London_Study Abroad Blog

My name is Hannah VanEvery, and I’m going to be in London for the next year at University College London. I’m 20 years old, going into my fourth year at Iowa State, and I’m studying chemical engineering and Spanish. Outside of class, I’m a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority, several honor societies, and I work as an undergraduate research assistant. This is my second study abroad experience. I studied abroad in Spain for a semester my sophomore year and spent a semester working in petrochemicals in Houston, Texas, my junior year. I love traveling, languages, pasta, open markets, and old buildings but I’m terrified of flying and funny tasting water. This next year is going to be an adventure, and I’ll be recording it weekly so that I can share my experience with everyone back home.

Adventures in Spain

First of all, Spain was amazing!  It was everything I hoped it would be, but I’ll get back to that in a moment.  This past week I got some exciting Iowa State-related news! I have been elected the president of the Society of International Engineers for the 2014-2015 school year! I’m super excited to jump back into being involved on campus and working with all the amazing members of the society! It’s going to take some work to get up to speed on what’s been going on since the last time I was at ISU (fall 2012) but I know it will definitely be worth it!

Okay, back to Spain.  My trip started at the lovely hour of 2:45 a.m., when I woke up to catch the bus, which took me to the train, which took me to the airport where my flight left at 6:10 a.m.  It was a heck of a journey, but landing in sunny Madrid at 9 a.m. with a full day ahead of me was so exciting, I forgot how exhausted I was! I only had a few hours in Madrid before I had to catch the bus to Cáceres, so I hit some of my favorite spots.  First, I went to El Mercado de San Miguel.  It’s a huge glass building filled with little stands selling all sorts of fun foods.  Many of them are tapas (small plates) but they also have a smoothie stand, a chocolate shop and a coffee bar.  The atmosphere is just one of a kind and I love wandering around perusing the goods!  Next, I walked through La Plaza del Sol and down Gran Vía which are really beautiful architecturally.  After my walk I had to head to the bus station to get to Cáceres, where my friend from ISU was waiting for me. She’s staying with the same host family I stayed with in Spain, and it was so nice to see her!

In Cáceres we saw the medieval city, did lots of walking, ate lots of Spanish food and then went to a bull fight.  The last part was… interesting.  I’m not vegan for animal rights reasons but it was still pretty difficult to watch the matadors kill the bulls when they were done.  It’s traditional, so I was trying to keep an open mind… but I just don’t see myself as a huge bullfighting fan.  Which is fine, I’m still a massive fan of paella (Spanish rice dish) and I just love being surrounded by the language.  It’s so beautiful and fluid and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I remembered!

After such a fantastic weekend it was a little bit difficult to get back into study mode, but my finals start next week… so I’m currently studying and sleeping and that’s about it.


Easter Break Plans

This week has been a long week of making coffee and studying! I have a few more weeks like this to go, but it is nice that Easter is coming up! I don’t have really elaborate plans, but taking at least a bit of a break is on the list.  The weekend after Easter I’ll be headed to Spain to see my host family from my previous study abroad trip and I’m really excited about that!

Decisions, Decisions…

This was a big decision-making week over here in London!  For the past couple of months I had been applying to internships and I’ve been getting the same response – “We can’t hire someone who’s not going to be in America by at least the middle of May.”  The thing is – finals here go all the way through May (my last one is the 27th) so my chances of securing a ChE related job were pretty slim.  Finally, I decided that since my visa doesn’t expire until August, I’ll just stay here in London!  I’ve done summer class and research for the past three summers, and I’ve already done a full semester internship… so I don’t feel too bad about taking this summer to travel and soak up more cultures! It’ll definitely be educational, and experiencing new cultures will help broaden my perspective. I also really just love London and I’m so thrilled to be staying!

In order to fund this new life choice, I got a job at Starbucks!  I work at a location right in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is one of the biggest tourist attractions in London.  It’s shocking how often I get to use my Spanish to help people order, and it’s pretty fascinating to hear languages I didn’t even know existed!  Working there is fun and fast-paced, and it will allow me to travel without worrying about money too much, which is so nice.

After a long week of classes and training at my new job, we had a really fun girls’ night out at the disco! It was a huge old theater with a giant disco ball and balloons everywhere.  They played music from the 70s and 80s, and even though I didn’t recognize all of it I had a pretty great time dancing!

Of course I finished the week baking, making myself breakfasts to eat while I walk to work in the mornings.  This is the start of my month of studying, so I don’t feel too bad about treating myself to some sweet strawberry scones!


London Giraffes and a Bit of St. Patrick’s Day Fare

April 2, 2014

With only one week between now and freedom, it’s been a bit hard to concentrate on school work. Many of my classes this term are less computation and more theoretical, which means less coursework and more free time. I am of course learning the material, but when I can I’m also out exploring London!

On my adventures this past week I passed the London Zoo while on a run. To my surprise, I could see the giraffes from the sidewalk! The trees aren’t fully green yet, so I could see the giraffes just lounging around in their pen. It was pretty neat! Then, on another adventure I discovered a great little raw food café called Wild Foods Café, north of the Covent Garden borough of London. It smelled so good and they did all the food preparation in front of you, so overall it was a pretty fabulous experience.

For St. Patrick’s Day this past week I made rye bread, made with Guinness beer, and strawberry jam. It sounds weird, but the combination was fantastic. Toasted rye bread has a subtle caramel flavor that’s amplified by the Guinness and just goes so well with the sweetness of the strawberries!

Hopefully when school is done I will have time for some good baking and/or walking study-breaks. I’m always finding more things I want to make and more places I want to see!

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Ahh, the Joy of London Spring!

March 20, 2014

The weather in London has been absolutely amazing lately! It’s been consistently in the 60s and sunny, which has been lovely to run in! I’m still trying to go to the gym, but when the weather is this nice, it’s fairly difficult to stay indoors.

I spent a good amount of the weekend just relaxing. It included fantastic vegan pancakes, lounging in the grass at Hyde Park, seeing local churches, and seeing lots of fresh flowers. With only two weeks left of school, it’s really starting to feel like summer is close. I just have to get through a month of studying and finals, first!

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March 12, 2014

This weekend’s trip to Malta was incredible. Exhausting, but incredible.

I napped several times Thursday and then just didn’t sleep that night so I could catch the 4 a.m. train to the airport. After the plane ride, I arrived in Malta before lunch and I set out to get the lay of the land. The whole island is 17 miles long, so going anywhere doesn’t take long! Additionally, bus tickets were incredibly cheap, making the whole process pretty painless.

Along the coast there was almost zero sand, which was strange, but very logical if you remember that Malta is a volcanic island. The now-solid magma led straight to the sea, and it was quite the sight. It wasn’t exactly swimming weather, but it was still nice to be outside in the sun!

I also got to see some of the traditional Maltese food. I say “see” because basically none of it was dairy or meat-free. There was a lot of rabbit and a lot of seafood, and because of its proximity to Sicily, there was also a lot of pasta. Most had cheese of some sort on it, but I did manage to find tomato sauce, so I survived just fine.

There is a significant amount of medieval history scattered across the island. All Saturday was spent exploring the old city center or ‘citadella’ and hiking the hills along the coastline. I got to see some great views and also go through an old hospital, which is now converted into a theatre. During the middle ages it was a hospital, and then during WWII it was the entrance for the underground tunnel-bomb shelters for the people of Malta. It was really interesting to learn about the history of the site and a little bit creepy to walk along the tunnels where people once lived in hiding.

After a full weekend of sun and walking I arrived back in London on Sunday exhausted and happy. It was such a nice getaway, and now I only have three weeks left of school before our break to study for finals!

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A British Pub Quiz and Chocolate Chip Cookies

March 5, 2014

This week I attended my first ever pub quiz! Basically, you go to a pub, answer random trivia questions, and the winning group takes home a cash prize or wins a voucher for the pub. The concept is nice, but I think it’s geared toward people who know something about British politics, pop culture, or sports, of which I know NOTHING. During the whole quiz I got two questions right: one dealing with molecular weights, and one dealing with Canada. That was it. Overall, it was fun, but I feel like I’ll really need to study before I do that again!

In order to recover from the sting of losing so badly, I managed to whip up some chocolate chip and cherry cookies, which definitely helped lift my spirits.

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Visit Home and Trip Planning

February 26, 2014

Reading week was last week, and I got to spend it at home in Iowa seeing my family! Most of my time was committed to relaxing with my puppies, but I got a few other activities in too. I spent a day in Nebraska visiting my extended family, and I got to enjoy a few meals and catching up with my sorority sisters and other friends at Iowa State. The blizzard kept me inside for a day or two, but that was just fine: it gave me time to plan my trips!

I’m almost done figuring out what to do in Malta when I’m there in March, and I’m starting to figure out my Spain plans for April.

These excursions to the south were meant to give a break from the dreary weather, but it’s been remarkably nice here lately! It still rains, but the temperatures have been in the 50s and the sun has been out more recently. It really helps make London an appealing place to live.

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Yes, UK has a Chemical Engineering Sports Day

February 21, 2014

It’s been one heck of a crazy time in London lately. Last Monday and Tuesday I was in Glasgow, Scotland, for the UK’s chemical engineering sports day. I promise it’s a real thing. Lectures were cancelled. So we took a train north to Scotland where we met ChE groups from all over the UK and Ireland. Monday was spent in transit but Tuesday was spent in competition. Rugby, soccer, tennis, dodgeball and many more sports were played all over the city. When it was all said and done there was an awards ceremony which included bagpipes. The whole thing was definitely an experience… and I learned that dodgeball is not my forte.

The rest of the week was spent packing and getting ready for my week in The States. This is reading week, so since I don’t have classes I thought it would be nice to come home and see my grandpa and some of my extended family! I’m thankful that I missed a lot of the bad weather, but I’m sure I’ll get some sort of taste during my stay!

Yummy Treats and Trips to Come

February 6, 2014

For whatever reason, this past week has been a bit of a break from coursework. This meant I got to do a whole lot of baking! I made orange spice muffins and carrot bread: breakfast is definitely taken care of for the next few weeks. And then just for fun, I made mini lemon pies for a flatmate potluck we had during the week. Lately I’ve been experimenting with gluten free baking. It’s definitely doable, but since everything I make is already vegan, it becomes a little tricky.

Since it’s already February, and my time here is ticking away quickly, I’ve started to plan more trips. In March I’ll be going to Malta (an island in the Mediterranean) and in April I’m hoping to go to Spain to visit the host family I lived with during my first study abroad. Sometime before I leave I also want to get to Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Turkey, and hopefully Sweden or Norway. Many of these places are still pretty cold, so I’m waiting for warmer weather when I can walk around and not risk frostbite!

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Australia Trivia

January 27, 2014

The weekend was by far the best part of this week, partly because I finally got to rest! When school started back up again I finally decided it was time to join a gym. I’ve been going six days a week. Granted, I have no idea what I’m doing with most equipment in a gym, but biking and running really tire me out!

Last Sunday was amazing because it was Australia Day. I celebrated with my two Aussie friends at a lovely brunch and session of Australian Trivia. Everyone split into teams: New Zealand, Great Britain, and America. Competition was on to see which country knew the most about Australian history and culture. Sadly, team America lost by a long shot; mostly because we don’t know much about rugby or have anything to do with the Queen!

Aside from all the festivities, I’ve really been enjoying my Process Engineering class this term. Starting out, I thought it would be a heat transfer, thermo, MatLab kind of class. But it turns out that it’s focused completely on sustainability of industrial processes! It’s an area I’ve never focused on, so I feel like I’m learning a lot each lecture. Plus, I find it very interesting to compare what I’m learning to what I saw while I worked in industry this past spring. I have high hopes this semester will turn out to be quite enjoyable, that is, until May when my eight finals need to be taken!

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ChemCad, Flatmate Potluck

January 21, 2014

This was the first week back in classes, and somehow it still managed to be full of work in the computer lab. Because we didn’t take finals in December, some of our classes sort of rolled over into January through major end-of-class projects. A class called mass transfer operations was the major contributor to the workload this past week. I had to design, size, and cost a distillation process using ChemCad. Though it was stressful, it was also really rewarding to finally be able to combine so many chemical engineering concepts.

After a long first week, we decided to have a flat potluck dinner party to get to know our three new flatmates a little better. To my surprise, everyone made vegan dishes; so I was actually able to enjoy all the courses! We had sweet potatoes, stir fry veggies, onion pancakes, falafel, and of course I contributed an almond berry tart. It was a really great time, and we’re already planning our next get together!

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England, France, Ireland Getaways

January 13, 2014

Winter break was such a blur! First, my family came and we explored London and the surrounding area. We saw Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, Stonehenge and countless sights within London. We saw a show in one of London’s famous theaters and went on a guided walk based on Jack the Ripper. It was an exhausting and exciting trip. But my break wasn’t nearly finished. As soon as my family left, my best friend from home came to London! She and I spent a couple of nights in town, and then went to Dublin and Paris. In Dublin, we went to mass in Saint Patrick’s cathedral. In Paris we walked the 600-something steps up the Eiffel Tower. It was so nice being with my favorite people, but when it was all over I felt like I needed to sleep for about three days straight!

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Holiday Trip to Amsterdam

December 26, 2013

With my first week of freedom from school, I’ve done a lot of catching up on sleep and buying train tickets for my family. I also went on a quick trip to The Netherlands!  The 3 a.m. bus to the airport was less than enjoyable, but the rest of the trip went really well. It’s only an hour flight from London to Amsterdam, so I got to my hostel with plenty of time to explore.

The main street through downtown Amsterdam had stands set up like a German Christmas market, with odds and ends and so much food on display. I probably spent at least three hours just looking at everything. There were chocolates shaped like tools, millions of kinds of waffles, hot chocolate stands, and, of course, giant grills where you could buy all kinds of meat.

When I finally pulled myself away from all the food, I took a canal tour and walked around to see as much of the city as I could.  The buildings are all tall and thin because real estate is sold in such narrow pieces, which gives the city a really neat, doll house kind of look.  While I was on the boat tour, they pointed out an unassuming, dark green building that was the hiding place for Anne Frank and her family during World War II. I went back once I got off the boat and walked through the Frank house. It was just so amazing to be standing in a place that I’ve learned about for so many years. It was sad and silent, and I’m so glad that I went.

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Classes done: Time to holiday!

December 16, 2013

December has been crazy. Classes ended a full week before Iowa State, so yes, I’m already done. I had coursework due from every class, so even though I didn’t have finals, that last week was still a pain.

On top of all the serious things happening in during the week, it was one of the American student’s birthdays. Of course we had to celebrate!  The three American girls in chemical engineering had a girls’ night. It was a much needed break from homework and computer labs!  We saw even more of the Christmas decorations put up around London and had a wonderful time exploring Covent Garden, one of the cutest neighborhoods in London.

Now, I’m just planning my parents’ trip to Europe and looking forward to going to Amsterdam next week!  Time is just flying by; I still cannot believe Christmas is in a week and a half!

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Teaching Thanksgiving to the International Community

December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving was a huge success!  We had to pull a desk into the kitchen to make eating space since we ended up having 13 people in our kitchen made for eight.  There were eight different countries represented and every single one of them was so friendly and excited about their first ever American Thanksgiving. I made the normal things, like turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, and apple pie, but I just had to throw in something more my style. So we also ate vegan pumpkin pie made with tofu! All the food went over well, but one of my favorite parts of the night was watching everyone make their own personal handprint turkeys. The other American and I thought it would be a fun way for them to really experience Thanksgiving, since every child in America at some point makes a turkey out of construction paper. This activity also proved to be very educational! One of our guests, who shall remain unnamed, drew one of the most interesting turkeys I’ve ever seen. It had four legs and fox ears. We ended up hanging it on the wall in our kitchen because it is just so excellent.

Since Thanksgiving is now over, I can now admit that Christmas season is in full swing. The streets of London are lit and decorated with all kinds of snowflakes and lights!  It’s a little strange though, considering it probably won’t snow here, and the coldest it’s been is about 40 degrees. I really have to remind myself that it’s already December, because it feels like Iowa’s October!

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The Holidays: Planning for the Family Visit to London

November 21, 2013

This past Monday I got to see my dad again and it was, once again, a great time!  He was only in London for a couple hours, but we got to eat breakfast and chat a bit about what we’re going to do in December when the rest of the family comes over. Breakfast can be a hard thing for me since I don’t do dairy, eggs, or meat, which makes pastries pretty much off limits.  So as dad ate his eggs benedict, I drank my black coffee and we tried to brainstorm what kinds of things we should do when my mom and brother get here on Christmas Day. We have 10 whole days to fill, so I’m sure we’ll do a couple of museums, see lots of art, and do lots of walking.  I’ve been saving lots of the touristy things for when they get here, so I’m looking forward to finally seeing some of the historical parts of London!

Other than my visit with dad, last week was filled with sitting in the computer lab learning to use more computer programs I’ve never heard of before. While it was kind of dull, it was a nice excuse to do lots of cooking for sack lunches since I was staying on campus all day long. Two of my bigger efforts were pumpkin muffins and burrito bowls with quinoa. I’m trying not to exhaust myself because next week I get to make a big Thanksgiving dinner for my friends here!  I may not know much about meat, but I make a pretty decent apple pie. I’m hoping that will make up for any mistakes I make cooking poultry.

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A Teacher’s Strike, My First U.K. train ride

November 5, 2013

Striking isn’t something that happens a whole lot where I come from, so it was odd when on Thursday I walked to school past picket lines. Even more strange was that professors were on strike! Not mine of course, but I have friends whose classes were cancelled because their teachers were a part of the protest. From what I gathered, they were looking for higher wages; but since that day I haven’t heard a thing about it, so I’m unsure if the effort was successful.

After the strike, I took a little bit of break from the city and took my first train ride!  Well, first train ride in the U.K. anyways. I found platform 9 ¾ (think Harry Potter) in Kings Cross station, and it was great people watching! I must have seen 15 different people take tourist pictures with the cart. Eventually, I got on the train and it was, well, just a train. But still, it was nice to see the countryside and relax for a bit. The one thing that did catch me off guard was the large amount of wildlife inside the train stations. I saw at least one squirrel and more pigeons than I could count. They were just hanging out on the chairs, begging for crumbs and nobody really seemed to mind. It was odd, but I suppose it’s just one of those big-city things that I’m going to have to get used to!

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Impromptu European Line Dancing

October 29, 2013

This past weekend contained one of the most hilarious sights I’ve ever seen. On Saturday, I got the chance to hang out with a group of Swedish girls who were all very fascinated by the concept of line dancing. I know I’m no expert, seeing as it’s not huge in Iowa…but during my time in Houston I definitely practiced by boot-stomping skills. I tried to explain it, and even tried looking it up on YouTube, but they weren’t satisfied. So we headed to the local dance bar, where sadly there was absolutely no one dancing. Because the DJ was obviously bored, he took our request to play Cotton Eyed Joe, and I taught the girls how to do some basic line dancing! And then something magical happened. Within a few minutes, the whole dance floor was packed, and a room full of Europeans line danced their way through a good 10 minutes of country music. I don’t think I can effectively explain how wonderful and unexpected that sight was!

And on top of that classwork is finally starting to pick up. We have a reading week (a week off to study) starting November 4, so all our classes are assigning things that will be due as soon as we come back. Up until this point I have had almost no homework. It was so nice, but I suppose it is time to finally prove that I’ve been paying attention in class.

Food from afar, Oxford U

October 22, 2013

Food is normally something I’m pretty interested in, but this week it became an obsession. I already tried fish and chips… and if I’m being perfectly honest, it was just a bit bland for my taste. Plus the entire meal was monochromatic, which is something I generally try to avoid. Thankfully, London has foods from all over the world, so this week I set out to try some new (more flavorful) dishes! On Wednesday I went to a Thai restaurant in Soho, where I had some of the best red curry around. It was spicy and sweet and went perfectly with sticky rice. Then, on Friday I went to an Indian place and had some fantastic garlic naan and other vegetable dishes that I couldn’t pronounce. On the way to the restaurant I passed through Leicester Square, where a movie premiere was taking place! There were red carpets and cameras, but I was too hungry to stop and see which movie was coming out.

After a long week of school and a bit too much feasting, I decided to go to Oxford for the weekend to get out of the big city at least for a bit. There they have meadows (completely with cattle), castles, and other beautiful buildings that make up the university. Walking around Oxford was so refreshing and peaceful. I am definitely going to get back there before I leave!

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Metal music, CPR dummies

October 15, 2013

This week’s adventures were definitely dominated by the weekend. All week I had class and everything went basically as planned. Although, I did start an Italian linguistics class, which only has two other people in it. So that was a new experience. But all the real excitement started on Friday. London has a rich music scene, and since this whole trip is supposed to be about trying new things, my flatmates and I decided to try a heavy metal club. Keep in mind, I’m more of a country music fan myself, so I was basically as far out of my comfort zone as I could get. The speakers were loud and the lyrics were inaudible (as were the melodies), but overall the whole thing wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought. My ears may have been ringing for hours, but in the name of stretching my boundaries, I guess it was worth it.

Then, on Sunday, I spent seven hours of my day learning to do CPR and other basic civilian medic services through my university here. I joined a society that teaches pediatric CPR to underprivileged parents in London, but before I can participate, I obviously need to be trained.  So for most of Sunday, I practiced CPR on dummies and rolled my fellow society members into the recovery position. The one thing that really got me was that they brought baby CPR dummies stuffed in a suitcase…you just don’t see that every day.

And finally, to reward myself for going to the metal club, I went to the Kacey Musgraves concert Sunday night.  She’s a country artist from Texas, and she played at a smaller venue, so I was only probably 10 people away from her! It was an awesome show, and I was surprised to see how many country fans there were here in the U.K.!

Even though it was probably one of the most random weekends I’ve ever had, it will definitely be one to remember!

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Classes in London, Dad’s visit

October 8, 2013

Like most things on this side of the ocean, classes proved to be very different.  Many students here have classes a couple days a week; in fact one of my flatmates only has class Mondays and Tuesdays!  Of course, I have class every day, and Wednesday through Friday they start at 9 a.m. I’m trying to think of it as a positive thing that I’m not allowed to sleep in and veg out… we’ll see how that pans out. Other than the timing, the classes are set up in a very interesting fashion. They’re in two-hour blocks (with a short break between hours) and the starting times seem very flexible. To me, 9 a.m. means walking in at 9 is basically late. But here, the bulk of the class doesn’t sit down until at least 9:15! And we don’t really have any home work to do yet… I definitely have to read over the lectures again, but as far as homework goes, I have a couple of weeks before anything will be due. The absolute most interesting part of the class set up is the fact that there are no finals this semester. All of my finals for the year will be taken in May and June! This sounds horrible until you realize that we also get the entire month of April off to study. This year is definitely going to be an experience.

As interesting as class was, the highlight of my week by far would have to be a surprise visit from my dad!  He was headed to Denmark for work and had an extra-long layover in London, so I got to spend all Saturday and Sunday morning with him!  I showed him my flat and the campus and made sure he could tell my mother that I’m safe. We walked all the way down to Westminster and then all the way up to Camden, which took basically all day. The walking was definitely necessary because we also spent most of the day eating. No chocolate shop goes uninvestigated when my father and I are together. I was glad to get some of the classic touristy pictures out of the way, but mostly I was thrilled to spend time with my dad. Hopefully he’ll be able to stop over again before Christmas!

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The First Sights of London

September 30, 2013

This past week has been orientation for new British students…in other words, another week of break for me. At this point I’m very much settled, so I finally got to enjoy some sightseeing in this beautiful city!

The first big thing I saw was St. Paul’s Cathedral.  It’s part of the Church of England and sits on the highest point in the City of London. A church of one form or another has been on that spot since 604 A.D.  Obviously, what is standing there today is more modern, built after the “great fire of London.” The interior is gorgeous, but what was really cool was walking up 500-something stairs to reach the upper dome. From there, you can see the Thames and lots of the city… the smog makes it a little difficult, but what you can see is really gorgeous.

This week I also walked down along St. James’s Park, which is the oldest of the Royal Parks of London. There’s a really picturesque lake with lots of ducks just begging for some breadcrumbs, and at the very end is Buckingham Palace. It’s quite a sight, and I imagine it would be really impressive without all the tourists.  Hyde Park, on the other hand, was fairly vacant.  It’s a massive park just west of the city center, and it was awesome. So much green grass, dirt running trails, and just plain openness—it was a much needed break from the city atmosphere. Scattered among the trees are fountains and flower beds which give it a really English feel. You would probably need days to discover it all.

The last thing I saw was the Westminster area. Within 10 minutes of walking, I saw Big Ben, the London Eye and Westminster Abbey, but I didn’t go into any of them. My parents are coming in December, and I know they’ll probably want to see those things…so I’m saving them!

After all this free time I’m definitely ready to start classes. Although, I’m sure next week I’ll be wishing for more vacation!

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An Introduction to University College London

September 23, 2013

This first week in London has been such a blur. During orientation I learned so much about the school’s history; it’s really quite an amazing place! Way back when it was founded, UCL was the first school in the U.K. to allow anyone to attend, regardless of religion. Of course women still couldn’t go, but later on they were the first university to allow women! On the more peculiar side, they have the mummified body of Jeremy Bentham, a philosopher that was a big supporter of UCL, just sitting on a chair in a wooden box inside the main building on campus. I’m sure I will find more oddities around here, because this week is orientation for first-year students, and no classes are in session yet. Going back to Westminster is definitely at the top of my list!  I had breakfast over in that neighborhood with my cousin, who was in town for a day, and it was really a beautiful area.

I am very excited to get to see some art and history in my free time. I’m also looking forward to seeing what classes are like here. It seems like they spend less time in class and more time doing at-home work…I’ll find out soon I guess!  There are two other American girls here for ChE; I have no idea if we have any classes together, but it’s nice to know that they’re somewhere out there.

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September 18, 2013

After two planes and a very long taxi ride, I was sure glad to get to my flat here in London. In all fairness, the trip here was as good as I could have hoped for. I usually have small (okay, maybe pretty big) panic attacks at the thought of flying, but this time I was so exhausted from the couple of days before my trip that I didn’t even have the energy to worry. It was great.  Plus, my layover in Chicago was about 10 minutes long. There I ran from my first plane straight onto my second. Not waiting around really helped make the trip more manageable!

From my previous experience here in Europe I was expecting a shoebox-sized room and was thrilled to see that my room is actually spacious. And just plain pretty!  I have tall ceilings; I would say at least 15 feet, and a gorgeous bay window. Thing is, one of them is stuck open a little bit and the heat won’t turn on for a couple of weeks. This would be fine in Iowa, but here it’s already low 40s at night… so needless to say, I bought an extra blanket today. Other than that, I share my flat (and one functioning shower) with seven other people. There are three boys and four girls, two of which are also American. The area seems really nice; although, the sun really hasn’t come out yet. One thing we noticed is that the neighboring park has large above ground coffins lying around. We’re hoping they’re empty, but who knows.

Orientation starts soon and I’m excited to get to campus! I’ve heard it’s gorgeous and I’m looking forward to finding out for myself.


Packing tips for travel overseas

September 5, 2013

Packing for studying abroad is a lot like packing up to go back to school. You can’t forget your contacts, your favorite jeans, or your phone charger … but when studying abroad you also have to try to fit your life into a bag that weighs 70 pounds or less. Luckily, this is my second study abroad experience, so this time around I’m much less worried about what to bring.

When in doubt, I have a few pre-trip reminders to help prevent some classic study-abroad mistakes.

1) Do ALL your paperwork on time.  Visas are serious business, and being deported would be quite the buzzkill.

2) A converter is not the same thing as an adapter. Not only are the plugs different in Europe, but the the voltage is different too (U.S. outlet voltage is 100-127, while European outlet voltage is 220-240). You want to have a converter/adapter (it’s one handy all-in-one object) to keep your favorite gadgets from melting.

3) Don’t worry about the food. On your way to finding new culinary delights you may run across something unappetizing, but it’s just another part of the journey! Also, bringing your own peanut butter may be tempting, but if you’re anything like me, you won’t have any room to spare in your suitcase anyways.

I leave for London in two weeks. In the meantime I’m enjoying my last days with the corn and Campanile! Being in Europe again is going to be amazing, but Iowa is pretty neat too, and I know I’ll miss it while I’m gone.

Hannah VanEvery_Study Abroad Blog 090513