Ashley D., UK – English Universities King’s College London (Political Science)

ACADEMICS

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

I took only upper-division political science classes while I was abroad. I attended King’s College London and the academic rigor was somewhat more challenging than the classes I have taken at UCSB. The layout of the classes were similar- with one lecture and one section a week for each class. The sections formulated a group discussion of the reading materials for that week.

  1. What was your favorite class abroad? 

My favorite class I took abroad was Global Power Europe. It was a comparative study of the EU- involving its formation and the way it serves as an overall political actor in regards to international relations. Being able to study this subject in England was very insightful in that I was able to see the point of view of my classmates that had grown up being a part of the EU.

HOST INSTITUTION

  1. How would you describe your host institution?

The King’s College London campus was absolutely beautiful. The architecture was amazing and with it being in the heart of the city,  it was also exciting passing by well-known tourist spots on my way back from class. I do believe I grew in my education by taking classes in a different country and learning other perspectives. I also enjoyed being able to take classes with students from all over the world and interacting in section with them.

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

There are many clubs that abroad students are encouraged to join at King’s. I attended the club fair that advertised the various clubs available including organizations involving fitness, academics, and hobbies.

HOUSING

  1. Describe your housing situation.

I lived in an apartment that was about a 20 minute tube ride from campus. I lived with my friend from UCSB and it was an absolutely amazing experience being able to live on my own in a different country. I was also able to cook my meals at my apartment and the area was very safe and it was an incredible part of London to be in. The area was beautiful and whenever I did not have class I was out exploring near Battersea Park, Chelsea, South Kensington, and many more areas!

FOOD

  1. Where did you eat most of your meals?

I ate out for most of my meals as London has many restaurants that are all unique. I found most of the time when I went to explore the city, food was a big part of this!

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

My average meal was around $10. My tip for budgeting is to try to cook at home during the week, and have enough saved to be able to splurge a little more on the weekends.

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

Not in London, there were multiple vegan options at many of the restaurants I went to and there is always at least one alternative option besides meat. There were many healthy juice bars and vegan bowl places as well that I enjoyed going to, even though I am not vegan.

  1. Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad.

My most memorable dining experience would have to be at Flat Iron that was located in Covent Garden right near the King’s campus. It was only 10 pounds for a full steak that came with their signature sauce. I ordered a side of their fries as well and it was the best meal, as well as the cheapest, that I had during my time in London. I would definitely recommend for anyone who is in the area to go check it out.

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

Even though it is not a British food, I miss the sushi I ordered almost every week at the sushi restaurant that was a 5 minute walk from my apartment. I loved the relaxed environment of the restaurant and that I knew the servers well after just a few times of me going.

HOST CITY

  1. Describe your host city.

London is a huge city, with a diverse group of people living there. There is never a moment of quiet when you are out, there is always people rushing to different places wherever you go. The Tube is always crazy crowded, and the streets are always packed with many people. There is also always something to do, there are so many free museums to visit, historical sites to see, and little nooks and crannies that allow you to feel like a local when you come across them. This is obviously a big change from the somewhat slow and relaxed pace of UCSB. I am glad I chose to study in London because it has taught me to become comfortable in a busy environment and learn to adapt to this. I have learned to become part of this scene and I now know I do enjoy being in big cities.

  1. Was it easy to get around?

It was pretty easy to get around once I got my oyster card. The bus is very cheap and the double deckers are fun to ride on to be able to get a bird’s eye view of the city. The tube is constantly running and can take you anywhere you need to go. Though it can be crowded, and at these peak times sometimes you have to wait for multiple tubes to pass before you can squeeze onto one. London also has uber, which I know some countries do not so that was also a plus.

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

I felt very safe in London because the area my apartment was in was a very good area and I came to recognize the people around me daily. There are some parts that I would recommend travelling in groups in, such as Shoreditch, which was an amazing part of the city but you just have to be aware of your surroundings. Like any big city, you have to pay attention to what is happening around you, but I never had an instance where I felt unsafe in London.

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

Through EAP, I was able to go to the Supreme Court and tour the building, as well as hear the history about how the court was founded in London. I also was able to visit Chinatown, and that was an amazing experience with live music, crowds of people, and many food places to try. Because I went in the fall, I was also able to go to the Winter Wonderland event that is put on in Hyde Park that was basically a carnival with roller coasters and shows. I also went ice skating at the Natural History Museum and that was one of the most beautiful experiences being able to see the view of the museum.

HOST CULTURE

  1. Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad.

There were not that many cultural differences that really confused me. The only thing I can think of is when sales people ask “are you ok?” which means if they can help you, but originally I thought they were asking if I was sick or something. Everyone in London normally tends to keep to themselves as they are all always trying to get somewhere and are focused on other things. This was somewhat different from American culture where strangers will sometimes strike up conversations with each other.

  1. How did you handle culture shock?

I honestly was not that culture shocked, I was able to adapt to the city pretty easily. The one thing that stressed me out at the beginning was how busy the city was, but after a week or two I was able to get used to it.

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

I like how everyone likes to stay busy. Many people go out to eat, take a walk, go shopping, and other things because there is so many things to do in the city. This made me want to go explore as much as I could rather than just sitting in my apartment

TRAVEL

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

My time in Prague was my favorite trip I took while I was abroad. I was not expecting much from the city, but it was absolutely gorgeous and I felt as though I was in a movie. I loved the architecture and the stone pathways that all merged into one another. I clearly remember when my friends and I went to the Prague Castle and we were walking along the edge with the view of the entire city glistening in the sun. There was also the huge outdoor stairway that we were able to climb, with people playing instruments and singing along the way, that eventually led to another spectacular view of the city. As we were leaving Prague, I remember we all got locked into our airbnb by accident and had to jam the door to be able to get out in time to get to our flight. That was definitely the funniest experience I encountered when I was abroad.

REFLECTION

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

I was afraid that I would not know how to get around. However, after downloading the citymapper app I was able to get around so so easily, even getting to the airport and trains I had to take I was able to board with no confusion.

  1. What was your biggest challenge abroad?

My biggest challenge was being able to adapt to the amount of work my classes required. King’s was definitely more rigorous than UCSB and more was required in discussion sections that required me to do all of my reading in depth. After I was able to get a hang of the workload, it was much easier for me to manage my time.

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

I feel as though I have come back with a much different perspective about my everyday life. I am much more independent than I was before I left and I believe I did mature a good amount since I have come back. School wise as well I have found that I am able to focus my priorities much more on school work in a more efficient manner because of the time I have had to adapt to this in London.


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