The Most Incredible Semester! August 02, 2022

By (Sociology and Women's & Gender Studies, Brandeis University) - abroad from 01/08/2022 to 06/14/2022 with

Arcadia: London - King's College London

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned so much about myself while abroad! I became so much more independent, and I learned how important my environment is for my mental health. I thrived more in the city of London than I ever have in the suburbs, and I learned that a city is where I need to be right now to have an environment that allows me to feel fulfilled.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Overall, I didn't find the British education system to be all that rigorous. Studying humanities in the UK is much less intense than studying it in the US, due mainly to the way in which British universities assign homework and other assignments. Since the only assignments are the midterms and finals, this meant that there was a lot fewer consistent work to be submitted than is expected in the US. While some people might find only two assignments a semester to be overwhelming (which is totally valid!), I actually found that having fewer assignments meant that I had a lot more free time to dedicate to exploring the city, immersing myself in the culture, and making friends. I found that this formatting allowed me to get the most out of my study abroad experience and balance school with traveling and exploring.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I loved working with Arcadia! I had so much support from the team there, and my mentor Polly was absolutely incredible! I would definitely recommend Arcadia as a program to work with.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I loved my housing in London! I was in stratford, about 45 mins away from central london. At first I was worried about being so far from central and from campus, but I actually really loved my commute (the tube is the best), and I found that stratford had so many great things to offer. I also loved my actual flat -- while living with 10 people sounds overwhelming, everyone having their own room and bathroom allowed for a great amount of privacy. Additionally, I just got really lucky that my flatmates and I got along really well. We hung out all the time, and had flat movie nights and flat dinners constantly! I had a lot of trouble making friends through classes, so I was so lucky that we got along so well. My flatmates became my closest friends in London, and I'm so grateful for them!!

* Food:

I had to learn how to cook for myself since there was so dining hall at King's. The only thing I really have to say is that grocery shopping in London is EXPENSIVE so be prepared for that!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I had a more difficult time adjusting to the culture than I expected. One difference that I was not expecting was how rare it is for Brits to talk about mental health. As a student with severe depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I am used to being very open with my friends and family about my mental illness and how I'm doing. It was definitely a shock to my flatmates how open I was with my mental health, and it was an adjustment for me to not have my friends be as open with me in return. For a long time, I thought my flatmates didn't like me because they weren't being vulnerable with me in a way I am used to my American friends being, but over time I learned that they loved me just as much as I loved them, they just show it differently. Another thing I had to adjust to was the drinking culture. Brits like to drink. A LOT. And while I also like drinking once in a while, I wasn't expecting how integrated it is into everyday life there, so that's also something to be prepared for! It took a little while, but eventually I found a balance of how to socialize with others in a way that didn't always involve drinking, and I also learned how to evaluate my own emotions and decide if drinking that night would be good for my mental health. That'd definitely a good skill to have, bc a lot of Brits are lowkey functioning alcoholics, so it's good to know yourself and know your limits!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had a hard time with healthcare there. It took me months to be set up with a psychiatrist, and I never even ended up meeting with a therapist. I was very disappointed by this, since I was very proactive in trying to set all of that up for myself before landing in London.

* Safety:

I always felt extremely safe in London!! I had very minimal experiences with harassment from men, which I cannot say the same about for other places in Europe. If traveling to Italy or France as a woman, please be prepared for literally constant harassment from men on the street. It was the worst. London, however, was always really pleasant, and I always felt really safe on public transport and walking around at night since most places are really well lit and there are generally always a lot of people around.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

London is SO expensive. Please be prepared for that, especially if you want to be going out to eat, clubbing, and generally exploring the city a lot. The tube is crazy expensive also, so get a student card as soon as possible after getting there! I legit spent $4,000 more than anticipated based off of what my program told me, and believe me, I didn't go crazy shopping, I was just exploring and traveling as expected while abroad. I definitely think more education needs to be given about how to travel on a budget bc I had a lot of difficulty with that.

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? - get a student oyster card - get a rail card for traveling around the UK - DO NOT use trains to travel around europe!! Budget airlines like ryan air and easy jet are so much cheaper (like $9 to get to france kind of cheap) - when traveling with friends, airbnbs can actually be cheaper than hostels - pack lunches while traveling! I didn't pack food and spent so much every day buying three meals a day at resturants/cafes


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Living in the dorm with local students
  • London is the best city ever
  • Basically no homework/assignments
* What could be improved?
  • Mental health care
  • Excursions/Program activities
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? More budgeting tips, how expensive living in London is, how little mental health is discussed in Britain.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

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The Outright Urbanite
A social butterfly, you're happiest in bustling cities with hip people, and took advantage of all it had to offer. You enjoyed the nightlife, and had fun going out dancing, and socializing with friends. Fun-loving and dressed to the nines, you enjoyed discovering new restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in your host country.