2012 Spring External Programs Shannon Barter United Kingdom

kung hei fat choi!

Happy New Year everyone! Chinese New Year that is, the year of the dragon! While I had not initially planned on celebrating the Chinese New Year much during my semester abroad in London, boy was I wrong! Apparently London is home to one of the largest Chinese New Year celebrations outside of China – who knew? The festivities took place all over Chinatown as well as Trafalgar Square. There were thousands of people in attendance, and everything from karate demonstrations to dragon costumes to huge floats and decorations! The streets were filled with hustle and bustle, and it was definitely the most crowded I have seen London since I have been here. Four of my friends and I watched the opening ceremonies in Trafalgar square, saw the dance of the dragon, and took our turn at the “Money Tree,” a Chinese New Year tradition. We decided there was no better way to culminate the experience than with a nice Chinese Buffet dinner, complete with plates and plates of all you can eat deliciousness. The buffet we went to was also connected to a Chinese bakery, some of us got delicious pastries to bring back to our flats. Here is a picture of the crowds surrounding Trafalgar Square during the opening ceremony of the Chinese New Year:

Trafalgar Square!

Following the Chinese New Year celebration, it was time for me to tackle some of the school work I had for the coming week. While classes here don’t force you to do weekly assignments for a grade, they do give you many assigned readings with full expectations that you will complete them and contribute to all in-class discussions. For this reason, I have been trying to really stay on top of my various reading assignments each week. It is interesting how much more informed the rest of the students in my class seem to be on world issues, particularly American politics. I have made it my goal to read news articles more frequently so that I too can be better informed about what is going on in both London and the rest of the world.

I also wanted to mention a few more differences I have noticed as I become more and more at home in London:

1) You do not refer to your teacher as a “professor.” They are simply called by their first name, which takes a little getting used to since in America this would be considered rude or disrespectful much of the time!

2) Brits think it is really weird to eat pancakes for breakfast, but beans are a quite typical breakfast dish.

3) It costs more at all restaurants if you wish to eat in rather than take away – nearly a pound more per meal!

4) Nearly all restaurants here close by 8 PM, and all retail stores close by 7 PM!

5) All digital clocks here display military time, but when someone asks what time it is you always reply in 12-hour time (which does not make sense to me in the slightest)

6) It is nearly impossible to find microwave popcorn here, apparently it is not as popular of a snack!

7) It is not called a course or a class, it is called a “module” here!

It is amazing how each and every day I notice new similarities and differences in various aspects of the British way of life in comparison to ours. I am so grateful to have so many  British as well as other foreign students in my modules, because I believe I am getting more out of my experience through my interactions with these individuals and discussing life in our home countries. Aside from reading/watching the news more, I think learning from my classmates and friends will provide me with a much greater scope of world knowledge than I ever could have gotten had I never left home.

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