My Academic Experience: Everything I hoped it would be and more!

Ashley K. University College London, England


March 23, 2016

As the term comes to an end, I find myself thinking about how fast time has gone by and all that I have learned. My courses, in comparison to my home institution, were much more difficult – more difficult than I ever imagined they would be abroad. Many of my friends had told that the classes they took abroad were so easy and they had very little work, but I did not find that to be the case at my school. Nevertheless, I am glad that it wasn’t easy and that I had work to do. I came here to learn and study and I feel that the rigor of my courses helped me achieve this goal.

My psychology classes in particular were especially difficult, but they were incredibly fascinating. Although we did not have papers in my Clinical Psychology course, we have a massive final that counts as 100% of my grade, which is quite terrifying. But different professionals in the field taught the class each week so I got to learn from some of the best clinical psychologists who are actively conducting research in all different areas of psychology. This was a unique opportunity because I got to learn about so many different areas of psychology from the people who specialize in those areas. Some of the most fascinating areas of psychology that I learned about were psychosis, autism, psychopharmacology, etc. – all from the perspective of professionals who work in the United Kingdom.

This opportunity has taught me so much about how psychology and certain disorders are viewed in the United Kingdom as opposed to the United States and the new research that is being conducted in so many different areas of psychology. I also got to learn a lot about how psychology practices in the US are viewed by the UK, which were both positive and negative in some regards and taught me to think critically about practices used in both countries. I also got the unbelievable opportunity to conduct research in the United Kingdom, which was something I’d been dreaming about doing since I took AP Psychology back in my junior year of high school.

Conducting research was difficult because I had to learn about new research procedures, conduct research by myself three to four hours a week, deal with problems that arose like running out of money to pay participants, etc. But I wouldn’t change a thing because it was so rewarding and allowed me to get hands on research experience in a new country in a new environment. I learned a lot about the topics that are being researched at University College London (which was just ranked #5 for best psychology schools), got to present the research I conducted with my research partner at a UCL conference, and got to work under the supervision of an incredibly smart (and quite funny) professor. I couldn’t be happier with my experience at UCL and how much I was able to learn about psychology and the opportunities I was given to expand my research experience. If you’re a psychology major thinking about studying abroad, I would highly recommend UCL!

Irish Countryside, Irish Pub, and Dunguaire Castle

I have also finally had the chance to travel over the past few weeks. I met up with some friends in Ireland and we did a day tour to the Cliffs of Moher, Dublin and Galway. Ireland was incredibly beautiful, with the rolling hills of the countryside, the beautiful cliffs and the amazing food. I enjoyed doing a guided tour through Ireland because the drive to the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin was about three hours, so it was nice to have a tour guide to tell us about landmarks and the farming culture along the way.

I would highly recommend seeing the Cliffs of Moher; they are one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Our tour guide also showed us an old castle, a prehistoric tomb, and stopped at an adorable chocolate shop in the heart of the Irish countryside, all of which were amazing to see. I also traveled to Milan, Italy with my friend from London. Milan is beautiful, but it was also quite expensive! I would recommend seeing the Duomo, which is a massive, architecturally stunning cathedral. If you are gluten intolerant like myself, I will say that it was much more difficult finding food options in Milan, but there were plenty of places that served salads.

Overall, I am quite sad that my courses are ending because I loved learning about psychology and conducting research, but I know that I will continue to learn over this month-long break while I study for my exams by reading many psychology research articles and writing my research report. I am so happy with my academic experience at UCL and cannot wait to share more of my experience with you in the next few weeks!