Before leaving for my adventures in London, the Temple University Abroad Office as well as the IFSA Butler Pre-Departure e-mails both wrote a lot about the “Culture Shock” aspect of going abroad and the different phases most students go through during their journey. The beginning of the trip is all about experiencing new things, and students are usually at a highest point as everything around them is new and exciting. Following this honeymoon period of sorts, comes to realization that this is NOT a vacation and you actually have to build a whole new life in this foreign place. Since I had two full weeks of exploring London before classes even began, I assumed that upon the start of actual school I would experience an onset of homesickness, culture shock, and the yearning to be in an environment I am more so used to. Thankfully, so far this has not been the case! Here I am, three full weeks in, and I still find this experience as exciting and thrilling as ever!
I will say that starting classes definitely made the whole thing feel much less like a vacation and more like a true semester abroad, but that somehow didn’t take away from any of the enthusiasm I still have about being here. I obviously do miss everyone from home and Temple, but that somehow hasn’t had an effect on my ability to enjoy everything going on in my life here in London. I am sure i will experience bits of homesickness now and then, but for now I am still looking at everything I do here as something I could never have done anywhere else!
Now, an important aspect of the study abroad experience is obviously the studying itself (or so that’s what people keep telling me) and I have to say, it is here that I have noticed some of the biggest differences so far! For one thing, British students call high school “college” and at college they chose a topic of study that they think they want to continue at University. This means that upon being a “fresher” at Uni, most students already have a rather extensive knowledge of their chosen area of coursework. This was a little intimidating at first, just because I didn’t know how much more well versed the other students in the class would be.
Another major difference is that University here is only three years, with the majority of students taking a gap year wither before or after Uni to travel the world before entering the working world. In my opinion, this sounds awesome! (Mom, Dad – what do you think?)
The actual classes are quite different as well. Class only meets once a week, and only ten times total because there are many reading/independent study weeks built into the calender! There are also no weekly assignments or grades for attendance/participation, so all of one’s grades are based on two exams or papers which can be a little scary. My favorite thing about the classes is that since they are three hours long, students get a break in the middle – called a “Tea Break!” Yes, the London stereotype is 100% well deserved! In America, college students run on coffee but here, everyone really does come back from break with a cup of tea! Another favorite snack here are potato crisps (chips in America), however they are a little different here …
Yes, one of the most popular flavors of chips is indeed shrimp cocktail. Now, if that was the only strange flavor it would be one thing, but it does not end there! Other popular flavors are Roasted Chicken, Smoky Bacon, and Steak and Onion! Now I am no vegetarian and I certainly enjoy my fair share of meat and potatoes, but this I still have not gotten used to! I have given them a try, but I have to say the appeal is lost on me – I think someone should send me a care package of sour cream and onion chips so I can show these Brits something new and delicious!
I will save a long rant about food differences for another blog – for now I must be off to class! Cheerio!