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28 March, 2016

Striking the Balance Between Exploring and Traveling - Guest Post - Erika Olsen

When I was first accepted to the Ithaca College London Center for Spring of 2016, I could not have been more excited. I immediately began writing a list of all the countries I wanted to visit and what I wanted to see in each. I knew I wanted to see Vienna (thanks, Billy Joel), but also the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland and who could skip on trying a German pretzel? My list also included Glasgow, Amsterdam, Venice, Brighton, Prague, Norway, Paris, Edinburgh, and many others.

However, as I sat down to write out my calendar, I realized that I would have to shrink my list; I slowly started to realize how short the semester really is, and recognized that, while I really wanted to travel through Europe, I also wanted to see and experience London. I slowly started to cut down my travel list to what was really important to me and wrote out a list of things I wanted to do in London and the surrounding area, such as touring the BBC Broadcasting Centre and exploring Harrods. Slowly, my weekends started to fill up and eventually, I was satisfied with the balance I had reached between traveling and seeing the city I’m living in.

I have already been to Amsterdam, Bath, Wells, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest and have trips planned for Edinburgh, Paris, Nice, and Stratford. I am also looking forward to making a day trip out to Liverpool to see the birthplace of my favorite band, the Beatles. Through my classes and my own curiosity, I will be visiting more museums and palaces, such as the Victoria & Albert Museum and Buckingham Palace, and spending time at my favorite markets, including Brick Lane and Borough Market.

While the allure of traveling through Europe and spending the weekends country-hopping is truly tempting, I think it is important for anyone studying abroad to experience their temporary home. London is a city rich in history and culture and definitely has some hidden gems lying in its markets and winding streets. While I am already more than halfway through my time here, I am excited to make the most of the upcoming weeks traveling and spending time exploring all that London has to offer. 

21 March, 2016

Traveling To Expand - Guest Post - Dillon Watson

Traveling To Expand

            So many times I get caught up in the rush of travelling that I forget to stop and look deeper than my immediate surroundings. In this day and age, travelling can easily become an impartial experience. People are constantly racing around the world just to see as many attractions as possible in the shortest amount of time. There are many benefits and bragging rights to be earned by doing this, but what does it actually accomplish on a deeper level? People are having more and more trouble living in the moment because of the overuse and competition associated with social media. It’s everywhere. From concerts to political rallies to art museums and to national parks, people are getting taken away from the free flowing natural world and are being brought to their safe, planned out, two dimensional platforms.

            As travelers of the world we have to realize how this holds us back. The possibilities if one is able to break free from the restrictions of craving likes on an Instagram picture are endless. When all someone wants to do is get that one clich√© picture in every city they visit, they are not actually going to see the real city. You have to dig deeper, meet people, and experience the culture instead of observing it from afar.

            The main way you can help yourself dig deeper while traveling is by planning less. Planning is a magnificent thing that helps a vacation go smoothly, but I feel as though too much planning in my recent travels has held me back. Just last month I found myself in the streets of Barcelona running around from monument to monument in a feverish fashion trying to cram in as much as possible. It was cool to see so many amazing architectural buildings, but as I left I realized that in comparison to my other, more laid back visit to Athens, I accomplished less.

            By putting yourself on a strict schedule, the unexpected, spontaneous moments that make life so worth living do not occur. It is important while traveling that people open up their peripheral vision and let their surroundings flow into their lives. As I make my way around the world, I like to think of myself as a droplet of water, ready to make my splash, and instantly become one with the land. A droplet of water may be able to choose when or where it falls out of the sky, but it does not control what happens once it hits the ground. All it knows about its future is that it is going to create and expand life.


11 February, 2016

How to Vote in the 2016 U.S. Elections from the UK - Guest Post - Anna Doherty

Hello Everyone!!
This year is very exciting for many reasons, but particularly because we get to engage in one of the great steps of our democracy, voting for the next president! As you know, this year we are going to elect a new president. Now while the general election is in November, the primaries are upon us. As you might have noticed, we are currently living in England and therefore we are not able to find a physical place for us to go and vote on the date of our states’ primaries. But don’t let that discourage you! I have done my research and plan on helping all of you make sure your vote counts. The primaries are extremely important and every vote matters, so make sure your voice is heard.
To begin, if you want to check your registration status you can look yourself up at this link
Sorry if you live somewhere where the voting has already occurred. Also check the primary schedule because some state’s primary voting occurs after the London program ends.
Did you know that many U.S. elections for the House and Senate have been decided by a margin smaller than the number of ballots cast by absentee voters? All states are required to count every absentee ballot as long as it is valid and reaches local election officials by the absentee ballot receipt deadline.
Follow a few simple steps to make sure that you can vote in the 2016 U.S. elections:
1.     Request Your Ballot: If you are not residing in the U.S. currently (us) you have to let the government know where you are living! Complete a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA).  The completion of the FPCA allows you to request absentee ballots for all elections for federal offices (President, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House of Representatives) including primaries and special elections during the calendar year in which it is submitted. The FPCA is accepted by all local election officials in all U.S. states and territories. 
You can complete the FPCA online at FVAP.gov.  The online voting assistant will ask you questions specific to your state. They encourage you to ask your local election officials to deliver your blank ballots to you electronically (by email, internet download, or fax, depending on your state).  Include your email address on your FPCA to take advantage of the electronic ballot delivery option.  Return the FPCA per the instructions on the website.  FVAP.gov will tell you if your state allows the FPCAto be returned electronically or if you must submit a paper copy with original signature.
Great job on step one! The next step is even more exciting (it includes actually voting!).
2.     Receive and Complete Your Ballot: States are required to send out ballots 45 days before a regular election for federal office and states generally send out ballots at least 30 days before primary elections.  For most states, you can confirm your registration and ballot delivery online.
Ballots are generally mailed out only 30 days before primary, special and run-off elections. Depending on your state and your status abroad, you may receive absentee ballots for all elections or abbreviated ballots for elections for federal offices only. 
Overseas voters have a number of options for returning voted ballots:
·       Local mail   If you have good mail service to the United States, put your ballot in the mail with appropriate international postage.
·       U.S. Embassy Pouch/APO/FPO   You can drop off your ballot request or voted ballot at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for return to the United States, or you can have someone drop it off for you.  It must be addressed to your local election officials and have sufficient postage or be in a postage-paid envelope. A postage-paid envelope is available on the FVAP web site.  Contact the voting assistance officer or visit the Embassy website for specific instructions.
·       Fax, Email, or Internet  A number of states now allow the electronic return of voted ballots.  Consult the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s Voting Assistance Guide for electronic transmission options for your state.
·       Express Courier Service   If time is short or local mail is unreliable, you can use professional courier services such as FedEx, DHL, or UPS. NOTE:  FedEx does not deliver to P.O. boxes.
You did it! You made your decision! Congrats on voting. Maybe make a fake “I Voted” sticker and wear it around and confuse some people.
I hope you all do some rigorous research on the candidates before making your decision! Voting is very exciting. If you have any questions feel free to email me at adohert1@ithaca.edu

29 January, 2016

A Day Trip To Dover - Guest Post - Suzanne Fitzgerald


A Day Trip To Dover




If you’re looking for a day trip outside London, I highly recommend the White Cliffs of Dover. They’re only about 2 hours away by bus or train, and if you leave early in the morning you have the whole day to explore. I originally arrived in Ramsgate, which is about half an hour North of Dover. Ramsgate is an adorable little sleepy seaside town that is great to wander around. The journey to Dover is so beautiful and you pass through many little towns that might be worth stopping to explore.





Once you get to Dover, it’s a little hard to figure out how to actually get to cliffs because there are not that many signs to direct you where to go. The roads are very old and bumpy so if you are traveling by car make sure your car is in good shape! I had to walk a little ways along the top of one cliff to make my way down to the beach. Once down on the very pebbly beach, the cliffs are so incredibly gorgeous. They are shockingly white (I don’t know what I was expecting). I never knew rocks could be that pristine! The town of Dover itself is quaint and very nice.

Overall, a day trip to the White Cliffs of Dover is definitely worth it! 

04 November, 2015

City - Guest Post - Liam Whalen

Liam Whalen

City

I have never spent so much time in a city. I am constantly aware of the presence of others when I walk on the street at all times of day. The streets are long and intersect in an endless web that seems to go on forever. It is inviting at first, creating endless possibilities in my mind. There is energy that feels like something extraordinary could happen at any moment. There are lights and signs for food, drink and entertainment elsewhere. Shows, shopping and travel gleam in the eyes of newcomers. Everything is accessible to those who can afford it. After weeks of routine and exploration I find repetition that simulates peace. I take the same streets constituting an eight-minute walk from home to class.  

                Then I find out there is nowhere to hide. Solitude is not welcome in the city where the day is never done and work never ceases. Sounds from outside invade even the most closed and airtight spaces. Neighbours are present on all sides making themselves a part of your business. I try to take walks at night to feel at home and channel the tranquility of a simpler place. All I hear are sirens and cars flashing by. I feel the smoke of a thousand cigarettes burn my throat and eyes as I walk towards Brompton Cemetery. It is the one quiet place I have found where no one dares to yell or talk too loudly. They have locked the gates by the time I get there, but I can see the domed building in the centre and wish I could sit on the steps for a while by myself.

                I see people suffer the effects of the city far worse than me. I see a man on the street one night as I am walking back from Notting Hill. His legs are wrapped in a dirty blanket and his back rests on a newspaper stand. He sits on a bed of Evening Standards from that day to stay dry. His hat is askew and his hands are buried in the pockets of his worn and faded black jacket. He looks at the ground with a blank expression, waiting for commuters to cross his path on the sidewalk. I realize I have passed him by before and remember that I haven’t given him a single penny. I reach in my pockets, knowing I have nothing but my keys and tube card. I dread passing and receiving a look of disappointment. He asks in a whisper as men and women stride by without a moment’s hesitation. I look at him and nod. An attempted apology and sympathy all in one, definitely not what he was hoping for.

                I see men and women on the tube with packets of tissues and umbrellas they are trying to sell. They hold signs talking about their starving family and rarely speak. When they do speak, it is quiet and they never share eye contact. If they receive no response they move on or just stare ahead solemnly. Women sit outside of stations on cardboard with hoods and coffee cups. I am surprised by how many people I see on the streets walking home from internship gigs and night walks. I only have small change to give.

                I hear the sound of hammers and drills on the roof as I wake up every morning. They have been working my building for about three weeks and there a no signs of completion in sight. The construction crew set up scaffolding outside of my window yesterday. I enjoy living here, but I am constantly reminded about the bitter realities of the city environment. I have it far better than many who live here, but I miss simple pleasures of home. I miss the sound of crickets, the quiet of a lazy afternoon with no obligations, complete dark and stillness at night, feeling clean after wandering in nature and seeing the faces of friends and family.


23 October, 2015

Survival Guide - Guest Post - Francesca Esce



Survival Guide: 9 Tips to Surviving a Night in the Airport

by Francesca Esce

If you are spending a semester abroad, chances are, you’ll have to take a plane or two; unless there’s a group boat trip across the Atlantic that was organized by the Office of International Programs that I wasn’t filled in on. There’s also a good chance that you will become more acquainted with flight while in Europe, or wherever else you might be studying. Cheap flights within Europe, for example, are much easier to come by than cheap flights within the United States. With apps like Hopper and Skyscanner, it’s easy to find the best deals to shell out some dough to get to a place you’ve always wanted to go. In fact, just last week for Fall Break, I visited 3 amazing European cities in 6 days. Which, by default, means I was on 4 flights in 6 days. Which means, coincidentally, I spent a lot of time in airports. The unfortunate truth is that often times, the more flights you take, the greater probability there is of something going wrong and perhaps leaving you no choice but to sleep overnight in the airport. Maybe the coach bus (*cough* National Express *cough*) you booked a ticket for was an HOUR AND A HALF LATE and you missed your flight to ROME, so you had to pay an extra £50 to spend 16 HOURS in LUTON AIRPORT instead of the cozy AIRBNB THAT YOU BOOKED IN THE HEART OF ROME and MAYBE NATIONAL EXPRESS WOULDN’T EVEN GIVE YOU A REFUND…(ok, calm down, Chessie.) Anyway, there’s always a chance that this may happen to you, so here’s some tips that I’ve picked up that might help you stay sane for whatever amount of time you may have to spend in an airport.

1.    Set-Up Camp
If you don’t have enough room in your luggage for a pop-up tent or a hammock of some sort, I’d recommend taking the time to scan the airport for the comfiest chairs you can find. This will be key. Don’t be afraid to lurk around seats that are already occupied, you are going to want to comfy chairs. Chances are, you will be at the airport longer than whoever is currently occupying the chair, and you will be able to snag it as soon as they get up. Finders keepers. Once you’re in the chair, mark your territory. This chair is yours now. Maybe even hiss at passerby so they know not to mess with you and your chair.




PRO-TIP: Combine two chairs into a bed for maximum comfort.  

2.  Find An Outlet (And Protect It With Your Life)
In a small airport like London Luton, wall outlets are like a watering hole. All the unlucky people who would rather spend the night at the airport than stay at a cheap hotel are gonna want an outlet at some point. Be warned: if you have your chair-bed set up near an outlet, chances are you will befriend 3 Italian men, one of which only speaks Italian and keeps talking to you in Italian even though you literally cannot understand him at all. This may continue for 4-6 hours, but he might buy you french fries from Burger King, which is a huge plus.





PRO-TIP: Invest in a portable battery USB charger in case no outlets are available near you.

3.  Find a Way to Watch Netflix
I don’t care what you have to do, get the Netflix app on your phone. Not enough storage space? Delete useless things like old photos or your entire contact list. You can also stream shows on your browser if you’re really desperate. This makes the time go by faster. 

           
            




4.  Pack a Book
Always be prepared, if you are taking any sort of transit, to have to wait. Always having a book on you is a good way to combat boredom and to keep others from talking to you while you are in your chair-bed at the airport in a bad mood.

           

5.  Make Sure You Eat
Airports aren’t always the cheapest options for food, but you’re bound to find a meal deal of some sort. Make sure you eat something, and hope that something isn’t a burned, over-priced cheeseburger from Burger King. Your best bet would probably be a £3.79 meal deal from W.H Smith and maybe a package of gummies to get you through your Grey’s Anatomy marathon. 

            




6.  Make Sure You Snapchat Excessively So Your Friends Feel Bad For You
If your friends are going to send you snaps from their fall break destinations, best be ready to send them some “I just cried in the airport bathroom” selfies. Maybe even send out a tweet that explicitly says “feel bad for me” so everyone will.

            



7.  Try and Travel With a Buddy
Having a friend with you is really helpful to keep watch over your campsite if you need to use the bathroom or go cry to your mom on FaceTime in public. They are also good subjects for creative Snapchat stories and you can set up both your chair-beds to create a blockade around YOUR outlets. Airports can be lonely, and having a friend with you is always a plus. *(Thanks for being my rock, Eunice.)

            



8.  Beware of Thieves
Always have your stuff nearby. It’s sad to say but you really can’t trust anyone. Sleep with your valuables if you need to sleep and you’re on your own or sleep on your luggage. Otherwise, take turns sleeping with a friend, so one of you can keep watch. If you are really worried, there are always security guards around airports. Know where they are and ask for help if you need it. 

          

9.  Keep Things In Perspective
This may seem like the worst thing that could happen, but just remember that you get to travel to these amazing cities and experience wonderful things. This doesn’t mean you don’t get to be annoyed or angry, ‘cause let’s be honest, spending the night in the airport can suck. 

         




        



On a more serious note, in the midst of the Syrian Refugee Crisis, millions of people have been displaced from their homes due to the conflicts in Syria. Many of these people are making homes in train stations and transit, trying to find their next connection, and sadly, many nations aren’t welcoming them. For me, I knew I would be able to get on a plane after my 16 hour endeavor at the airport. There are so many refugees who don’t know when their waiting will end. Please consider donating and learning about the refugee crisis here.

14 September, 2015

How to Survive the Bath Trip - Guest Post - Stephanie Gibbs

How to Survive the Bath Trip

Ah, the Bath trip.  A staple in every Ithaca College student’s London experience.  However, this trip is not for the faint of heart.  Let it be known before you dedicate yourself, and £85, that this trip will test you.  It will test what you thought you knew about history, what you thought you knew about your new roommates, and what you thought you knew about yourself.  …But mostly it will test how long you can sit on a bus without going crazy.  If any of you are wondering, “Should I go”, I hope this post adds some clarity to your decision (I’ll let you decide in what way).

Step 1: Signing Up

One of the hardest things for college students to do apparently, is to sign up for things on time.  It doesn’t matter that there is a dirty great big obvious sign stuck on a post in the middle of the London Center lobby, nor does it matter than this sign does not move for an entire week.  More likely than not, you will forget to sign up and you will have to suffer through the influx of Snapchats of people snoring on the bus.  Not only that, but you will have to dutifully like all the poorly filtered images of the Wells Cathedral on Instagram as you eat cereal in your PJs.  And to top it off, you will try your hardest, but you will fail to ignore the ever so punny Facebook posts saying “This rocks” as all your friends stand in front of Stonehenge.  SIGN UP FOR THE TRIP ON TIME.

Step 2: The Bus

You will be expected to be on the bus in front of the London Center by 7 am.  Not bad, except for the fact that for most of us that means waking up around 6:30 am and that was no fun.  It was around that time that I started to envy my roommate still sleeping in our flat.  Bring snacks for this essentially giant road trip and please, for the love of god, DO NOT bring a salami sandwich that makes the whole bus smell like a deli.  I’m looking at you Seat 27.  Other than that, try to sleep as much as possible, pee at every pit stop, and remember, you paid to sit on this bus.

Pro Tip: Bring a backpack instead of carry-on luggage.  Your bus driver will thank you.





Step 3: Avebury, Glastonbury Abbey, Wells Cathedral

Now the fun stuff.  I’m going to graze over this part of the trip partly because its beyond words, partly because I want you to experience it yourself, and partly because it’s all blurred together.  I will tell you this: Avebury is where you’ll get the best pictures of your friends standing dramatically on a hill.  Glastonbury Abbey is where you will get to write fun comments in the visitors’ book like “Jesus would have loved this place” and where a man wearing old clothing will take you through an old church to realize that England is old.  Wells Cathedral, in my case at least, is where you’ll realize that the rule for photographs (aka: you have to pay to take them) is a lie and you should take as many photos as you can.  Trust me, you don’t want to spend £2 to find out everyone’s taking pictures for free.






Step 4: BATH! OMG WE FINALLY GOT TO BATH!!!!!!!

Did I say this was a Bath trip?  Oh silly me, by Bath I meant that you will be in Bath for about 18 hours and 12 of those hours will be spent passed out in a hostel trying to recover from waking up at 6:30 am, spending half the day on a bus, and the other half looking at things too old to comprehend.  If you’re still up passed 9 pm, you’re made of stronger stuff.  When you arrive you will be given free time during which many student try to do a pub crawl.  To put that into perspective and to give you a little fun fact, Bath has more pubs per square mile than London (or so I’ve been told).
Get excited everyone, your hostel has free breakfast!  …It consists of cereal, toast, and fruit.  I usually hate cereal, but seeing as it free and I’m cheap I ate about three bowls of Frosted Flakes.  After this, it’s time to pack up once again and head to the Roman Baths! This was probably one of the most amazing “museums” I’ve ever been in and you really just have to go to find out why.  Also, since you’re there and since you just spent three hours walking around, you will have to drink some of the bath water and you will realize why they say it tastes like boiled pigeon feathers.  #WorthIt
After the Roman Baths, you can choose to go out on your own or take a walk around bath.  DON’T GO ON THE WALK, DON’T DO IT!  Your legs will be dead and you’ll have missed out on awesome things like the Jane Austin museum.  To be honest the “museum” (aka: a house they kept looking really old) wasn’t so exciting.  The exciting part came at the end where you could dress up in Regency era clothing, write with a feather and ink, and drink proper tea and biscuits.  But the REALLY fun part comes when you almost miss the bus and have to sprint down the cobble stone streets of Bath.



Step 5: Stonehenge

An hour on the now smelly bus and we’re at Stonehenge.  People will tell you a lot of things about Stonehenge.  They will tell you, you have to stand far away from it.  False. You can’t touch it but I wouldn’t say you’re fair.  They will tell you, you have to walk to get from the gift shop to the stones.  False.  Take the free shuttle that comes with your student pass and wave at all you friends walking on the side of the road as you pass by.  Finally they will tell you that there’s not much to do after about the first 5 minutes.  Bullsh*t.  They obviously weren’t trying hard enough to come up with the best touristy photos ever.  Luckily, I succeeded.





Step 6: Go on this trip no matter how poorly I’ve described it, no matter how long you’re stuck on a bus, and no matter how many times you wish your feet would stop hurting.


I’m so glad I went on this trip.