Maddie: The COM Student’s Essential Bucket List for London

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!

  1. Take a walk around the city—you’ll never know what you’ll find.

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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.

  1. Go to as many museums as possible.

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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).

  1. Stuff yourself at every market.

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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. 

  1. See a show in London’s West End.

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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.

  1. Go to Harry Potter Studios.

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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.

  1. Explore Shoreditch.

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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.

  1. Relax in Hyde Park.

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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.

  1. Get out of the city for the day.

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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.

  1. Book a cheap flight to a new country.

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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.

  1. Be a cheesy tourist.

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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!

Maddie: The Beauty of Your Typical COM Schedule

Transferring into COM has opened my eyes to so many new, exciting opportunities. Arriving at BU undecided in CAS, you could say that I had no idea where I would be the beginning of my sophomore year–a dual major in COM. Seriously, the fact that I was able to make a solid decision about my life in less than a year’s time is actually impressive.
Besides getting to explore my passions and experience genuine excitement when learning about communications (thank you, journalism & PR classes), COM has also shown me the light in another way: the perfect COM schedule.
Hughes blog post 1
Yes, that is my schedule. And yes, I have been roasted REPEATEDLY by my friends who just don’t understand how I can only have class three days a week. Looking at my schedule, I honestly know that if I was in another person’s shoes, I’d be jealous of me too.
However, I want to stress exactly why COM schedules are set up this way. A big part of being in COM is what you do outside the classroom. I love that–I love that I can talk to anyone walking down the hallways and see that they’re interning at some awesome production company in Boston or doing a co-op at the Boston Globe.
Yes, you read that right. The Boston Globe. It’s a big deal.
Internships aren’t just encouraged at COM–they are required. BU’s COM programs ensure that students are not only required to have an internship before they graduate but to make time for their own personal internships as well. I’m applying for an internship this summer in London for Public Relations, and if I receive a spot in the program, I will be matched to an internship by BU. But during the school year, the COM schedule emphasizes a freedom for COM students to explore their personal career goals while being a full-time student. My schedule is less of a five-day routine, but I get to take my classroom time and apply it to my outside work.
While I appreciate not having classes on Wednesdays and Fridays (three-day weekends are as amazing as they sound), being in COM ensures that I am a busy student regardless of how many night classes I sign up for. Everyone in COM is an active member of not only the BU community but the Boston community as well. Our classes are structured to allow us to explore the independence we will be having in a few short years (don’t remind me about graduation) and I’m incredibly grateful for that opportunity.
If you looked at my schedule, you would guess that I have a lot of downtime. And you would probably guess that most COM students have a lot of free time. But in the majority of cases, that just isn’t true. When I’m not in class, I’m dedicating my time to school work. I’m focusing on ensuring the online publication I edit for, Boston University’s Her Campus, is running smoothly. I look for study abroad opportunities and complete service opportunities in the city. I plan my future. And trust me, I spend a lot of time in Mugar–occasionally doing work, mostly just freaking out with my friends about upcoming assignments. What’s new?
And other COM students are the same. When they’re not grinding in the classroom or in the library, they’re out filming for their BUTV10 show. They’re prepping for their live WTBU segment. They’re scouting for internships. They’re working on location to get the best shot. They’re following a beat in Dorchester. They’re preparing a press release in PR Lab. The point is, COM students are always working, despite what our schedules look like.