Sami E, UK – England : English Univ. KCL (Sociology, Language, Culture and Society)

ACADEMICS

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

I took 4 classes while abroad, 2 of which were for my minor, 1 for my major, and another for my enjoyment. I mainly took classes for my minor History because I wanted to see the comparison between how it is taught. I explored my minor in a way that I could have not been able to do at UC Santa Barbara. While uncovering more about my minor, I was also able to create a deeper relationship with my instructors. King’s, being very prestigious, was formal in a way that respect went both ways. 

2. What was your favorite class abroad? 

Classes are set up very different in comparison to UC Santa Barbara, but my Theory, Culture and Politics class provided me with a little piece of home. The professor engaged with students, students engaged with the professor and it was a small enough class that everyone knew everyone. We were able to discuss, on a deeper level, the understandings and theories about sociological politics. It was an uncommon perspective that I had not been educated on in the Sociological department, and it went outside the normal disciplinary systems.  

HOST INSTITUTION 

4. How would you describe your host institution? 

At the heart of everything King’s College was at the center of the city. Conveniently right next to Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, countless museums, coffee shops such as Nero, and undergrounds that could take you anywhere else with a snap of your finger. The location was the beautiful icing, perfectly frosted on top of the delicious cake. It allowed for me to get familiar with London, not only as my temporary home, but a place that will forever be imprinted onto my heart. 

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

KCL offered an infinite amount of clubs and organizations for everything and anything you could possibly imagine. It ranged from A to B, which gave way for everyone to feel involved or apart of something. Attending KCL as a semester student, I felt as though I did not have a spare moment. Either traveling to other locations or even within London, there was always somewhere to go, or something to do. If I had had more time, I would have loved to join and play on a sports team, and I know many who still did, whether they were there for a semester or year. 

HOUSING 

6. Describe your housing situation. 

I had originally contacted the Queen for housing, because I knew she had extra rooms, but she simply…did NOT respond.

King’s was very accommodation and offered great location, size, and prices for housing. I lived in Stamford Apartments with 7 other flat mates, all of which are now some of my closest friends. We travelled together, went out together and divulged into the London City shananigans. It was dumb luck that I was fortunate enough to have been housed with such amazing people. I did have my own room and my own bathroom, a dream many UCSB Freshman’s have once they are jammed into a triple. It was next to the Waterloo Bridge, the actual bridge itself, the London Eye, Parliament, and fun fact, one of the largest screened theatres within the UK called BFI IMAX. 

FOOD

 7. Where did you eat most of your meals? 

The easier question to ask would be, where didn’t I? You could find me at Avobar, Farm girl, Dirty Bones, Aubaines, Franco Manca, Chin Chin Club, My Old Dutch, Sticks n Sushi, the list is endless. Although expensive, sharing a plate with someone made the prices more reasonable. I attempted to try a new place every time I did eat out, but I did opt for home meals for breakfast and lunch. 

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

An average meal honestly varied depending on what time of the day you were eating. For a meal I would say it ranged from 10 – 20 pounds all together. The best budgeting tips I could give would be to buy groceries at Tesco or Sainsbury and cook when you don’t have plans or are saving up. 

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

No it would not. It can feel as though you do not have any options, but they are there and resturants are more than willing to make accomodations. Because there are so many different cultures and it is such a diverse location, the foods that are offered are countless, but also VERY delicious. 

10. Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad. 

My most memorable…that is a hard one because there are so many to choose from. If I had to pick one, I would say a plain old hot dog at the Southbank Centre Winter Market. Although your typical hot dog, it was the people, view, music and overall environment that ousted for a memorable time. 

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

I miss a perfectly done chia tea latte. I know that sounds silly, considering I can get one here, but there was something about London’s chia that was SO much better, richer and desirable. Or maybe it was just because I was drinking it in London, an already magically delicious place. 

HOST CITY 

12. Describe your host city. 

The way I described it to my friends and family was much like New York, but cleaner. It was elegant, multi-cultural, historical, fun, while also being able to appreciate the little things. Something magical around every corner, it always provided for your needs. In the middle of the city, everything was right at my finger tip. I wanted a spunky donut, I would go to Donut Time, I needed groceries, I would go to Tesco’s, I needed to get somewhere further out, I would go to the Waterloo Station; ultimately, the city is much different from the Isla Vista lifestyle of flips flops and the beach. Although different can be challenging, it can also be very good. 

13. Was it easy to get around? 

Please mind the gap

Oh how I miss it already. Getting around was very easy. Whether walking, tubing, or bussing and in very rare occasion, taxing. It was all very easy. It is an adjustment to get used to, but doable and once familiar with it, you won’t even remember how you were getting around before that. 

14. Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students? Was pick-pocketing common? Was cat-calling common? Did you feel as safe, less safe, or more safe than in the U.S.? 

While studying in London, there was only one situation that occurred at the London Bridge that made me feel weary, but overall I never felt unsafe. It is an overall busy location with many eyes and public areas. My only advice would be to trust your gut and don’t be silly. What I mean by silly is that, if you know it is late and you are aware that walking or tubing is unsafe, don’t do it. Pay the extra 10 pound for a taxi to make it home, and please try not to travel by yourself. I always made a mental note that anything can happen to anyone and that you should always be aware of your surrounds. 

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

Ballie Ballerson! It is a giant ball pit, I think that description is easy enough to understand why it was fun. On a more “adult” note, tea time was also a lot of fun. Depending on the time you travel, will also determine what is available to you. During the winter I was able to go to the Winter Wonderland and go on rides and eat typical fair food. I also joined media pages so that I could be aware of local events occurring by me. 

HOST CULTURE 

16. Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad. 

There was nothing that deterred me from enjoying my time, but a noteable difference would be the humor. It tended to be dry and somewhat condescending. Although sometimes offensive, laughing it off was still easy to do. Once you join in on the style of humor, you can see why they do it. One difference I actually miss is when on the escalator, you would stand on the right and the left side would be left open for people who wished to walk up or down them. 

17. How did you handle culture shock? 

I didn’t so much experience this, and I root this to the fact that they still spoke English there. They did have a few spelling and pronunciation differences, like the word “schedule”…I guess you can’t really hear it, but it went like this, “shed-ule.” 

18. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture? 

The fashion. The fashion was top of the line and it made me feel 1000 times more confident. A cute dress with boots could make all the difference for how your day was going to go. Everyone’s style said something about them. Everyone wore what they wanted to, not caring what they thought other people would think about them. I loved that everyone could be themselves and there was no judgement or “rules” that had to be followed to fit in. The difference was that no one wanted to fit in and I respected that!

TRAVEL 

19. Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad. 

Backpacking through Italy for a week. The entire experience of that, was my highlight. I am one to organize, organize, organize, but this trip broadened my understanding for living in the moment. Going from Milan to Florence to Rome to Pompei to Amalfi Coast to Naples, all places so offering a lesson to be learned, about life and myself as a person. 

REFLECTION 

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

FOMO. I had the fear that I was going to miss out on things that were occurring at UCSB, my friends, and my family. Once I landed in London, I was in London baby (as Joey from Friends would say). Keeping busy was easy and there was never a time to look back. I did miss them all immensely, but I do not feel as though I missed out on anything, if anything I feel the complete opposite. If I would not have taken this big leap of adventure, I then would have missed out on something so life altering and so good. 

21. What was your biggest challenge abroad? 

Time. Whether it was because I was running out of time in the amazing London city, or because of the time difference, time was sometimes not your friend. 

They engrave it in your mind that if you are only going for a semester, just keep the option open to possibly extend to a year. I am now also saying this. You never know what life will throw at you, but always keep an open mind. 

The time difference was a struggle when trying to keep in contact with those back in the U.S. You ultimately make it work, but there will be days when you can’t get a hold of someone, or you forget about the time difference and accidently wake that person up at 4am. 

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

Even though certain moments can feel like your life is falling apart, it really is not and that magnified thing that you are focusing on is so little in comparison to everything else around you. I’ve come back to UCSB allowing things to roll off my shoulder and not take things so personally. It is a healthier way of life when you are happy doing what it is you love, regardless of what others might think. I think this goes with growing up. Being independent for so long and having to make decisions for myself, I had to take responsibility for my actions, so I might as well be actioning toward something that brings me and hopefully others joy. 

23. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students? 

Listen and follow your heart, be yourself. Just because your best friend doesn’t want to go abroad, doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t. Embrace being different, embrace who you are, and embrace whatever else is waiting out there for you!


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