Reading, England - expensive, but worth every penny Past Review

By (Anthropology, California State University - Chico) for

USAC England: Reading - Undergraduate Courses

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
This was an incredible experience, and very worthwhile. I made loads of great new friends, I learned more in one year than I could have imagined about my degree subject, and I had a cultural experience that was even better than I expected. It hasn't changed my academic plans, besides making me even more interested in archaeology, but it's definitely made me want to return for work someday.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The type of learning at the University of Reading (as well as most UK universities, so I've been told) quite different than the standard American style. There were three terms, the first two dedicated to lecturing and the third entirely for reviewing and exams. There isn't much homework in the form of smaller assignments, but each class required a fairly lengthy and in-depth essay per term. These essays typically required a high level of specialization in a specific topic, and involved much independent research and learning. Lectures provide the groundwork for the learning, but we were expected to go much further into the material on our own and learn a lot independently. I personally thought this was an excellent way to learn and I did learn a lot, but as a procrastinator it also devastated me because there isn't a whole lot of pacing or guidance from the staff.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Support was always available when I needed it, but wasn't always as helpful as I would have hoped. There were occasionally some logistical issues where they were unable to help me and I had to contact USAC for support instead.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in Wantage Hall, which is the oldest house of residence at the University of Reading. It was a beautiful brick castle type building with a central courtyard, a huge dining hall (which reminded me of Hogwarts), and a large gatehouse. The hall is a 15 minute walk to the main university campus, and is the closest hall to the downtown area where you frequently go to shop and party (alleviates the walking time, around 25 minutes, as well as the cab fares). A pillow, sheets, and a duvet were provided for a fee of £20. It is also located in a fairly nice area of town, and is quite safe. The one thing I was very disappointed with was that they didn't give me any option about where I wanted to live, other than whether I wanted catered food or to cook for myself (there are catered and non-catered halls). Instead they simply put me in one with no choice in the matter, and I was lucky enough to be stuck with the most expensive hall - which I really couldn't afford at the time.

* Food:

If you've ever heard about the downside of English food, imagine it produced on a large scale to feed a couple hundred people. The food was sometimes quite good, but for the most part was bland or just okay. They do have accommodation for vegetarians, though I can't imagine how boring that must be. However, apparently Wantage Hall has the best food of all the halls, so I couldn't recommend any others unless you want to cook for yourself.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

There were all kinds of opportunities for social and cultural experiences. I was a member of the Erasmus society, which took students on field trips to places like Oxford, Bath, Edinburgh, and London. There wasn't much organized by my program though, as far as I'm aware.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

The city was fairly safe, at least in the areas I most frequented. There were a few dodgy areas on the outskirts, but I avoided them. There was one occasion that I was mocked and then assaulted by a club bouncer who'd just gotten off work, but this was a very exceptional occurrence. I didn't have much experience with healthcare, besides getting a doctor's note saying I was sick and could have an extension on an assignment. I did note that it was pretty fast however - in contrast to what they say about socialized medicine, I was not waiting in line for 8 hours.

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)

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

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  • Local Students
  • International Students
  • Americans

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Start saving money now, and when you get there, don't spend it all at once.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

From Rome to the Reformation: An Introduction to Historic Archaeology

Course Department: Archaeology - AR1RM2
Instructor: Dr. Gabor Thomas
Instruction Language: English
Comments: A brief overview of European history and archaeology from the time of the Roman Empire to the end of the Medieval period. Though it was brief, there was a considerable of student activity - it included labs, seminars, as well as a field trip to Portchester Castle near Portsmouth in Hampshire. Overall, a very enjoyable and informative introductory class.
Credit Transfer Issues: No
Course Name/Rating:

Human Activity and Environmental Change

Course Department: Geography - GG2P3
Instructor: Dr. Nick Branch
Instruction Language: English
Comments: A general overview of how the environment has changed since the last Ice Age, investigating both natural and human factors. Not much work involved, but fairly informative.
Credit Transfer Issues: No
Course Name/Rating:

Modern Government

Course Department: Politics - PO1MOG
Instructor: Dr. Alan Renwick
Instruction Language: English
Comments: A basic comparison of British and American political systems, great for an American student unfamiliar with British politics. Fairly challenging, and with a seminar portion that allowed students to lead and take part in discussion. The teacher was very knowledgeable and made the class enjoyable.
Credit Transfer Issues: No
Course Name/Rating:

Archaeological Science

Course Department: Archaeology - AR2S1
Instructor: Dr. Gundula Müldner
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Pretty self-explanatory, a course investigating the science of archaeology. Allowed a considerable amount of specialization during the second term - I personally specialized in palynology, taking part in a pollen analysis lab. The lecture portion of the class was fairly boring, but it was very fun taking part in the laboratory portion. The teachers were very well prepared and informed.
Credit Transfer Issues: No
Course Name/Rating:

The Emergence of Civilisation in Mesopotamia

Course Department: Archaeology - AR3P13
Instructor: Dr. Wendy Matthews
Instruction Language: English
Comments: A class based on Mesopotamian civilization and how archaeology contributes to our understanding of the first cultures there. This was an excellent class put on by an excellent instructor, but was very difficult and required a heavy time and work commitment. But thankfully, there were no exams. The class included lectures as well as student presentations.
Credit Transfer Issues: No