A Study Abroad Story through a Student’s Perspective
By: Mariana Villasenor, BS’23
There’s nothing like the anticipation and excitement that keeps you from sleeping the day before an international trip. In March 2023, the Kelley School of Business, Indianapolis piloted the first study abroad trip since before the pandemic to London to study the UK Financial System Post Brexit over spring break. As one of the most diverse cities in Europe with its rich history reflected in its architecture and its major global banking center, studying abroad in London with the Kelley School of Business gave me the opportunity to deepen my knowledge and gain new perspectives on global financial systems.
One of the best things about studying abroad is the freedom to book your own flights which allows you the ability to plan extra activities before and after the programming begins. Take advantage of this time! Some students booked an Airbnb to start exploring, one spent time in Paris with a sibling, while five others and I booked a hostel in London together to start the adventure early.
Friday: Fish & Chips and Rain
London welcomed my group with freezing rain, and we took the underground railway (the locals call it the tube or choob) to the Wombat City Hostel. The rain did not stop us from exploring the city, and thanks to Google Maps, we were able to successfully navigate the public transportation and make it to our destinations. After the long journey from Indianapolis, riding the choob, and walking in the rain to the hostel, we began researching where to get the best fish and chips for our first meal in London. As we were strolling the streets of London, we discovered the Lloyd’s of London building— which is an insurance company that insured the Titanic. We were learning on our own even before the study abroad program began! The basement of the Wombat City Hostel had a karaoke night where we played pool and met people from all over the world! At the end of the night, we slept well in our bunk beds, eager for another day of adventure.
Saturday: Cambridge Day Trip
On our second day, we took an hour train ride to the town of Cambridge to visit Cambridge University. We were fascinated by the architecture and found it difficult to distinguish campus buildings from local churches! We snapped a picture in front of the Newton’s Apple Tree, which was planted in honor of Cambridge alum Isaac Newtown, who discovered gravity.
We had a delicious traditional British dinner at Nicholson’s and enjoyed their award-winning pot pie, but our night didn’t end there. As a cultural hub, London is full of worldwide cuisine. We ate a delicious late-night falafel at a Lebanese restaurant and socialized at the hostel. We ended the night walking around the streets of London to admire Tower Bridge and the night lights of the buildings including The Shard.
Sunday, Day 1: Programming Begins
For the program, our group stayed at the Yotel in Shoreditch, London. We were eager to meet up with our classmates and begin the program. We explored the Tower of London and learned about the rich history of the kings and queens who resided there, the executions that occurred, and admired the shiniest diamonds at the Crown Jewels. It was fascinating to see such a historic castle surrounded by modern buildings.
Monday, Day 2: Exploring London as a Team
We visited the IES Abroad headquarters, a not-for-profit study abroad and internship provider, where we met Adam Harrison, a Londoner who helped plan our study abroad trip. He took us to the Borough Market, which is one of London’s oldest and largest food markets. From fresh Spanish Paella to Italian olive oil samples, the market was filled with a plethora of flavors from all over the world to satisfy everyone’s tastebuds.
We had a real British experience for lunch that made us feel like royalty: afternoon tea at the Roast in Borough market. We were each given a pot of tea of our choice accompanied with finger sandwiches, scones, and sweets. IES Abroad arranged the wonderful tour guide for us, Ruth, who is a London native. We walked along the Thames River, crossed the London bridge and the Millennium Bridge (popular for the Harry Potter fans), visited St. Paul’s Cathedral, took a photo at the center of London with the famous Charles I statute, and finally made it to Big Ben.
After strolling the streets of London and immersing ourselves in its history, we had the night free to ourselves. As a fan of the arts, watching “The Phantom of the Opera” had been on my bucket list for a long time. What better place to watch it than at the Her Majesty Theatre in London with my classmates? About half of the group joined, and it was an incredible experience that we all enjoyed!
Tuesday, Day 3: Moody’s and Must-See London Destinations
We took the choob to Canary Wharf to visit Moody’s, a business and financial services company that is known for providing credit ratings to corporations, governments, nonprofits, and other entities. Jeane Harrison, a credit analyst for Moody’s who grew up in the US and began working at the Moody’s in London taught us about credit ratings. She explained the 21-point scale from Aa to Caa that determines an entities credit rating which is the long-term forward-looking opinion of related credit risk, and she gave us the chance to guess universities’ credit ratings. She taught us how European businesses are more risk adverse than American businesses.
We then visited the Westminster Abbey and delved into the church’s history of coronations, burials, and weddings. We ended the day by watching a soccer match at The Den, where Millwall FC beat Swansea 2 to 1. It was a cool experience to immerse ourselves in a big part of the UK’s culture and cheer for Millwall, the home team, which had an almost full stadium watching the game.
Wednesday, Day 4: Finance in London
With London being a global financial hub, we visited the Bank of England Museum to learn more about the bank’s history and the UK economy. We watched demonstrations on how Great British Pounds are printed and we were able to hold a $1 million gold bar. The museum had a plethora of displays showing banknotes from the 17th century and lottery tickets from the 19th century, which we observed how its accounting and financial processes have evolved over the centuries.
Then we headed over to the London Eye and enjoyed the breathtaking view of the city. We had the rest of the evening free to explore downtown. A group of us strolled through Hyde Park, then to Buckingham Palace, and then to National Gallery Art Museum. At the Gallery, we admired the intricacies of paintings from the 15th century to famous artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Vincent van Gogh.
Thursday, Day 5: Banking & Museums
We began the day with a lecture by Professor Russell Rhoads who explained the Silicon Valley Bank situation. He outlined that the issue wasn’t connected with startups but was caused from deposits in long term T-bond rates. Professor Rhoads teaches undergraduate and graduate courses focused on investments due to his extensive experience in trading options, derivatives, portfolio management, and financial engineering. To give examples of how to apply our classroom knowledge, he taught us to how to create a NCAA Final Four bracket and understand bid-ask spreads. We also had a guest speaker from a financial services company, EQDerivatives, Georgia Reynolds, video chat with us. A key takeaway from our conversation with her was how she talked to institutional investors to develop the articles she writes and how the information assists in market mapping.
Then we went to the British Museum and saw ancient artifacts from all over the globe, such as the original Rosetta Stone known for the first piece of translation, a 5,000-year-old mummy, and sculptures from the Parthenon in Greece.
Friday, Day 6: Imperial College & French Cuisine
On our last day, we visited Imperial College and learned more about growing careers in finance from financial engineering to financial sustainability.
We ended the night with a farewell dinner at a French restaurant called the Boulevard Brasserie where we ate a delicious 3-course meal as we reflected on what we learned through the week. The night was filled with laughter as we shared stories about the adventures from the week.
I strongly encourage students to pursue study abroad opportunities. Professors have many valuable connections from everywhere. Studying abroad is a great opportunity to broaden your horizons and discover new career opportunities. Not only does studying abroad offer unique learning and professional development opportunities, but you also create lifelong friendships and memories.
As a first-generation college student without much exposure to the financial world prior to beginning my college journey at Kelley, London study abroad program has been one of the highlights to my undergraduate journey. The opportunity to expand my cultural awareness, build relationships, and explore London’s financial center will broaden my perspectives and helped prepare me for the global changes in the financial industry from the impacts of Brexit.