I have officially been living in London for over two months! There’s part of me that feels like I’ve lived here forever now, but it also feels like I got here just yesterday. At the beginning of my time here, I was caught up seeing new sights and meeting new people. It was certainly a whirlwind, but now I’m feeling more settled into a routine with my classes and how I spend my free time. Despite having a more established routine, every day here is so different. The IES Abroad classes give us so many incredible opportunities to explore the city and have experiences we may not have had otherwise. We spend a lot of time outside of the classroom, which keeps the classes engaging and exciting. This past Monday, I had such a nice day coming back from Scotland, attending my “Censored! What the British Could Not See” course, and spending some time on my own enjoying London. If you’re wondering what a typical weekday in the life of a London study abroad student looks like, follow along below…
You may be wondering why I started my Monday morning waking up at 4:00 a.m. I know I mentioned having a good routine, but I wouldn’t say this is always part of it. Over the weekend, I was actually visiting my family in Scotland, and I was able to fly back Monday morning before my classes. I had such a lovely weekend seeing family I hadn’t seen since before the pandemic, so I woke up in a good mood. I kicked off my day by getting an Uber to the Glasgow airport from my cousin’s apartment, and jetting off back to London. The flights within the UK are always so much more relaxed than your average flight, so it was pretty stress free and I had time to sleep on the plane. I would recommend that if you are studying abroad, make sure to get plenty of sleep before and after weekends that you spend traveling. It is exciting to have access to cheaper flights within Europe, but the travel burnout is real.
At 7:00 a.m., I landed in London at the Luton Airport. Something I didn’t know before studying abroad was how far ALL of the airports are from central London. Even though you can get to Heathrow by taking the tube, I’ve found that most cheap flights fly in and out of Stansted, Gatwick, and Luton. To get back to my apartment from the airport, I took a shuttle bus to the Luton train station, which took me directly to St. Pancras International. Conveniently, St. Pancras is just one tube stop away from where I live.
When I got back to my apartment, I took a quick nap to catch up on sleep. After waking up, I walked over to the nearest Pret to get myself a coffee and a croissant. The weather in London has FINALLY started to get warm and sunny, so I’ve been making an effort to get outside more throughout the day. There is something comforting about rainy London, but I do think that it’s important to get some sunshine every once in a while.
On Mondays I have my “Censored! What the British Could Not See Course” at 1:30 p.m. This day was particularly exciting, because we were going to see the Harry Potter Photographic Exhibition in Covent Garden. I’ve always been a huge Harry Potter fan, so I had been looking forward to this class for a while. We walked through the exhibition and learned more about the process behind filming the movies. We were also able to see some props and clothes that were used by the actors. At the end of the exhibition, we got to sit at the cafe and drink some delicious butterbeer while working with our groups on an upcoming presentation.
After leaving class, I walked to a Pret across the bridge by the Waterloo station to send some emails and get some work done. I try to start my week with a good work session so I don't have to worry about certain tasks later in the week. I feel like all of us IES Abroad London students are at a Pret at LEAST twice a day, but you really do learn to love it. I got my usual oat cappuccino to help me focus, and I worked for a couple hours.
I was feeling hungry, so I decided to try out a new Mexican place by the London Bridge. Something I absolutely love about living in a city is that you never run out of restaurants and cafes to go to. The food was amazing, and I was able to call one of my good friends back home while I was at the restaurant. The time difference can be difficult at times, but I’ve been able to make it work so I can keep in touch with all of my friends back home.
Even though I did have an early morning, the weather was too nice to pass up a scenic walk. I started by crossing the London Bridge, which is absolutely beautiful at night. There were incredible views of the buildings and of the Tower Bridge in the distance. I hadn’t talked to my parents all day, so I gave them a call to tell them about my trip and our class field trip. I didn’t feel very homesick at the beginning of the program, but I do find myself missing my parents more and more as time goes on. After saying goodbye to them, I continued my walk past St. Paul’s Cathedral. I debated taking the tube the rest of the way home, but I decided just to walk since it was warmer outside. The walk was long, but I find that walking is the best way to see and understand a city.
When I got back to my room, I texted some of my friends in the program to make some plans for the following night. London is a great place for nightlife, but it is unlike the U.S. in the way that going out on weekdays is much more common. It sometimes even seems like it’s busier on weekdays than weekends. My exhaustion finally set in by the end of the day, so I went to bed early. I have a 10:00 a.m. class on Tuesday mornings, so I usually try to get plenty of sleep on Monday nights.
It can be hard to find the perfect balance between school, traveling, and socializing while abroad. I do find that every day is a little bit different, but that’s the beauty of living in such a big city with so much to offer. I never run out of places to explore, and I’m always finding new places to spend time. I knew before coming abroad that I would love London, but I can say now that it’s really starting to feel like home.
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<p>Hi there! My name is Helena Haynes and I’m a third year student at Penn State University majoring in Advertising with minors in Information Sciences & Technology and Digital Media Trends & Analytics. I love being involved on campus with things I’m passionate about, and I’ve had the opportunity to serve as President of the Advertising/Public Relations Club, Research/Strategy Co-Lead for our advertising competition team, and as a Print Writer for VALLEY Magazine, a life and style magazine here at Penn State. In my free time you can find me cooking, watching Sex and the City, or spending way too much time on LinkedIn. I’m so excited to be studying abroad in London this semester and I can’t wait to explore the city and learn more about the culture. I hope you follow along on my journey with me!</p>