Well, it came and went so quickly. Three months just did not feel like enough time in London. If I could stay for longer I would in a heartbeat, but the Drexel quarter system is waiting for me to come back and do spring term.
Studying abroad in London had its ups and downs like anything, and I think one of the most challenging things was adjusting to the school system. I took two English and two History classes while I was here. These are subjects that I haven’t taken courses in since high school and maybe freshman year. I had always been interested in them and enjoyed them in the states, but taking these courses here was quite an eyeopening experience to how academic other universities can be.
Being a Music Industry student at Drexel, I have been used to doing more hands on and abstract projects and assignments. They don’t require hours of research in libraries reading literature for the 1800s. But my courses here did. I am used to being able to wait until the last minute to finish things, and in my courses here that just didn’t cut it. The courses I took were all based on writing papers as to not have any exams in order to come back to Drexel on time. There weren’t that many papers, but each one takes a lot of time, a lot of research and overall a lot of work. I was used to writing papers quickly in high school, but the standards for papers here just seems higher than in the states. My biggest challenge was referencing in these papers. No easy MLA format but different formats for different classes with strict guidelines that I wasn’t used to. This made every assignment take a little bit longer so I could avoid getting points off for referencing.
Papers aside, the courses were very interesting and gave me the opportunity to learn about some subjects I don’t get to learn about at Drexel.
Now the only other thing that made this academic experience very interesting was the fact that all of my professors for almost the entire month of March, went on strike.
I had two courses that didn’t meet for 4 weeks, and another two that didn’t meet for 3.
For me, this wasn’t too much of a problem, I mean I’m studying abroad and I pretty much got a vacation for a month. But I missed a lot of learning and the experience of going to class in a different country. One of the courses that I was disappointed to have missed was called London and its Museums, a course where we meet at a different museum in London every week. I tried to go to the museums on my own, but definetly missed out on seeing the museums from the perspective of the class, which tended to be very eye opening.
The strikes have not affected my grades here or any of my assignments, and in some cases allowed for extensions which was helpful. But, there are some assignments where I am writing about topics that weren’t covered in class, and am struggling a bit because of that time missed.
I supported the strikes for my professors, and I hope that the negotiations that are taking place in regard to the cuts on their pensions go well. I just never imagined that while being here I wouldn’t have class for about a month.
My biggest take away from this was that you can never expect what’s going to happen while you’re abroad, and you just have to roll with it. It’ll be good in some cases and bad in others, but there’s nothing that you can do sometimes.
On from academics, living in a different country has been incredible. I enjoy living in new places, especially cities. I don’t think visiting cities is ever enough to fully experience them. I have also been lucky to meet people from all over the world and know that I will be able to travel to see them all again one day. The best part of going to Queen Mary was the fact that the school has a campus. Most London universities do not have campuses, and most of the students commute to class. Now many students commute to class at Queen Mary, but all international and first year students live on campus. This allowed me to have a home base and a place that I could feel comfortable coming home to everyday. It allowed me to close to all the international friends I had made, and form really great friendships with the people I lived with. Some of my flatmates became close friends and I’m sad to leave them.
Living in London wasn’t much different from living in Philadelphia or wandering around New York. All cities have a similar vibe to me, and it’s one that I enjoy living in. The one thing about London that shocked me is just how big it is. It is hands down the biggest city I have ever been to and it makes it feel like there are endless things to do. This can be overwhelming sometimes, especially if you’re on the tube at rush hour. But other than that it is very manageable to get around and feel comfortable. Even though the city is so big, I feel like I was able to find the spots in London that I liked the most, while always being able to explore something new if I wanted to.
My favorite place in London to study and explore was Shoreditch. It’s one of those up and coming, hipster areas that some people may not like, but I loved it. The best way to get there from my campus was on the bus, and I could just watch the city change from residential in Mile End, to the business area by Liverpool Street, and watch blossoming street art everywhere in Shoreditch.
I also loved Camden to explore during the day and go out at night. There is always something to do over there.
Living in Mile End was also great because it is a little bit away from the center of London and the West End, which is very busy all of the time. Mile End is a little more residential and just felt like a nice place to live when the city became a little too much.
I wish I could stay longer and continue exploring London. I feel like I’ve done so much here, but still have so much to do, that maybe a couple more months could’ve helped with. The best thing to come out of studying here was experiencing life away from everything I knew. I had to do everything for myself and figure out how I fit in to London and Queen Mary. I was able to continue doing things I love, like play violin in the uni Music Society, which helped me meet some incredible people. I was able to make friends to explore with and I’m sad to say goodbye to them. As much as I can’t wait to see my friends and family at home, I wish I could have a little more time in London, but that probably wouldn’t be enough either.
Overall I couldn’t have asked for a better study abroad experience. The term fit in really well with my courses at Drexel. The location of London was not only perfect to live in but amazing for traveling. While here I was able to travel to four other places including Amsterdam, Chamonix France, Malta and Paris, with a trip to Edinburgh happening next week. I know that I will always have the travel bug now, and have already been planning trips to see my friends again. I was able to make a lot of amazing friends, experience tons of new things, and connect with the city. It is more than I could’ve imagined and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.
London was the best, and I can’t wait until next time.
A big thanks to all of the amazing people that I met while I was here. I can’t wait to see you all again somewhere in the world.