Audrey Faltin

Audrey Faltin
English Postgraduate Taught; Eighteenth Century Enlightenment and Romanticism
Hi, I'm Audrey. I'm an English Literature Postgraduate student with Queen Mary. I am from the Midwestern US, Nebraska to be exact (point to the middle of the country -aka the Heartland- and that's Nebraska). I enjoy studying and living in such an open, accessible city, and try to take part in as many activities on campus and around London as possible. I serve as the English Postgraduate Taught Course Rep with the Student Union and have spent several lovely days involved in one-off volunteer events. If you're new to London (or any city, really), get involved! It's the best way to meet friends.

Summer has FINALLY come to London

So I wore shorts today for the first time since…last August. Not exaggerating. I have a new appreciation for why Brits have the bad rep of being extremely pasty (sorry for the people I blinded today). In conjunction with my personal understanding of the pale Brit stereotype, I also have a new awareness of how precious the sunlight here is. Brits (and all of us expats, too) cherish their sunny days and squeeze what they can out of every ray of sunlight. Which means the 7-day forecast for a heat wave has put a summer spring in my step, not the least because 4th of July is in that 7-day forecast. I’m really interested to see what the 4th is like in England…it’ll be an experience, I’m sure. 🙂

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My heart on the 4th. Thanks, Zazzle, for the accurate depiction.

One thing that has become increasingly charming for me since moving to London is to just enjoy an afternoon in the park. It’s a very European (or rather, non-Midwestern) thing, I think, because in the Midwest usually the only people you see lounging on blankets in a park are families enjoying a picnic. But here, if the weather is above 60F/15C, you’ll see all sorts of people lounging in the park–families, couples, friend, and even people enjoying some solitude. I think it’s due to various reasons: perhaps because yards are much smaller if not non-existent, the weather is much more mild so when we get a nice day people want to enjoy it and on the other side, it almost never gets unbearably hot here, people are allowed to enjoy adult beverages in public and the legal drinking age is 18 (hellooo Sunday funday), there is a significantly higher number of parks in London than anywhere else I’ve lived, and people simply live in much closer contact here than in the Midwest so getting together with friends isn’t necessarily the drive-across-town production that it can be in the States. And for me, spending time in green spaces is a way for me to feel closer to home when I’m missing the Heartland.

Whatever the reason, it’s one thing that didn’t make sense to me when I first moved here but after a year I fully appreciate the charm of a day spent lounging with friends in the park. And now that the sun is here to stay, the park is calling my name. 🙂

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Enjoying St. James’ Park. And studying. Also, didn’t know you had to pay to sit in those chairs. Word to the wise: bring a blanket for your lounging pleasure, those are free 🙂

Takeaway Tidbit: London teaches you to appreciate the finer things in life, on so many levels.

Entrepreneur boot camp and fun at Hampton Court Palace

I spent Saturday with my LUIP Ambassador friends, first at Kingston University and then exploring Hampton Court Palace. Our time at Kingston was wonderfully impelling because we were led through an entrepreneur boot camp by Dr. Martha Mador, the head of Enterprise Education Strategy. Dr. Mador began by explaining the entrepreneur process:

  • A successful opportunity for entrepreneurial pursuit can occur at any point on the continuum of discovery, evaluation, and exploitation;
  • In order to be successful, there must be a healthy balance of creativity (the generation of new ideas) and innovation (the successful exploitation of new ideas–ideas being accepted in a marketplace);
  • Dr. Mador further clarified that innovation is not just a product or invention, and it’s not necessarily a new idea nor a ‘light bulb moment’. It is a combination of finding novel solutions to peoples’ problems.

After her thought-provoking explanation, we spent the next hour or so working through the entrepreneurial process ourselves. We split into groups, were given photo cards, and told to brainstorm a list of problems based on the pictures we had. The pictures were quite nondescript– a woman running through a field, a row of wind turbines, a person helping another climb a rock–but from those pictures we generated 10 general problems that could be fixed.

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We could even write on the tables…I was awed. English majors don’t get to write on much, other than notebooks.

After generating a list of problems, we chose one and brainstormed solutions to the problem. From there, we created a viable solution and developed and pitched our service to the group. My group decided to focus on the lack of work-life balance for many professionals. We developed a company called Stress Less, a consulting agency that businesses could hire to help convert their offices so that they promoted a more healthy work-life balance. Our pitch even had a jingle, set to the tune of ‘Call Me Maybe’. We won the ‘Best Brand Name’ award…go Team Stress Less!

After boot camp we headed over to Hampton Court Palace, the palace of King Henry VIII (the one who created the Church of England, and had 6 wives in his attempts to have a son. He also fathered Queen Elizabeth I, who is by far my favorite English monarch.). The palace was beautiful, but I was much more enamored with the grounds. The gardens were absolutely stunning, especially the ones along the bank of the Thames. And I was impressed by how successfully lost we became while wandering through the maze. Most of all, I couldn’t have chosen a better group of friends with whom to spend the afternoon.

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The English love their roses. Especially those Tudors. 🙂

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Kim and her band of merry ambassadors. Photo Cred: Divi

Being guided through the creative process of identifying and developing a business was unexpectedly motivating. I left boot camp feeling like I could actually create a viable business–on paper, anyway. I started brainstorming ventures I would be interested in and that might actually work. However, after my original elation wore off, I realized I would have some serious work to do on the numbers side of developing a business. Let’s be honest: although I find an odd satisfaction in getting the correct answer on a math problem I am nowhere near confident enough to trust a business’s finances to my numeracy skills. Creates a nice opening for a partner, though. Any takers?

QMUL’s English department: Because literature is more than just books.

When I decided to go back to school for my Masters, England was an obvious choice. What better place to study English Literature than its birthplace, right?  But choosing a school was a bit more complicated.  I spent several weeks researching schools around England, but ultimately chose Queen Mary because they are the only school to offer a pathway specifically tailored to by academic interests.  Although my research on American schools was minuscule, I don’t think many universities in the States offer explicitly defined areas of study for Masters students.  You have your general ‘American Lit’ or ‘English Lit’ programs, but I never cam across any programs that were specifically ‘Romantic Lit’ or ‘Shakespeare’ or anything very detailed.

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Queen’s Building, QMUL

Photo courtesy of: The Student Room

My pathway, Eighteenth Century Literature and Romanticism (ECLAR), has completely broadened my understanding of not just literature but history, philosophy, politics, theology, and early science. The professors teaching the modules for this pathway are top scholars in their field and having the opportunity to learn from them has been invaluable. It was a completely new experience for me to be reading a book or article and find that my professor had been quoted as an expert. I would get quite star-struck the next time I saw the quoted professor. 🙂

Queen Mary’s English department also goes out of their way to bring our studies to life. In almost every module I took, we spent at least one class at a location other than Queen Mary using archives, making connections between literature and other subjects (London has an amazing number of free museums!), learning the procedures for different libraries available to us–the British Library was particularly different from any library I’d ever used before, and visiting relevant historical sites like Newington Green Unitarian Church, London’s oldest nonconformist place of worship (founded in 1708) or the Tate Britain to talk about the Turner exhibit and Romantic themes.

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 Archival experience with the National Portrait Gallery

We even took a day trip to Margate, which is on the East coast of England. That was absolutely one of the most lively and entertaining classes I had the chance to attend. We left just after noon on a Friday, spent the afternoon visiting various landmarks, discussing the literary and historical significance of Margate, mingling with the locals, and ended the day with a beautiful sunset and delicious fish and chips.

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Our brilliant day trip leader, Dr. Matt Ingleby (left), and a rhapsodic Margatian (right).

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 In addition to exponentially broadening my understanding in many different fields, ECLAR and the English department as a whole are dedicated to providing their students with real-life connections to their studies. There are weekly Postgraduate Research seminars which bring in speakers from a number of academic institutions to discuss their current research, and the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies also hosts regular seminars and an annual conference.

I could not envision a more preparatory English program than the ECLAR pathway at Queen Mary. Obviously if your research interests are different you should seek out a department that can support your pursuits, but when looking into potential universities make sure to think about what they will offer you outside the classroom. Get in touch with people in the department to ask any questions left unanswered by the websites. I’ll be the first to admit that Queen Mary’s website isn’t particularly insightful, but each of the professors I e-mailed responded within a couple days…and that was over their summer holidays!

Takeaway Tidbit: Ultimately the choice of university is yours, so make sure to do your research, but Queen Mary provides an excellent approach to Masters-level study and real-world preparedness.

Paying for a London degree.

Tuition fees can be overwhelming, but for an international student thinking of studying in London there are many options to help ease the burden of paying for a degree. Scholarships, part-time work, and loans are how I am making ends meet while studying in London

Scholarships

  • Most universities offer scholarships, so make sure to get in touch with the financial department to see what’s offered through your school.
  • Don’t forget to check with your specific department. Often, scholarships are offered for a particular field and won’t be advertised on the general scholarship page. If you can’t seem to find any information, e-mail the department.
  • Check for scholarships specifically for international students. There aren’t as many of these, but most schools sponsor a few scholarships specifically for international students, masters students, non-traditional students, etc.
  • There are sometimes options with your home country for international studies….but not many. For example, in the US you have to be a genius or solving world hunger or something equally as impressive, AKA I didn’t even come close. Look into your options, but don’t be too disheartened if nothing seems to be applicable.

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My scholarship has opened some amazing doors for me–here’s me with the president, Professor Simon Gaskell, at the International Scholars Reception.

Don’t rely on part-time work to help you pay tuition fees! If after scholarships you still have tuition left, make sure you take care of that either through personal funds or through a student loan.

Loans

Loans are the reality for a lot of people when pursuing an education in London. Work with your home government to try to get the best loans possible. For US students, that’s Perkins and Direct Subsidized loans before looking into Unsubsidized, PLUS, or private loans. Once you’ve been approved for your loans, work with your London university’s Financial Aid department to complete all the necessary paperwork and tasks to ensure your loan will be transferred to the right university. Queen Mary has an amazing flow chart and Excel document that walked me through the process step-by-step, and the FinAid people were wonderful and very helpful, which made for a hassle-free loan experience.

Once you’ve covered all the tuition, make sure you’ll have enough to live on as well…London is a VERY expensive place to live! I took out a larger loan than I needed to help me cover living expenses while studying, since I didn’t know whether or not I’d be able to find part-time work. Then if you are able to find a job once you’re here, you can use that income to enjoy life in London:

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 Part-Time Work

**If you have a Tier-4 (Student) visa, you are only allowed to work 20 hours per week.**

  • If you’re in the country on a Tier-4 (T4) visa, you have to be aware of restrictions other than just time. For example, I looked into tutoring as an option for part-time work, but since I’m T4 I can’t work freelance. Most tutoring agencies are freelance since tutoring is often 1-1 and at the request of the tutee. Luckily, I found a tutoring agency that had a scheduled timetable (aka not freelance) and have been working for them while studying.
  • Use your university’s job site to look for part-time opportunities on and around campus. Most job searching sites have filters so you can just see the part-time work available. Many of my friends found jobs as baristas at local cafes or as food service staff at restaurants or catering companies.
  • A third option (which you should be very cautious of when using) is Gumtree, the UK version of Craigslist. I found an amazing nanny job through Gumtree but I’ve heard horror stories of terrible families scamming college students for free childcare. If you choose to use Gumtree be very cautious, meet the family or employer before agreeing to anything (as many times as you need to be comfortable!), set and put in writing clear guidelines for what the expectations, duties, and pay will be, etc. I absolutely love my nanny job and there are great families out there, but don’t jump into anything if you don’t feel comfortable.

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 I love my nanny job 🙂

Takeaway Tidbit: Take the time to make sure you’ve looked into all your options for funding your degree in London.

New Year’s Eve in London

For New Year’s this year, my boyfriend and I came back to London from the States before New Years because we wanted to celebrate in London, and I’m so glad we did. Unfortunately, this year was the first year that you had to buy a ticket to see the fireworks. We didn’t get tickets because we thought we could just meander down that way and surely find a decent spot to watch from. WRONG. They weren’t joking when they said they’d have all viewable places blocked off. And heavily secured. We were steered through the Embankment station up to the Strand on a very inflexible route…which made for a crowded walk.

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Once on the Strand the crowd dissipated a bit because, thankfully, they had the street blocked off from traffic. We walked down the Strand towards Somerset house and really lucked out, because the security working Waterloo bridge decided to gift everyone with a free entrance to the bridge.

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See the green security gates on either side? They were everywhere.

Made for a tight walk through security, but once we were on the bridge it was perfect. Room to take some beautiful shots of London at night:

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And had time to spare to get set up for the fireworks. As cheesy as it sounds, I used some of that time to reflect on how lucky I am to be pursuing my dreams in this marvelous, historic city. I had time to get switched over from camera to video, and was able to record the first part of the show. With no further ado, for your viewing pleasure, here is our view of the 2015 New Year’s Eve celebration in London. (Listen for Big Ben…coolest thing ever!!)

New Year’s Eve in London

(goshdang WordPress isn’t letting me embed the video. Boo. Check it out on YouTube!)

Home will always be the Midwestern USA for us, but while we’re living in London we’re absolutely making the most of it.

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Here’s to a fabulous 2015!!

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