Nicole G., UK- England- English Universities, UCL (Psych and Brain)

Academics

What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB?

At UCL I took two major classes and two GE classes. These courses had less work and less classroom time than courses at UCSB! All of my classes were assessed with at home essays ranging 2000 to 3000 words. My relationships with professors was more informal than at UCSB, one great aspect of my classes abroad was professors want you to talk to them and ask them questions rather than going through the TA. With that being said, professors typically did not hold office hours but they were always happy to set up a meeting on campus or at a local pub! Meeting with professors or TAs was a little more important abroad because only half my lectures had sections, so if you do not understand the material, it is important to seek out help.

What was your favorite class abroad?

My favorite class abroad was my Development of Speech Perception and Production class. The professor was french and always knew how to make the best of a friday class! She also helped organize tours of UCL’s neurology labs and infant language labs in which we were able to try on neuron tracking caps and try out current studies!

Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad?

I did not intern, volunteer, or conduct research while abroad.

London, England- UCL

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How would you describe your host institution?

UCL has a similar student body size to UCSB, but the main campus is much smaller. However, there are UCL buildings spread out within a mile of the main campus. UCL is within walking distance of many cool parts of London like Regents Park, Soho, the British Museum, Camden, Hyde Park, and the UC study center! From campus you can get anywhere in the city by bus or tube within 45 minutes. There are four airports that can be reached from UCL in an hour to an hour and a half by tube and/or train.

Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join?

UC students can join any UCL clubs and organizations. UCL puts on a fair where all the clubs have sign ups and the following week they host trial sessions so you can try clubs for free! I joined the swim and water polo teams and got to practice, travel, and compete with them. They also host socials at campus bars and pubs which make it easy to make friends.

Housing

Describe your housing situation.

I stayed in a dorm very close to campus, a five minute walk, with other abroad students and UCL first years. My dorm reminded me a lot of UCSB dorms except that they are almost all single rooms. Since the rooms are mostly singles, they are more expensive than my dorm room at UCSB, but double rooms are available as well! 

Food

Where did you eat most of your meals?

My dorm was catered so I ate two meals there during the week and one on the weekends. I cooked dinner most weekend nights, but there was also a large number of restaurants within walking distance!

How much was an average meal? Do you have any budgeting tips for future students?

Meal prices in London are similar to meal prices in California, but buying more groceries rather than eating out saves a lot of money! Cheaper grocery stores like Sainsbury’s are good for affordable groceries.

Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals?

No, one of my friends who is vegan found it much easier to be vegan in the UK and Europe in general than in the states. My catered meals had at least one vegetarian/vegan meal option at every meal time.

Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad.

I met other UCSB students in Munich for Oktoberfest, where we ate a great German meal in one of the tents. Waiters and waitresses in traditional drindls and lederhosen served us liters of beer and duck, sausage, noodles, and other options cooked in German style. In london, pub roasts and Indian food are definitely the way to go for a nice dining experience.

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What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?

I miss afternoon tea and the delicious scones, sandwiches and cakes served with it!

Host City

Describe your host city.

London is a large, urban city with a lot of excitement packed in. It is very diverse and has something to interest anyone and everyone. In some ways London is similar to San Francisco, but it is bigger and, in most areas, busier.

Was it easy to get around?

Public transportation in London is very easy to use and can take you to and from anywhere in and outside the city. There are buses, tubes, and trains that can be taken with a reloadable oyster card or with apple pay. Students can also get discounted travel cards so that taking public transportation is cheaper.

Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students?

I felt very safe in London, however there are a couple things to do to make sure you are safe. Dorms are very secure, no one can get in without a key, and multiple doors inside the buildings that require keys keep unwanted visitors from getting in, just be sure if you are letting anyone into the dorms it is someone you know. Pick-pocketing is a problem in the city, so phones should never be kept in back pockets or left out on tables, they should always be securely away and out of sight. Same with wallets! Try not to take the tube alone at night since people can be creepy and there is no immediate way to leave.

What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city?

In London I went to markets and did a lot of sight-seeing such as the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul’s cathedral. I also went to Winter Wonderland, which is a huge carnival in Hyde Park around Christmas time.

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Host Culture

Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad.

British slang is very weird! Getting used to words and phrases they use can be menacing at first, but no one was ever offended or annoyed if I asked what they meant. People in England also spend a lot of time drinking tea and/or beer. A coffeeshop or pub is always a good place for group meetings or meeting with professors.

How did you handle culture shock?

I think since England is an English speaking country, the culture shock is very manageable. In order to acclimate, I joined clubs and tried to spend time with British people and follow their example.The UC study center is a good resource to use if there is an aspect of the culture you do not understand and are embarrassed to ask friends or are not sure who to ask.

What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?

My favorite aspect of English culture is their love of football (soccer) and rugby. It is always fun to watch a game with British students in a pub or dorm common room and embracing the excitement. Or even going to see a game!

Travel

Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad.

One of my favorite travel stories is from visiting Florence, Italy with a friend from UCSB. We saw a lot of impressive art and went on a wine tasting tour, but one of the most fun parts of the trip was taking a cooking class. In the class we learned to make pizza and gelato the Italian way and with the best quality ingredients. In the class we met a lovely older couple from Florida that we became fast friends with and had a great time cooking, and frequently making mistakes in front of the chef! It also turned out to be some of the best pizza I have ever had.

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Reflection

What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?

I was afraid that classes at UCL would be difficult and would get in the way of traveling. This was not the case, classes were less intensive than at UCSB and the British to UC grade conversion goes in favor of making our grades abroad higher.

What was your biggest challenge abroad?

My biggest challenge abroad was finding time to do everything in London I wanted to do on top of getting accustomed to school and England. I got to do a lot of great things in London, but obviously I had to prioritize to plan my time. I still feel like I got to do enough in London to make my time there more than worthwhile!

How have you changed as a result of your time abroad?

I learned a lot about my personal independence and gained confidence about myself. I worry less about what people think of me and more about what I can do to make my life more fun or important. I travelled by myself and had a lot of time to reflect and think about my future and how I want to spend the rest of my time at UCSB.

What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?

Take advantage of every opportunity you are offered, and don’t be afraid to try new things, you will regret not doing them!


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