20 February, 2018

Finding Yourself in a Packet of HobNobs by Kate Schulman

There is something so intoxicating, so sensual, so tantalizing about the biscuit aisle at Tesco. Namely: McVitie’s HobNobs.

With a tinny backing track of an indiscernible Ed Sheeran song, I pass red jars of sauce and paste, bags of pasta, tiny bottles of colorful spices, and sheaves of naan until I arrive at the sacred aisle of crumbly sweets. Bourbon Creams, Jaffa Cakes, Jammie Dodgers, and Wagon Wheels call out to me like sugar-buttered sirens performing their art of seduction in order to steal a priceless family heirloom from me. 

But nothing ever catches my eye quite like a bright blue package of milk chocolate HobNobs.

I’m not quite sure I can describe it, but in layman’s terms: I’d date a HobNob, propose to it, get married to it with a sunny seaside view, buy a house with it, and go through a tawdry divorce with it that will latently affect our milk chocolate children.

What is it about an oat base with chocolate topping that gets to one so? While chocolate chip cookies and cupcakes with frosted flowers get all the press, oat-based confections usually get tossed to the side and labeled as a “health treat” or “the food form of your nan’s favorite autumnal blouse.” I can assure you, though––milk chocolate HobNobs are not a health treat, no matter how many times I tell myself that they are a relative of the Digestive family and therefore possess some sort of antacid property. I end up discreetly slipping a package into my cart as if someone will tell on me if they see this sinful act either way, even though nobody in London has a clue as to who I am and would really need to have a lot of time on their hands to want to call out a mousy-looking girl caught under the fluorescent lighting of a Tesco, vice in hand.

I sit on the bus with my shopping bags, listening to ABBA or another anthem wherein I imagine myself doing a spontaneous, choreographed dance on a city street in leather pants. I think about what I will make for dinner, but even more so about the oat-y, chocolate goodness that I will devour afterwards. I will put only a few on a plate and pair them with a cup of tea, priding myself on the moderation and elegance of it all. This dream comes to an end the moment I put the last one in my mouth, though, when I have the sudden realization that I must have just one more. And then another. And perhaps one more after that. And before I know it, all that remains are the battered and buttered crumbs, a mass carnage completed by a girl with a dream and a good belt.

When I arrived about a month and a half ago I expected I would try to go on a precious journey to “find myself,” preferably by a serene, foggy lake in the countryside or in a random pub where no one knows my name. However, it seems I’ve found myself the way the universe has always intended: clutching a half eating cylinder of HobNobs from Tesco, foaming at the mouth for more.

07 February, 2018

First Month in London by Cameron Coughlin

...is the most overwhelming place that I’ve ever been, but in the best way possible.

I flew off to London with the goal of understanding it, getting some sort of grasp on what life is like in another country. Now that I’ve been here for thirty days, I’ve realized that maybe I won’t ever quite understand London, and that’s the reason I love it so much. There are beautiful alleys full of pastel-coloured houses and matching flowerpots on every doorstep that I’ll only come across by taking a wrong turn. There are people my age from all over the world that I’ll only meet by crazy coincidence. There’s so much mystery. I have no idea what to expect out of this weekend, or even tomorrow, and I love that. I’ve realized that researching and planning can only take you so far. I’ve discovered some of my favourite spots in London by just being out and seeing a place that catches my eye and deciding to take a chance on it. I never would have discovered my new favourite coffee shop if I hadn’t decided to walk across this bridge just for the fun of it, and I wouldn’t have found my favourite club if I hadn’t made a wrong turn on my way back to the tube.

London is crazy, weird, and wonderful. The energy that floods the streets and seeps into every club, bar, theatre, and restaurant is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Everyone seems to have goals and a purpose, no matter where they’re headed at the moment.

I don’t think I could ever get bored of London. I walked out of the theatre after seeing The Ferryman on a Tuesday night, only to see a man sitting in the middle of Leicester Square singing (very badly) into a huge traffic cone. I’ve watched a tourist pose for pictures while holding her hand out to a pigeon on the street. I’ll also never run out of things to do. The city has pretty much anything you could possibly want. While there are busy, brightly lit streets full of people, there are also massive parks and plenty of fresh air.

One of my favourite (and free) things to do is to choose a destination that’s more of an area, rather than a specific place. Then, when you get there, just start walking. Walk down whatever street you think looks interesting and see where it takes you. Doing this has lead me to many unexpected gems. I’ve wandered through Brick Lane and come across some really beautiful street murals. I’ve walked past Camden Market along the river, and discovered beautiful houseboats covered in flower pots and bright paint.

The popular destinations, of course, are amazing as well. I loved walking through Trafalgar Square and seeing massive chalk drawings on the sidewalks. I love Carnaby Street in Soho, with all the colourful lights hanging overhead and the never-ending sounds of people talking and laughing.  I’ve visited five museums since I’ve arrived, and each one is beautiful in its own way.

I’m already so in awe of this city, and I can’t wait to see what adventures the next three months bring!

16 November, 2017

Community By 'A'

What is a community? How does such a simple word mean even the most extravagant of things? We tend to delve into the idea that community is quite simply a residential area filled with people such as: normal neighbors, that one crazy elder, a few obnoxiously adorable children, a dog here and there- but a community is more than just its stereotypical labels. A community is togetherness. Family. It is a diverse collection created with the intent to become one. Outside of the ICLC there is a whole community just waiting for new members to add their own personalities and experiences. Unfortunately, many of us have not taken up on this opportunity. We are so focused on travelling and seeing all there is to see- we have yet to stop and take a breath of fresh air. It’s rewarding to stay local for a bit and get involved in activities- be immersed in other cultures. The best way to do so is right around the corner at Imperial College!

Imperial is a large Uni filled with so many diverse students. Guess what? We, as Ithaca folk, can get a membership there! This allows for us to dive in and be a part of our choice of clubs, sports, activities, societies; you name it, they have it. There are well over three hundred different possibilities. Since a large portion of the school is international, we can meet people from all over the world. It’s absolutely amazing!

Now, I understand being committed is not the most appealing thing to most of us, but hey, it’s a very small membership fee and the rest is fairly easy. Just reach out to whichever groups are interesting and they are generally very welcoming. The University is so large that it’s okay to only go to a couple gatherings. There’s ethnic groups, sporting events from football and dodgeball to caving and skydiving, musical theatre and film and a cappella and drama societies, clubs specifically for the consumption of good food, and the Uni even has their own bar and nightclub that is student run! Check it out!

I have immersed myself in about eight different societies and clubs- including sports- and it is probably one of the best decisions I have made here. My friends come from France, Italy, Spain, China, Singapore, Japan, United States, Germany, and so many more places. Even with all the activities, I still have time on weekends to travel and homework/classes/internship don’t overlap. It’s so much fun to say I am a part of a London community.

The perks? Well…

FOOD. People like to have gatherings and clubs get funding for socials and food events

and some pretty rockin’ nights out. (Oh, yeah, a lot is free.)

            DRINKS. I mentioned there’s a nightclub and bar? Drinks are cheap! And who doesn’t

like a good pub crawl? Super fun!

MUSIC. It’s all student run, guys. We can totally get involved in jam sessions, DJing, a

cappella- anything, really.



Go out in the community. Be a part of something! Find new cultures; immerse in a funtastic world of togetherness and memorable moments!

Time flies. Welcome to November, we’re over halfway there. The past is what you want to remember. The future is what you create. But the present, the gift, the right now in life, it’s what you want to live.

06 September, 2017

BR-ITHACA by Alex Dwyer

My experience in London has been FABULOUS so far, albeit a bit different than that of my fellow ICLC students. For starters, I was born here in this fair city and moved to the United States when I was three years old. Therefore, I am lucky enough to be a citizen of both countries. My father is British born and has lived here his whole life. To make a long story short, he was over in America playing cricket, my mother was at the game and the rest is history! Although I am just as much British as I am American, I have only been back to visit once since my departure in the early 2000’s, so I am loving experiencing most of London for the first time with my friends.

My dad came over with me and we started off the trip down in the country with my family. It was one of the best weekends of my life. We ate fresh food from the garden, reconnected with all of my cousins and went to the Shepton Mallet County Fair! It was so cool to get a taste of rural England. There was a cheese show, a craft tent and, most notably British, ferret races! Afterwards my dad showed me his old high school and the cricket grounds he used to play on as a young lad. I enjoyed the view of country life before diving into the big city!

Although most things are the same for all of us, there are two big advantages that being a citizen brings. First, I did not have to apply for a visa in order to be eligible for an internship or to work at the London Center. That saved me a lot of stress this summer! Secondly, my wonderful aunt and uncle graciously opened up their home to me and therefore I did not have to brave the notorious flat hunt. Sometimes I wish I was living with my friends, but they’ve all assured me that I am always welcome in their flats, and sometimes it’s nice to escape the big city to a quiet, residential, neighborhood with family! On that subject, I am very lucky in that I have the advantage of family close by. With both of my sisters living in or near the city, and all of my cousins littered throughout the countryside, I know that I’m only a tube, a bus, or a train away from a loving embrace! I’ve already reassured my pals that if any of them are feeling homesick they can, of course, share my family.

Anyway, we’ve done so much in such a short time! Last week after everyone settled in, my friends and I headed to Tower Bridge to take a tour of the Tower of London and see the Crown Jewels. My dad was still with me for the first week, so we met up with him for a drink in the pub afterwards and he gave my friends an insight into hidden British culture. My favorite day so far has been our visit to the Queen’s Gardens. After touring the International Student House (ISH: an organization we are members of because of our international student status!) with Orla some of us walked to Regents’ Park. It was a BEAUTIFUL day and it was so fun to look at all the sculptures and fountains. From there we wandered into the Queen’s Gardens and spent the whole afternoon admiring the greenery!

 Speaking of the Royal Family, another highlight so far has been my visit to Kensington Palace during the twentieth anniversary of Princess Diana’s untimely death. It was so beautiful to see the palace gates adorned with pictures, posters and bouquets of flowers to remember the tragedy. Sidenote, my mother actually had the pleasure of knowing Princess Diana so it was pretty cool to bear witness to this huge celebration of her life. A famous part of Kensington Palace is the restaurant, The Orangery. It has an afternoon tea option for two or more people to get tea sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, dessert, and most importantly, tea for a pretty reasonable price! The food was AMAZING and the scenery overlooking Hyde Park wasn’t too shabby! We’ve been very fortunate to have such wonderful weather here for the first couple weeks and we made sure to take full advantage of this luxury!

As for the nightlife, we went to see “Much Ado About Nothing” at Shakepeare’s Globe on a beautiful night last week, and some friends and I went to HEAVEN, a nightclub that many of my favorite celebrities frequent, so needless to say I was buzzin’. As if being there wasn’t enough, halfway through the night, Charli XCX, a famous British pop singer, took the stage for a five song concert! It was definitely one of the best nights of my life.

On the days I’m not taking classes, or sightseeing, or seeing impromptu concerts, I have an internship at Jackie Davidson Music Management, a music management company in Putney. I never thought I would get so lucky with my work placement, I have already learned so much in the time I’ve been there and I’m doing the work of my dreams! I am so excited to see what this semester has to offer and I can’t wait to take advantage of everything that London offers! 

28 April, 2017

A Firefighter Abroad – By Nicholas Palatella

As I look through my google calendar at all the greyed out events of the past four months I can’t help but smile. What was at first an uncertain journey became the best adventure of my life. Coming to London as a theatre production major I was excited to immerse myself in the world of London theatre from the West End to well…zone 4. Seeing theatre was very important to me during the last 4 months, but was not my only goal.

Before flying out in January I was sitting at my firehouse back home thinking about what I would want to do in London. From the beginning, I knew that I wanted to immerse myself in the culture as much as possible. I wanted to become a local and experience as much of a Londoner’s daily life as I can through the sights, smells, and sounds of the city. I also knew I wanted to do something else. That something else didn’t hit me until the pager at the firehouse went off dispatching us to a fire alarm activation. Donning my gear and boarding the engine suddenly made me realize what that other goal was; to learn as much as I could about the similarities and differences between firefighting in America vs London.

Firefighting has been in my blood since I joined my local volunteer fire department when I was 15. Along with lighting design for the theatre, firefighting is my other passion in life. Waking up at 3am by the sound of a pager to go help someone who quite possibly you’ve never met before seems crazy to some people, but for me it’s the norm. Being on the fire department for 6 years now has taught me so much about life. There really is no greater feeling in the world than helping someone, even a total stranger on what could possibly be one of the worst, or scariest moments of their life. Being that light in the darkness for them. It is truly a hard feeling to describe.

During the summer of 2014 I got sent to the fire academy in order to receive my firefighter 1 certificate. During this 3-month certification class, I distinctly remember a lecture on the history of the fire service including major fires in the UK. As expected, the class went in depth with techniques on firefighting in America, but not anywhere else. Specifically, about London, we were taught about the great fire, but nothing else. My only other knowledge about the London Fire Brigade was that the trucks had funny sirens. That was all.

Coming here with just that knowledge along with this goal in mind drove me to want to learn as much as I could about the fire service here. Yes, one can just “google” the differences, but to immerse yourself in real life brings about experiences that will last you a lifetime; which in fact it did.

It was a cold January Saturday afternoon when I took the tube over to SoHo where the nearest firehouse to me was located. As I walked up to the firehouse, I saw the door was open as the truck had just gotten back from a shout (what they call an emergency call here in the UK). Excitement filled me as I walked up and introduced myself to the officer who had just stepped off the truck. As soon as I told him that “I’m a firefighter visiting from America” his face lit up as the rest of the crew started to gather around and introduce themselves to me. I explained to them my purpose for visiting the station, and what I wanted to learn. With open arms they invited me to stay and offered me an in depth overview of the fire service in the UK.

During the next two hours at the fire station, they showed me every nut and bolt on all 4 trucks inside. We first talked about the equipment on board, what’s similar and what’s different. Next we had conversations about the daily life, firefighting tactics, building construction, training, lingo, and gear. They even went out of their way to pull a truck outside in busy SoHo, blocked off a sidewalk and showed me (and let me try) to connect a fire hydrant to a fire truck here in London! I was like a kid in a candy store!

The two hours concluded by them being dispatched to a shout, but not before I was able to express my gratitude to the crew for taking time out of their day to show me around. Sitting on the tube on the way home made me think about this unique experience and how thankful I was to have had this opportunity. Although UK firefighters think American firefighters fight fire with axes rather than water, the main thing I took away besides the difference between tactics and equipment is that what remains the same; the heart behind the job. 

11 April, 2017


Now that I’m leaving soon, I’ve become increasingly worried about reverse cultural shock. Why is it that just when I’ve started to feel comfortable, things have to change again?

Coming to live in London changed my life – not in a cheesy or very vague way, like when people say, “Wow, that ice cream changed my life”, or not even, “Wow, this song changed my life”. This changed my life in a real, tangible way. I have become more daring, more able to find my way alone and solve a crisis that’s thrown at me. For the first time in my whole life, I have been able to figure out new foreign cities, airports, train stations – in fact, the city of London’s transportation system – and not be afraid. I learned to have confidence and trust (in the way of the world, in the good will of most strangers, in myself).

I’ve found myself thinking about the fact that after so much excitement, my sleepy suburb will probably be unimaginably difficult for me to live in this summer. It in no way compares to living in a city as alive as London.

When I am home, I am not constantly academically, physically, and mentally stimulated like I am here. I don’t have to put as much of myself or my hard work into things. I feel like I’ve gained some momentum here – I feel stronger, not only physically, but emotionally too. I don’t want that progress to be erased by me sitting on my couch all summer.

I just hope that I can take what I’ve learned here and try to keep doing it so I can ease some of that reverse culture shock. I want to make sure I don’t revert back to my old self. I need to avoid becoming too cautious again. I need keep up that sense of spontaneity that I’ve gained here. I hope I can still find it in me to actively seek out new experiences, to go places, to do stuff, and to continue to be amazed by even small things.

Some things that I wish I could take with me but I physically cannot: the accent, the prices at Tesco, Hyde Park in full bloom, my flat in Earl’s Court, the relative cleanliness of the tube, the old and beautiful architecture, the pub food, the proximity to the rest of Europe.

The one thing I can take back (actually, that I pretty much have to take back) is myself. I think the whole point is that I got to see Hyde Park in full bloom and I got to live in that flat. And I got to see a lot more of the world. So hopefully I’m better for it. I hope I can carry those things with me for a really long time.

And above all, I probably need to remember to just enjoy what’s left of this. I keep thinking about how little time I have left, but that only turns it into a negative feeling. I just need to remember to look around me and to be thinking about this moment, not about May 6th.

Part of the sadness about leaving comes from the fact that I feel like I just got comfortable here, but maybe that's how it’s meant to work. Maybe if we’re trying to grow, we are not supposed to be comfortable for too long. 

15 March, 2017

Meet Ups - By Aaron Zufall

Okay, I admit that “Let’s do some professional networking!” is definitely not your first thought when you land in a foreign country for a semester. But if you want to go beyond the tourist attractions and actually dive into a new culture, meeting professionals who work in your field is a great way to do it.

It’s not that hard to do, either. In one night during my second week in London, I met some technical advisors from Deloitte, the employees of a product design firm, and the directors of a London nonprofit. We worked together to come up with ideas to increase engagement in a London homeless shelter.

Oh, and there was free pizza and drinks.

We were at an event called “Experiment Studio,” a monthly event where people interested in design, experimenting, and problem solving come together to experiment with ideas for products, services, and business design. Events like these are called “meetups.” They’re a big deal in tech, but there are also meetups for artists, writers, entrepreneurs, and more. Not all of them are business-y, either. Want to go play badminton? Meet fellow mountain bikers? Join a book club? There’s a meetup for that.

The go-to place for finding meetups is meetup.com. It’s free to join, free to browse, and most meetups are free to attend. When you sign up, you can join groups that look interesting to you and get an email when a group schedules a meetup. You’re bound to find a meetup that fits you—I’m writing this on a Wednesday in March and I counted over 220 events happening around London today.

Meetups are a great place to network, meet new people, hear talks from professionals, and learn new skills. And even if you’re not looking to network, you can always look for the ones with free food.