The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Rachel Keller

Hello! My name's Rachel, and I am incredibly excited to be spending the Fall semester of my junior year studying in England! I will be attending London Metropolitan University, where I will be focusing on Criminal Justice courses. I appreciate you taking time to come look at my blog, and I look forward to sharing all of my experiences while making as many Harry Potter references as I can!


Last weekend was my first trip outside of the UK! My roommate Nita and I planned a trip to Amsterdam and it was a blast!

We don’t have classes on Friday, so originally the plan was to leave Thursday night. However, USAC had tickets for all people studying abroad to go see Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of musicals, but I’m glad we decided to postpone our trip to stay and see the show. The Apollo Victoria is a beautiful theatre and the show was really good as well!

Friday morning our train for Amsterdam left early in the morning, so naturally we were running a little late. We had to convert all of our pounds to euros, which took more time than we thought, but luckily we had no trouble getting through customs and boarded our train just in time. Our train had a layover in Brussels, so I got a chance to try a real Belgian waffle, and it was incredible!

The first thing I noticed when we arrived in Amsterdam was the insane amount of bikes. Near the train station, there were plenty of cars and taxis, but the further you get into Amsterdam, there seem to be more bikes than people. I spent the entire weekend looking both ways multiple times before crossing the road to avoid getting hit by the aggressive bikers. Luckily, I managed to make it out of Amsterdam without any bruises caused by bikes (Nita was not as lucky).

The second thing I noticed about Amsterdam was how unpronounceable the street signs are. When I went to France in high school, I had a few years of French knowledge to back me up. When I went to Italy, I had a tour guide that spoke fluent Italian. I don’t speak Dutch. Nita doesn’t speak Dutch. And everything was in Dutch. I had no trouble communicating with anyone, seeing as everyone in Amsterdam speaks English, but it was still a strange experience not being able to read any part of the signs. It was also disorienting not being able to understand conversations going on around me.

Friday night we decided to explore the city a bit, and wandered upon a fair going on in Dam Square. I discovered very quickly that the best way to see Amsterdam is upside down, going 90mph. The ride was well worth the price because I spent about 15 minutes at the top of the 180ft ride waiting for people to board. Unfortunately it rained pretty much the whole weekend we were there, so needless to say after the ride we were drenched and freezing and decided to call it a night. Saturday and Sunday we packed in as much as we possibly could! We spent a good amount of time walking around, mostly because the public transportation in Amsterdam was confusing, chaotic, and all around bad. But also because walking truly is the best way to see a city! We bought 24 hour tickets for a boat that stopped at 8 different places along all the canals, which was a super convenient way to get around and sightsee. We managed to find a few nice, cheap museums and some really great places to get pancakes!

amsteram river

However, I think the most significant thing we did that weekend was see the Anne Frank house. It’s an incredibly popular museum in a very small space, so Nita and I wound up waiting in line for 45 minutes outside in the rain just to get in. Absolutely worth it. It felt surreal being in the house that Anne Frank and her family had hidden in during World War II, and it was so indescribably moving. At Otto Frank’s request (the only member of the Frank family that survived the war), the actual house and annex where they hid was kept bare to represent the emptiness that was left behind by all the death. There were quotes from the diary written on the wall, and further into the museum was Anne Frank’s actual diary. It’s difficult to describe how it felt, walking through a place that is so well known for such horrendous reasons. Personally, I think the most moving part of the whole experience was seeing pencil marks on one of the door frames, where Anne’s mother had measured her and her sister’s height during the time they were in hiding. For one, it was shocking to see just how long the family was in hiding, and how much they had grown in the two years they were there. Second, it reminded me that they were just kids. Measuring your kids’ growth on the wall is such a, for a lack of better word, normal thing to do. It really struck home and was such a humanizing factor. Being in the actual house was a lot more emotionally taxing than I could have expected, but it was absolutely one of the most moving things I’ve done since I started my European adventure last month.

Monday we had to check out of our hostel at 10am, but our train didn’t leave until 4pm, so we sat ourselves down at a restaurant and then a coffeehouse for most of the time because we didn’t want to lug our suitcases around the city! We boarded our train and traveled to Belgium with no problem. However, we cut it very close to missing our connecting train to London because we got stuck at the British boarder. Nita and I both have short term student visas, which requires us to show the customs officer our letter of acceptance to London Met every time we re-enter the country. We weren’t aware of that. Luckily, we had our London school IDs and Student Oyster cards (for using the Tube) with an expiration date on it, so we were allowed through. I’m really thankful that we did, because I did not like the idea of spending the night at the train station! That would have been a not so fun end to an otherwise fantastic trip!



It’s a Small World After All

It’s a Small World After All

When I was a high school senior trying to pick a college, a very important factor for me was a good study abroad program. I’ve always loved seeing new places and was set on spending a semester abroad. It’s a big reason why I chose Loyola. However, after further contemplation I knew I didn’t want to study on a foreign Loyola campus. I think it’s fantastic that Loyola makes it so easy to study abroad at one of their campus’s, and I was jealous when my roommate (currently studying in Rome) had one application while I had four. However, if I was going to study abroad I wanted to go all in. I’ve been at Loyola for two years, and I’ll be there for another year and a half come spring. Why not experience a completely different school system and attend a foreign institution? Thanks to Loyola’s incredible international program, my options were limitless. I could go anywhere. After looking into a lot of different options, I decided on England. Why? I’m a massive Harry Potter fan for one, but I’ve also always wanted to see England, experience the culture and the history, and hear the accents in person.

Also they speak English.

I’m not ashamed to admit that a big factor in choosing England was the absence of a language barrier. By not studying at a Loyola campus, I’m immersing myself completely into a different school. I took French through high school and took a year of Italian at Loyola, but my communication skills in both languages are very limited. If I was going to spend a semester abroad I didn’t want any difficulties communicating. After spending two days here, I knew I made the right choice. I’m totally and completely in love with London and its culture. I’ve always been a fan of big cities, and London has about the same amount of people as New York with ten times more history. While planning for my trip, I expected the culture to be similar to the US with a few little differences.

I was right. To an extent.

I went to the same public school district from first to twelfth grade. My first year at Loyola, I was surrounded by freshman that didn’t know what they were doing any more than I did. Coming to London, I’ve never felt more out of place in my life. The flat I rented is four other people traveling through USAC, so when I’m home I’m surrounded by Americans that are in the same position as me. However, as soon as I leave the American bubble of my flat, I’m very clearly foreign. After three and a half weeks here, I’d like to think I’m no longer an obvious tourist wandering the streets, but every time I open my mouth I’m very identifiable as American. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’ve never been so conscious of my accent. I’m still thrown off when I get compliments on my accent because I’ve always considered the British accent to be appealing and the American accent to be viewed as annoying and loud. You always want what you don’t have I guess? (Side note: I’ve also been repeatedly mistaken for Australian, which has left me and my American flatmates baffled because I’m the only one that seems to get this comment.)

The accent is the dead giveaway of my international origin. However, after observing and having discussions with some classmates in London, there are quite a few small cultural differences that I didn’t consider. Slang, for example, is a big one. When I hold the door open for someone, I don’t get a “Thank you”, I get “Cheers!” Rather than ask “How are you?” Brits tend to ask “Are you alright?” which throws me off because my first question is “Yeah, why? Do I not look alright?” One of my personal favorites is the difference between pissed and pissed off. If someone is ‘pissed’ here, they’re drunk. If they’re ‘pissed off’, they’re angry. Apparently not as interchangeable as they are in the States. Similarly, spelling is another difference that seems small until you have to write a paper. While taking notes in classes, I’m trying to get in the habit of spelling ‘victimization’ as ‘victimisation’. I’d rather not lose marks for little spelling mistakes that aren’t actually mistakes to me!

Crossing the road proves to be difficult some days. I find myself looking both ways the entire time I cross because I forget which direction the cars are coming from. (Side note: You wouldn’t get hit by a truck here. You’d be hit by a lorry.) Jaywalking isn’t actually a thing here. You cross the road when you please, no one will stop you. You just have to be smart enough to not get hit.

To conclude this rambling blog post, I’ll say I’m definitely settling here. The UK is different (obviously), but similar enough to feel at home rather quickly. Starbucks tastes different. McDonald’s tastes different (Sorry Mom, I’m still eating fast food. At least I’m eating it less?). Chipotle gives you a LOT less in their burrito bowl (so, a normal serving size probably). My accent is obvious but I’m extremely thankful I speak the language fluently because I’ve met some really incredible and fascinating people while abroad, and I’m so very grateful we can understand each other fully. However, though I’m happy in an entirely English speaking country, I’m very much looking forward to traveling to other countries (the Netherlands, Italy, and hopefully France or Poland) where I’ll be fully immersed into another different culture with different languages. I’m eternally grateful to Loyola and to my family for providing this opportunity to get to experience so much. I’ve learned more about the world and about myself in these last few weeks than I have my whole college career, and I can’t wait to keep exploring!


Ferris Wheel

Furry Friends and Day Trips

Furry Friends and Day Trips

London is very different from Chicago, as expected, but I’ve noticed that some things are universal.

Like mice.

In my last post I mentioned that parts of my flat were duct taped together when I moved in. I wasn’t joking. We’ve figured out that the duct tape covering up the corner where the kitchen counter meets the wall is actually covering up a mouse hole. We’ve bought mouse traps (no-kill ones because none of us have the heart to buy anything else) and put all of our food in Tupperware and cupboards, but we’ve had no luck in catching any mice. Seems like our furry little flatmate may be here to stay. However, I’m still a firm believer that the good outweighs the bad as far as the situation of my flat. I’m still entirely in love with the location of where I live. One of my favorite things to do is get coffee (still not a fan of tea) and walk through Regent’s Park. It feels like I discover something new every time.

One very cool thing about being in a country I haven’t been to before is that there’s always something new to see. Last Friday, I woke up and realized I wanted to see Stonehenge. So that’s exactly what I did. A program called International Friends has extremely affordable student discounts to go on all sorts of trips across England and Europe. So on Friday two of my friends and I bought tickets for a tour of Stonehenge and Bath, an old Roman city about 100 miles away from London.

Stonehenge was actually a lot smaller than I first imagined it, but I feel like most big monuments are. It was almost surreal being there in person, just because it’s something I’ve only ever read about or seen on TV. The real reason behind Stonehenge being built is still a mystery, but I’m still fairly certain it was aliens. Next, our coach headed to Bath, and it was a super cute town! After taking a quick walking tour and learning a bit about the architecture and history, we were given a good chunk of time to wander the city ourselves. There were a bunch of little shops and cafes to stop at and we wound up spending a lot of time in the park.


This week we actually started doing things in classes. Unfortunately. Lucky for me I have some classes that seem like they’ll be pretty interesting! On Tuesdays I have Policing in Practice in the mornings and Victims and Crime in the afternoons. On Wednesday afternoon I have Crime, Media and Technology and on Thursday afternoon I have Serious and Serial Offenders. It’s a lot of Criminal Justice classes for one semester but luckily I’ll get credit for all of them back at Loyola. Getting used to the British school system is taking a bit of work though. There’s a lot more independent work and reading and a lot more talking and discussion in classes. Luckily I think I’m starting to get the hang of it (except for understanding the grading scale)!

Yesterday the 3 people in the flat above us, my 4 flatmates and I all went on a day trip to Brighton, which is a seaside town south of London. If you get tickets for times that aren’t super busy, you can actually travel England for very cheap! It was really nice spending some time out of the city with my friends, and hanging out on the pier was a ton of fun. I’ve begun to notice that I can only go on a few fair rides before I get a headache now, but I’m still really bad at carnival games, and I still really love fair food! We spent a lot of time after the pier wandering the streets and shops (there was a ton of very cool street art that you don’t really see in bigger cities) and hanging out at a seaside pub in the evening. Our train was a late one (in order to get the cheapest fare possible) and we were all exhausted on our way home, but it was an incredible day trip!


Due to our early morning/late night yesterday, I’ve spent most of the day lazing around the flat today, but luckily I have a four day weekend every week, so now I just have an extra day to put off my homework!

Week 1

Week 1

Well I made it.

Feels like I’ve been in London for approximately 3 months but I’ve actually been here now for exactly 10 days. My first few days here kind of blurred together. Most of my time the first weekend was spent meeting my new flatmates (all four of them), buying things for the flat to make it feel less like a sterile hospital ward (it was mostly a success), and getting to know the pub that we live above (they already know me by name). Before I get to anything about London, I might as well tell you about my flat first!

The three bedroom flat has one bathroom, no dryer, and is held together with duct tape in some places (literally). Some windows don’t open, some don’t close, and our neighbors keep finding bees. However, it’s in the best location you could possibly ask for in London by far! Not only is it right above a pub with good food and a great atmosphere, it’s about 2 feet away from Regent’s Park and 2 blocks away from the Baker Street Underground Station, which is super convenient. (Yes, for those of you Arthur Conon Doyle fans, it is THAT Baker Street. I’m approximately two doors down from 221b, which makes Sherlock Holmes my fictional neighbor. It’s a cool story to tell but I’m already getting tired of weaving in and out of tourists to get to my front door.) The location around my flat is insanely cool, and it’s also a pretty easy commute to my school; only a 25 minutes Tube ride away.

The Underground has been fairly easy to get the hang of so far, which I suppose I can thank my experience with Chicago public transportation for. The Tube is pretty much just like the L in Chicago, except a bit larger with a few million more people using it. Unfortunately, all my classes either begin or end (or both) during peak rush hour times. I have to transfer lines at King’s Cross station, which kind of makes me feel like a rat in a maze, but so far I’ve always gotten where I needed to be, so I’m going to call my experience with the public transit a success.

While not at orientation, I spent a good chunk of my week last week hitting all the tourist-y places. Camden Market was probably one of my favorites; a maze of food stalls and vintage stores, sometimes indoors, sometimes out. My friends can all expect to get their Christmas presents from Camden Town this year! Regent’s Park is super close to me and a really nice sized parks. It’s easy to get lost in and a great place to sit and read. The London Zoo is also located inside the park. It isn’t free, but if you take the right path you can still sneak a look at the camels! Of course I also had to hit the typical tourist traps like Big Ben and Parliament. Not the MOST exciting, but a must have for the photo album. The architecture here is unlike anything you could find in the US! Another nice thing about London; all the museums are free. My roommate and I managed to stop at the science museum so far, and if it’s anything to go by, I’m very excited to see the rest!


School started today, and I can already tell it’s going to be a lot different than life at Loyola. The only classes available are blocks of three hours, so while I only have each class once a week, it still adds up to a LOT of class time at once. On Tuesday’s I’ll be on campus from 9am until 5pm, and Wednesdays and Thursdays are 2 until 5. The hallways are absolutely a maze (not just to us international students, but students that have been there for years as well). I showed up for class this morning at 8:25, but didn’t find my class until 8:50. I don’t think I’m ever going to complain about finding my class in Chicago again! (I am however, going to continue to complain about textbook prices in the US because 25 pounds ($37) is apparently “expensive” for students here.)

After a week, I’ve really begun to settle in here in London, though I’m still adjusting to looking the opposite way while crossing the street. I’m still looking for a way to watch American Football (even though the Lions are currently 0-3) and I haven’t found a home-y coffee shop yet (I can’t do this tea thing), but other than that, I’m beginning to feel right at home back in a big city!