Studying abroad in London -- friends, diaspora, and fun Past Review

By (Neurobiology, Neurosciences, Wellesley College) - abroad from 01/05/2015 to 06/05/2015 with

King's College London: London - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned a lot about myself abroad. It was the second time in my life that I've really had to be independent and on my own and I really enjoyed it. I'm really thankful to have gotten the chance to experience a type of learning that's less stressful than it is at my home institution. As a result I've learned to relax and not stress as much about school work. It was DEFINITELY a worthwhile experience.

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.

I did the Study Abroad Plus Programme and took three classes (modules) and found an internship instead of taking four modules. I'll comment on both. I ended up not taking any of the classes/modules I had planned on taking, partly because they're really strict on the number of prerequisites needed. If they say you need three prerequisites for a module, they really are serious that they won't let you take it without them. Honestly, it was kind of a turnoff for me because I have friends who were able to take the level 5 (intermediate) social science courses I wasn't able to and said you didn't need any background knowledge for those courses. In the end, it all ended up being fine. I took three introductory (level 4) classes (two history and one philosophy) and really did quite enjoy them. They were all way less intense than any similar classes I've taken at my home institution, but I still feel like I learned. The layout of the semester is different and more relaxed (i.e. you don't have tons of deadlines to meet all the time), and I personally appreciated the chance to get to experience that kind of learning. Because you don't have as many deadlines it's important to take initiative in your work and stay motivated. It can be challenging at times, but when you find the things in your modules that interest you it's not too hard to stay engaged. Looking back I think it was a blessing in disguise because I got a chance to practice my reading and writing skills in a relatively less stressful environment as compared to my home institution. I found my seminar leaders, who were grad students, to be quite accessible and helpful. They were encouraging in seminar and also scheduled individual times to meet about papers. Because of my positive experiences with them, I push my rating from 3.5 to 4. As far as the internship was concerned, finding one was no doubt kinda stressful, and navigating a new system was a bit challenging. The careers and employability office is helpful overall, but not every visit there is always super helpful. There is no guaranteed internship for you. You'll have to find one yourself. Definitely a great experience, though. I felt really good once I finally got one in the middle of March.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I did the Study Abroad Plus Programme and got to interact with both the 1) study abroad office and 2) careers and employability office. 1) I had good experiences with most of the people in the study abroad office. They weren't always the best at responding to emails in a timely fashion. Module registration was a bit of a pain because they were really strict on you having the required number of prerequisites (which, honestly, didn't always seem necessary). Some of the members of the admin team seemed a bit superficial and abrasive to me, but some were also really nice and helpful. I wouldn't take it as anything personal, though. I think some of it might have just been cultural differences in how we present ourselves and communicate. All of this said, if you need help with anything, go to the study abroad office and you will get the help you need. The people who work in the office regularly are quite chill. 2) The people in careers and employability were nice but they weren't always the most helpful. I guess it depends on your questions and who you see. Two times my experience was kind of blah, but the third time it was great. Still, accessing their services helped me get an idea about what it's like to apply for something in the English system (i.e. differences in CV formatting, interviews, different sectors, etc.), which was no doubt helpful. The tutor for Study Abroad Plus students (who was herself a lecturer in the liberal arts) was absolutely wonderful and encouraging. She even gave me a few names of organizations to reach out to that might interest me. If you do this track, reach out to your tutor!

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I was placed in Wolfson House, which is right on the edge of Guy's Campus, at the edge of central London. It was absolutely awesome. I loved being so close to the South Bank and having easy access to the Tube (London Bridge Station is about a 3-4 minute walk!). All my lectures and seminars were at Strand Campus and it was a nice ~45-55 minute walk. I only took public transport there once or twice; otherwise I walked. I had a small room to myself, which worked out just fine for me. It was a bit annoying having to share a small kitchen with 13 other people at times because I guess everyone has different ideas of a clean kitchen. It was definitely messy quite often, not to mention a bit crowded if there were more than 2-3 people trying to cook at the same time. But it was okay and I was able to manage. I would try to finish up in kitchen quickly and then go back to my room to eat.

* Food:

There was no meal plan so I cooked my own food. As expected, groceries are a bit pricey, but you can definitely find a way to buy on a budget and still have good meals. I think it's definitely possible to live on 20-25 pounds a week. Growing up in a pretty big family, I never realized how little I really need to eat and how hard it can be to buy groceries and cook for one person. Definitely a valuable experience. The fruits and veggies are great. I didn't eat out much, partially because I didn't want to spend the money. But once in a while it's totally fine. It's great to check out outdoor markets during lunch time (for example, Exmouth Market near Angel, Farmer's Market at Guy's Campus every Tuesday, Borough High Market). Restaurants in the area and/or local farmers will come together in a square or something and set up stalls where you can get a boxed lunch for 4-7 pounds. There is probably every type of cuisine you could possible think of in London. Some places (restaurants and ethnic grocery stores) might take some snooping around to find, but there are definitely options.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I had such a great time with the Sikh Society. Part of the reason I chose to come to London was to explore another part of the Sikh diaspora, and I'm so thankful to have gotten the chance to hang out with such cool people and make such great friends. I did the Study Abroad Plus Programme and got to interact more closely with locals through it. I had a really great time and made some great friends through it.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I got a cold once but I had time to sleep it off and heal on my own, so it wasn't much of an issue. Otherwise, I didn't have an experience with healthcare or any health related issues.

* Safety:

I felt pretty safe when I went out. I never really ventured into unsafe areas; I stayed either with others or in highly populated areas. In these areas I would walk back from places alone at night and never felt unsafe. That said, it's always good to take precautions--walk with someone at night, stay in well lit areas, etc.

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)

I was able to cut out a big cost by walking from place to place. London is really walkable and I walked the 2-2.5 miles to Strand Campus every day I had class except for one or two days. The bus is cheaper than the tube, so if you don't wanna walk but don't wanna pay for the tube, taking the bus is a decent option. There are lots of bus stops. Food was my biggest expense. I made my own food and ate out rarely. It was a bit challenging in the beginning but once you get a feel for the grocery stores it's definitely possible to spend about 20-25 pounds (~$35-45) per week on groceries, which isn't too bad. I brought spices, a small pot, and a couple dishes from home and didn't need to spend on those things, but you may have to spend a bit more in the beginning to get started.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? ~$40-45
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Transport -- The tube is no doubt convenient but London is a great city to walk in (if you the pollution doesn't bother you too much...). Walking a mile or two to get from place to place can be really great, especially when the weather is nice. And if walking four miles round trip sounds terrible to you, you could walk one way and take the bus or tube back. Mix and match how you travel to save! Remember that the bus is cheaper than the tube, and that sometimes you might have to walk an extra couple blocks to reach a bus stop that will take you straight to your destination without having to transfer. Food -- Eating in is probably cheaper than eating out all the time. Certain products in the grocery stores get marked down in the evening--a good time to go grocery shopping. You could go to some of the neighborhoods outside central London to do your grocery shopping because it's cheaper there, but remember that if you're staying in uni housing that you'll probably have limited space to store food (not to mention, there'll be travel costs, too).


* 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?

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  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International 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?
  • Being able to do an internship for credit
  • Housing in central London, near a KCL campus
  • Being able to access pretty much everything any other KCL student has access to
* What could be improved?
  • Better publicity of Study Abroad Plus--what it is, how to go about doing it, etc.
  • Better email communication with the Study Abroad Office (faster and more clear responses)
  • An easier to navigate course/module browser
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I was better able to understand how to navigate the course/module browser. I guess the 3-4 hours I spent on it weren't enough. I also wish I had known that they were really strict on the number of prerequisite courses required to take a module. It's much more flexible at my home institution and it was kind of off putting.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Networker
An active student leader, it was important for you to network abroad as well. Once overseas, you sought out student clubs, volunteered with local organizations, or attended community events. You encouraged your friends join you, and often considered how you could reflect your international experiences in a resume.