Studying abroad is one of the most exciting possibilities of college. I know that when I was looking at universities as a wide-eyed high school senior, a good study abroad program was one of my top priorities. When I toured BU, I heard the story (though, it’s more of a legend) of a BU student who studied abroad 7 out of her 8 semesters here.
From then on, I was sold. I was convinced I’d be able to go wherever I desired. And though I’ve fallen in love with Boston, this summer I was able to pursue that goal and travel to London for the COM Mass Communication/Advertising/PR/ program. My experience was amazing, to say the least—but I’m sure you’ve heard that.
Now that I’m back in the real world (because study abroad genuinely doesn’t feel real), aside from the slight teasing from my friends that “abroad changed me,” I’m feeling acclimated back into my routine after a summer of living in a foreign country. However, I have my own personal bucket list for any students hoping to hop the pond and study with our trans-Atlantic neighbors. Here are your must-do’s for if you spend your semester in London!
- Take a walk around the city—you’ll never know what you’ll find.
Though you should always be slightly aware of where you are (thank you, Google maps), getting “lost” in the city is always the best way to get to know where you’re studying abroad for the semester. Since everything is new, every little shop or restaurant you see is an exciting experience. And don’t worry, the closest Tube station is usually only a five minute walk away for if you need to book it back to class.
- Go to as many museums as possible.
Around 95% of the museums in London are free—take advantage of that as much as possible. London is expensive, so while you’re saving up money for your next getaway, explore some of the great museums in your free time. Some of my personal favorites? The Imperial War Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Wellcome Collection, and the one pictured above, the Churchill Museum (though not free, if you go through school, it is).
- Stuff yourself at every market.
Whoever said England had bad food is just completely lying. Case in point? The amazing food markets you’ll definitely need to hit up every single weekend. Pictured here is the best meal I ever had, courtesy of Borough Market. Other markets like Camden and Portobello are nestled in some of the trendiest neighborhoods in town, so after you chow down on your mouth-watering street food, you can explore the area.
- See a show in London’s West End.
Before I went to London, my friend told me that I absolutely had to see a show in London. I took her advice and bought tickets to Matilda—and decided her advice was some of the best I’ve gotten. If you’re a COM student who appreciates theater production and catchy musicals, you’ll be blown away. I literally had never seen such a beautiful set.
- Go to Harry Potter Studios.
Harry Potter Studios—the place for everyone to nerd out. I seriously felt like I was in the movies—and I 100% geeked out posing in front of the castle (featured above). If you ever even came into contact with a Harry Potter book as a child, these studios will still be one of the coolest things you see abroad. And if you’re a film & tv student, you’ll get to see all the behind-the-scenes work as well. Sip on that butterbeer and enjoy.
- Explore Shoreditch.
One of the newest up-and-coming areas of London, Shoreditch promises the perfect night out. With endless food options and artsy holes-in-the-wall to explore, you’ll never run out of something to do when you go to Shoreditch. Make sure to check out Doughnut Time when you’re there. Insane.
- Relax in Hyde Park.
Hyde Park provides the perfect break from classes. These breaks are definitely necessary when you forget that you actually had to do work when you studied abroad. It’s also one of the biggest green spaces in London, so it’s incredibly serene. Also, the Kensington Palace is right in the center—if you’re hoping to become bffs with Harry and Meghan, this is the place for you.
- Get out of the city for the day.
If you need a complete nature break from the hustle and bustle of the city, try taking a day trip with a few friends outside the city and take a breather. A few of us went to the Mayfield Lavender Fields (featured above) for some stunning photos and tasty lavender scones. You can also take a beach trip to Brighton or explore some natural at Kew Gardens.
- Book a cheap flight to a new country.
One of the best parts of studying abroad in London is how easily accessible other European countries are. Some of my favorite memories of my study abroad experience were the weekend trips my friends and I took, using relatively low-budget airlines and hostels/AirBnb’s. Above is my trip to Budapest—which is also a super-cheap city, 10/10 recommend.
- Be a cheesy tourist.
Above all, this summer is for you. So be that cheesy tourist and do everything you’ve ever wanted to do! You might not get a chance to study abroad again, or return to the same country, so take advantage of every opportunity. Who cares if that photo op makes you look corny? You can laugh about it later.
If I can offer any advice for your study abroad experience, it would be this: Soak up every moment, your semester will go faster than you think. And once you’ll leave, all you’ll want to do is go back and do it all over again!