“Hofstra in London" calling? Don't answer.
Anyone who has studied abroad through Hofstra knows that it will cost you a pretty penny. Not only are you required to pay the program fee – usually around $3,800 – but you are also required to pay for the credits you will be receiving through the University as well. For the London study abroad program this past January session, it cost about $8,300. For some study abroad programs, students don’t mind paying that amount because they feel that they have gotten some “bang for their buck.” I just do not feel that way.
For comparison, a London study abroad program with Adelphi University partners with Kingston University in London for a program over the summer. The program cost for this includes the tuition, housing in a dorm for 31 days, field trips, unlimited travel on the underground and buses throughout greater London and transportation to and from the airport. All of this is $4,100. Students only have to pay for the cost of a round trip airplane ticket to London, which is around $1,000. This trip is around $3,000 less than Hofstra’s and includes so much more.
I had the time of my life this past January in London. However, I had the time of my life because I decided I was going to and because I made the best of a situation that was not what I was promised or what I signed up for. My friends and I found the famous London landmarks on our own. My roommate and I also traveled to two other countries in our time abroad, which ended up being our favorite parts of the trip. I had an amazing time despite not having help from Hofstra, which left me thinking that I should have just gone to London on my own and not through a study abroad program. It would have cost significantly less and I probably would have learned a lot more about the city of London.
Upon signing up for the trip, we were given the choice between taking a course in British contemporary theater or on the Swinging Sixties in London. The theater class included tickets to four London theater productions and a private tour of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. One would think that since the theater class was set up to have so many amazing experiences, the Swinging Sixties in London class would be given opportunities for equally amazing experiences. But for five students in the class that assumed this, four of us were left sorely disappointed.
Upon arrival to London it quickly became apparent that the Swinging Sixties course was the ugly red-headed stepchild of Hofstra’s London program. The real problem that troubles me is, where the hell did my money go? A roundtrip ticket to London and three weeks in a crappy hotel could in no way amount to $3,800. It can only be inferred that some of the money we paid went toward the shows and tours the other class had the opportunity to take, while my class was oh-so-“generously” given $40 each to go do something related to our class.
Personally, my parents and I were so excited that I would have opportunities to go to concerts and museums that pertained to the lessons we were learning in our course. I thought that I would go to Liverpool, the birthplace of the Beatles and see things that were equally as amazing as touring Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. But the unfortunate reality was that our class was given no opportunities. We sat in a basement conference room of a crappy hotel and watched hours and hours of concert footage instead of experiencing the awesomeness and rich history of the city that we were studying in. In addition, our class was from 1-3 p.m., right smack in the middle of the day, preventing us from seeing London during primetime and keeping us from eating our three meals a day.
Like any millennial, after hearing where we were staying, I immediately searched the St. Giles Hotel. Unfortunately, I had not looked at the reviews until we were already staying there. It is not ideal to read about reports of bed bugs once you have been staying at a hotel for two weeks. Our room was about the size of a steerage cabin on the Titanic, our bathroom door did not close all the way – if you forced it shut you would have to be rescued out every time – and the shower seemed to get hot, but really was just lukewarm.
The walls were so thin that you could hear unspeakable things happening right next door. You could hear housekeeping knocking on every single door around you, including yours, at 8 a.m. every day. Our first morning in London, housekeeping literally walked into our room as we were sleeping (after knocking once) and acted surprised that we were still in bed at 9 a.m. Even when we put our do not disturb sign out we were still disturbed by knocking at early hours. If it wasn’t knocking, there seemed to be endless drilling and construction sounds in the early morning. There had to be a better option than the hotel we were given.
When you are studying abroad in a country that is foreign to you, you would think that the director of your trip would be checking in to see how you were doing and make sure you were OK. That was not the case in London this past January. No emergency numbers were distributed to students; if you had an emergency while in London you had to grow up quickly. We saw the program director on the first night and the last night. If you did not take a class with the professor that was the head of the trip, you did not see or hear from him for three entire weeks. We barely even saw our director when we got back to New York. I think the icing on the cake was when my roommate got detained by U.S. Customs and our director strolled right out of the terminal without checking to see if all of the students were getting through security. I understand we are considered adults now, but checking in to see if we are OK is still important when you are the director of a study abroad program.
Our experience, although not ideal, was enjoyable – no thanks to Hofstra. We laughed at our situation because if we didn’t laugh I surely would have cried. To see what my parents' hard-earned money was going toward made me upset but I am so thankful to my parents for giving me this amazing opportunity of traveling at such a young age. It was the time of my life, but it was the time of my life because I made it the time of my life. The friendships that I formed studying abroad have surely changed me for the better. Even though there were times I felt disappointed, I would not give up this opportunity for anything. I just hope that next year Hofstra can appoint a director that will ensure that no matter what class you take, you can still have an equally amazing experience. Hopefully the next director of the program makes the London study abroad program much more inclusive and equal than this past January’s program turned out to be.