Steven Fishman - 2015 Program Participant

Crossing Abbey Road in London, England

Walking along the famous Abbey Road

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

I wanted to apply for an international program because I knew I may never get another opportunity to travel to another country and take in its culture.

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

I attended the IES Abroad London program to see if I would want to live there later on in my life. I'm going into business and part of the field is based heavily in London, so I wanted to see if I would be comfortable living there in the long run. After my study abroad program, I can safely say that I would love to go back and live in London.

What was your favorite part about the location of your program?

My favorite part about my location was the Tube station three blocks from where we were living. We lived in King’s Cross, right near the King’s Cross Station. Besides holding the famous platform 9 3/4, King’s Cross is a hub for most of the tube lines going through central London. As such, I could get almost anywhere from that station, allowing me to easily travel throughout London.

In your opinion, why was your program unique?

I think my program was unique because it felt hand crafted for each student participating. I heard horror stories about other study abroad experiences where students were sent to unsafe areas in their host countries or were given too much work to take in everything the host country had to offer. At the beginning of this program I was able to choose what classes I would take and what days I would attend class, giving me a great balance between my academics and my ability to travel, one of my main goals of studying abroad.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The local staff was incredible because they were available 24/7. Whether you needed help getting around town or someone to talk to because you really missed home, the local staff was not only available, but they were happy to help with anything a student needed.

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

I wish someone would have told me that London streets are not laid out like streets in America. When most Americans think of streets and addresses, they often think of numbers being prominent on buildings and street names being displayed on signs on the street corners. This assumption got me lost during my first two weeks while studying abroad. Numbers on the building are hidden and the street names are on the side of buildings. Additionally, they are often not illuminated, so make sure to map out exactly where you’re going before leaving. I suggest citymapper, that app saved my life more times than I can count.

Statue in Berlin, Germany

Standing in front of statues in the Square in Berlin

Do you have any regrets?

Looking back, there's not much that I didn't accomplish while I was there. However, I do regret not visiting Paris. France was under high terror alerts at the time so I had traveled to several other countries instead; but because it was so easy to take a train from London to Paris, I still wish I had gone, if only for a day.

Describe a day in the life of your program. 

The great thing about this program is that it's so hard to explain a typical day, because each day can be whatever you want it to be. You have almost complete autonomy and freedom when it comes to your program experience. But the most typical day for me would include waking up and eating breakfast with some friends while we watched the BBC to get caught up on the day's activities, attending class, and either hanging out with friends, going out to dinner, going to see a play, or really anything that we wanted to do.

What did you like doing on your free time outside of your scheduled program activities and courses?

My favorite part of London outside of the common schedule was going to the park on the weekends when I didn't visit other countries and playing pick up soccer with the locals. Everyone was eager to include anybody who wanted to play and it was an incredible experience.

What surprised you most about London?

The most surprising thing about London was its public transportation system. I live in New York where the trains, subways, and buses are usually dreaded by locals. I assumed the same was true for London, but when I got there, I was shocked at how smoothly and efficiently everything was run. I lived in King’s Cross which was a hub for most of central London, so it was a nice change of pace to be able to reliably travel anywhere I wanted to go.

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

My advice is to pack light and bring two suitcases if possible. One suitcase should be filled with your essentials and the other should be almost empty, so that you have adequate room to take home souvenirs, which I guarantee you’ll want. There’s often room to store two suitcases, but there’s not a lot of closet space. This is fine because you won’t need it.

London is very different from the U.S. While it is a fashionable city, very rarely will you see people wear completely different outfits every day. That being said, try to pack comfortable clothes that show off your style. There’s often a stereotype of the “lazy college student” who walks around campus in t-shirts and pajama pants. This isn’t really seen in London and may alienate you from their culture. Another thing to avoid are sneakers, or tennis shoes. They’re good for running and exercise, but very few local people will be wearing sneakers.

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

We lived in a "student living center" which is a cross between a dorm and an apartment complex. Each person roomed with another person in the program which helped build relationships from the start. My favorite part about the building I lived in while in London was all of the common space it had, giving us ample space to study and hang out.

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

To me, the hardest part about studying abroad was keeping up with everything that was going on at home. I loved London and I always tried to live in the moment, but you can’t help but miss the small things, like seeing all your friends on a weekend or being involved in your fraternity. I got through it and I had an amazing time, but I’d be lying if I said I never missed home.

White Hart Lane Stadium in London, England

Come On You Spurs - A great day to watch a Tottenham game

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

The biggest benefit to studying abroad has to be getting out of your comfort zone. We often live in a bubble, whether it’s self-imposed by only choosing organizations that fit our interests, or made for us by our geographic location and culture.

Often times we forget that there’s an entire world outside of our comfort zone and it takes one step to reach that world. I think studying abroad opens the door for you to make the decision to go out into the world and break away from normal, mundane lives we live.

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

The program impacted me by opening my eyes to the world around me. In America, it becomes easy to only focus on our country and our problems. But even in London, I wasn't just exposed to the issues and news of my host country. Throughout my time in London I learned more about the world than I ever did back in the U.S.

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

If I could study abroad again, I think I’d go to Barcelona. I visited there during my midterm break because it was the week of my birthday and I’ve always wanted to go to Spain. I loved London and the education I got there was incredible, but there’s something about the Barcelona night life that’s incredibly hard to explain. It has an alluring charm to both foreigners and locals, making for some interesting nights out.

Would you recommend IES Abroad to other students?

I would and have recommended IES Abroad to other students. The experience I received while abroad is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. It has given me great friends and incredible stories, and if I can convince one person to take that leap of faith and go off to study in another country, I’ll know that I have given someone the gift that I am always so thankful for.