MaryAnna Krewson - 2015 Program Participant

View of London from The London Eye

On one of my last days in London, I rode the Eye, a quintessential tourist attraction.

What inspired you to study abroad?

To be honest, I was having a pretty rough time emotionally at my home university and wanted a break from campus life. Studying abroad was just what the doctor ordered!

Why did you choose to study abroad in London? What was your favorite part about it?

I chose London because there was no language requirement. London is so full of activity and culture! I loved meeting people from all over the world, trying out international restaurants, and just riding all around the city to museums or parks or stores.

What surprised you most about London?

I had always associated London with the Royal family and the typical tourist attractions, such as Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. But as I explored the dozens of different boroughs, the London I came to know and love was much grittier than I imagined, which I enjoyed more! From the homeless people to the miles of underground rail lines to ongoing construction in different areas, London wasn't just what they portray on the postcards.

Speaking of construction, London is constantly changing and developing. The juxtaposition of buildings thousands of years old (Tower of London) to modern (The Shard) is pretty profound. As you walk around the city, you'll constantly be struck with the amalgamation of old and new.

What components of your program made it unique?

The program's studies were focused on exploring the city and integrating with the culture. Most classes took field trips in and outside the city multiple times during the semester, where we were able to apply learning to real life.

How did the local IES Abroad staff support you throughout your program?

All the staff were very helpful and knew answers to all your questions. They sent out reminder emails, left their office doors open, and made sure we made the most out of our time in London.

What's one thing you wish you would have done during your time in London?

Tried more things out of my comfort zone!

What was a typical day like for you as an international student in London?

Wake up, breakfast, ride the bus to class, class time, stop at the store for food, dinner, study at a local coffee shop or library, and hang out in the dorm lounge. Most nights, I would usually have something going on, such as choir rehearsal, Bible study, or a meal with a friend at a local restaurant.

Sunny park in London, England

As the warm weather arrived, the parks were absolutely lovely

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?

We lived in an international student dorm. I loved meeting people from all around the world who were able to challenge my perspectives on life.

What are some things you enjoyed doing in your free time?

Pillow fight in Trafalgar Square, musicals in the theater district, and eating at international restaurants.

What was the hardest part about studying abroad in London?

One of the hardest parts was feeling out of place with my fellow Americans at times. Program orientation brought back memories of being a freshman at college all over again. Leaving close friends and family back home forced me to endure the tediousness of small talk (my pet peeve, ha!) with brand new faces. But it was a shared experience for all of us, and with time, I found who I clicked with. I actually only had a few close friends within the actual IES Abroad program, but found kindred spirits in the activities I participated in outside the program.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad in England?

One thing I really appreciated that the program staff told us during orientation was to "not put any pressure on the experience." There would be days we'd loved being in London, and days we would hate it, and that was all part of the experience. As I think back, most of the sweet memories are coming to mind, but there were days like any other that I felt sad or lonely, or bored or off in some way. I'm so thankful I had those words of wisdom with me as I started because it set a tone for my time there.

One of my friends also reminded me not to compare my experience to anyone else's. You choose how you want to experience study abroad, whether that be studying, clubbing, traveling, shopping, meditating, running, whatever! Even one of the girls in the program had to leave after a month due to anxiety and homesickness, but that was her story and she still learned from her few weeks there.

Everyone's journey is different and study abroad will affect everyone in a different way.

So not just for England, but in general, one thing to remember before studying abroad is to realize that it will definitely be different than your expectations, in both good and bad ways! Enjoy the journey and savor each day as you would want to, and not in relation to another person.

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

Before I left, my sister told me to pack light so that I had more room to bring home things from London. So true! I'm not a big shopper, or spender actually, but there was always places to shop and it was fun to buy new clothes in London stores. So definitely pack on the lighter side, and as budget allows, pick up some things that are only available in England/Europe.

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

I was so blessed to study abroad in London for a semester. The experience challenged me as a person in a broad range of areas: socially, academically, and vocationally.

Socially, I loved meeting new international friends outside the program, in my student dorm, the local gospel choir, my sister's church, a London faith-based group, and just strangers I'd run into on the street and Tube!

Academically, the classes were brilliant and allowed me to study subjects, such as art, architecture, and marketing, that I didn't have the time to take back at my home university.

Vocationally, my eyes were opened to the numerous homeless people living in London, and my interactions and conversations with them has deepened my desire to work with that demographic in the future.

Overall, London became my second home, and I'm so thankful for IES Abroad allowing me the privilege of studying abroad and growing as a person because of the places and people I knew there.

The Tube in London, England

I loved hopping on the Tube everyday to travel anywhere in the city!

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

Learning from people different from you. I loved my classes and activities, but what I took home from studying abroad was the conversations I had with homeless people on the streets, strangers on the Tube, professors in coffee shops, fellow IES Abroad students, international students in the dorm, and friends outside the program.

Studying abroad in a new city allowed me to make mistakes, learn from them, have my worldview challenged by those who had grown up in entirely different cultures, grow from the advice and love of others, and so much more.

I believe that semester in London really solidified some aspects of my personality and dreams for the future, but also spurred me to change and mature in areas where I'd been blind-sighted.

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

Ever since I studied it in high school, I've found Spanish to be a beautiful language. I'm trying to work up the courage now to spend a gap year after graduation in a Spanish-speaking country, perhaps Mexico or Costa Rica. I would love to be fluent someday, and at this point it will take some immersion to get me to that place. Other parts of Latin American culture are fascinating as well; their perspective on time, the food, the dancing!

Would you recommend IES Abroad in London to other students?

Yes! The program was very well-organized and designed. Before I left, the Chicago staff helped me over the phone with the different forms and requirements, and the staff at the London base were excellent and always ready to offer advice and guidance to make the most of our experience.