Since “uni” has now infiltrated my vocabulary to replace my American term “college”, I feel time enough must have passed in order for me to return to my first month in London with some acquired insight.
But first, an introduction.
My name is Kelley, with an extra ‘e’, and I hail from a town in New Jersey and attend Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. Of course, I’m at Queen Mary now for a semester (It would have been longer, trust me, if I were given some academic leeway). I’m a restless person, which tends to translate as an outward characteristic of adventurous, or fearless at least. There is a lot of the world that I crave to see, and I have come to London to curb that craving.
I will boast that I’m easy to adapt, I’m flexible, so there were not a ton of fears hinged on my arrival to a different (realizing it’s not so different) country and academic system. That being said, there were inevitably existent anxieties. You know, fear that I wouldn’t get to see or do everything possible and that my classes would be harder (god forbid my scholarly ego be bruised).
Last to arrive in my hall, I was curious to see how my first interactions with my flat mates would play out. Once I’d thrown my luggage into the corner of my then-bare room and stepped into the hall, all my flatmates stumbled in the main door at once, cheery as ever on their return from Drapers, the bar on campus. In their given state they were naturally quite amiable, the ice broke quickly, and the rest is history!
Academics do remain a contender for mild stress. I’d gathered some differences between the US and UK from the international student orientation. I’m not used to the lack of physical written assignments, and the weight of the grade that comes with the looming “one big essay” is intimidating. Though I do fancy the way my timetable, or schedule, is set up and I think the US would do well to manage classes (I mean modules – still don’t have that down yet) in the British way of lectures and seminars.
Lectures are larger and purely for listening purposes, in a lecture hall with anywhere between twenty five and fifty people. The seminars follow in smaller groups of students from the lectures, lead perhaps by the lecturer, or usually by one of their equally as knowledgable cohorts. Each seminar takes a different turn, depending on what the students in the particular group tuned into during the lecture. While they are loosely led, there is encouraging room for individual interpretation and group investigation. I like the intimacy of the seminars and anonymity of the lectures.
Alright, alright. Study abroad is half studying, half abroad! I mean, come on. This is the first time I’ve left the United States. I’ve got to try and make the most of it, and at the least expense if I can help it. Which means dishing out for the once-in-a-lifetime experiences and finding free entertainment or really good Groupons for all other opportunities. And if you assumed I’m a Potter fan, you’d be right. So when I saw QMSU was putting on a trip to Leavesden studios, there was not a moment’s hesitation before I booked a ticket. The gift shop on its own was enough to threaten my budget – but my film replica Marauder’s Map purchase sated my Potter-phenalia craving, for now.
I have found ways to see more of England on without massively cashing out. Lucky enough to have my best friend from home studying at Uni of Leeds, I’ve found MegaBus is a cost efficient £11 fare round-trip. And with a place to stay in Leeds, and mooching of my friend’s meal plan, it’s really all I had to spend to have a nice ride through English countryside and see something different in my new home country!
Here for just under four months, my financial conscience wouldn’t let me indulge on quite the living style I’m used to where the dollar reigns. But I do have some standard of living, so, I’ve adapted! My latest trick is repurposing things to suit my needs, something that I would definitely suggest to anyone studying for less than a year. For example:
An egg tray from Budgens keeps my sunglasses neat, a plum container from Sainsbury’s organizes my toiletries, and my makeup brushes are kept in check thanks to a yogurt jar from the airport in France.
Spending or thrifting, I’m having absolutely no regrets thus far, and loving every day that comes. The art of adapting is still being refined, but stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it goes (;