Balancing Academics and Adventures

Ashley K. University College London, England

Date

February 10, 2016

I’m just about a month into the term and coursework is already starting to pile up. I’ve found that balancing sightseeing and homework has certainly been a struggle because all I want to do is go out and explore this beautiful city. I love wandering through the streets of London, especially the many parks that are full of beautiful flowers and trees. But I’ve found that doing my coursework can be just as exciting as exploring London because it has given me insight into cultural and academic aspects that I wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to at my home institution. For example, in my Ancient Egypt class, we were able to hold and handle thousand-year-old Egyptian pottery and jewelry. Holding a piece of ancient history in your hands makes learning about a new culture so real and exciting. Similarly, in my Topics in Clinical Psychology class, a different professional in the field teaches us each week that specializes in a particular disorder. This allows us to learn in depth not only about each disorder, but also about psychology itself from a variety of people who work in the field everyday. I have also had the unbelievable opportunity to be a research assistant for my professor. As a research assistant, I get to help run an ongoing psychology experiment for class credit. My main duties include running participants, collecting data, and writing a research report. Being a research assistant at my home institution, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to help conduct research in a new environment at a different institution. This experience has allowed me to see psychology in depth from a new perspective that will help me be a more efficient and effective psychologist in the future. If you are a psychology major thinking about studying abroad, I encourage you to take a leap of faith and apply for opportunities like this because they can teach you so much about psychology and give you invaluable hands-on research experience.

Apart from my coursework, I’ve also taken the opportunity to explore London and go to events. I went to a psychology-related event called “Feeling Emotions” in which people could take part in neuroscience experiments, create emojis and see a robot toddler that helps children with diabetes. There are so many events in London like this one that are free and informative. A great place to look for events is the Wellcome Collection, which is right near the UCL Bloomsbury campus – but be warned, the line to get into free events can be excruciatingly long. My friend and I waited two hours to get into the “Feeling Emotions” event and got there five minutes after it opened, so be sure to get there early!

Also, right near the main UCL Bloomsbury campus, there is the Bloomsbury Farmers Market every Thursday from 9-2 which serves amazing local food. I stop by every Thursday to get gluten free falafels for lunch after my psychology seminar. Farmers markets are a great way to taste local cuisine and farm fresh food. There is also a great gluten free bakery to try if you are gluten intolerant called Beyond Bread. Everything they serve is gluten free and they offer an array of sandwiches and desserts that are very reasonably priced. I’ve quickly become a regular at this shop because the food is so delicious. There is no need to worry if you are gluten intolerant like myself – I’ve found plenty of gluten free options in the area. Overall, I’m thoroughly enjoying my time in London as I learn my way around this beautiful city.