Cultural Experience | Italy

A Study Abroad Interview

From One Study Abroad Student To Another

By Emma White, Syracuse University

Anyone who knows Gabby and I would know that this interview was filled with laughs, jokes and plenty of snacks. As friends from Syracuse who lived in the same building freshman year and decided to both go abroad (and live together) in our fall semester abroad to London I couldn’t think of a more perfect person to interview! And it only cost me a KitKat to get her to sit down and do it! What a bargain!

Gabby and I at the Guinness Factory in Dublin, Ireland!

Gabby and I at the Guinness Factory in Dublin, Ireland!


1. Why did you choose this study abroad location?  What are the top 5 sites to see?

Emma: A lot of people have asked me this question and to be honest I don’t have a great answer for you (about the study abroad location that is). Syracuse offers about 6 or 7 Syracuse affiliated centers as well as the opportunity to study elsewhere through a different program. I’d never been to Australia, Florence or Madrid etc. but for some reason I just knew I wanted to study abroad in London, and hey, read my 50 Things College Students Should Know About London here! I visited many of the cities where Syracuse offers programs during my time abroad and although I know I would have been happy in some of those places I could not be happier to be in London, minus that pesky exchange rate, damn you pounds!

As for the top sites to see, that’s a hard one and would probably differ depending on who you ask. If you come to London and don’t see the London Eye or Big Ben I would say you’re doing it wrong. London is one of the only cities where museums are free so if you’re a museum junkie then there’s some great options for you! This is less of a site to see but an activity to do but if you come to London I would definitely do high tea! There are so many restaurants that offer it and there’s really no going wrong. Also, why don’t we have clotted cream in America can someone answer me that??

Gabby: Is it weird to say that I just knew I wanted to go London? But it’s true I knew. London is an extremely diverse city but it is still able to have an identity that many Londoners relate to. London has the perfect balance between tradition, history, nightlife, and other things to do for fun. Syracuse University also has their own program here so it was an easy pick when it came to academics because all of my credits automatically transfer. Also English-speaking was a plus because I wouldn’t want to accidentally insult anyone…

Top 5 sites? Hmm. 1) Take the Parliament tour! It’s so interesting and the architecture is amazing! I loved it I’ve already been twice!  2) The London Eye and 3) Buckingham Palace are easy ones. 4) St. James Park is beautiful and 5) Covent Garden, one of London’s most popular areas, is easily one of my favorite places in London. There’s so many shops, tons of restaurants and cafes, and hilarious street performers.

2. How did you live like a local in your study abroad city?

Emma: I would say living in a flat (that’s apartment for you non-British folk) makes just about everything about our abroad experience living like a local. We shop daily for groceries, deal with a landlord who won’t return our emails and take the tube to class. What’s more local than that?

Gabby: Same. The whole experience of living in a flat makes you feel like a local. You start buying groceries daily and then you start watching British TV shows. All of sudden when you’re at the grocery store you ask the woman in front of you if she’s “que-ing” instead of “in line”. Next thing you know when you’re at your pub in your neighborhood you’re saying “cheers” instead of “thanks”. Just living in a city, you soon naturally immerse yourself in their culture without even knowing it.

3. What was the most amazing cultural experience you encountered while study

Gabby: One of the coolest experiences was being in London for Remembrance Day. It was so fascinating to experience another country honor their soldiers. Coming from America, it’s easy to think that we are the only country that celebrates our patriotism because we only experience it in America but it’s amazing to see the UK celebrate their patriotism as well. They  have different customs and traditions to celebrate their veterans and their history, such as people wearing and displaying Poppy flowers in honor of the nation’s veterans. I also want to be President of the United States so…

Remembrance Day Poppies

Remembrance Day Poppies

4. How has this Study Abroad impacted on your personal growth?

Emma: It’s so cliche but you learn a lot about yourself when you’re suddenly thrown into a new country not knowing just about anything but the language (I guess you can add that to the list of why I chose London). You learn you can do things on your own because you have to.

Gabby: It really is true, you do learn a lot about yourself. Even though you’re traveling with friends and living with other people, you’re completely independent. You’re budgeting for the pub and for food. You’re navigating a city by yourself. You’re living with other people with bold personalities. All of sudden, you feel like an adult. It’s kinda frightening but it’s an important experience.

5. What advice/tips would you give to yourself before you went abroad?

Emma: I would say to be open to meeting new people that you didn’t know before. I study at a basically all-Syracuse program and didn’t know at least half of the people beforehand. It took me coming all the way to London to meet people I was probably behind in the coffee line or passed on the quad on a daily basis. Be open to meeting new people and go back to campus with people you can be obnoxious and talk only about “OMG remember that time abroad when…”

Gabby: Get all the touristy stuff out of the way first! Do it within the first couple weeks so you don’t spend your last month going, “Wait…we have to see the Changing of the Guards”. Don’t wait till you get to London to buy things you need. London is expensive, so don’t wait till you settle into your flat to buy shampoo, toothpaste, and a towel. Actually try to budget. I tried, but not that hard and now I’m extremely paranoid about how much money I’ve been spending. Also, pack some Cheez-Its. They don’t sell them here or anything close to it.

6. What is the thing you miss most about home/ what advice would you give to battle homesickness?

Emma: Iced coffee.. FYI not a thing in Europe. And my family. And Cheez-its (Gabby and I are on the same page about that one).

Gabby: My family and my adorable puppy, Rocky. I also miss Panera’s Broccoli & Cheddar in a bread bowl. My dad’s cooking. Colored Goldfish. It’s pretty easy to get homesick, especially towards the end of the semester but keeping yourself busy with work and continuing to explore London makes it easier.

7. Tell a funny story from your abroad experience.

Emma: This if perfect because I actually have a funny story about Gabby. So many of you might not know this but some of Gabby’s favorite places to fall asleep are in public areas aka restaurants, museums and pretty much any moving vehicle. On a bus in Rome on our first day, Gabby was asleep (of course) and we woke her up just in time to get off at her stop. What she didn’t realize was that her bag had gotten caught in the seats. The rest of us got off the bus only in time to turn around and see the bus pull away with Gabby still on it. This came straight out of a slow motion movie I swear. On our first day in Rome with no way to contact Gabby and no idea where the next bus stop was we did the only thing we could think of, we chased after the bus. Right out of a movie I swear. So here there we were, 3 American study abroad students chasing after a bus with Gabby inside trying to explain to the bus driver who only spoke Italian that she needed to get off the bus. Seriously I’m TM-ing this incase this blog becomes a movie. I’m expecting this to rival Catching Fire’s blowout box office sales and yes, Jennifer Lawrence will be the star. Oh and spoiler alert, we found Gabby.

Gabby: Hmm, okay now I don’t think I have a story to top that one. One night, we went out on the Camden Pub Crawl, which I totally recommend, and met a rapper named XO Man. At first I really didn’t think he was that famous of a rapper but he said he knew Harry Styles from One Direction, so obviously I befriended him quickly being the teenie bopper fan girl that I am. Now I’m friends with one of XO Man’s posse, we even message each other on Twitter! We’re hoping to go to one of his shows in December, hopefully they put our names on the list, haha. Did I mention he’s about 7 feet tall and has a handle bar mustache? Hard to pass up …

College Tourist's #1 fan!

College Tourist’s #1 fan!


Follow me on twitter: @Emma_WhiteSU for more blog posts about student life and studying abroad!

Emma White

Syracuse University | 10 stories

Emma is a junior studying at Syracuse University and a true Bostonian at heart. She will be spending her fall semester studying in London where she can't wait to immerse herself in the London culture and take that attitude wherever she goes. Lover of dogs, laughing and The Office.

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