my academic and financial needs the best (I went abroad in the spring). The program ended with enough time for me to still take a summer course at my home university, if need be, and gave me plenty of time to find a summer internship and job, as opposed to other programs that wouldn't have been as easy to do so.

Thirdly, the classes available all sounded fantastic and many did not have restrictions as to who could take them or pre-reqs. Finally, the program's field trips and the opportunities to take a course at an outside University and hold an internship was definitely something that I really liked.

Students in front of BBC News Center in England

Class field trip to the BBC News Center

What was your favorite part about London?

One of my favorite parts about living in London was the accessibility and efficiency of the city's public transportation systems. Although the city is very large, being able to utilize the Tube and buses made the city feel less overwhelming. Everyone on my program downloaded "City Mapper" and the app lays out how to best travel from Point A to Point B, with all forms of public transportation taken into consideration. The app was great when we were first learning how to navigate London, but once you finally reach the point of confidence to guide yourself, that's the coolest feeling.

What makes the IES Abroad London program unique?

My program was unique because we weren't directly enrolled in an university, but instead my program had a building where professors from all over the city came to teach classes. At first, I thought this would "hinder" my abroad experience, but this dynamic ended up truly making it. I was able to get to know so many more people on my program, because we were all together and the resources available were for us to enhance our abroad experience.

Everyone at the IES Abroad office was working to help us transition easily and how to take full advantage of our time abroad, they really made London feel smaller and much more personal.

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

I'm a notorious over-packer, so I knew this going in, and even with all my many attempts beforehand of unpacking and repacking, I still wish I hadn't brought as much. My room was small and I ended up just wearing the basics and my "favorite" pieces most of the time; but then again, it's hard to pack for an experience you're not quite sure what to expect.

Burger and chips at a pub in London, England

Typical London pub food

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

I would wake up, eat breakfast, and get ready for class. I would meet my friends downstairs and we usually got coffee as we walked to class. IES Abroad has three class times throughout the day, so for me, except for one day, I only had a class a day and most days it was the morning slot. After class, I would either eat at the IES Abroad Center while studying or I headed home to eat and do errands (laundry, emails, grocery shopping, etc.).

I can't study in my room, so later in the afternoon I would walk down to the cafe or the British Library to do research for papers or homework. Other times, I would go running or explore new areas with friends. There were definitely days that I just hung in my room watching Netflix, but I tried my best to go do "something" everyday. Depending what I did for lunch swayed what I did for dinner, but after dinner was usually when my friends and I would meet up and get ready to go out.

Each day and week was a little different depending on how much work I needed to do, whether I was traveling that weekend or not, but that's a fairly typical day!

In what ways did the local IES Abroad staff support you throughout your program? 

The IES Abroad staff was so supportive and kind throughout my program. Everyone was incredibly welcoming, understanding, and truly wanted us to have the best experience we could. We received weekly emails that covered everything from upcoming events, to advisor highlights, and safety awareness guides. Each one also had numerous suggestions, tips, and hints about London, either in general or that particular week. Even though we were all extremely jet-lagged during orientation, the material and advice IES Abroad provided were pieces I relied on throughout my time in London and answered so many of my questions. The IES Abroad staff also worked to provide us with day-trips and outings around the city that were really fun, and I definitely encourage everyone to take advantage of them. IES Abroad did such a wonderful job of making sure every student was accommodated and comfortable and they really enhanced my abroad experience.

Study abroad students near Big Ben in London, England

Amazing friends who made abroad so special

What did you enjoy doing on your free time?

I loved exploring London and it was so much fun to enjoy the city on the weekends. Traveling was amazing, but I really came to appreciate and looked forward to the weekends when I was able to sleep late, attend weekend markets, go out to dinner, walk around a new area, get a head start on the week ahead, hang out with new people on my program, etc. My friends and I loved the markets all around London and the weekend was such a great time to enjoy them all. Once the weather got nice, we just stayed outside virtually all day and that was so much fun.

Where did you live during your time in London? What did you like about your housing?

We lived in a big student living complex. The complex was kind of a marriage between a traditional dorm and apartment, and it housed my program along with many other students and programs. Everyone shared a room, but we had our own bathroom, and each floor had a shared kitchen and eating space. Our living complex also had a gym, laundry facilities, and a little cafe that was great for studying and hanging out. I really loved our accommodations because everyone in my program was together and it was nice to cook dinner with friends, come home all together, study late, meet downstairs to walk to class, etc.

How was studying abroad in London impacted your life?

My time abroad was such an amazing and rewarding experience. I really matured and changed as a person, and it made me look forward to the future and possibilities. My program introduced me to so many cultural facts and on-goings, and my classes were very interesting and quite different from my home university, so I really enjoyed the learning atmosphere. Everyone on my program was really cool and we all got along well. I think about London every day and can only say how amazing my time there was because of the opportunities, guidance, encouragement, and passion that my program provided.