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Judges Abroad: Lara Verstovsek ’25 of volleyball studies in London

Judges Abroad is a series of blog posts written by Brandeis student-athletes who are spending part of their junior year studying abroad. To read more entries in the blog, !

Hi everyone! My name is from Houston, Texas and I am currently a junior studying abroad in London, United Kingdom. I am majoring in Psychology and minoring in Health, Science, Society, and Policy (HSSP) while being a part of the Brandeis varsity volleyball team. 

There were so many amazing places that were offered for Psychology majors at Brandeis. It was pretty difficult to narrow it down to one or two places. In the end, I decided London was going to be my first choice for a number of reasons. I had never been before, so I knew living and exploring the city as my home base was going to be an adventure within itself. Another plus that I was looking forward to was having no language barrier (other than the occasional thick UK accent), so that I could fit right in almost immediately. 

I’m currently studying at the University College London (UCL), which is an amazing academic opportunity which not many people get to do. The classes they offer and professors I have met have absolutely expanded my knowledge in the psychology realm and excites me for what’s to come after graduating from Brandeis – possibly even studying in the UK afterwards! I am currently taking four psychology classes, my favorite being “Psychology and Crime”. The academic experience at UCL is much different than what I am used to back in the States, but it has allowed me to become more organized and more disciplined with balancing my time studying and my time traveling to other places. 

With London being a great international city for traveling to and from neighboring countries, I have been taking advantage of less expensive flights as much as I can. So far, I have been able to explore Vienna, Belfast, Nice, Marseille, and Monaco. My trips in the next couple of months include Zurich, Ibiza, Mallorca, Zagreb, Madrid, Amsterdam, and Turkey! I’ve been really fortunate to have made great friends here in London, but also have close friends also traveling abroad in Europe. That way, I can travel and visit people pretty frequently. As for my time spent in London, I try and explore as much of the city as I can regularly, but it seems like there is only more and more to see! Apart from going out to cool restaurants and indulging in the night life with friends, some of my favorite things to do locally are going to weekly markets (Borough, Camden, or Brick Lane) or going to Primrose Hill to watch the sunset over the city skyline. I would say one of the coolest things I’ve done in London was going to a football match, specifically at the Fulham Stadium. It was so much fun to be immersed in the passionate football culture and to hear the infamous chants from the crowd at the game. 

Before coming here, I had heard so many great things about studying abroad, especially many friends telling me how it’s life-changing. Now that I’ve been here for a good amount of time, I can absolutely say that they were not exaggerating. You get to meet so many new people from not only the USA, but international people that you might have never had the chance to meet. Not only can you learn about new cultures, but you also get to learn a lot about yourself, living in a new country pretty much alone. Being abroad absolutely has improved my college experience on so many levels. 

Even though I am having a great time here in London, of course a part of me misses volleyball and my teammates. Moving here took a little bit of getting used to, especially readjusting my schedule to not include practices and games. Nevertheless, I still make time to go to the gym and stay active everyday! My other teammate, , who is currently studying in Madrid, and I are really fortunate to have volleyball be a fall sport, otherwise we might not have gotten the chance to study abroad. Our coach is also extremely supportive and wanted us to explore, not only the world, but ourselves during this semester.

Although my time here abroad is coming to an end in just a couple of months, I will definitely be making the most of it and absolutely recommend this experience to anyone who is able to do it!