Alumni Spotlight: Charlie O’Halloran

Stories that Shaped Us: Electric, Elegant and Diverse.

Charlie O’Halloran studied abroad with ISA in London, England Fall 2018 and is an alumnus of Emmanuel College where he was an ISA Global Ambassador. Charlie shares his fascination with British culture and the bustling city of London, where he hopes to move in the coming months. Charlie always knew he wanted to study in London, it was simply a matter of when he would take the plunge. We reached out to Charlie to learn more about the stories that have shaped him!

Did you always know that you wanted to study abroad? Why London?

For as long as I can remember, travel has been one of my main passions in life and I have always particularly loved British culture. As a child, I remember watching Spice World on repeat and being enamored by London. Studying in London was always a matter of when, not a matter of if. I also knew that studying in London was a perfect opportunity to explore other parts of Europe. One of my biggest goals is to travel the world and living in London makes it easy to do so.

Describe London in three words.

Electric, elegant and diverse.

What were your first two weeks abroad like? What was going through your head during that time?

The first two weeks were thrilling. As soon as I landed at Heathrow, I felt like I had entered an entirely new planet. I took the underground straight to my apartment, which was in Notting Hill. We had a private backyard that was actually used in the movie Notting Hill. I went down there every morning to sit on the bench, enjoy the scenery and meditate. On the second day, I met the other students in the program and we took a private tour around the city on a double decker bus, stopping at Buckingham Palace and other landmarks. At the beginning of the second week, I started classes. Once I started a routine, I really felt like I was settled in, and I was living in my home away from home. Of course the first two weeks were a little bit overwhelming, but I knew I could go to the ISA staff if I needed help.

What was the biggest difference between classes in London and classes at your home university, Emmanuel College?

Emmanuel has one location with less than 2,000 students, while the University of Westminster has five locations with a total of almost 20,000 students. Because of this, I went from small discussion-based classes to large lecture-based classes. Some of the professors structured their lectures and others would essentially share a stream of consciousness. Either way, the lectures were captivating, and the professors really wanted us to soak up everything we were learning. I was constantly reading books, watching movies and going to museums that they recommended. I also took a class called “Photography in London” that was only for international students. Most of the time, we would meet at a place I had never even heard of and our professor would give us a project. The other main difference was the class schedule. Each class had one big project that counted for our entire final grade. I preferred this structure, because it felt more productive.

If you were to create a bucket list with 5 places to visit in London, what would you include?

  • Notting Hill – Go on a Saturday and stop at Portobello Market.
  • Kensington Palace – The Princess Diana Memorial Garden is open to the public. I went there almost every day to work on schoolwork, read, etc.
  • Victoria Beckham
  • The O2
  • Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

What did you learn about yourself through your experience studying abroad in London?

I learned that I officially wanted to move to London. I thought about transferring to the University of Westminster full-time, but it would have been really complicated because I had already completed two years of an American education. I ended up deciding that I would return right after I graduated, but because of COVID-19, I couldn’t even have an in-person graduation. Now that the world is almost back to normal, I am actively working on moving back to London, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Inspired by Charlie’s journey and want to discover your own while immersing yourself in an abroad experience? Fill out your details below to let our team know and we’ll help you find your adventure today!

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