Student Stories

GIL Students on Independence and Program Support

"Now looking back to my Grinnell education after graduating 10 years ago, I consider Grinnell-in-London Program to be a single best decision I made during my college years.  It was a great way to broaden my horizons and to experience other culture, by immersing into it through taking history and culture courses offered through the program.  I do not think I would have gotten a better exposure to England if not through the program. Living in London and exploring it with my classmates was a unique experience, which also brought us together. I always felt as part of a family, with support being freely available even though I was in a foreign country. Travel trips to other cities with the program were outstanding. The program was exceptionally well organized.  I think if I traveled to London on my own, I would have not discovered all the interesting places with which the program presented us." 

"The 4-day weeks meant I had energy to dedicate to class work during the week but then I still had time to travel and explore on the weekends. Since London is a major travel hub, I was able to visit most of my European bucket list. And, without a doubt, one of the best things about GIL was going to the theatre. Traveling with classmates to see plays all over London was not quite a social outing nor was it exactly like an extension of coursework– it was that rare opportunity to soak up the milieu of the city, to see the tangible intersections of history, literature, and politics."

"Grinnell teaches us to think critically, to engage with society, to be independent and to practice self governance. I cannot think of a more appropriate way to apply these principles and values than to live abroad. London, especially, was ideal for me as a history major with an interest in art history. I lived with other students half an hour from the site where classes are taught, which provided the perfect combination of comfort and new challenges."

"In a lot of study abroad programs, of course, there is full immersion at a local university, and that is one cultural experience that I might have liked to have.  On the other hand, I knew only a handful of the students in my GIL year prior to our arrival in London, and of those, only a couple very well.  By the end I felt like we had all gone through some serious growth together and formed deep friendships.  Regardless of all the other learning and exploration, just belonging to such a tight knit group for a semester makes me treasure the experience."

" In London I learned how to be an adult. Finding a shared house to live in, commuting to school, learning to navigate the city, buying my own groceries and cooking my own meals.  I grew up and I grew out."

"I also got to know some of my dearest friends while studying abroad with GIL, and through our relatively unstructured introduction to the city – there was a lot we had to figure out for ourselves.  The whole experience helped me mature and taught me how capable I am in unfamiliar settings."

"Living in London could not have been more different from living in Grinnell, Iowa, and it was invaluable to have that experience in city living. I became more confident, more adventurous, and more interested in the world as a result of my semester abroad. I learned that travel offers not just a chance to see new things or famous historical places, but also a chance to live a new life."

"It was in London that I learned how to listen to my inner voice for the first time. And while this sort of introspective listening is a skill I continue to refine, my time in London represents a kind of personal awakening. The travel, adventure, new relationships, and exposure to new ways of thinking, living, governing, and interacting all combined to forge a new understanding of my life's values and goals and strongly enriched my invaluable Grinnell education.  London, in essence, was a first trial run of my application of the core essentials that we gain from our liberal arts education."

GIL Students on Coursework and Internships

"Grinnell-in-London was, by far, the best semester I had while at Grinnell. I had considered doing other programs before ultimately settling on Grinnell-in-London, and the reason I chose this program was not because it was cheap or easy or even because my friends were doing it (all of which were nice extras) but because out of the dozens of programs I considered, it was the most focused on the experience of studying abroad.  Other programs I considered had a broader selection of classes or were in more “exotic” locations, but Grinnell-in-London was the only program I looked at that cared just as much about your experience out of the classroom as in it. Classes were only held four days a week for the first portion of the program to encourage students to travel around the UK and Europe. Professors planned excursions and field trips in their own classes, and just generally encouraged students to travel and to have experiences beyond the classroom. The program was about more than just academics; it was about learning how to try new things and to just generally be a more open minded and courageous person."

"I can’t imagine doing study abroad without that Grinnell touch. One of the things I loved most about GIL was that I got to take classes with other Grinnell students and Grinnell faculty. I didn’t feel like I was taking “filler” classes that were an inconvenience to my traveling. Quite the opposite! All of my classes were genuinely interesting, the other students were actively engaged, and professors always took opportunities for field trips. Taking classes in Grinnell, IA doesn’t always give you a lot of perspective on how physical places can influence literature/history/politics/whatever it is you’re studying. Being in a foreign place really woke up my attention to the physicality of culture. In my Museum Studies class, for example, I learned how to look critically at cultural institutions while still enjoying them as a tourist."

"Professors were kind and encouraging and really invested in helping you learn and grow as a person."

"So many of my peers reported that their classes at study-abroad programs were secondary.  My coursework in London was an integral and rich part of my experience.  I felt myself flourish academically in a way I hadn’t experienced before. My writing and thinking matured as our classes blended into our lives and travels."

"There was something about hiking across a moor that brought whole new level of understanding to large swaths of British literature; something about the feeling of a cobblestone street underfoot that deepened my sense of history and place; and something about executing mundane activities in a foreign land—getting a haircut, buying an avocado, paying the landlady—that taught me how big, and small, and extraordinary the world really is."

"The academic program offered by Grinnell-in-London was firmly place-based and took full advantage of our location and the resources it offered. From walking tours for a class on the history of London to visiting Reuters headquarters for a class on globalization to a trip to Ireland for Modern Irish Literature, my classes allowed me to dive into and fully appreciate where I was."

"My Grinnell-In-London internship experience played a large part in what started me out on my present professional trajectory. When I applied for the program, I was a Psychology major struggling to find my niche in the field; psychology was fascinating, but had not ignited passion in me. The GIL internship experience allowed me to identify the things that really made me tick--things that I did not find within the academic confines of the College--and provided me with an opportunity tailor-made to suit my heart's curiosities while challenging me to grow as a person and professional."

"The semester I spent with the Grinnell-in-London program was without a doubt one of the best semesters of my four years at Grinnell. I stepped away from the program having experienced unparalleled opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom. Grinnell teaches you a world class education, but London gives you a world class city with which to experience it even further. I enjoyed the small class sizes, field trips throughout the city and country, weekly theatre performances, and being taught by excellent professors."

"My internship at the House of Commons was the perfect introduction to my future career as a lawyer - before I even realized I'd walk down this path.  In courses and real-life experience, I didn't just learn about the legal system, I actually interacted with it, and took part in its ongoing evolution."

"I saw Richard II at the Globe, ogled giant ravens at the Tower of London, hiked the English countryside, explored the ruins of a Roman bathhouse, watched swans squabble upon Avon, rambled about the Stourhead Gardens...all just while I was on GIL field trips! The program is really committed to bringing classes to life with experiences unique to London and its environs."

"One of Grinnell College's strengths is in the sense of community that being a part of a small liberal-arts college housed in a small, Midwestern town provides; however, the Grinnell-in-London experience provided a great counterbalance. Spending time in a large, international city and having the exposure to the educational and cultural opportunities in London truly complemented and enriched the experiences had during my time at Grinnell."

GIL Students on the Culture of London

"When I look back on my time in London, it seems to me an alternate reality, one in which my life was far more fabulous: I went to the theatre every night. I interned for Parliament. I bumped into Stephen Sondheim.  I studied at the London School of Economics. I sang in a choir in Westminster Abbey. I walked the red carpet on opening night of the London Film Fest. I waved at the Queen riding by in a carriage. It all seems so impressive now, but back then it was just how it was."

"That's what Grinnell-in-London is: an everyday experience that is magical, and a magical experience that is every day."

"I recall fondly touring London’s city streets, peeling back the fascinating layers of the city’s rich history, and following my professors into castles, churches, court rooms, and dungeons."

"Studying abroad with Grinnell-in-London was one of the highlights of my college experience.  The chance to live and learn in one of the world's great cities—the chance, that is, to visit the British Museum, to go "behind the scenes" at Westminster Abbey, to attend plays at the National Theatre, to see parts of the city that tourists miss, to take classes with outstanding faculty, and much, much more—is an opportunity not to be missed.  I have visited London many times since graduating from Grinnell, and though I still haven't tired of the city, my fondest memories are of the time I spent there as a student with GIL."

"What is there to say that isn’t cliché? Memories from Grinnell-in-London: making friends with flatmates over late-night runs for fish and chips (with mushy peas, of course), wind-whipped climbing over grassy hills and ancient ruins in Ireland, explaining Thanksgiving to British businessmen on the Tube, Christmas decorations all up and down Oxford street, lunch breaks at the British Museum, seeing Patrick Stewart and David Tennant in Hamlet at Stratford-upon-Avon."

"I look back on my time in London with immense fondness.  For me it was a time of voracious cultural consumption.  During those four months I visited my first jazz club, bought my first opera ticket, took some formative classes in contemporary dance, attended more plays than I can remember, and devoured hundreds and hundreds of pages of British literature. It was the first time I looked at one painting for over an hour.  It was a Rembrandt in the National Gallery, and I will never forget what the time allowed me to see. It is where I truly came to love theatre and performance; where I developed a real stamina and point of view for looking at art; and where I learned how to make the most out of travel and time with friends."

"As an English major, it was extremely culturally moving to visit the Wordsworth cottage, Jane Austen's house, and the moors that inspired the Bronte sisters. Oh, and you will grow to love the traditional English breakfast--baked beans and all! Grinnell-in-London is one of the most treasured times in my life."

"I found London to be large enough to embrace almost any interest, any whimsy, or any subculture."

"Through GIL, I lived in one of the world's most dynamic and diverse cities in the world. London is accessible but endlessly varied, containing more to discover than one possibly could see in a semester.  It's a short, reasonably-priced trip from so many other alluring places, too."

"Ten years later, I remember my semester in London as the cultural high point of my life so far. Living in the thick of a city with great theater every weekend under $20, cheap or free live music everywhere, the streets overflowing with art and artists, 10 raucous daily newspapers and a 2,000-years-long history of great big ideas was a deeply important part of my education."

"Grinnell-in-London was the most highly concentrated cultural experience I have had. I was exposed to great literature, art, and architecture, wonderful and diverse neighborhoods and communities, and so many opportunities that every day had the possibility of being a new and special experience. The program and city was also a launching pad to visit other fascinating cities in the England, as well as on the European continent. I expect that there would have been no other way, before or after Grinnell-in-London, to see and participate in so much cultural education. My recommendation is to go, take in all that is offered as part of the program, and take advantage of the many opportunities to explore beyond that."

GIL Students on the Postgraduate Influence of Grinnell in London

"Even now, 11 years later, there is not a day that I don’t miss London—the city, the courses, the people, and Grinnell. I am still incredibly good friends with four people on that program and see them annually.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to study under the guidance of fantastic professors who allowed me to discover, grow, and thrive in such a rich environment.  GIL is one of the primary reasons I sing Grinnell’s praises to everyone I meet, and one of the reasons I support the institution financially.  It is the best thing I did as a student, and I highly encourage anyone to explore the possibilities."

"Grinnell-in-London was a fantastic experience that was absolutely life-changing. I began a life-long love of dramatic theatre that I maintain to this day in New York. I learned how valuable my botanical knowledge is when trying to impress octogenarians. We explored cathedrals and medieval structures and those experiences fueled my interest in architectural conservation. Being in England made Shakespeare's plays fabulous entertainment rather than a dusty reading assignment. I went back and lived in the UK for a year after college; I probably was inspired to do that by the semester at GIL. I loved the program and would recommend it to anyone."

"My GIL friendships have lasted, now, over 15 years—and they continue to flower and grow.  Grinnell-in-London was an amazing experience, one that, from my research and knowledge of other peoples foreign study experiences, both Grinnell and non-Grinnell, was truly unique and special. My time in London continues to shape my intellectual and social endeavors."

"Studying abroad at Grinnell-in-London was the perfect fit for me. Professionally, I knew museum studies and graduate school were my next steps post-Grinnell, and the program offered a plethora of related opportunity. Personally, I enriched lifelong friendships and still now cherish fond memories of unforgettable life experiences, such as climbing the bell tower of St. Paul’s Cathedral in the dark with our music professor, field trips to all-things-Austen, Bronte and Kipling, and fall break in Scotland."

"Thoreau claims that we live many lives within one. Looking back, I can honestly admit that GIL was a happy time in my life, one of much personal growth, and a life I would definitely choose to live again."

"I am forever changed because of Grinnell-in-London and I am deeply grateful for the growth I have experienced because of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."