Alexandra D., UK-England – English Universities (Communication)

ACADEMICS

  1. What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB?  As a 4th year upper division Comm student, I only needed to take upper division Comm classes. However, I had a hard time getting classes because I am a junior transfer. When King’s College London looked at my transcript, they only saw the one year of classes I took at UCSB and therefore told me I was not qualified to take their equivalent level of major classes. That being said, I was placed in introductory classes with mainly freshmen and other younger study abroad students. That part was pretty frustrating but because the classes were easier, I had more time to travel. The classes I took were Communication Skills, Introduction to Management, Introduction to Philosophy of Language, and Teaching and Learning the Language System. Comm Skills and Intro to Management counted for Comm credit. The classes basically all comprised of a group project and an essay, not a lot of busy-work and were similar to UCSB classes but more independent.

  1. What was your favorite class abroad?  My favorite class was Communication Skills taught by David White. The class was practical, it taught us workplace skills, and helped us with our resumes and strategies in regards to entering the workforce. Not only was the information relevant, David White was awesome. He was funny, had that dry British humor, and was truly entertaining and engaging. I looked forward to his class. Honestly, we described him as a cool grandpa.

HOST INSTITUTION

  1. How would you describe your host institution? King’s College was certainly a culture mixing pot. There were a lot of very wealthy students from all around the world. It was really cool to attend such an international school and hear perspectives from all around the world. I don’t think I got a great feel for KCL because I was placed in a lot of introductory classes, meaning I was surrounded by a lot of “freshmen ” who were 18 years old and were very inexperienced and didn’t know what plagiarism was. I felt pretty advanced compared to the students I was around. However, the feel of the KCL buildings themselves contributed to an a prestigious atmosphere. The class sizes were very comparable to UCSB, probably a little bit more intimate. KCL was right in the heart of London and about an hour to an hour and a half (by tube/train) away from all of the airports.

  1. Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join? Yes! There is a huge club fair that happens at the start of school. There are a multitude of clubs and organizations you can join. I personally didn’t join any because I already knew I was going to be traveling 9 out of the 12 weekends so I just didn’t think It would make sense for me to join anything if I was going to be gone so often.

HOUSING

  1. Describe your housing situation. I lived in KCL university accommodations. You had to submit your preferences out of several different locations and they would assign you to one. I lived in Wolfson house alone. The floor was mixed gender and we shared the kitchen,  3 showers and 5 toilets with 14 people. It was not the most luxurious place but the location was awesome. It came with a bed, dresser, desk, and sink in the room. You had to buy bedding, kitchenware, bathroom essentials etc. Woflson house is essentially a freshman dorm so I lived with a wide variety of new students. Most of my floor was British but there were kids from all over the place. I met people from Italy, Austria, Germany, France, and Ireland during the first “social” of the year.
This was the view of the Shard from my 8th floor room

FOOD

  1. Where did you eat most of your meals? I ate out for the majority of my meals out because the shared kitchen I had was disgusting. I had a lot of soup that was gluten and dairy free from Pret A Manger and it was really cheap. I also ate a lot of microwavable Indian meals Tesco’s that were also super cheap. My friends and I also would cook together once or twice a week and all share a meal at someone’s apartment. I also ate a lot of meals from food markets! European street food is BOMB.
  1. How much was an average meal?  Do you have any budgeting tips for future students? The soup and the microwavable meals cost me about 2.85-3.70 pounds. Cooking for yourself definitely can save a lot of money and meal-prepping is a good idea too. However just know that you have to buy your own pots, pans etc. My friend and I bought kitchenware to split since we knew we would be traveling a lot and were not going to be cooking regularly.

  1. Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals? No! Absolutely not! I am lactose intolerant and gluten intolerant and there were a gazillion options for gluten free and dairy free items. They also have a ton of vegetarian and vegan meals. London was very “L.A.” in regards to food and the food options available. I didn’t have any problems.
  2. Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad. Honestly, any time I went out with my group of girlfriends. Three of our favorite places to eat include Dishoom, Seven Dials Market, and Mercado Metropolitano. Seven Dials Market and Mercado Metropolitano are giant food halls that have a ton of different food stalls and cocktail bars and large seating areas. The vibes were always great and the food was delicious. The Truffle Burger from Seven Dials was the best burger I’ve ever had. That was my last meal in London and it was extremely memorable. Dishoom is also delicious It’s extremely popular so the wait time ranges from 1-3 hours, but the food is divine. Dishoom is probably my favorite restaurant ever. We always had a fun time there! The last time my group of friends and I ate at Dishoom, we ordered family-style and sat around and talked about our experience abroad for 4 hours.
  3. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back? The restaurant DISHOOM. It’s not tea and crumpets but it IS just as popular (maybe?). I love Indian food so much and prior to going to London, I was told that Indian food in London is like Mexican Food in Southern California — ubiquitous and amazing. London truly had the best Indian food ever, including their microwavable meals, and Dishoom was hands down my favorite restaurant, and it was affordable and shareable! I would kill for some veggie samosas right now! The picture below is garlic naan, lime-chili greens, and their infamous chicken tikka.

HOST CITY

  1. Describe your host city. Central London was large, very urban, and extremely diverse. There were people from all over the world. I probably heard, on average, 5 different languages daily. I lived close to the financial district so I was near a lot of businessmen and women. London is HUGE but the transportation system is amazing and makes everything feel so close. It’s also very walkable and pedestrian friendly. Because living spaces in Europe are smaller, there are a lot more public spaces for people to meet up and hangout with one another. A popular spot for lunch breaks are rooftops!
  1. Was it easy to get around? Super easy to get around! I mainly walked everywhere because I enjoyed being outside and I wanted to save money. London is extremely walkable and there are always pretty sites and fun things to look at. I willingly walked 8 miles a day (on average) because I enjoyed it so much. But taking the tube/bus/train was also super easy! The app CityMapper is helpful for getting around. Getting around in other cities could be a little confusing but we always figured it out. Most of the time you can buy train tickets on your phone and if you are confused, locals/workers are willing to help you out.
  2. Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students? I actually felt extremely safe almost all of the time. I never got pick-pocketed or had anything stolen from me but I was hyper-aware of my surroundings and I walked around very confidently. When I was taking public transportation, I made sure to have an eye on my belongings at all times. I acted like people were targeting me so that I was already ready and on guard. I felt safer walking around in London, even at night, compared to walking around Isla Vista. I think it helped that there is always something going on in central London so people are always up.
  1. What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city? I absolutely loved going to all of the museums London had to offer. They do a great job of making museums free and giving students discounts. Take advantage of all of the AMAZING sculptures, paintings, installations, etc. that you can see for free. I went to a museum whenever I had a chance to. I also went to at least one museum in every country that I went to. We also went to a Tottenham “football” (soccer) game one night and that was a blast!

HOST CULTURE

  1. Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad. One cultural difference that was prevalent in my everyday life was the volume level people talked in. Europeans in general tend to not be overly loud or rambunctious, quite different from American culture. In the UK, people talk to one another in very quiet manners so that what is being discussed can only be heard from the people in the conversation. People typically remain silent on public transportation, meaning if you want to talk, you essnetially whisper. If you talk at your normal level, you will get dirty looks.
  2. How did you handle culture shock? London is huge and very multicultural. I actually did not experience any culture shock because I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a lot. I think what helps me not experience culture shock is researching where I’m going, be respectful, and do what the locals do. If you don’t see locals running around and screaming, you shouldn’t either. If you see locals whispering on the Tube, you should whisper too. Stuff like that!
  3. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture? I think my favorite aspect of British culture was how important manners and tea are! The British are very proper and I really appreciated that. I was taught to have good manners growing up so it was nice to put those manners to use with adults who would appreciate them compared to using manners in Isla Vista with college kids! I also LOVE tea and biscuits so I thoroughly enjoyed the absurd amount of tea options England had.

TRAVEL

  1. Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad. My favorite travel memory is the entire weekend I spent in Ireland. My friends and I woke up late, ran a mile across Dublin to the meeting point for our tour bus, missed the bus to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher by ONE MINUTE, begged the tour organizer to get us on another tour, we successful got on a better tour, had beautiful weather at the cliffs, went to the Galway Christmas market, got back to Dublin and went out to dinner and ended up hanging out with 3 Irish moms who were having a reunion at the table next to us. They were so fun and genuinely some of the sweetest women I’ve ever met. The next day we packed our stuff and left the airbnb, went to the Guiness Museum, got matching shirts, ran to the airport bus on to find that the bus was not stopping at that specific stop. We ran to another bus stop, missed the bus, ran to another stop, missed the bus. Waited for the next bus and couldn’t get on because we didn;t have euros to purchase the tickets. Found an atm, got cash, made it on the next bus. Got to the airport with 35 minutes until our flight took off. We sprinted through the airport in our matching “It’s A Lovely Day For A Guinness” shirts and arrived to our gate just on time to find out our flight was delayed. We got SO many funny looks. That weekend was crazy but thank god luck was on our side!

REFLECTION

  1. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal? My biggest fear was being robbed/pickpocketed. Several people I know had things stolen from them but I didn’t have any issues. I was hyper-aware of my surroundings and made sure to always be on guard. Luckily pickpocketing was not a big deal for me because I was constantly checking on my belongings, but if you don’t pay attention, it can be a huge issue.
  1. What was your biggest challenge abroad? My biggest challenge abroad was missing my family. My dad was diagnosed with cancer in July, a month and a half before I took off to London. Not being there to support my mom and dad was really hard on me. I also struggled because I did not feel like I should talk to anyone about it because it’s a depressing topic and I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s mood while they were abroad having the time of their lives. So I struggled with that a lot but tried the best I could to enjoy my experience.
  2. How have you changed as a result of your time abroad? I think my time abroad made me a lot more confident and mature. I would explore London and walk the city by myself quite often and I think having so much alone time helped my grow and take in my experience. It helped me slow down and really appreciate the opportunity I had in front of me. I also felt more confident as a result of being aware of my surroundings. Coming home, I just felt more mature and ready to take on harder challenges.
  3. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students? My advice to other prospective UCSB EAP students is to JUST DO IT! I promise you will not regret it. The foods I ate, the people I saw, the languages I heard, the art I admired, and the architecture I was surrounded by was all truly amazing and breathtaking.

Christmas in London was amazing. The holiday decorations were beautiful and just added to the overall excitement and beauty of the city. These are some of the last memories we made in December before heading home to our families! Christmas trees and lights were everywhere :’)


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