A few weeks before I left for my semester in London, I was sent the UK DiscoverIES field trip sign up. For IES London, the field trips were to Bath and Stonehenge, Canterbury and Dover, Windsor, Edinburgh, and Oxford. At first, I was hesitant to go on many of them because I knew that there were other places outside of the UK that I wanted to visit and I was worried about time. But, after having gone on four of the five field trips, I can say that I am happy with my decision. Here are five reasons why I am pro-IES field trips:
1. Making Friends
I was pleasantly surprised with how many friends I made during orientation week. So, when it came to the field trips, I was happy to be able to hang out with people that I had met. Studying abroad can get really lonely at times, so it is important to make an effort to see people. The field trips were a great opportunity to do this.
On top of seeing people that I had previously met, I was also able to meet new people that maybe I wouldn’t have met at all. For example, IES was partnered with another study abroad program for the field trips, and I felt like we were divided into our groups for a lot of the activities. But, when I was in Edinburgh, we went on a deer safari and a hike with them. From this, I was able to talk to a few new people and even made a new friend! I also met a few people from an IES dual enrollment program that weekend as well.
I was also able to foster new friendships while on the field trips. For example, our first trip was to Bath and Stonehenge. In our freetime, I went out with quite a few new friends, where we just hung out and talked for hours. We were enjoying ourselves so much that we missed the last bus back to the hostel and had to walk all the way back. And then in Dover, I hiked around with a different friend. We ended up getting lost and were nearly late for the bus. Even though both of these experiences came with learning lessons, they were some of my favorite memories from the field trips because I now have some fun stories to tell about time spent with cherished new friends.
2. Planning trips on your own can be hard
Planning your own trips can be really stressful. For instance, the first trip that I did on my own without the help of IES was with my roommate Emily. We went to Fort William, Scotland to ride the Hogwarts Express (The Jacobite). This trip was wonderful, and the train made the whole thing worth it, but there were many downsides as well and it was overall an exhausting trip.
The nice thing about the IES field trips is that pretty much everything is planned out for you, so all you have to do is pack and show up!
3. You don’t lose your whole weekend
Both Canterbury/Dover and Oxford were day trips. This was really nice because then I could take the rest of my time that weekend to explore London and catch up on homework. This was also nice because normally not all of your friends go on the field trips, so having only a day of travel allowed for time to catch up with them.
4. Learning opportunities
On all of the field trips that I went on, there was some sort of walking tour that covered the history of the town that we were in and we visited many historical sites such as the Canterbury Cathedral, Edinburgh Castle, Dover Castle, and the University of Oxford. These tours were really interesting because we could learn about the town while enjoying the architecture and taking pictures.
5. They’re fun!
Overall, these field trips contain some of my favorite memories from my time abroad thus far. It is so fun getting to explore places that I’ve never been before throughout the UK alongside my new friends.
Some of my favorite memories include:
- Going to the top of Dover Castle with Bri and Emily and making up a song all the way up the stairs.
- Getting lost at the Cliffs of Dover with Kiki.
- Visiting Harry Potter sites at Canterbury Cathedral, Edinburgh, and Oxford.
- Seeing Bridgerton and Jane Austen (Persuasion) filming locations in Bath.
- Getting rained on in Stonehenge and Edinburgh.
- Punting in Oxford.
- Going to an arcade-themed bar with Bri, Emily, Catherine, and Lauren.
- Talking so late that we missed the last bus back to the hostel with Maeve, Emily, Maura, Trevor, John, and Alex in Bath.
- Feeding deer and hiking in the highlands of Scotlands. Getting my shoes absolutely drenched.
All and all, my recommendation is to have fun during your time abroad and do what makes you happy because chances are, you won’t get the opportunity to live abroad again. I believe that one way of having fun and seeing a lot is through the field trips.