COLA: Tell us a bit about yourself. (Major, hometown, interests, etc.)
Emily van der Heijden: My name is Emily van der Heijden, and I am a senior English Education major, although I hope to work with elementary age students in the future because I have always loved working with children. I’m from Westchester, New York, which is a little less than an hour away from NYC. I enjoy reading, baking, cooking, and watching movies.
COLA: Why did you choose London?
Emily: Ever since I was little, I had always wanted to travel to London. I don’t really know why, there was just something about the city that grabbed my attention. When I was applying to colleges, I made sure that they had a London study abroad program!
COLA: What are some of the benefits of the UNH London program?
Emily: The London Program offered through UNH is a really great opportunity. It is about the same cost as a regular semester here in NH (not counting travel and spending costs), and the school really allows plenty of time to explore around London and Europe, so you won’t be holed up in your room the whole time doing homework! Regent’s University in London, where you will live, is situated inside of a gorgeous park owned by the Queen. It is right off of Baker Street in London, and it is so easy to walk to various places of the city; or, you can always hop the tube, the Baker Street Station is only 5 minutes away! UNH is also very generous and will sponsor some excursions with the group, to a restaurant, a play/musical, or even the London Eye! They really did a great job of making sure we were all connected and having a great time in London.
COLA: Where are the places you’ve carved out as “Your City” – the London you found outside of the tourist sites, the places that are most meaningful for you? What is special about them?
Emily: London is a very large city, and you may not be able to explore all of it during your time there. But something that is fun to do is to just wander around a random part of the city. There are so many gorgeous neighborhoods and parks that are tucked away behind more popular destinations. One of the first few days there, a group of us were just wandering around and we stumbled upon a little neighborhood with unique trees and old stone churches, and it was just fun to explore and see different sites that your would normally not see. Also, Marylebone High Street, which is near campus, is a quaint little street with cute shops and bookstores that is just fun to wander down.
COLA: What will be your best memory of being in London?
Emily: There are so many amazing memories I have from my time in London, but the one that sticks out to me is the very first time I saw Big Ben. It is such an iconic landmark, and since I had always dreamed about going to London, seeing Big Ben on my second day there was just very meaningful. It sunk in that I was actually in London, something I had been dreaming of since I was 8 years old, and that I would be there for 4 months! Eventually, seeing Big Ben was just an average part of my day, but that first time was a really poignant moment of my time abroad.
COLA: Did you manage to travel outside of London while you were abroad? Share a few of your best tips for other students who are planning their own adventures.
Emily: While I was abroad, I was also able to go to Scotland, Greece, and Ireland. I would definitely travel abroad to other countries in Europe if you can, but maybe put off flying anywhere for at least a month after arriving in London. There are so many places in England to explore (such as Oxford or Brighton,) so keep in mind that you don’t always need to fly to different countries to experience something new! However, if you do fly, I would recommend Ryanair or Easyjet to find cheap flights within Europe. Also, my friends and I had a very pleasant experience through Airbnb when we went to Greece. It’s a great website that allows you to rent out rooms or whole apartments/houses to stay at in other countries, and it is usually cheaper than hotel rooms and more comfortable than hostels! Just be careful, do research, and you should be fine!
COLA: What was the biggest surprise during your experience?
Emily: The biggest surprise during my whole experience was that I was very comfortable doing things by myself. I usually don’t mind being by myself, but I’ve never been a big fan of cities. Living so close to NYC, I have never been by myself, mainly because it’s a little scary and it’s pretty dirty and gross. But London is so different from NYC. I never once felt unsafe, and I was able to take the tube by myself to the Natural History Museum, spend some time there, walk around a little, and take the tube back! It is really liberating to be able to go out and do something by yourself, and I would suggest you do it too! Just make sure to tell some friends where you’re going, and always go during the day, just to be safe!
COLA: How has it been readjusting to life in Durham?
Emily: It is definitely different in Durham now that I have studied abroad. The workload while abroad is pretty light, mainly because they want you to have some fun and explore and not worry too much about classwork. The people and the teachers are definitely not as eccentric, and no one has a cool British accent, but it wasn’t too hard to adjust back. Although I do always find myself constantly wishing I was still in London! Overall, it was an amazing experience, and I’m glad that I had the chance to study in London and that I will have so many wonderful memories for years to come.